“If you deal with other human beings, this book will help you,” says author Michael Bungay Stanier.
On the surface, The Coaching Habit: Say Less, Ask More & Change the Way You Lead Forever is straight forward, concise, and an extremely helpful guide on how to build new habits in a work environment to improve staff productivity and to become a better manager. On a deeper level this book could easily be applied to any one in any area of their life. Stanier makes it very clear, if you’re interested in living a better life, you have to know how habits are formed. This is because habits represent who we are as people, ”we are what we repeatedly do.” Showing up early or late is a sign of who we are and what we make a priority. Cleaning up after ourselves or leaving a mess everywhere points to the type of qualities we have and chose to showcase for the world to judge. Small habits make up every part of who we are and they are extremely hard to change permanently, that is often why making changes fail. Diets, exercise, quitting a bad habit like smoking or picking up a good habit such as eating more vegetables all take a tremendous amount of work and time to make a habit.
Stanier takes baby steps to convince his readers that change is possible and incredibly beneficially to those who put in the time and effort. The book highlights research that shows,
“leaders and managers who regularly take part in coaching make a markedly positive increase in company profitability and moral. Yet, many managers and supervisors do not take part in coaching. Managers know coaching is good for us but often have become advice giving maniacs trying to come up with solutions before they even know the problem.”
This fundamental habit of giving advice and talking too much is what this book is designed to break from its readers. The need for managers to be in control, have all the answers, and know the next step is not being “coach like.” Being “coach like” for Stanier is simply asking more questions and rushing to action a little bit slower.
In The Coaching Habit, Stanier wants managers to make a mindset shift, to go from having a few good questions to really being curious about what is beneath the surface in any situation. By spending a bit less time giving advice and talking, and more time asking questions, waiting for feedback we can drastically change the environment and the attitude of our team. This book asks managers to really look at where a staff person is and to help them find answers or solutions themselves.
The book discusses a study which showed ten percent of employees report that coaching had a negative impact on their enthusiasm for their job. This means that currently, a large amount of coaching de-motivates people from trying their hardest and performing their best. Stanier says that this is often because companies are providing “coaching training” but not practical tools that managers can implement. Managers who try to implement anything they’ve learning in traditional coaching training are setting themselves up to fail as most recommends scheduling coaching to occur monthly or having a “coaching meeting.” How dreadful to look at your calendar each month and count down the days to when you are forced into your manager’s office for a talk on how you are failing at your job and what you can improve. No, a typical scenario like this, one which occurs regularly across corporate culture, puts both the manager and the employee on edge. Stanier describes these types of interactions as leading to lasting negative connotations and the relief felt by both employee and manager when they are “delighted the ordeal is over for the month.”
We’ve likely all been on one side of this situation or the other and know how hostile coaching in this manner feels. Instead, Stanier would like his readers to look at coaching as an ongoing cycle. He wants us to understand that coaching isn’t about the occasional event; it’s about understanding that every interaction can be a bit more coach like. Whether it’s bumping into each other in the hall, having a quick chat in an elevator, stripping back some of the formality of coaching will help take the anxiety away from the situation and make the conversation more effective. Stanier makes a great comparison of thinking of coaching as drip irrigation, not a flash flood. Flash floods can be devastating and hardly ever produce the desired outcomes. Drip irrigation on the other hand provides steady and consistent water to help grow crops.
I originally picked up this book because of the positive changes I felt it could help me make at work. After reading it however I strongly feel that many of the steps Stanier has asked readers to implement can be applied in a wider context. Since the book lays out a foundation of how to make small habit changes in all areas of our life, really just about anything you wanted to change or improve could be accomplished with these same steps. I found the book incredibly helpful and encouraging. Often, when we fail at building a new habit it’s because we have fallen prey to the gimmick of “change your life in 30 days” sales pitches when in reality a habit is an ongoing process which could take months or years to feel comfortable.
Both the book and audio version are short and very easy to digest. Stanier wanted to make a practical tool for the busy, tired, and over worked person who could quickly get through the information and start to implement his strategies. In a final thought by the author, he states that coaching is the least utilized leadership skills even though a range of great impacts including engagement and moral. He hopes to have supplied readers with useful practical tools to help them develop this underused skill and become a better person throughout their life.
Formats Available: Book
Reviewed by Lindsay, St. Matthews Branch