The Coaching Habit by Michael Bungay Stanier is one of those gems that isn't just full of platitudes, but rather teaches practical and concise lessons you can apply today. The book is really about a few well-researched questions and the power of silence.
Q1: What’s on your mind?
Q2: And what else?
Q3: And what else?
Q4: So what’s the real challenge here for you?
Bonus "Learning" question: What was most useful for you?
That’s equally true about the conversations you’re having with those around you. There’s wisdom to be found, but only if you hang around for a moment to take a look.
And what else?...
"Start with 'what.' When it comes to focused organizational conversations, asking why can put people on the defense. When you ask why you may be solving the wrong problem before just trying to understand the problem. Reframe the question so it 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?”
You’ll be surprised and delighted at just how often these are exactly the right questions to ask. Open with: What’s on your mind? The perfect way to start; the question is open but focused. Check-in: Is there anything else on your mind? Give the person an option to share additional concerns. Then begin to focus: So what’s the real challenge here for you? Already the conversation will deepen. Your job now is to find what’s most useful to look at. Ask: And what else (is the real challenge here for you)? Trust me, the person will have something. And there may be more. Probe again: Is there anything else? You’ll have most of what matters in front of you now. So get to the heart of it and ask: So...what’s the real challenge here for you?"
My final takeaway: bite your tongue. Don’t fill the silence. This may seem incredibly uncomfortable, but it creates space for learning and insight.
Read the Coaching Habit. Say less, ask more, and change the way you lead forever.