You know you should be investing more energy in coaching your team, but you believe: A) it takes too long; B) it’s easier just to tell them what to do; C) you’re clumsy at it; or D) all of the above. Well, I have the solution for you. It’s contained in 227 (easy-to-read, nice-to-look at) pages in the new book, The Coaching Habit by Michael Bungay Stainier.

I read most of this book while sitting in a cell-phone free area at U.S. Border Security in the Toronto airport, which speaks to both what a quick read the book is and to the length of the delays when one is seeking a Work Visa.

No More Excuses

As I read, I thought about those hackneyed excuses for not coaching; lack of time, impatience, lack of confidence in one’s skills. I kept asking whether Michael was solving for each of these. By the time I was done, my answer was a resounding ‘yes.’

The coaching process outlined in The Coaching Habit could easily be completed in about 3 minutes: Short enough to coach on the walk back from a meeting. For me, sub five minutes disqualifies time as a legitimate excuse. One down. For those who think it’s harder to ask than tell, the book provides several scenarios that will disabuse you of that notion (see The Lazy Rule). Two down. Finally, for those who feel out of their element in coaching, the book provides the exact words to use. Rote memorization could turn you into a coach overnight! So no more excuses for depriving your team of the coaching they want and deserve.

Valuable Content

The book is packed with insight. It begins with a compelling business case for coaching, touches briefly on habit formation, and then spares no time getting into the good stuff—the seven coaching questions that will propel your conversations. The questions include:

  • The Kickstart Question
  • The AWE Question
  • The Focus Question
  • The Foundation Question
  • The Lazy Question
  • The Strategic Question
  • The Learning Question

As an example, the Lazy Question is “How can I help?” Bungay Stanier ascribes two virtues to the question. “First, you’re forcing your colleague to make a direct and clear request.” Second, “it stops you from thinking that you know how best to help and leaping into action.” It’s quite brilliant. One concise, elegant question helps the person you’re coaching to clarify their thinking and get to the point, signals that he or she is still accountable, makes you look like the good guy who’ willing to help, gets you direction about the best use of your energy, all without catching you into the trap of presupposing or overstepping. That’s pretty darn good for a four word question.

The others questions are similarly clever. “And what else,” and “What are you saying no to” work wonders to guide the coaching conversation without coercing or constraining it. In each chapter Michael provides point and counter-point by sharing the alternatives to using the coaching question and by mapping out of some of the other, less desirable, options.

Clever Design

While the content is crisp and clear, the ease of consumption of the book owes equally much to the effort put into its design. Although the idea of design is everywhere these days, I had never thought of it as a tool for books. I was wrong. The page layout, including call out pages, notes sections, and eye-catching icons make it feel like you’re on a self-guided tour. The result is a book built for busy people cleverly designed to make its consumption quick and easy.

Target Audience

Although professional coaches will enjoy reading something written by someone who is clearly a kindred spirit, they aren’t the target audience. The book doesn’t really cover new territory. But what it does do is take the tenets of coaching and boil them down into an easy-to-use process. So if your job requires you to get things done through others, either as a formal or an informal manager, this book is for you.

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For Further Reading

8 Ways You Do Harm When You Think You’re Helping

Book Review: Conflict Management Coaching

4 Things Your Team Isn’t Telling You