The bookworm chronicle by the CTO & the CMO // Weekly Reading #6 // Daan Depaepe on The Coaching Habit by Michael Bungay Stanier.

Michael Stanier has been working with over 10.000 managers and leaders, teaching them how to coach. The experiences gained over the years he shares in his book “The coaching habit”. Stanier claims, that coaching has become to complicated and remote from everyday work life. His method helps you to integrate coaching into your daily routine by narrowing it down to seven essential questions.

QUESTIONS TO DAAN:

Throughout your career, did you have a coach or a mentor? If so, what was the best advice he gave you? No, throughout my career I’ve never really had a coach or mentor. I guess this is because most of the companies I’ve worked for were smaller companies, and there was less focus or time for this, unfortunately. It seems like a logical thing to put effort into, but I know from experience myself as well, that when you have limited time and resources that it’s easy to fall into the trap of not putting effort into mentoring or coaching someone. Short term it is easier to just tell people what do do, but of course long term it’s far more beneficial to coach someone so they don’t need to get help from you anymore.

Do you agree with Stanier, that his method enables you to integrate “coaching” into your daily work routine? Yes, he gives you a few tools that make it easier to make coaching part of every conversation or discussion. You can’t just allocate fixed times, e.g. once a month, to do coaching or mentoring. (If it was that simple, there wouldn’t be any need for books on coaching.) It’s something that needs to happen constantly, so you need to create a habit out of it. It should be something you do without even thinking about it, unfortunately it’s not always that simple. That’s why he proposes a few mechanisms and techniques to break out of old habits, and start making coaching a new habit. He also points out ‘bad’ habits people have, which can be very recognizable, and explains how to turn these around into ‘good’ habits.

What challenges do you face in coaching people? I come from an engineering background, where it is expected from you to give answers. When becoming a manager, it is expected of you to coach and help people so they can give the answers. Which is something completely different, so this is a difficult thing to change. The advice from the book is to stop yourself before you going into ‘answering mode’, and start asking questions instead. The idea is that if people come up with the answer to a problem themselves, they will learn much more from this, than if you just give them the correct answer (or what you think is the correct answer). For me personally, it helps to have some ‘standard’ questions he lists in the book to fall back on in certain situations. Although it’s still sometimes hard to bite my tongue, stop myself from just saying what I think is the correct solution, and come up with the right questions instead. I sometimes fail, but it’s a matter of recognizing this, and trying to do better the next time.

What is the best advice you took from Stanier? I would say, asking the ‘and what else’ question. The goal of this question is to have people think about alternative options. Don’t stop at the first solution or answer you come up with. Ask ‘and what else’ to come up with a different solution. The first thing you think of is not necessarily the best one (it usually isn’t). We actually implemented this in our process in the development team. Before we start a new feature we have what we call the ‘prep phase’, where we think about how we will implement this feature before we actually start coding. We have a template document to help in this process, and one of the sections in that template is to come up with multiple possible alternative solutions. The ‘and what else’ questions is actually not something you should only do when coaching people, I try to do it as well for myself. It’s easy to stop when you think you found a solution, but if you take a bit of time to ask yourself if there might be something else you didn’t think of, it might surprise you that you can come up with much better solutions. My colleague Noémie talked about how to ask beautiful questions in our previous article!

I see you next week for the next weekly read chronicle! And if you have any book suggestions, let me know! I’m sure Noémie and Daan will add it to their list!

Karolin, for the Around Media and Prompto.com team

Every Friday our CMO Noémie Benoit and our CTO Daan Depaepe take turns here presenting their weekly reading and telling us what fascinated them about the book and what they took out of it for the company and their personal career. Read more articles.