The Coaching Habit - Book Notes

Feb 20, 2024

Unleash Your Leadership Potential: Transform Your Approach with "The Coaching Habit"

Ready to revolutionize your leadership style? Dive into "The Coaching Habit" by Michael Bungay Stanier, a game-changing book that redefines coaching for today's leaders and managers. Discover how seven simple yet powerful questions can shift your focus from providing solutions to empowering others. Break free from workplace challenges, foster meaningful conversations, and drive personal and organizational growth starting today!

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๐Ÿš€ The Book in 3 Sentences

  1. "The Coaching Habit" by Michael Bungay Stanier presents a transformative approach to coaching that helps individuals become more effective leaders and managers.
  2. Through seven powerful coaching questions, the book teaches readers how to shift from providing solutions to empowering others to find their own answers and solutions.
  3. By cultivating a coaching habit, individuals can break free from common workplace challenges, foster meaningful conversations, and drive personal and organizational growth.

๐Ÿ‘ฑ Who Should Read it?

It is highly recommended for leaders, managers, coaches, and anyone in a position of influence seeking to enhance their coaching skills and create a more empowering work environment. Additionally, individuals interested in personal development, effective communication, and fostering a culture of learning and growth within their teams or organizations will find immense value in this book.

๐Ÿ€ How the Book Changed Me

It made me realize that I give too much advice, while I should be listening actively and hold myself back. A little trick that I learned and apply is to stop after the other person finished his sentence and internally count to 10 before proceeding. Surprisingly, more often than not, I'm not the one continuing the conversation. This has two benefits, on one hand it holds me back from providing my own answers too quickly and on the other hand it gives the other person time to process and come up with other ideas.

I almost always use the "Kickstart Question" (see below) to start my one-to-ones with my direct reports and I'm amazed by all the deep and focused conversations that resulted from this simple intro to the talk.

โœ๏ธ Top 3 Quotes

  1. "When you build a coaching habit, you can more easily break out of three vicious circles that plague our workplaces: creating overdependence, getting overwhelmed, and becoming disconnected."
  2. "The Coaching Habit is the way to start any conversation in a way thatโ€™s both focused and open."
  3. "People donโ€™t really learn when you tell them something. They donโ€™t even really learn when 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."

๐Ÿ”จ 3 Action Points

  1. Start Conversations with Open-Ended Questions:
    Begin interactions with others, whether they're colleagues, team members, or even friends and family, by asking open-ended questions like the Kickstart Question ("What's on your mind?"). This approach fosters deeper conversations, encourages self-reflection, and empowers others to share their thoughts and concerns.
  2. Practice Active Listening and Inquiry:
    Incorporate powerful coaching questions, such as the AWE Question ("And What Else?") and the Focus Question ("What's the Real Challenge Here for You?"), into your interactions. Practice active listening to understand others' perspectives fully, and use probing questions to delve deeper into the root causes of challenges or issues they're facing.
  3. Encourage Self-Reflection and Learning:
    Cultivate a culture of learning and growth by regularly asking the Learning Question ("What Was Most Useful for You?") after meetings, conversations, or collaborative projects. Encourage individuals to reflect on their experiences, identify key insights, and apply them to future situations, fostering continuous improvement and development.

๐Ÿ“— Summary & Notes

Breaking Free from Vicious Circles

In "The Coaching Habit," Michael Bungay Stanier identifies three common traps that hinder productivity and growth in workplaces: creating overdependence, getting overwhelmed, and becoming disconnected. These vicious circles often stem from a lack of effective coaching practices. By adopting a coaching habit, individuals can navigate these challenges more effectively and create a more empowering work environment.

Essential Components of Habit Formation

To develop a coaching habit, it's essential to understand the five key components of habit formation outlined by Stanier:

  1. Reason: Make a commitment to change by understanding the payoff for adopting a new habit, focusing on how it will benefit both yourself and others.
  2. Trigger: Identify the specific cues or triggers that prompt old behaviors, as awareness of these triggers is essential for initiating change.
  3. Micro-Habit: Define new habits as micro-habits that can be completed in less than sixty seconds, making them easier to integrate into daily routines.
  4. Effective Practice: Practice new habits consistently, focusing on small chunks of the desired behavior, repetition, and mindful reflection on successes.
  5. Plan: Anticipate and plan for setbacks by developing strategies to overcome resistance and stay on track with new habits.

The Power of Seven Coaching Questions

Stanier introduces seven powerful questions that form the backbone of effective coaching conversations. Each question serves a specific purpose in guiding discussions towards meaningful insights and solutions:

1. Kickstart Question - "What's on your mind?"

The Kickstart Question serves as the gateway to meaningful conversations. By asking this open-ended question, coaches invite individuals to share what's most pressing or relevant to them at the moment. This question encourages self-reflection and sets the stage for focused discussions. Its benefits include:

  • Openness: By starting with an open-ended query, coaches signal that they are genuinely interested in the individual's thoughts and concerns.
  • Focus: This question prompts individuals to identify and prioritize their most pressing issues, helping to steer the conversation in a meaningful direction.
  • Empowerment: By allowing individuals to lead the conversation, the Kickstart Question empowers them to take ownership of their challenges and solutions.

2. AWE Question - "And What Else?"

The AWE Question encourages deeper exploration and generates additional insights. By prompting individuals to consider alternative perspectives or possibilities, this question expands the scope of the conversation and fosters creativity. Its benefits include:

  • Divergent Thinking: By encouraging individuals to consider multiple options or perspectives, the AWE Question promotes divergent thinking and creative problem-solving.
  • Discovery: This question often uncovers hidden insights or overlooked possibilities, enriching the conversation and enhancing understanding.
  • Empowerment: By suggesting that there may be more to explore, the AWE Question empowers individuals to delve deeper into their thoughts and experiences, fostering self-discovery and growth.

3. Focus Question - "What's the Real Challenge Here for You?"

The Focus Question helps individuals identify the underlying issues or root causes of their challenges. By shifting the focus from symptoms to core issues, this question promotes clarity and insight. Its benefits include:

  • Clarity: By pinpointing the real challenge, individuals gain clarity on what they need to address, allowing for more targeted and effective solutions.
  • Problem-Solving: This question encourages individuals to move beyond surface-level problems and tackle underlying issues, facilitating more meaningful and sustainable solutions.
  • Empathy: By acknowledging the individual's perspective and concerns, the Focus Question demonstrates empathy and understanding, strengthening the coach-client relationship.

4. Foundation Question - "What Do You Want?"

The Foundation Question helps individuals clarify their goals and desired outcomes. By focusing on what individuals want to achieve, this question provides direction and purpose. Its benefits include:

  • Goal Clarity: By articulating their desires and aspirations, individuals gain clarity on what they want to accomplish, guiding their actions and decisions.
  • Motivation: This question taps into individuals' intrinsic motivations and passions, inspiring them to pursue meaningful goals and aspirations.
  • Alignment: By aligning actions with desired outcomes, the Foundation Question helps individuals stay focused and committed to achieving their goals.

5. Lazy Question - "How Can I Help?"

The Lazy Question encourages individuals to take ownership of their challenges and solutions. By shifting the focus from providing answers to offering support, this question promotes autonomy and empowerment. Its benefits include:

  • Empowerment: By asking individuals how they would like to be helped, the Lazy Question empowers them to take responsibility for their own growth and development.
  • Autonomy: This question encourages individuals to identify their own needs and preferences, promoting autonomy and self-reliance.
  • Supportive Environment: By offering assistance in a non-intrusive manner, the Lazy Question creates a supportive environment where individuals feel valued and respected.

6. Strategic Question - "If You're Saying Yes to This, What Are You Saying No To?"

The Strategic Question prompts individuals to consider the broader implications of their decisions and commitments. By encouraging reflection on trade-offs and priorities, this question fosters strategic thinking and decision-making. Its benefits include:

  • Strategic Thinking: By considering the opportunity costs of their choices, individuals develop a more strategic mindset, enabling them to make more informed decisions.
  • Priority Setting: This question helps individuals identify their top priorities and allocate resources accordingly, ensuring that they focus on what matters most.
  • Resource Management: By encouraging individuals to be mindful of their commitments, the Strategic Question promotes effective resource management and prevents overextension.

7. Learning Question - "What Was Most Useful for You?"

The Learning Question promotes reflection and self-awareness. By encouraging individuals to identify key takeaways and insights, this question facilitates learning and growth. Its benefits include:

  • Reflection: By prompting individuals to reflect on their experiences, the Learning Question deepens their understanding and retention of new information.
  • Self-Awareness: This question helps individuals become more self-aware by highlighting their strengths, areas for improvement, and learning preferences.
  • Continuous Improvement: By fostering a culture of learning and feedback, the Learning Question supports continuous improvement and development.

Creating a Safe and Supportive Environment

Stanier emphasizes the importance of creating a safe and supportive environment for coaching conversations. The TERA Quotient assesses levels of tribe, expectation, rank, and autonomy in interactions, highlighting the need to foster trust, engagement, and collaboration.

Overcoming Common Coaching Challenges

"The Coaching Habit" provides strategies for overcoming common coaching challenges, such as avoiding overdependence, managing overwhelm, and staying connected to meaningful work. By asking powerful questions, listening actively, and providing support without taking over, coaches can empower individuals to find their own solutions and achieve their goals.


In closing, "The Coaching Habit" equips leaders with the tools to transform their approach, fostering a culture of empowerment and growth. By embracing the book's principles and practicing its powerful questioning techniques, leaders can break free from common workplace challenges and drive personal and organizational development. Let's embark on this journey together, inspiring positive change and unlocking our full potential as leaders.