Guest blog from Kathryn Hemming

“Building a coaching habit will help you and your team reconnect to the work that not only has impact, but has meaning as well.” 

3 Main Messages:

  1. Our advice is not as useful as we think it is
  2. Simple questions will support others in self-development
  3. There are 3 types of coaching: projects, people and patterns

I was first introduced to Michael Bungay Stanier’s work through his TED talk How To Tame Your Advice Monster, which I found uncomfortably familiar, achingly obvious and really funny! 

This book is the same. He has a wonderful skill of identifying key mistakes that we make when working with others (in spite of having the best intentions), and then giving us simple redirects to implement on a day to day basis. 

The book itself is short, easy to read and punchy. It begins by reminding us that “the essence of coaching lies in helping others and unlocking their potential,” and then introduces seven key coaching questions we can ask in everyday life which will do this. The theory is that asking questions instead of offering solutions encourages others to grow, become less reliant on their manager and reduce the bottle-neck created when leaders are trying to help too much. It suggests that the key is “a little more asking people questions and a little less telling people what to do.”

The seven questions are: the kickstart question, the AWE question, the focus question, the foundation question, the lazy question, the strategic question and the learning question. If you wish to know what they are – well you’ll just have to read the book! Bungay Stanier explains the theory behind each, gives examples of when they can be used to best effect and then finishes each chapter by backing up each theory with research. 

Bungay Stanier knows that all too often we fall into the habit of offering advice and so condenses the work from The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg, The Talent Code by Daniel Coyle, and books by other authors to change this. The key messages are to identify our triggers, change our action and then get a different reward. He suggests that we start somewhere easy, start small and buddy up and he supports us in this by encouraging the reader to reflect at the end of each chapter – I found these sections really useful!

In addition to the seven questions, each chapter begins with a coaching masterclass: a top tip to help us ask better questions and help us to be more coach-like in daily interactions. In work reminiscent of the ‘accidental diminisher’ in Liz Wiseman’s book Multipliers, Bungay Stanier advocates for building others up, rather than feeding our own egos by constant advice giving and holding on to hierarchy. 

This book may be small, but the ideas in it are mighty and, when implemented, will have enormous benefits for both leaders and their teams. Pocket sized and night-stand friendly, I read it in half a day and know that the messages and tips in it will stay with me for a lifetime.