BOOK REVIEW: "The Coaching Habit" by Michael Bungay Stanier

The Coaching Habit Book by Michael Bungay StanierWhen we asked for a book review from our newsletter readers, two people wrote in about "The Coaching Habit". I also had this on my reading list, so this book review is a collaborative one! A big thank-you to Florie Varga and Susan van Duinen for sharing their thoughts on this book.

Get The Coaching habit on Amazon here >> or support small and local and order it from your local bookstore!

About the Author

Michael Bungay Stanier is a leadership coach, has been featured on WBECS, the World Business and Executive Coaching Summit - and this year's free pre-summit is coming soon! He has also written, "Do More Great Work" and been featured in numerous publications including Business Insider, Fast Company, Forbes, The Globe & Mail and The Huffington Post.

The Coaching Habit - Introduction

The subtitle of this book is "Say Less, Ask More & Change the Way You Lead Forever", which does rather neatly sum up this book.

Now, when I started reading this book, I thought it was a book FOR coaches. But it isn't! So, let's get that out of the way. This book is written FOR managers and leaders - to change the way they lead and manage people to a coaching style. In fact Michael's goal at his company, Box of Crayons, is to "help busy managers coach in 10 minutes or less".

But do NOT let that put you off! I know as coaches, that we train for months/years and spend thousands of dollars to learn and hone our skills. But Michael's not saying that anyone can be a coach in 10 minutes, instead his very honourable goal is to bring a better, coaching style to the way people lead. And boy, we sure need a more "coaching approach" in the business world!

So, Who Should Read this Book?

Well, give it to your manager and leader clients - if they're interested in being better leaders, who want to build a more engaged, purposeful and resilient team.

If you're an executive or leadership coach, or even if you're just coaching clients in the workplace, it's a great read to give you ideas on how you can help your clients more.

And read it yourself if you're a coach! It's a great coaching primer. And even if you're an expert coach, you'll be reminded what you love about coaching - and pick up some tips!

About The Coaching Habit

Here's what Florie and Susan said. This book is:

...a treasure trove of valuable insight. The book itself measures five inches by seven and a half inches. It is a little over a half an inch thick. Nevertheless, the content of Stainer's book makes it ten feet tall! It can be read on a five-hour plane flight, or digested over weeks and should be in a coach’s brief case and on their bookshelf. Susan van Duinen

...about getting out of your own way and doing less to get better results. While, written for the manager this book's approach can be applied in any type of working or personal relationship. Its a great reminder that we don't need fancy tools, deep inquiries or analysis to drill to the essence of the situation, identify blocks and to build actions. Florie Varga 

More about The Coaching Habit

Although it's a small book, it gets right to the point! There are lots of additional resources mentioned for follow-up, and valuably, at the start, Michael shares a chapter on "How to Build a Habit" with 5 components needed to create a new habit - which is very helpful.

Susan van Duinen liked that "Stainer gets right to the meat of the content in each chapter which makes it appealing for people with busy schedules and want to access particular material quickly without wading through the weeds. The layout is easy to navigate by novice coach or seasoned coach - coaching material at one's fingertip so-to-speak."

And whilst this book is aimed at leaders, executives and managers, it's a great reminder of why we coach - and includes a focus on key coaching skills, like listening, validating and ensuring the client is empowered and gets to 'own' their own ideas.

Michael is obviously well read, and also shares lots of useful tidbits of information like: the brain is only 2% of our body weight, but uses 20% of our energy! Or the 5 types of triggers that might precede a habit.

Michael Bungay Stanier

Michael Bungay Stanier's Seven Questions

"The Coaching Habit" revolves around 7 Powerful Essential Questions that Michael shares, chapter by chapter. At the end of each chapter there is a section on creating a new "habit" based around the question's core purpose. In addition, each question has a follow-on "Masterclass" chapter that takes the reader deeper into the why of each coaching question.

There is more to this book than these seven questions, plus some of them have a nice jazzy title like The Kickstarter Question! But you'll have to read the book to learn more about WHY each question is so powerful/important!

Here is a list of the 7 questions:

  1. What's on your mind?
  2. And what else?
  3. What's the REAL challenge here for you?
  4. What do you want?
  5. How can I help?
  6. If you're saying "Yes" to this, what are you saying "No" to?
  7. What was most useful for you?

When to Use The Coaching Habit?

Florie Varga use[s] the coaching habit in all coaching, managing and parenting interactions, cutting the dialogue (verbal diarrhea) by about 60%, adding clarity to what is said and empowering the other person to own and anchor their response and actions.

Susan van Duinen suggests that you can use this book to integrate and make coaching a regular, informal part of your life in the work place, in your personal life and among your friends. Use the seven questions to propel conversations and help you talk less and listen to the heart and passion of your clients, team, friends or family.

For me, my brain was whirring: I could use these questions in emails! I get a lot of requests for help - that are often a bit vague. I tend to go into "help" overdrive, and I don't really have spare time to do this. So, if you email me with a non-specific question in future, you might just recognize the question you get back from me...

How & Where could The Coaching Habit be Better?

For me, especially considering the brevity of this book, I think it's an excellent read. You could read it at one sitting if you really wanted to.

The only thing I wasn't so keen on was that each question has some "research" added that supposedly backs up why each question works. However, the relevance of this research feels a little tenuous to me and I don't think that it adds much. Perhaps Michael was asked to add research by the publisher? But other than that, it's a potent and uplifting little book!

Here are 5 Reasons to read The Coaching Habit.

This book is for you if you:

  1. Are a Leadership, Career or Executive Coach!
  2. You're an "Advice Monster" - and you want to grow into a more genuinely helpful person.
  3. Feel overwhelmed at work. Are you one of those people that everyone asks for help - and you have trouble saying no?
  4. Want to build a new habit!
  5. You believe the corporate world needs to change and have a more coaching approach.
  6. OK, so one more. If you're looking for a book to give to your manager, leader or executive clients, this might be it!

Other Books to Read:


The Coaching Habit gives a look into the passion Stanier has for coaching and its value to make a difference in the various arenas of life. While it may come across as light for the professional coach, it collects the principles or elements of coaching for a quick review or reference for the seasoned coach. And at the same time gives clarity for the novice coach. Susan van Duinen

Have you read The Coaching Habit? Tell us your thoughts by commenting below!

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Emma-Louise Elsey Headshot

Contributing Author:

Emma-Louise Elsey has been coaching since 2003 and is the Founder of The Coaching Tools Company and Fierce She's passionate about coaching and personal development. Originally a project and relationship manager for Fortune 500 companies she combined her love of coaching, creativity and systems to create over 100 brandable coaching tools, forms and exercises including 30+ completely free coaching tools. She now serves coaches and the coaching world through her exclusive newsletter for coaches, Coaches Helping Coaches Facebook Group and many other great tools for coaches, plus resources and ideas for your coaching toolbox. The Coaching Tools Company is an official ICF Business Solutions Partner.

Learn more about Emma-Louise & see all their articles here >>

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