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The Coaching Habit - Book summary

Coaching is increasingly recognized as an important aspect of leadership and development. Yet, most of us don’t receive nor deliver effective coaching. In this book, Micheal Stanier distills the fundamentals of coaching into 7 key questions. You can use these questions to change how you engage others, manage your relationships, and guide your employees or co-workers to solve problems and develop themselves. In this free version of The Coaching Habit summary, you’ll get an overview of the 7 coaching questions.

The Coaching Habit: An Overview

As the founder of coaching company “Box of Crayons”, Stanier has trained many managers to coach others. He found that most managers and leaders suffer from 3 vicious cycles at the workplace:
• Creating overdependence. The more you help your people, the more they rely on you and the busier you are, until you eventually become a bottleneck.
• Being overwhelmed. The more productive you are, the more work you complete and even more work gets thrown your way, until you’re totally overwhelmed by amount of work.
• Feeling disconnected. The more you get lost in mundane day-to-day work, the more disengaged and demotivated you’ll become, and work no longer feels meaningful.

By developing a coaching habit, you can break the vicious cycles above:
• When you help your team to be more self-sufficient, you won’t need to intervene all the time and become a bottleneck.
• It also frees you up to refocus on what truly matters for you and your team.
• Coaching others pushes you and the people around you to step out of your comfort zones to learn and grow.

The 7 Coaching Questions

The best coaching methodology is to ask questions, and the 7 questions below capture the essence of coaching. Our complete version of The Coaching Habit summary includes a detailed overview of the processes, tips and examples on (a) how to build a habit and (b) get additional tips on the art of asking questions which can improve how you apply these 7 questions.

The Coaching Habit summary_The 7 Coaching QuestionsHere’s an outline of the 7 questions from The Coaching Habit:

1. The Kickstart Question—“What’s on your mind?”

This is the opening question to help you break the ice and get the conversation flowing. Our full summary explains why this works better than small talk, and how to combine it with the “3P model” to more effectively tease out the underlying issues of a problem.

2. The AWE Question—“And what else?”

This question helps you to uncover and generate new options or possibilities, while overcoming the urge to give premature advice.

3. The Focus Question—“What’s the real challenge here for you?”

The first 2 questions are likely to get the other party talking and sharing. Yet, they’re probably not highlighting the real problem. This question helps you to identify the underlying issue to be addressed. Our 12-page summary offers tips on how to use this question most powerfully, with examples of how to apply it for different situations.

4. The Foundation Question—“What do you want?”

This question helps people to gain clarity on what they want, which improves communication and decision-making. We explain the 9 universal needs, why most people fail to get what they want, and how this question also helps to make the other party feel safe in our complete summary.

5. The Lazy Question—“How can I help?”

This question is “lazy” because it gets the other person to propose a solution without you having to develop one. Our full version of The Coaching Habit summary explains the Karpman Drama Triangle, how this question helps to break the other person out of the Vitim, Persecutor or Rescuer roles, and how to apply this question most effectively.

6. The Strategic Question—“If you’re saying yes to this, what are you saying no to?”

This question gets the other person to consider if he/she is truly prepared to commit to a decision, rather than jump in half-heartedly. In our 12-page summary, we explain the what it means to commit to a decision, and why/how to delay jumping into a decision.

7. The Learning Question—“What was most useful to you?”

Coaching for development (focuses on the people handling the issues) is more impactful than coaching for performance (tackling specific challenges and putting out day-to-day fires). This question allows you to create a learning moment to coach for development, in addition to coaching for performance to solve the problem.

Getting the Most from The Coaching Habit

Ready to learn how to deliver effective coaching/asking effective questions? You can get more detailed tips and examples with our complete book summary bundle which includes an infographic, a 12-page text summary, and a 22-minute audio summary.The Coaching Habit summary - book summary bundle

This book is structured like a coaching guide. Stanier focuses primarily on the practical tips that you can apply immediately, including simple exercises at the end of each chapter for you to reflect on and consolidate your learning. He also offers some background and empirical evidence to explain why and how each question works, with recommended readings and resource references.

You can get the book here for the full details, or check out for more resources and videos.

Loved this summary? Then you might also enjoy our Leadership Team Coaching summary and our A More Beautiful Question summary.

About the Author of The Coaching Habit

The Coaching Habit: Say Less, Ask More & Change The Way You Lead Forever is authored by Michael Bungay Stanieran author, coach and speaker. He is the founder and senior partner of “Box of Crayons”, a coaching company that works with organizations to help them do great work. He graduated with arts and law degrees from Australian National University and holds an MPhil from Oxford. Stanier was named Canadian Coach of the Year in 2006.

The Coaching Habit Quotes

“The more you help you people, the more they seem to need your help.”

“Even though we don’t really know what the issue is, we’re quite sure we’ve got the answer they need.”

“Recognizing the need gives you a better understanding of how you might best address the want.”

“Before we look at what to change, we need to understand how to change.”

“Small talk might be a useful way to warm up but it’s rarely the bridge that leads to a conversation that matters.”

“When people start talking to you about the challenge at hand…remember…that what they’re laying out for you is rarely the actual problem.”

“Make your habit a resilient system.”

Click here to download The Coaching Habit book summary and infographic

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