The Coaching Habit Summary

1-Sentence-Summary: The Coaching Habit outlines the questions, attitudes, and habits required of managers who want to become great at motivating their team to become self-sustaining.

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The Coaching Habit Summary

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Have you ever had a coach? Not all of us played football or basketball, but we’ve each had good mentors throughout our lives. Whether it was a piano teacher, manager, or just a neighborhood friend, it’s easy to think of people who helped us grow. These leaders taught us how to succeed in our work, but also motivated us to always be our very best.

Sadly, too many workplaces and schools are lacking the necessary coaches and leaders that we all need to succeed. We may only remember one or two unique individuals who were catalysts to our success. This means that most managers aren’t effective at leading their team members forward. 

That’s where The Coaching Habit: Say Less, Ask More & Change the Way You Lead Forever comes in. Author Michael Bungay Stainer gives simple, yet actionable advice to help any leader become an inspirational coach. Although the tips this book gives may seem like minor course corrections, the potential benefits for individuals and teams is massive.

Here are the 3 greatest lessons that this book teaches:

  1. Empowering a team by coaching relieves all sorts of problems in the workplace. 
  2. Use more effective questions when interacting with your team members to help them progress.
  3. How you ask questions to your employees is just as vital to their success as what you ask.

Let’s discover how to empower people by making simple changes to how we ask questions!

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Lesson 1: You can beat the overwhelm that comes from being the bottleneck by learning to practice the coaching habit.

If you’re a manager or leader of any kind, you probably feel buried beneath all of your responsibilities. You feel like you’re running around between meetings and employees. Checking emails between responsibilities is a must, just to stay afloat. All of your employees come to you whenever the team needs to make a decision. You continue the easy route of making choices yourself, rather than empowering your employees. 

As a manager, you just don’t have time or know-how to train them to be self-sufficient. You become the bottleneck through which all projects and decisions must go, and you’re drowning in it all.

Change is possible through developing a coaching habit. Don’t use a rigid weekly review schedule. Instead, use informal settings to coach your employees for just ten minutes each day. You will need to always be in coaching mode to see opportunities to teach your team.

When you lead as a coach every day, your employees grow more self-sufficient. Over time, as you continue the habit, you won’t feel the stress of being the bottleneck anymore. The patterns of a coaching habit help you and your team reconnect and prioritize. It’s only a matter of learning how to ask the right questions, which is the topic of our next lesson!

Lesson 2: To move individuals on your team forward, learn how to ask the right questions.

You may already be trying to teach in your office, and that’s good. Unfortunately, you likely fall prey to some of the easy traps that keep you talking and your employees needs unheard. Developing a coaching habit is as simple as using the following questions when with your employees:

  • What’s on your mind?
  • And what else?
  • What’s the real challenge here?
  • What do you want?
  • How can I help you?
  • If you’re saying “yes” to this, what are you saying “no” to?
  • What was most useful for you?

You want to start with the first two questions when beginning most coaching sessions. If your employee is getting off-topic or you’re getting lost, ask them “what’s the real challenge here?” or “what do you want?” to refocus the conversation.

For an employee who is only complaining about a situation, try using “how can I help you?” Doing this will help them feel that their needs are being met, and re-center them on a solution to the problem.

When the problem is determining what decision to make, you can ask “if you’re saying ‘yes’ to this, what are you saying ‘no’ to?” 

And finally, when wrapping up a coaching session, use “what was most useful for you?” to help the person reflect on what they learned and will change moving forward. 

Remember that regardless of the question, the key to effective coaching is in listening.

Lesson 3: Asking good questions in the right way is vital for motivating your team.

So now that you know what to ask, the next step is to learn how to ask it so your employees respond positively. Doing this the wrong way can leave individuals feeling interrogated or uncomfortable. 

The first step is to let your employees relax by only asking one question at a time. Getting right to your first question will save time and make your intentions clear. 

Always ask “what” questions instead of “why.” Digging for reasons people feel how they do can make them feel like they need to defend themselves. 

Don’t ask theoretical questions, like those that start with “Did you consider…?” or “Have you thought about…?” With a question like this, you end up giving advice disguised as a question. And coaching is about listening more than giving advice. 

Most importantly, practice good listening skills. Silence may be uncomfortable to you but is just what your employee needs to think through their thoughts. When they are speaking, make sure to nod or summarize to indicate your understanding. If necessary, dig a little deeper by asking follow-up questions to express your care for their progression.

The Coaching Habit Review

I really enjoyed The Coaching Habit! The advice is more for a manager rather than someone who is looking to become a coach themselves, but will still help anyone who wants to coach. I believe that any coach or leader can implement the tips this book gives and see results the same day!

Who would I recommend The Coaching Habit summary to?

The 30-year-old employee at a new startup who wants to improve, the 52-year-old executive who can’t figure out how to get his employees to the next level of performance, and anyone who leads a team or wants to coach.

Last Updated on September 8, 2022

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Luke Rowley

With over 450 summaries that he contributed to Four Minute Books, first as a part-time writer, then as our full-time Managing Editor until late 2021, Luke is our second-most prolific writer. He's also a professional, licensed engineer, working in the solar industry. Next to his day job, he also runs Goal Engineering, a website dedicated to achieving your goals with a unique, 4-4-4 system. Luke is also a husband, father, 75 Hard finisher, and lover of the outdoors. He lives in Utah with his wife and 3 kids.