We Live in the World Our Questions Create (Book Notes: The Coaching Habit)

Updated: Aug 13, 2020

I just finished reading The Coaching Habit by Michael Bungay Stanier. Not only is it a great book for aspiring coaches and managers, this is simply a great "life" book. If you want to learn how to ask questions that will not only help others but help you focus on what really matters, enjoy these summary notes and grab a copy of the book to go on your own journey.

7 Essential Questions:

  • The Kick Start Question: What’s on your mind?

  • The AWE Question: And what else?

  • The Focus Question: What is the real challenge here for you?

  • The Foundation Question: What do you want?

  • The Lazy Question: How can I help?

  • The Strategic Question: If you are saying yes to this, what are you saying no to?

  • The Learning Question: What was most useful for you?

Intro Notes:

  • An over dependent team is dis-empowering to the employees and frustrating for managers

  • Coaching encourages self-mastery and reduces bottlenecks

  • Coaching can help to regain focus on the things that are most important to work on

  • Building a coaching habit can drive a team back to work that has meaning

General Coaching Notes:

  • Ask just one question at a time

  • You can coach only the person in front of you

  • Trust that you are being useful

  • Call and response: acknowledging what the person said before moving onto the next thing

  • Small talk is great for queuing up a conversation but then you need to transition

  • Two type of coaching.

  • Coaching for performance - addresses an issue

  • Coaching for development -focuses on the person

  • The phrase “just out of curiosity” can make any question less heavy

  • Stop offering advice with a question mark attached. Wait. Then offer your idea as an idea

  • The temptation to fix a problem is a Pavlovian trained response

  • Three things could happen when you offer advice:

  • you focus on the wrong problem

  • you take on work that your team should be doing

  • the work does not get done

  • We are biased to assume that a situation is unsafe. You want the association of reward, not risk.

The Kick Start Question – What’s on your mind?

  • The 3P model to focus the conversation further:

  • Projects are the most approachable

  • People are a lot more messy

  • Patterns are the way of working that you would like to change

  • When someone comes with a problem, ask which "P" they would like to focus on

  • Use the other P’s as way of re-framing the same challenge

  • Write the moment, the feeling, and the person that are the trigger (situation > behavior > impact)

The Awe Question – And what else?

  • Three effects

  • More options leading to better decisions

  • Reigning your self in

  • Buy your self time

  • Decisions made from binary choices are like teenager decisions. They have a failure rate of over 50%

  • Having at least one more option lowers the failure rate to less than half

  • Four is the ideal number at which we can chunk information

  • If you get 3 to 5 answers, that's great

  • The response "there is nothing else" is a sign that the line of inquiry is finished

The Focus Question – What is the real challenge (here for you)?

  • This question forces people to slow down and think deeper about the issue

  • “Here for you” at the end gets people to focus on the personal rather than the abstract

  • When many challenges are presented, it is not a time for the “and what else” question.

  • "If you were to choose one of these questions to focus on, which one would it be?"

  • When the conversation almost becomes academic, this is a moment for the focus question

The Foundation Question - What do you want?

  • Freedom is being able to show up as an adult at work and being able to deal with others as adults

  • Being an adult is asking for what you want even though you know that the answer could be no

  • The single biggest problem with communication is the illusion that it has taken place

  • Needs to go deeper than want

  • The foundation question "what do you want" focuses on the end state rather than the means.

  • Once the destination and has been established, the way to get there often becomes clearer.

  • There are nine self explanatory universal needs:

  • Affection

  • Creation

  • Recreation

  • Freedom

  • Identity

  • Understanding

  • Participation

  • Protection

  • Subsistence

  • Listen to see if you can guess the need behind so the want

  • VARIATION: The miracle question from solution-based therapy:

  • If you woke up tomorrow and a miracle happened, how would you know the things were better?

  • Ask what do you want. And for bonus points ask or offer what you would like as well

The Lazy Question - How can I help?

  • The drama triangle, a more approachable workplace version of transactional analysis

  • It assumes that most of the time we are one of three stories: victim, rescuer, or persecutor.

  • The victim says "everyone is out to get me..." whine, whine, whine

  • As the persecutor, you end up micromanaging and taking on more work than is needed

  • The rescuer says "let me fix it. It's my fault not yours." The rescuer creates victims

  • People do not like to be rescued.

  • The rescuer assumes the role of a helper, which is a one up position, and it evokes resistance

The Strategy Question – If you’re saying yes to this, what are you saying no to?

  • Don't just say no, offer other choices

  • Don't take the bait when asked "how do I"

  • Busy-ness is the same as laziness, lazy thinking.

  • The essence of strategy is choosing what not to do

  • "What exactly are you saying yes to and what does committing to that look like?"

  • It's easiest to say no to those closest to us than those farthest from us. It's a lot harder to say no to everyone else

  • Sometimes the trick to say no is to say yes more slowly

  • Stay curious before committing

  • If I could not do all of this but could just do a part, what part what you have to do?

  • According to the Harvard business review, only 10% of managers have the right focus to work on what matters

  • Usually those managers are not the most liked in the organization.

  • They work to stop the flow of tasks that drives everyone into the ground, but they are likely to be successful and respected

  • You are saying no to the task, not to the person.

  • The result of asking a lot of questions is that it leads to good plan

  • The five strategic questions:

  1. What is our winning aspiration?

  2. Where will we play?

  3. How will we win?

  4. What capabilities must be in place?

  5. What management systems are required?

The Learning Question - What was most useful to you?

  • People do not learn when you tell them something or even when they do it, they learn when they have to repeat and reflect on it

  • The key to learning is to interrupt the process of forgetting by including the learning question as soon as possible

Less is more. Look for the OBT, the one big thing.


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#booknotes #coaching #questions #managing

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