The Coaching Habit
Posted on January 5, 2018
Although this book has some useful into in it, I wouldn’t recommend that anybody read it. For one thing, it’s chock full of teasers to go watch videos on the author’s web site; for another, there’s a plea midway through to rate the book on Amazon. So it feels very spammy. It also generally feels like an “I’m a guru” sort of book in which the author synthesizes things that other similar gurus have written about in their own books. I guess this saves me the effort of reading those unappealing books, but it still feels kind of weird. On the whole, I feel like this would have worked pretty well as a short blog post with a list of questions and brief blurbs about the questions but that packaging it up into a book is a stretch.
The notion of building a habit around asking the suggested questions is foregrounded in the title and in the structure of the book (which walks you through the steps to building habits of asking the questions), but it actually feels secondary to just reading the questions. So in a way it feels like maybe the author padded the book by wrapping the questions up into a package promoting the establishment of a habit. But the bits about building a habit at the end of each section pretty much just suggest that you start asking the question the section covers, which is kind of silly.
Now I’ll stop complaining. There are some useful bits in the book. The author emphasizes asking questions over giving advice, and I think this can be useful. If you guide people toward answering some of the suggested questions (or toward thinking them through more intentionally and building the confidence to provide their own answers in the future), you increase the odds that they start to ask the useful questions themselves. You also increase the odds that they solve their own problems and feel equipped to do so, and you help them feel like they got to their own solutions. In other words, you help them feel comfortable in their own skin as a lead, vs. building a codependency with you. This all makes pretty good sense and seems valuable.
In general, he suggests starting from a place less of giving advice and more of leading the person to think through a situation or problem and use their own knowledge and judgment to figure out the best path forward. I think this makes good sense.
Here’s a quote I liked a lot:
Coaching for performance is about addressing and fixing a specific problem or challenge. It’s putting out the fire or building up the fire or banking the fire. It’s everyday stuff, and it’s important and necessary. Coaching for development is about turning the focus from the issue to the person dealing with the issue, the person who’s managing the fire. This conversation is more rare and significantly more powerful.
The suggested questions, more or less in the order in which you should ask them, are:
- What’s on your mind?
- And what else? (Keep asking until you run out of answers.)
- What’s the real challenge here for you? (Zoom in on the specific thing that’s an issue for the person.)
- What do you want? (What are they really wanting out of this coaching or this conversation or out of this situation?)
- How can I help? (Get clarity on what the person actually needs from you vs. going straight to your own prescriptions.)
- If you’re saying “yes” to this, what are you saying “no” to? (Help them figure out tradeoffs.)
- What was most useful for you? (Reflection after the fact helps with memory, solidifies any takeaways, and as a bonus helps affirm that there actually was something useful in the conversation.)