Michael Bungay Stanier believes that coaching is simple and can help unlock your max potential. And with the right coaching, you’ll be working less hard while having a far greater impact.
The Seven Essential Questions
For Michael Bungay Stanier there are seven essential questions that will break you out of the vicious circles of over-dependent teammates, overwhelming amounts of work, and disconnection from the work that matters. The behavior change we hope to instill is simple: a little more asking people questions and a little less telling people what to do.
Question 1: The Kickstart Question
It can be hard to start a conversation. One simple way to do it is to just ask, “what’s on your mind”. It’s open and it invites people to get to the heart of the matter that is most important to them. The 3P model is a way to create focus and shift the focus to coaching towards development. 3P stands for projects, people and patterns. After the initial question, see if you connect to one of the 3Ps. This will likely lead to a deeper and richer conversation.
Question 2: The AWE Question
Michael says that the best coaching question in the world is “and what else?”. When you ask this, you’ll get more options and often better options. Better options lead to better decisions, which will lead to greater success. Often as a coach, it’s tempting to give advice rather than ask a question. You may have the best intentions but it’s not always what’s best.
Question 3: The Focus Question
When people talk about a challenge they're facing, however, they're rarely laying out the actual problem. They may be describing many different things or maybe a second problem. For this reason, you should resist the temptation to jump in and fix it.“What’s the real challenge here for you?” will help you slow down the rush to action so you can spend time solving the real problem.
Question 4: The Foundation Question
Lay the foundation by asking, “What do you want?”. We often don’t know what we actually want. And even if we do, it’s often hard to ask for it. It’s difficult for both parties to know what the other party wants and that can make things frustrating. However, one way to help is to ask.
Question 5: The Lazy Question
People like playing “rescuer.” In this mode, we constantly jump to help solve problems, offer advice, and take over responsibilities. However, you limit opportunities for growth of those you’re working with. That’s where the lazy question “How can I help?” comes into play. Asking this is beneficial for two reasons. First of all, it forces your colleague to make a direct and clear request. Second, it stops you from thinking that you know best and leaping into unwanted action.
Question 6: The Strategic Question
Here is the strategic question: “If you’re saying yes to this, what are you saying no to?” There are two types of “no” answers: the no of omission and the no of commission. The first type applies to the options that are automatically eliminated by you saying “yes.” The second type is what you need to say to make the “yes” happen. This type is how you create space, focus, and energy to truly do the “yes” you care about. Remember that saying no to things gives you the opportunity to say yes to the things you truly care about.
Question 7: The Learning Question
Helping people learn is difficult. People don’t learn when you tell them something—they learn when they have the chance to recall and reflect on what just happened. You can help them Do that by asking, “What was most useful for you?”. a lot of the things we learn leave our brain the second we move on to something else. We also know how to make learning experiences more successful, and that is if one creates their own connections to new ideas. This is why asking this question increases the odds of you remembering the lessons.
These Seven Essential Questions will change the way, you coach. If all goes well you’ll work less hard and have a greater impact. A good rule of thumb to help you remember all these questions is this: a little less advice, a little more curiosity.