As part of my pre-reading for my Personal MBA, I am documenting my key learnings from The Coaching Habit: Say Less, Ask More & Change the Way You Lead Forever. It is not intended to be a summary or review, rather a reflection of how the book has influenced my thinking.
It’s a common problem when talking to high performers. They (we?) feel overwhelmed by the demands of their team, they feel frustrated by their team’s lack of development, ownership and urgency.
They intuitively see and are driven to complete the solution or task without delay. They know they can complete it in 30 minutes, they know they can do it right 30 minutes. They envisage someone else taking 2hrs according to a different timetable and then it will take 1hr for the high performer to review and fix it. It seems easier and better for the higher performer to just do it themselves.
This reminded me of me of an excellent short video by Stephen Covey:
“You cannot hold people responsible for results if you supervise their methods” – Stephen Covey.
The Impact of High Performance Individuals
In trying to be helpful, high performers become unhelpful, and perhaps they would be better served by focusing on developing their coaching habit instead. Though often they tend to rather create a dependency on themselves, becoming a bottleneck and unintentionally they fail to unlock the potential in others.
This is particularly detrimental when high performers (as they tend to) become managers, they end up doing too much of the deliverable or task themselves. Similarly, a manager becomes overly reliant on one or two high performers. They default to asking the high performers, instead of extending the development opportunities more widely. This is what I have heard termed as performance punishment, being punished with an excessive workload as a reward for performing well. Additionally, the reality is that high performers tend to have more options to leave, so it’s a risky strategy.
More specifically the risks of not having a Coaching Habit:
- Creating over-dependence – The team becomes trained to be overly reliant on certain individuals. This creates a bottleneck. Other members miss out on the needed autonomy and mastery.
- Getting overwhelmed – Over time productivity hacks become irrelevant or exhausted. Focus is lost, as one urgency is replaced by another.
- Getting disconnected – A team loses their sense of purpose, as they are just going through the motions of what they do. They are told what and how to it, assuming they are trusted at all.
A coaching habit is an option to counter these risks, resulting in doing better work with less effort. Coaching can be done in 10 minutes or less. A coaching habit is different to a 1-to-1 coaching session, which often should be more focused on development, instead of performance.
Coaching requires a change in behaviour
When the default habit has been to give advice or jump straight to solutions or even doing the work yourself. It becomes difficult to avoid the advice monster. Solving the problem, becomes the problem. Helping is not helping.
It is estimated that 45% of behaviour is habitual. I frequently have left the house and not remembered 10 steps later if I have locked the door. Habitual behaviour goes unnoticed, I feel like 45% might be a low estimate. We need these habits as a short cut to overwhelming ourselves, we should of course be aware of the potential negative effects.
To develop a Coaching Habit, a change in behaviour is needed, where the following model could be useful:
- Find a Reason – We need a reason to change our habit. The impact we have on other people is often a good place to find a reason, as it facilitates accountability and purpose.
- Identify the Trigger – Identify what triggers the old habit. Typically including some of the following – Location, time, emotional state, other people and immediate proceeding action.
- Develop a micro-habit – A new habit can start with a micro-habit which can become the new trigger. It should be done in less than 60 seconds.
- It needs effective practice – Break it down into small chunks, with varied repetition and ensure you take time to recognise success.
- Plan for failure – Factor in failure and plan how you will get back on track after you slip.
Developing a Coaching Habit
Put in its simplest terms, a coaching habit is about being curious and asking one question at a time.
According to the Coaching Habit there are seven essential questions:
- The Kickstart question – What’s on your mind? – This focuses on what’s most important to them, not you.
- The “Ahh” question – And what else? – The first thing that comes to mind is the reflex answer, subject to recall bias, this question forces people to delve more into their thoughts, to explore an extended or deeper level of thinking.
- The Focus question – What is the real challenge here for you? – This helps to move away from the rhetoric and surface issues or other distractions to the underlying problem(s).
- The Foundation question – What do you want? What would perfect look like? – This turns the thinking aspirational and away from the negative. It opens the coachee up to what is possible.
- The Lazy question – How can I help? – This stops you doing what you think is most important, ignoring what the underlying problem may be, instead of focusing on what is the most important or where support is most needed. The coachee reflects on where they really need support and development.
- The Strategic question – This is perhaps too expansive to be covered in a couple of sentences. Part of it is learning to say no or say yes slower. Effectively being curious as to why support is needed from you specifically.
- The Learning question – What was most useful for you? This helps to close the feedback loop, as well as it interrupts the process of forgetting.
So, if you are feeling overwhelmed by the demands from your team, if you are feeling frustrated by their lack of development, perhaps you need to develop your Coaching Habit? – I know I do.