The Coaching Habit — Say Less, Ask More & Change the Way You Lead Forever — Michael Bungay Stanier

Hannes Kleist
5 min readNov 17, 2021

Buch-Review — Hannes Kleist — 19.08.2020

After reading The Trillion Dollar Coach last year and actually hiring three coaches for myself (personal development/leadership, sales and relationship) I am trying to change my management style — from being less “boss” and more of a coach.

Needless to say, I found that very hard. Most of the time my “Advice Monster” comes through, and I try to solve the issues rather than empowering the people.

Let me let you in on a secret: People do not care for your advice. They want to talk and want you just to give them permission on their course of action.

This book gives a very simple checklist of how to conduct a coaching session. 7 simple questions.

I tried them for a month, and they work great. BTW: Also great for private discussions with friends and family.

Get it here

You Need a Coaching Habit

Only 23 percent of people being coached thought that the coaching had a significant impact on their performance or work satisfaction.

Alright. At least I am not alone that my coaching skills need some work.

On why being the “boss” is bad for you and your team:

Circle #1: Creating Overdependence You may find that you’ve become part of an overdependent team. There’s a double whammy here. First, you’ve trained your people to become excessively reliant on you, a situation that turns out to be disempowering for them and frustrating for you. Circle #2: Getting Overwhelmed You may also be overwhelmed by the quantity of work you have Circle #3: Becoming Disconnected Finally, you may be disconnected from the work that matters.

I fell into all three traps. 😢

How to Build a Habit

On why habits are so important:

All that’s less surprising when you realize that a Duke University study says that at least 45 percent of our waking behaviour is habitual.

On how to build a habit:

You need five essential components: a reason, a trigger, a micro-habit, effective practice, and a plan. Your new habit as a micro-habit that needs to take less than sixty seconds to complete. Practicing small chunks of the bigger action (for instance, rather than practice the whole tennis serve, you practice just tossing the ball up). Repetition, repetition and repetition… and repetition. Do it fast, do it slow, do it differently. And finally, being mindful and noticing when it goes well. When it does, celebrate success.

Why failing occasionally is fine:

Achieve perfection in our quest to build the habit. We will miss a moment, miss a day. That’s a given. What you need to know is what to do when that happens.

The 7 questions of a good coaching session

Coaching for development is about turning the focus from the issue to the person dealing with the issue, the person who’s managing the fire.

So keep your “Advice Monster” in the cage.

1 The Kickstart Question

What’s on Your Mind?

A challenge might typically be centred on a project, a person or a pattern of behaviour. “So there are three different facets of that we could look at,” you offer. “The project side — any challenges around the actual content. The people side — any issues with team members/ colleagues/ other departments/ bosses/ customers/ clients. And patterns — if there’s a way that you’re getting in your own way, and not showing up in the best possible way. Where should we start?”

2 The AWE Question

And What Else?

“And what else?” breaks that cycle. When asking it becomes a habit, it’s often the simplest way to stay lazy and stay curious. It’s a self-management tool to keep your Advice Monster under restraints.

“Advice Monster” 😆

As a guideline, I typically ask it at least three times, and rarely more than five. When someone’s told you about a course of action she intends to take, challenge her with “And what else could you do?”

What you should **not **ask:

So you’ve mastered the fake question. “Have you thought of…?” “What about…?” “Did you consider…?” Stop offering up advice with a question mark attached. That doesn’t count as asking a question.

He got me here 😉

3 The Focus Question

What’s the Real Challenge Here for You?

“If you had to pick one of these to focus on, which one here would be the real challenge for you?”

On why to never start a question with “why”:

You put them on the defensive. Get the tone even slightly wrong and suddenly your “Why… ?” come across as “What the hell were you thinking?” It’s only downhill from there.

4 The Foundation Question

What do you want?

This is so powerful. The question of “what needs to be done” and “what do you want” most of the time have totally different answers.

For me, the answer is often: “I just want peace and quiet and the problem to go away” 😉

Get Comfortable with Silence

Bite your tongue, and don’t fill the silence. I know it will be uncomfortable, and I know it creates space for learning and insight.

Great advice. Works great in sales as well.

5 The Lazy Question

How can I help

You’re a good person, and you’re doing your very best to let your people thrive. You want to “add value” and be useful. At its crux is the insight that when you offer to help someone, you “one up” yourself: you raise your status and you lower hers, whether you mean to or not. The power of “How can I help?” is twofold. First, you’re forcing your colleague to make a direct and clear request. That may be useful to him.

Coaching seems to be super easy :-)

6 The Strategic Question

If You’re Saying Yes to This, What Are You Saying No To?

There might be loads of things:

What projects do you need to abandon or postpone? What meetings will you no longer attend? What resources do you need to divert to the Yes? What expectations do you need to manage? From what Drama Triangle dynamics will you extract yourself? What relationships will you let wither? Patterns What habits do you need to break? What old stories or dated ambitions do you need to update? What beliefs about yourself do you need to let go of?

7 The Learning Question

What Was Most Useful for You?

This is great. It both makes the person you coach think deeply about the value you are adding and also gives you important pointers for future sessions.

Get the book on Amazon

Hannes also shares sales strategy and tutorials for startups on YouTube and at his consultancy’s blog.



Hannes Kleist

MBA, 10 years strategy at ProSiebenSat.1, 5 years app startup (exited), 5 years digital agency, now helping startups with sales