The Coaching Habit summary

The Coaching Habit Summary & Review | Michael Bungay Stanier


In a world where everyone seems to be in a rush, the power of good, effective communication becomes more critical than ever. In his transformative book, The Coaching Habit, Michael Bungay Stanier unravels the mysteries of fostering productive conversations in our professional and personal lives. He delivers practical strategies to resist the urge to offer advice instantly, ask better questions, and master the art of silence. These techniques allow you to develop a powerful coaching habit that will significantly improve the way you lead, influence, and support others. It’s not just about being a better manager or colleague; it’s about fostering genuine, beneficial connections with the people around you.

About Michael Bungay Stanier

Michael Bungay Stanier is a renowned figure in the world of coaching and leadership development. Having started his career in the field of innovation and creativity, he later founded Box of Crayons, a company that helps organizations transform from advice-driven to curiosity-led. Michael has been named the #1 Thought Leader in Coaching, and his book The Coaching Habit has sold over 700,000 copies and is a Wall Street Journal Bestseller. Beyond this, his other books, including Do More Great Work and The Advice Trap, also made it to the bestseller list and continue to inspire leaders across the globe.

StoryShot #1: Become Less Advice-Centric

Step back from the reflex to offer advice constantly. This is the first step toward becoming a better coach. When you give advice, you take away the opportunity for others to think critically and develop solutions. Instead, adopt a coaching habit where you allow people to explore possibilities and come up with their own solutions.

Imagine a scenario where a team member comes to you with a problem they are facing. Instead of immediately offering advice, you could ask open-ended questions to help them explore the issue more deeply. For example, you could ask “What have you tried so far?” or “What do you think could be causing this problem?” This allows the team member to think critically and come up with their own solutions. By adopting this coaching habit, you are empowering your team members to develop their own problem-solving skills and become more self-sufficient.

StoryShot #2: The Kickstart Question

A great conversation starts with a great question. The Kickstart Question, “What’s on your mind?” invites people to get to the heart of the matter and share what’s most important to them.

Let’s say you are a manager and you want to have a one-on-one meeting with one of your team members. Instead of starting the conversation by talking about work-related topics, you could begin with “What’s on your mind?” This question encourages your team member to share whatever is most important to them at that moment, whether it’s a work-related issue or a personal matter that is affecting their work. By starting the conversation in this way, you are showing that you value your team member’s thoughts and feelings, and you are creating a safe space for them to share openly. This can help build trust and strengthen your working relationship, and it can also help you identify any issues or concerns that may be impacting your team member’s performance.

StoryShot #3: The AWE Question

Let’s say you are coaching a team member who is struggling with a particular task. You’ve already asked them some open-ended questions to help them explore the issue, but you want to encourage them to think even more deeply. This is where the AWE question, “And what else?” can be very useful.

For example, your team member might say, “I’m having trouble completing this project on time because I keep getting interrupted by emails.” You could respond by saying, “Okay, I understand that emails are a big distraction for you. And what else is contributing to the problem?” This question encourages your team member to think beyond the obvious answer and explore other factors that may be impacting their ability to complete the project. They might respond by saying, “Well, I also have trouble focusing when there’s a lot of noise in the office.” By asking “And what else?” you are helping your team member to uncover more insights and identify more options for addressing the issue. This can lead to a more creative and effective solution than if you had simply jumped to conclusions based on the initial information provided.

StoryShot #4: Cut the Telling and Start Asking

Imagine your team members is struggling with a particular task. Your first instinct might be to jump in and tell them what to do. However, by taking a step back and asking questions instead, you can create a safe space for your team member to express themselves, come up with their own solutions, and grow.

For example, you could start by asking open-ended questions like “What’s been challenging about this task?” or “What have you tried so far?” This allows your team member to share their thoughts and feelings without fear of judgment or criticism. As they answer your questions, they may start to uncover insights or ideas that they hadn’t considered before. You can then follow up with more probing questions like “How might you approach this task differently?” or “What resources do you need to succeed?” These questions can help your team member develop their critical thinking skills and come up with their own solutions.

By using inquiry instead of rushing to tell your team member what to do, you are also showing that you trust and respect their abilities. This can help build their confidence and motivation, which can lead to better performance over time. Ultimately, the power of inquiry lies in its ability to create a collaborative and supportive environment where everyone can learn and grow together.”

StoryShot #5: The Focus Question

Let’s say you are leading a team meeting to discuss a new project. As the meeting progresses, you notice that the conversation is starting to go off-track and become unfocused. People are bringing up tangential issues or discussing topics that are not directly related to the project at hand. This is where the Focus Question, “What’s the real challenge here for you?” can be very useful.

By asking this question, you are encouraging your team members to think more deeply about what is really important to them in relation to the project. They may respond by saying things like, “Well, I’m not sure we have enough resources to complete this on time,” or “I’m worried that we’re not getting enough input from stakeholders.” These responses can help identify the real problems and challenges that need to be addressed.

Once you have identified the central issue, you can then use other coaching tools like open-ended questions or the AWE question to help your team members explore possible solutions. By using the Focus Question to bring the conversation back on track, you are helping your team stay focused on what is most important and avoid getting bogged down in irrelevant details or distractions.

StoryShot #6: The Foundation Question

The Foundation Question, “What do you want?” is a powerful tool for helping others articulate their needs clearly. If you are having a conversation with one of your team members about their career goals, you could start the conversation by asking the Foundation Question, “What do you want?” This question encourages your team member to think deeply about what they really want in their career, beyond just their current role or responsibilities.

Your team member might respond by saying, “Well, I want to eventually move into a leadership position.” This response helps clarify the objectives of the conversation and provides a clear direction for future discussions or actions. You can then follow up with more probing questions like “What skills or experiences do you need to develop to achieve this goal?” or “What steps can we take to help you move closer to this objective?”

By using the Foundation Question, you are also helping your team member align their actions with their desired outcomes. They may discover that they need to develop certain skills or gain certain experiences in order to achieve their career goals. By clarifying what they want, you are also helping them identify opportunities for growth and development. Ultimately, the Foundation Question is a powerful tool for helping others gain clarity and focus in their personal and professional lives.

StoryShot #7: No Learning, No Impact

The Learning Question, “What was most useful for you?” is a key tool for ensuring that the person you’re coaching learns something from the conversation. It’s not enough to simply explore issues and identify solutions; you also want to help your team member turn those insights into practical actions that they can implement in their work or personal life.

Let’s say you are coaching a team member who is struggling with time management. You’ve had a productive conversation where you’ve explored the root causes of the issue and identified some potential solutions. Now it’s time to help your team member turn those insights into action. You could ask them the Learning Question, “What was most useful for you?” This question encourages your team member to reflect on what they’ve learned from the conversation and identify the key takeaways that they can implement in their daily routine.

Your team member might respond by saying, “I realized that I need to prioritize my tasks more effectively and set aside specific times for focused work.” This response helps to cement the insights from the conversation and turn them into practical actions that your team member can implement immediately. You can then follow up with more probing questions like “How can you incorporate these insights into your daily routine?” or “What support do you need to make these changes?”

By using the Learning Question, you are helping your team member take ownership of their learning and development. They are not simply receiving advice or instructions from you; they are actively reflecting on their own experiences and identifying ways to improve. This can lead to more meaningful and sustainable changes over time, as your team member becomes more self-aware and self-directed in their personal and professional growth.

StoryShot #8: Coach the Person, Not the Problem

Effective coaching requires understanding the person behind the problem. Sometimes, the issue that is presented may not be the actual problem. By taking the time to understand the individual’s motivations, experiences, and perspectives, you can help them identify the root causes of their challenges and develop more effective solutions.

For example, let’s say you are coaching a team member who is struggling to meet their performance targets. They may present the problem as simply a lack of skill or knowledge. However, by taking a more empathetic and curious approach, you may discover that there are deeper issues at play. Perhaps your team member is feeling overwhelmed by their workload, or they are experiencing personal issues that are impacting their performance.

By understanding the person behind the problem, you can build a stronger connection with your team member and create a more supportive coaching relationship. You can help them identify the root causes of their challenges and develop strategies to address them. This approach empowers your team member to tackle their challenges head-on and take ownership of their own growth and development.

Overall, effective coaching requires a deep understanding of the individual and their unique experiences and perspectives. By taking an empathetic and curious approach, you can build stronger connections with your team members and help them achieve their full potential.

StoryShot #9: Taming the Advice Monster

The “Advice Monster” is a common tendency to jump in with solutions instead of listening. By embracing a coaching mindset, we can create deeper conversations. For example, when coaching a team member struggling with communication, ask open-ended questions like “What have you tried so far?” to help them identify their own solutions. This empowers them to take ownership of their growth and development, leading to more meaningful conversations that build trust and collaboration over time.

StoryShot #10: Practice Makes Perfect

Developing a coaching habit requires a shift in mindset and habits. It takes time and practice to build new skills and integrate them into your daily interactions. One effective strategy is to start small and focus on one or two coaching techniques at a time. For example, you could try using the AWE question (“And What Else?”) to encourage deeper reflection and exploration in your conversations. Or you could practice active listening by summarizing what the other person has said and reflecting it back to them.

Another key element of developing a coaching habit is consistency. It’s important to make coaching a regular part of your interactions with others, rather than just an occasional activity. This can involve setting aside dedicated time for coaching conversations, integrating coaching into team meetings or one-on-one check-ins, or simply being more mindful and intentional in your daily interactions.

For example, let’s say you are a manager who wants to develop a coaching habit with your team. You could start by setting aside 10-15 minutes each week for one-on-one coaching conversations with each team member. During these conversations, you could focus on one or two coaching techniques, such as active listening or open-ended questioning. Over time, you could gradually integrate more coaching techniques into your interactions, building on your skills and deepening your relationships with your team members.

By integrating these techniques into your daily interactions, you can transition from an advice-giver to a high-impact coach. This can lead to more meaningful conversations, stronger relationships, and better outcomes for yourself and those around you.

Final Summary and Review

Michael Bungay Stanier’s “The Coaching Habit” is a transformative guide that reshapes our understanding of coaching. The book helps to resist the instinctive urge to provide advice and instead promotes a culture of curiosity and inquiry. Key takeaways include:

Taming your Advice Monster to create room for others to think and grow.

The power of potent questions such as the Kickstart Question, the AWE Question, the Focus Question, and the Foundation Question.

The emphasis on learning from every conversation using the Learning Question.

The importance of coaching the person, not just the problem.

Don’t forget to share your key learnings and tag us on social media!


While the book provides an insightful perspective on coaching, some readers might find the simplicity of the techniques too basic or the repetitiveness of concepts somewhat tedious. However, the very essence of the book lies in its simplicity, making the art of coaching accessible to all.


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