Each month our Senior Consultant Sally Ward recommends a resource to help you in your work. For September’s theme - Network / employee resource group leader as ‘coach’: upskilling yourself – Sally has reviewed The Coaching Habit by Michael Bungay Stanier.
I think it’s fair to say there are more books on the market about coaching than I’ve had hot dinners – which is saying something - so I’m always slightly sceptical when it comes to selecting one that will make a difference in my life and provide me with a different perspective. I was pleasantly surprised, when I was doing my research into the resource I would select for the September External Resource Review, to come across this book.
The Coaching Habit is written by Michael Bungay Stanier, the founder of a company called Box of Crayons, that helps organisations do less good work and more great work. He’s an Australian who 25 years ago went to become a Rhodes Scholar at Oxford University. He was the first Canadian Coach of the Year.
In this book, Michael isn’t afraid of poking fun at himself and has a very fun approach throughout. In the book, Michael distils the essentials of coaching to seven core questions. Having read the book, I would agree with comment made by a colleague of Michael’s that “If you master his simple but unique technique, you’ll be better placed to provide more effective support to your network members and colleagues but also you will become a better coach yourself”.
One of the things he says that really resonated with me was “it takes courage to ask a question rather than offer up advice, provide an answer or unleash a solution”. And that really chimes for me when I think about all the conversations I have with network / ERG leaders. It is sometimes so easy to offer solutions and all the answers to challenges – but it can be the very powerful art of asking good questions that can often yield better, more sustainable answers.
The book is laid out well, with lots of space for your own reflection, to build your own questions and develop your own habits. I mentioned the Seven Core Questions that form the framework of the book and these are:
- The Kickstart Question – What’s on your mind?
- The AWE Question – And what else?
- The Focus Question – What’s the real challenge here for you?
- The Foundation Question – What do you want?
- The Lazy Question – How can I help?
- The Strategic Question – If you’re saying Yes to this, what are you saying No to?
- The Learning Question – What was most useful for you?
At the end of the chapter discussing each of the Seven Core Questions, there is a “Masterclass” section where you have the opportunity to reflect on what you’ve just learnt and practice how you might change your questioning approach. For example, in Section 3 “The Focus Question”
When this happens:When I’m tempted to ask them why …
Instead of:Beginning the question with why ….
I will:Reframe the question so it’s starts with “What.” So, as some examples, instead of “Why did you do that?”, ask “What were you hoping for here?”. Instead of “Why did you think this was a good idea?” ask “What made you choose this course of action?” Instead of “Why are you bothering with this?” ask “What’s important for you here?”
There are also links to podcasts that Michael has created himself or from other people in the coaching world.
As a network / ERG chair, you will regularly find yourself in a situation where you will need to listen to your members, stakeholders and allies who have challenges they want to work through with you. Taking the learning from this book and putting it into practice in every day situations will make a big difference to the outcome of these challenges, for you and for the other person.
Wherever you and your organisation are on your journey, I would absolutely recommend you take the time and read this book. I would also suggest that you recommend this book to your D&I team and perhaps even your sponsor as they might want to also take a look.
Something I will be paying particular attention to in my conversations and coaching sessions with people is Michael’s wise words “Silence is often a measure of success”. For those of you who know me, I love to talk to people and find out about what makes them tick. Perhaps I would learn even more if I valued silence more. As I always say, every day is a school day.
PS: I’m really keen to understand what you think of my reviews. It would be great if you could drop me an email or contact me via the Member Zone with your feedback – go on, I’ve got broad shoulders!!
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