The Coaching Habit by Michael Bungay Stanier – Book Review

I’m currently (ended Feb 2024) the Head of Marketing at Krotos. A key learning from my day-to-day role has been that effective leadership often boils down to the ability to coach and guide teams towards realising their full potential. Michael Bungay Stanier’s “The Coaching Habit” reflects the principles I’ve been exposed to, especially during the “Accelerate” leadership programme.

Stanier’s emphasis on saying less and asking more is a principle that has been reiterated in my leadership journey. While I’ve always believed in empowering my teams, this book served as a timely refresher, reminding me of the value of active listening and inquiry. The seven transformative questions presented by Stanier are tools that every leader should have in their arsenal. I’ll be turning the questions into a cheat sheet for handy reference.

The “Focus Question” What’s the real challenge here for you? was a standout lesson for me. It made me reconnect with areas of my leadership where I excel and also highlighted zones where there’s room for growth.

Stanier’s book, much like many business books, offers a window into another leader’s journey, trials, errors, and learnings. But what sets “The Coaching Habit” apart for me is its practicality and direct relevance to my role. It’s a testament that while business and leadership constantly evolve, the core tenets remain the same: continuous learning, empowerment, and self-improvement.

“The Coaching Habit” mirrors our leadership styles, strengths, and growth areas. Our improvement journey never truly ends, and this book is a valuable companion.

Here are some key nuggets from the book:

  1. The Kickstart Question: “What’s on your mind?” This open-ended question allows the person you’re coaching to steer the conversation in the direction they find most pressing or relevant.
  2. The AWE Question: “And what else?” This simple question can uncover more information, generate more options, or delve deeper into the topic at hand.
  3. The Focus Question: “What’s the real challenge here for you?” This helps cut through the noise and distractions to pinpoint the core issue.
  4. The Foundation Question: “What do you want?” This gets to the heart of the person’s goal or desire, ensuring clarity in the coaching conversation.
  5. The Lazy Question: “How can I help?” Instead of jumping in with solutions, this puts the onus on the other person to specify how they’d like assistance.
  6. The Strategic Question: “If you’re saying ‘yes’ to this, what are you saying ‘no’ to?” This emphasises the importance of making choices and understanding trade-offs.
  7. The Learning Question: “What was most useful or valuable for you in this conversation?” This reflective question helps reinforce learning and ensures the coaching conversation is beneficial.
  8. Build a Coaching Habit: Stanier emphasises that coaching should be a regular, informal part of your day-to-day. It’s more about building a habit rather than scheduling formal sessions.
  9. Tame the Advice Monster: Leaders often tend to jump in with solutions. The book advises focusing on listening and asking the right questions.
  10. The 10-minute coaching conversation: Stanier suggests that effective coaching doesn’t need to be a lengthy process. Even a short, focused 10-minute conversation can lead to breakthroughs if guided by the right questions.

Get the book or listen to the audiobook.