The Coaching Habit: quick reference guide







August 29, 2021

In Michael Bungay Stanier's The Coaching Habit, coaching becomes a regular, informal part of your day so managers and their teams can work less hard and have more impact.

In these quick reference guides, I provide a practical overview of the essence of a book. I recommend reading the book and using these afterwards. They’re not intended as a substitute for the actual book.

The seven essential coaching questions

  1. “What’s on your mind?”
  2. “And what else?”
  3. “What’s the real challenge here for you?”
  4. “What do you (really) want (from me)?”
  5. “How can I help?”
  6. “If you’re saying yes to this, what are you saying no to?”
  7. “What was most useful for you?”

Additions to the questions

  • “Out of curiosity…” — softener that can be added in front (also: “Just so I know…”, “To help me understand better…”, or even “To make sure that I’m clear…”).
  • “And what else could you do?” — encourages deeper thinking.
  • “…for you?” — add at the end. Moves focus from performance to development oriented.
  • “What have you learned since we last met?” — encourage learning.


  • Ask “What” instead of “Why”. Instead of “Why did you do that?” ask “What were you hoping for here?”. “What made you choose this course of action?” instead of “Why did you think this was a good idea?”. Instead of “Why are you bothering with this?” ask “What’s important for you here?”.
  • First is not best. The first answer someone gives you is almost never the only answer, and it’s rarely the best answer (which is where “And what else?” comes in handy).
  • No advice with a question mark attached. Stop asking “Have you thought of…?”, “What about…?” “Did you consider…?”.
  • Find out the real problem. What people are laying out for you is rarely the actual problem. And when you start jumping in to fix things, things go off the rails in three ways: you work on the wrong problem. You do the work your team should be doing. The work doesn’t get done.
  • Stick to “what” instead of “why”. If you’re not trying to fix things, you don’t need the backstory.
  • Recognize the need to address the want. Articulate what the real need is behind the request.
  • Saying yes slowly. Stay curious before committing: “Why are you asking me?”, “Whom else have you asked?”, “When you say this is urgent, what do you mean?”, “According to what standard does this need to be completed? By when?”, “If I couldn’t do all of this, but could do just a part, what part would you have me do?”, “What do you want me to take off my plate so I can do this?”.
  • It works on email too. It could sound like: “Wow, there’s a lot going on here. What’s the real challenge here for you, do you think?”, “I’ve scanned your email. In a sentence or two, what do you want?”, or “Before I jump into a longer reply, let me ask you: What’s the real challenge here for you?”.
  • 3Ps. A challenge might typically be centred on a project, a person, or a pattern of behaviour. Usually the pattern goes unaddressed.

The Coaching Habit

Say Less, Ask More & Change the Way You Lead Forever
Author: Michael Bungay Stanier

⭐️ Rating: 4/5

View or buy The Coaching Habit on Amazon

📚️ Looking for more book reviews and summaries?

These are some of our most popular articles on productivity books:

Links to the book mentioned in this article are Amazon affiliate links. When you click one and make a purchase on Amazon, we (Saent) receive a commission at no additional cost to you.

Get posts like these in your inbox every Sunday 📨

Want to stay up to date with the latest thinking on personal productivity? Our subscribers get exclusive first access to a new weekly article on focus, time-management, AI, and other topics.

Join 7,000 others and never miss a productivity tip again. Simply enter your email address below to sign up.

Thank you! Your submission has been received!
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.
No spam. We only use your email address to send you a weekly article—you can unsubscribe anytime.