Issue No. 338 of Your Weekly Staff Meeting highlights a new book out this week that says the AWE question is the best coaching question in the world. After hearing the author explain it, I’m all in! And this reminder: click here for my 2015 book-of-the-year pick and my Top-10 list and check out the resources in all 20 management buckets (core competencies) here.
MEMO TO EVERY PERSON I’VE PRETENDED TO COACH OR MENTOR: I’m so, so sorry! Honest!
Here’s why. This month I was a learner in a seminar with CEOs and board chairs. The highly energetic, wise and witty facilitator was Michael Bungay Stanier, the author of the hot-off-the-press book, The Coaching Habit: Say Less, Ask More & Change the Way You Lead Forever.
At a coffee break, halfway through the three-hour, how-to-coach practicum, I told Stanier that—already—the seminar was on my Top-10 list of best workshops ever attended (and I’ve endured my fair share). Here’s why I gave it a 10:
Three memorable points on coaching:
• BE LAZY: Stop working so hard.
• BE CURIOUS: Stop giving so much advice.
• BE OFTEN: Stop waiting to coach.
And how’s this for role reversal? I’m usually reading snippets from books to my wife, Joanne. She picked this up first and is still reading—and reminding me—on what effective coaching looks like, especially the “stop giving so much advice” poke-in-the-ribs. Ouch.
Stanier notes that “Harland Howard said every great country song has three chords and the truth. This book gives you seven questions and the tools to make them an everyday way to work less hard and have more impact.” The seven essential questions:
• The Kickstart Question
• The AWE Question
• The Focus Question
• The Foundation Question
• The Lazy Question
• The Strategic Question
• The Learning Question
Stanier says the best coaching question in the world is the AWE question:
“And What Else?”
In a four-minute drill with another board chair, I was instructed to ask four questions displayed on the seminar room screen. Stanier says “the first answer someone gives you is almost never the only answer, and it’s rarely the best answer,” so the AWE question is the perfect follow-up.
• Q1: What’s the real challenge here for you?
• Q2: And what else?
• Q3: And what else?
• Q4: So what’s the real challenge here for you?
In just four minutes—it was almost magical. I stuck to the bargain (whew—very hard) and just asked questions of my board chair partner. He responded to each question—and increasingly, in response to “And what else?” he dug deeper and deeper and—BINGO!—answered his own question and solved his own challenge.
Where was this book when I was pretending to coach team members, clients, my son, my grandkids, and many, many others? Yikes!
I’ve underlined gems on almost every page:
• Although coaching is listed as one of the six essential leadership styles in Daniel Goleman’s article, “Leadership That Gets Results” (a Harvard Business Review classic), “it was the least-used leadership style.”
• “You can build a coaching habit” and “You can coach someone in ten minutes or less. And in today’s busy world, you have to be able to coach in ten minutes or less.”
• “Coaching should be a daily, informal act, not an occasional, formal ‘It’s Coaching Time!’ event.”
Stanier’s humor sneaks up on you! As you embark on what he calls the “coaching habit,” he suggests you start somewhere easy:
“If you’re going to manage someone differently, pick someone who might be up for it and is willing to cut you some slack. Or pick someone with whom it’s all going so badly that you’ve got nothing left to lose.”
Another Aha! The author says there’s a huge difference between coaching for performance—and coaching for development. “Call them forward to learn, improve and grow, rather than to just get something sorted out.”
A gargantuan fan of questions—versus answers—he quotes Nancy Willard: “Answers are closed rooms; and questions are open doors that invite us in.”
“CUT THE INTRO AND ASK THE QUESTION” is another shot over the bow. He notes, “No James Bond movie starts off slowly. Pow! Within 10 seconds you’re into the action, the adrenaline has jacked and the heart is beating faster”—so “cut the preliminary flim-flam” in your coaching process. In 72-point font on page 52, Stanier shouts:
“If you know what question to ask, get to the point and ask it.”
TAME THE ADVICE MONSTER! “We’ve all got a deeply ingrained habit of slipping into the advice-giver/expert/answer-it/solve-it/fix-it mode.” (One study revealed that doctors interrupt patients with advice within 18 seconds. Ditto, perhaps, the rest of us.)
Slow down and take a breath, says Stanier. “Even though we don’t really know what the issue is, we’re quite sure we’ve got the answer they need.”
VP OF BOTTLENECKING. If your employee name badge should read “VP of Bottlenecking,” you must read this book. These seven essential coaching questions will help you coach others, and as Stanier perceptively writes, “Focus on the real problem, not the first problem.”
There are dozens and dozens of more gems in this fresh, easy-to-read format (plus almost 50 full-page quotations—all PowerPoint-worthy). I just ordered eight books for colleagues who are coaching boards and CEOs this year.
To order from Amazon, click on the title for The Coaching Habit: Say Less, Ask More & Change the Way You Lead Forever, by Michael Bungay Stanier.
Your Weekly Staff Meeting Questions:
1) In the workshop session I attended, the author walked us outside into the warm sunshine and coached us, briefly, from the three points of “The Drama Triangle.” Common team roles: Victim, Persecutor, and Rescuer. He then asked us to stand on the point we frequently visit. Where would you stand?
2) If you tend to wear the Rescuer hat frequently—beware of the question that often triggers it. According to Stanier, the cheddar on the mousetrap is “What do you think I should do about…?” (Honest, now. Do you go for the cheese—or do you respond, “That’s a great question. I’ve got some ideas, which I’ll share with you. But before I do, what are your first thoughts?”)
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
As we cycle through the 20 buckets, here is a reminder that effective questions are powerful tools in the Delegation Bucket, Chapter 16, in Mastering the Management Buckets.
Steve Brown’s questions on effective delegation hit home! “What are the costs of not delegating more?” And, “What delegation assignments could be important growth opportunities for others?”
Click on the title of Brown’s 28-page booklet, Great Questions for Leading Well, for a taste of more than 200 powerful questions you’ll use right away.
And, watch for the review, in my next eNews issue, of Brown’s latest book, Leading Me: Eight Practices for a Christian Leader’s Most Important Assignment. It’s the perfect companion to this issue’s review of The Coaching Habit.
For more insights from the Delegation Bucket, visit this webpage.
Your Weekly Staff Meeting is emailed free two to four times a month to subscribers, the frequency of which is based on an algorithm of book length, frequent flyer miles, and client deadlines. We do not accept any form of compensation from authors or publishers for book reviews. As a board member and raving fan of Christian Community Credit Union (a non-profit), we proudly list the credit union as a sponsor at no charge.