27 November 2017

The Coaching Habit – Michael Bungay Stanier

General tips

Ask only one question at a time

Stop offering advice disguised as a question (have your thought of X? What about Y?): offer it as an option rather than a question. But the goal is to get better at having people find their own answers, not to never give own advice.

Adding "for you" to coaching questions allows to focus on development rather than performance.

Stick to questions starting with "what". Avoid "why" as it puts people on the defensive and implies you want to solve the problem. If you're not trying to fix things, you don't need the backstory. Instead of:

  • "why did you do that", ask "what were you hoping for here"
  • "why did you think this was a good idea", ask "what made you choose this course of action"
  • "why are you bothering with this", ask "what's important for you here"

Acknowledge their answers, encourage them.


  1. What is our winning aspiration?
  2. ‎Where will we play? Sector, geography, product, channel
  3. ‎How will we win? Competitive advantage
  4. What capabilities must be in place? Need to do but also also do they become strengths
  5. ‎What management systems are required? Measure what matters

Kickstart question: what's on your mind?

Talking about what matters most. Once answer provided, there are three different facets of that we could look at:

  1. project – any challenges around the actual content
  2. ‎people – any issues with people
  3. ‎patterns – are you getting in your own way?

Awe question: and what else?

To get more, and mechanically better, options and solutions.

Talk less, ask more: resist the temptation of offering advice right away.

(Getting 4 options is the optional number before which our brains get into decision paralysis because of too many choices)

What else is on your mind, what else could you do, what else is a challenge for you, etc.

Focus question: what's the real challenge here for you?

Especially when many challenges exposed or focus digresses to another person or to abstraction.

Foundation question: what do you want?

Distinction between wants and needs.

9 types of needs (Rosenberg): affection, creation, recreation, freedom, identity, understanding, participation, protection, subsistence

Lazy question: how can I help?

Avoid being the rescuer all the time, making yourself exhausted, and sometimes the other person irritated.

Possible replies:

  • yes or no
  • ‎no but I could do something else
  • ‎let me think about that (gain time)

Strategic question:  if you're saying yes to this, what are you saying no to?

Say "yes" more slowly,  stay curious before committing – why are you asking me, whom else have you asked, what do you mean when you say this is urgent, if I could do just a part what part would you have me do, what do you want me to take off my plate so I can do this.

Learning question: what was most useful to you?

Advice is overrated: generating the answer yourself is better.

That question assumes the conversation was useful, asks people to identify the big thing that was most useful, makes it personal ("for you"), gives you feedback, it's learning not judgement (was this useful), reminds people how useful you are.

Using Daniel Kahneman's "peak-end rule" of finishing on a high note that will make everything that went before look better.