The Coaching Habit

by Dima Shevchenko

The need for effective coaching is especially pronounced in this rapidly evolving age when quality learning is the cornerstone of personal and professional development. Michael Bungay Stanier’s bestseller The Coaching Habit presents a simple, yet profound idea: the art of asking questions can revolutionize the way we lead…

Why Questions?

It is considered common sense for managers and leaders to fulfill the mission of their organizations by engaging with their team. The most direct approach to achieve the necessary goals seems to be communication in the form of imperative statements and advice. The author does not dismiss the effectiveness of good advice but argues that constant application of that approach is not effective.

There are 3 problems that such approach creates:
1. Overdependence: the team is less capable of acting without the continuous guidance of their leader.
2. Overwhelming: having to take an active role in the work of employees is additional work that the leader does not have to do.
3. Disconnection: Leaders are too busy solving the team’s problems instead of focusing on the important to leaders tasks.

Stanier suggests that the solution is coaching. Coaching is nurturing others to increase their potential and performance. Leaders often overlook the ability of the team to find a solution that works best. When a team member is asked a question rather than told what to do, they are given an opportunity to become more independent, while still receiving the answer they need.

The 7 Essential Questions Leaders Should Ask Their Team Members:

1. What is on your mind? This is a great conversation starter that will uncover what matters most.
2. And what else? Stopping at the first answer often closes the opportunity to have the discussion that needs to happen most. The author encourages the readers to be curious and ask this question until the answer is “there is nothing else.”
3. What is the real challenge here for you? This is the invitation for the team to identify and offer a solution to the issue at hand without depending on the leader.
4. What do you want? It is necessary for leaders to address wants of their team to sustain healthy relationships. People expressing what they really want often subconsciously communicate what they really need.
5. How can I help? It is best to eliminate the guess of what other people need help with and just ask.
6. If you are saying yes to this, what are you saying no to? A coach who asks this question helps the person to set their priorities and follow through on their commitments well.
7. What was most useful for you? Analysis is a key aspect of learning

The author lists 8 tips that help ask questions in a more effective way:
1. Ask one question at a time. Do not rush to asking another question until you get the answer.
2. When you have a question, get straight to it without prelude.
3. Stop offering advice with a question mark attached.
4. Ask questions starting with What instead of Why.
5. Be comfortable with silence after asking a question.
6. Listen attentively to the answers.
7. Acknowledge the answers you get.
8. Do not restrict yourself to one communication channel.

Key Takeaways: Humility and Patience

The themes that stand out are humility and patience. Every competent leader has rich problem solving experience. However, leaders need to understand that their team has the capability to find a solution that is truly best for their situation.
This message of this book resonates with our team at Plains Edge as one of our guiding values is Curiosity. We seek to ask open-ended questions and bring a discovery mindset to our conversations with clients. This frequently results in shared identification of contextually appropriate solutions.

September 7, 2023

Written by the Plains Edge team

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