If you could get better at one skill that would make you a more effective leader, what would it be? If you’re like most of the leaders I meet, it would be coaching. If you could spend less time telling people what to do and more time training them how to think, your efforts would be rewarded handsomely. You’d have more time to focus on your work, rather than on work that’s more appropriately done at other levels. You’d have more engaged employees feeling more motivated because they are making a bigger contribution. Heck, you might even get home for dinner more often because if you’re bad at coaching, your exorbitant workload is a self-inflicted wound.
But coaching rather than telling, questioning rather than instructing, reflecting rather than transmitting…well, it’s harder than it sounds.
And that’s why you’re fortunate (we’re all fortunate) that Michael Bungay Stanier has published the follow-up to his massively successful book The Coaching Habit. He’s back with a deep dive on the most common coaching killer—the advice monster. The Advice Trap: Be Humble, Stay Curious, and Change the Way You Lead Forever will out the advice monster that hides under your bed (or your desk). It will help you realize that each time you tell someone what to do, you solve the wrong problem, you settle for a mediocre solution, and you fail as a leader.
The Alternative to Giving Advice
The book describes three different advice monster personas: tell-it, save-it, and control-it. Knowing your triggers, Bungay Stanier argues, is critical for starting the process of behavior change. Armed with that knowledge, you can start to implement his suggestions for taming your advice monster.
For example, in the section on staying curious longer, Michael revisits his seven coaching questions from The Coaching Habit. He shows you how to use them to uncover the real issue that’s hiding beneath the surface and how to help your team stay in the ambiguity and uncertainty long enough to get to a good solution. He then shares how to make coaching a habit that saturates your interactions (meetings, one-on-ones, performance management conversations, etc.).
Finally, The Advice Trap concludes with, ironically, advice on how to give advice. You’ll be glad to know that there are moments when giving advice is the right answer, as long as you define the right spots, diminish the advice down to its essential elements, deliver it confidently, and debrief it after.
The Perfect Package
As with The Coaching Habit, Michael’s collaboration with Page Two Publishing on The Advice Trap has resulted in a book that’s great to look at, easy to use, and quick to put into practice. That’s what I love about Michael Bungay Stanier—he channels his considerable brilliance into writing a book that is much more about making you look smart than making him look smart. As an author, I appreciate how much effort he has invested in ruthlessly paring his ideas down to only the most essential elements, trading out delicious $10 words in favor of the most elegant $2 words, and I’m sure killing a few darlings along the way.
Pick up a copy of The Advice Trap, and if you haven’t yet, grab The Coaching Habit while you’re at it. Your team will thank you.