Recently I have started learning and practising to become a manager. My boss has brought in and suggested to read “The Coaching Habit” book and I never pass up a good book. At the time I didn’t remember it, but I have read the book some years back. Back then I didn’t have much opportunities to practice what this book is teaching, so little has stuck with me. Now the situation has changed and I have plenty of opportunities to coach people so this book will come in really handy.
Apart from the obvious takeaways like the 7 questions I found a lot of other small bits of information that will help me become a better coach. I suspect that I will refer back to this book again and again as I suspect I will forget things and I want to consume every useful bit of information this book has to offer. The book also contains many references to other books that I am looking forward to reading.
I had a very interesting experience after finishing the book. I have finished the book just before my family time, where me and my wife catch up about how our day went, how we are feeling, etc. As she was telling me about her day and how frustrated she was, I thought I could practice the coaching questions (the book has primed me for that by suggesting that the questions are applicable in the every day life, not just work). So I did and boy did they work well! First, instead of my regular routine of “oh, you should do this” or “have you done that?” I focused on asking the AWE (“And what else?”) question and once she mentioned all of the things that frustrated her I asked the focusing question “so what’s the real challenge here for you?“. She was a little bit surprised, but went on to talk about how she didn’t find enough time to spend with the kids in the morning and spend the whole day feeling bad about it. I then proceeded with “So what do you want?”, to which she answered that she wants to do the morning activities she had planned for the kids. I then used “If you say yes to this, what are you saying no to?” question and finished with “What was most useful for you in this conversation?” where she reiterated what she had said in different words. My wife was visibly happier after this chat and I felt really strange. Throughout the whole conversation I didn’t have time to come up with a single piece of advice as I was trying to listen to her and figure out what’s the most logical next question. It felt really good as I think I have actually spent more time listening than trying to help. I also helped her without having any opinion on the matter which felt amazing!
While some parts of the question are particularly important, e.g. “…for you”, the questions can be adapted to the situation and are useful beyond their specific word combination as approaches one could be taking when coaching someone.
7 coaching questions:
- “What’s on your mind?”
- “And what else?”
- “What’s the real challenge here for you?”
- “What do you want?”
- “How can I help?”
- “If you are saying yes to this, what are you saying no to?”
- “What was most useful for you?”
Managing for performance or development
The difference between managing for performance and managing for development is that in the former case you are helping someone to solve a specific problem whereas in the latter you are heping them improve themselves. Coaching for performance is more common and, while really useful, is not going to have as high an impact as coaching for development. One can easily remember the impactful “for development” conversations where your mentor challenges you to learn and improve beyond the limits of a specific task - I most certainly remember mine. As a coach, it is important to recognize the opportunities to mentor someone in ways that will make them better outside the scope of the project.
“Silence is a sign of success”
It means that the other person is thinking. One shouldn’t try to break silence just because it can feel uncomfortable. I feel like I knew that from before, but it’s good to be reminded of this and make sure I’m practising it.
The book has a lot more information than what I mentioned, but these are the things that stuck with me the best. I highly recommend reading it as the book reads easily and is filled with tons of useful information. I’m certain that I will keep coming back to this book.