Book Notes: The Coaching Habit

The Coaching Habit by Michael Bungay Stanier
Read Dec 9, 2018

I loved The Coaching Habit (Bungay Stanier 2016). It is concise, and packed with useful, applicable advice. I could have probably read it in an hour or two, but it took me almost a year to complete it — I kept going back and re-reading sections, and taking breaks to try to integrate what I was reading. I’m sure I will come back to review it in the future.

This book walks you through a series of questions that you can use in conversations with others to help establish a more coaching-oriented relationship, instead of falling into a mode where someone comes to you with a problem and you tell them what to do. I’m a huge fan of teaching people to fish, and a big part of that is striving for an approach where I encourage and support others in finding their own solutions. It’s the best tool I’ve seen to grow capacity, both in myself and others (you learn a ton if you let others walk you through their thinking, instead of assuming that you have the answers).

The Coaching Habit not only takes you through a set of questions to ask, but each section walks you through incorporating the question into your daily habits. It does so using the well-established method of finding a trigger or hook and a small change that you can introduce in your routine, and gives you some example triggers and small changes that are applicable to the particular question being discussed.

Incorporating these questions into your daily habits is key. It is easy enough to spend an hour or two on a book, nodding in agreement the whole time, and then promptly move back into your established patterns. This is one reason why I kept taking pauses and trying to incorporate things one question at a time. I’m sure I’ll be working for a long time to fully integrate all the advice — sometimes the urge to just jump in and “help out” is too strong, especially when feeling stressed or pressed for time.

For each question, the book discusses why it is useful, how it changes the dynamics of the conversation, and some pitfalls. I could summarize the list of questions here, but I think there is actually little value in seeing the questions if you don’t understand the underlying philosophy of what you’re trying to accomplish. To get a feel of what some of the questions are, and the general tone of the book, have a look at my book highlights.

The final part of the book contains a list of “top shelf” leadership book recommendations. The no-nonsense high-ROI feel of The Coaching Habit makes me suspect that this is a trustworthy, well-curated list of books. I hope to slowly make my way through it.

Highly recommended for managers and leaders, anyone who finds themselves being asked for help or advice, and anyone who wants to help others grow.

Tags: books, working together

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