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Elvis Chidera

The Coaching Habit: Say Less, Ask More & Change the Way You Lead Forever — Book summary

summary, book4 min read

This is my summary of the key ideas of The Coaching Habit written by Michael Bungay Stanier.

The goal of the book is to make you more coach-like by building the simple but difficult habit of:

  1. Staying curious a little longer and
  2. Rushing to action and advice-giving a little more slowly.

This book gives you seven questions and the tools to make them an everyday way to work less hard and have more impact.

Why build a coaching habit?

The essence of coaching lies in helping others and unlocking their potential. This helps you eliminate over-dependence:

  1. Over-dependence is disempowering for others and usually frustrating for you.
  2. As work piles on, you become a bottleneck in the system.
  3. Cyclical: The more you help others, the more they seem to need your help.

    Building a coaching habit will help your team be more self-sufficient by increasing their autonomy and sense of mastery and by reducing your need to jump in, take over and become the bottleneck.

Types of Coaching

  1. Coaching for performance is about addressing and fixing a specific problem or challenge.
  2. Coaching for development is about turning the focus from the issue to the person dealing with the issue, the person who's managing the fire. This conversation is rare and significantly more powerful:

    Call them forward to learn, improve and grow, rather than just to get something sorted out.

The 3P model

The 3P model is a framework for choosing what to focus on in a coaching conversation:

  1. Projects — A project is the content of the situation, the stuff that's being worked on. This realm is where coaching for performance tends to occur.
  2. People — When you're talking about people, though, you're not really talking about them. You're talking about a relationship and, specifically, about what your role is in this relationship that might currently be less than ideal.
  3. Patterns — Here you are looking at patterns of behavior and ways of working that you'd like to change. This area is most likely where coaching for development conversations will emerge.

Drama Triangle

The Karpman Drama Triangle models the connection between personal responsibility and power in conflicts, and the destructive and shifting roles people play:

  1. The Victim: The Victim in this model is not intended to represent an actual victim, but rather someone feeling or acting like one. The Victim seeks to convince themself and others that they cannot do anything, nothing can be done, and all attempts are futile, despite trying hard. One payoff for this stance is avoiding real change or acknowledgment of their true feelings, which may bring anxiety and risk while feeling they are doing all they can to escape it.
  2. The Rescuer: The Rescuer's line is "Let me help you." A classic enabler , the Rescuer feels guilty if they do not go to the rescue, and ultimately becomes angry (and becomes a Persecutor) as their help fails to achieve change. Yet their rescuing has negative effects: it keeps the Victim dependent and doesn't allow the Victim permission to fail and experience the consequences of their choices. The rewards derived from this rescue role are that the focus is taken off of the Rescuer, who can also feel good for having tried, and justified in their negative feelings (to the other actor/s) upon failing.
  3. The Persecutor: The Persecutor insists, "It's all your fault." The Persecutor is controlling, blaming, critical, oppressive, angry, authoritarian, rigid, and superior. But, if blamed in turn, the Persecutor may become defensive and may switch roles to become a Victim if attacked forcefully by the Rescuer and/or Victim, in which case the Victim may also switch roles to become a Persecutor.

Question masterclass

  1. Ask one question at a time.
  2. Cut the intro and ask the question: If you know what question to ask, get to the point and ask it. If you must have a lead-in phrase, try "Out of curiosity”.
  3. Stop offering up advice with a question mark attached.
  4. Stick to questions starting with "What'" and avoid questions starting with "Why": If you’re not trying to fix things, you don't need the backstory.
  5. Get comfortable with silence.
  6. Actually listen to the answer.
  7. Acknowledge the answers you get.
  8. Use every (communication) channel to ask a question.

The kickstart question

What’s on your mind?

  1. It's open: It invites people to get to the heart of the matter and share what's most important to them.
  2. It’s s focused: It's not an invitation to tell you anything or everything.
  3. It's a question that says, let's talk about the thing that matters most.

The awe question

And what else?

  1. The first answer someone gives you is almost never the only answer, and it's rarely the best answer.
  2. Stay curious, stay genuine.
  3. This question helps you get more options and more options usually lead to better decisions.

The focus question

What’s the real challenge here for you?

  1. When people start talking to you about the challenge at hand, what's essential to remember is that what they're laying out for you is rarely the actual problem.
  2. Focus on the real problem, not the first problem.
  3. It's too easy for people to pontificate about the high-level or abstract challenges in a situation. The "for you" is what pins the question to the person you're talking to.

The foundation question

What do you want?

  1. "The single biggest problem with communication is the illusion that it has taken place." The illusion that both parties to the conversation know what the other party wants is pervasive, and it sets the stage for plenty of frustrating exchanges.

The lazy question

How can I help?

  1. You are forcing your colleague to make a direct and clear request.
  2. It stops you from thinking that you know how best to help and leaping into action.

The Strategic Question

If you’re saying yes to this, what are you saying no to?

  1. You're asking people to be clear and committed to their Yes.
  2. A Yes is nothing without the No that gives it boundaries and form.

The learning question

What was most useful for you?

  1. People don't really learn when you tell them or they do something. They start learning, start creating new neural pathways, only when they have a chance to recall and reflect on what just happened.
  2. What's essential is to interrupt the process of forgetting: Forgetting starts happening immediately, so even by asking the question at the end of a conversation, you've created the first interruption in that slide toward "I've never heard that before!".

But the real secret sauce here is building a habit of curiosity. The change of behavior that's going to serve you most powerfully is simply this: a little less advice, a little more curiosity.
Find your own questions, find your own voice. And above all, build your own coaching habit.

© 2024 by Elvis Chidera. All rights reserved.