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The Coaching Habit

Book Summary, December 2020, Susan Alban

Susan Voiceover
I hope my summary below is helpful, but honestly just buy and read the book! It’s short, cleanly structured, and very useful as you consider how you want to show up with people who work for you, your peers, people you advise, etc.

I learned in ’s Stanford GSB Coaching class that, in a coaching relationship, you as the coach, should assume that your coachee is creative, whole, capable; and in fact, that they have the solutions to their problems within themselves. Your job as a coach is to help frame the problem, ask the revelatory questions, help frame assumptions, challenge beliefs that may no longer be helpful. Your job isn’t to solve the problem or have the solution.

If you want to approach more of your relationships like this, then The Coaching Habit very efficiently offers tactics and frameworks for doing so.

Tactics I deploy often:
Closing coaching relationships by asking question #7, What was most useful for you today?
Asking one question at a time. I am one of those people who has a hard time with silence and I have an old habit where I rapid-fire ask questions rather than sitting in the silence of a person thinking about their response to my first question.
Recognizing that I don’t need to backstory. I don’t need to ask for every detail or nuance of a particular problem. The person who is going to solve the problem (”the coachee”) has all the information they need within them; doing a full download to me isn’t necessary.
Questions for reframing what you’re going to do in the negative space of “if you do this, what aren’t you going to do?”

Coaching questions
What’s on your mind?
Can follow up with the
And What Else? (“AWE”)
Generates options —> Options improve outcomes and decrease failure rates (Source: Chip Heath)
Gets you to stop giving advice
What’s the real challenge here for you?
Can help get more specific.
Can make sure you’re solving the right problem — resist the urge to start solving problems or you risk solving the wrong problem.
“for you” personalizes the question
What do you want?
But what do you really want?
Suppose that tonight while you’re sleeping, a miracle happens. When you wake up in the morning, how will you know that things have suddenly gotten better?
Goal is to get person to imagine not what 10% better is but what 10x better is.
How can I help?
More direct version = “what do you want from me?” Can be disarming and may need pre-amble.
Makes the person have a clear succinct ask
Stops you from assuming you know how to help
NOTE: It can be difficult to avoid a direct appeal for advice like “how do I do xzy…?” Or “what do you think I should do about xyz…?
Possible reply: "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?" Keep asking - “this is good; is there anything else you could try here?"
Doctors who ask more generally, “how can I help” than directed “I understand you’re having sinus problems today?” learn more and are rated more highly by patients
If you’re saying yes to this, what are you saying no to?
Gets to the essence of strategy which critically includes saying no and defining what you aren’t going to do.
What was most useful for you today/in this conversation?
Create a learning moment.
One way to deepen the relationship is to tell the other person what you found to be most useful about the exchange. Creates a more equal exchange.
Ending on a positive note has a disproportionate weight on the other person’s perception (colonoscopy experiment)

Tactics
Questioning
Ask ONE question at a time
Resist the urge to give advice; instead ask “And what else…"
To be less direct and soften questions, can open question with…
Out of curiosity…
Just so I know...
To help me understand better..
To make sure I’m clear…
Framing questions with “for you” can be very powerful and lead to better problem solving.

Empathy and listening
Listen listen listen to answers
To reflect that you’ve heard, you can say, “I think I have a general picture. What else?"
Make sure to acknowledge replies - Nice; good one; I like it; Yes that’s good; etc.
SILENCE - get comfortable with it and consider it as a measure of success.
If you’re not trying to fix things, you don’t need the backstory

Other mediums: You can use these questions over email too:
“Wow there’s a lot going on here. What’s the real challenge for you, do you think?"
“I’ve scanned your email. In a sentence or two, what do you want?"
“Before I jump into a longer reply, let me ask you: what’s the real challenge here for you?

Create a habit
Identify the trigger, then replace old behavior with new behavior
If your habit as a manager is to jump into problem solving when you hear a problem, identify the trigger (hearing the problem) and switch out your old habit (jumping into tactical problem solving), with a new habit (e.g., pausing to ensure you’ve heard the entire problem, or asking “what else”, or empathizing “that sounds really frustrating”)
💡 Specific personal habit that the author does - write down a sentence or two about what he learned and what he’s most proud of (app is iDoneThis)

Strategy
The word, “Strategy”
is wildly overused and it can create isolation with employees as something “they” do and the they is several layers above them.
The essence of strategy is choosing what not to do -Michael Porter
Question #6 - If you’re saying yes to this, what are you saying no to?

3P questions about tradeoffs
Projects
What projects to you need to abandon or postpone?
What meetings will you no longer attend?
What resources do you need to divert to the Yes?
People
What expectations do you need to manager?
From what “Drama Triangle” dynamic will you extract yourself? (Hero, villain, victim)
What relationships will you let wither?
Patterns
What habits do you need to preak?
What old stories or dated ambitions do you need to update?
What beliefs about yourself do you need to let go of?

Strategy summary from “Playing to Win” by Roger Martin and A.G. Lafley (Procter & Gamble)
What is our winning aspiration?
What game are we playing and against/with whom? What impact do we want to have on the world?
Where will we play?
What sectors, geographies, products, channels, customers —> focus resources
How will we win?
Whats the defendable difference that will open the gap between us and competitors?
What capabilities must be in place?
How will these capabilities become and stay a strength?
What management systems are required?
What do measure and when/where/why

How to say no with questions
Say yes more slowly… by staying curious
Ask questions -
What are you asking me?
Whom else have you asked?
When you say this is urgent, what do you mean?
If I couldn’t do all of this but could just do part, what part would you have me do?
What do you want me to take off my plate so I can do this?

Haiku
Tell Less and Ask More
Your Advice Is Not As Good
As You Think It Is

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