The Coaching Habit’s 7 Questions

The Coaching Habit: Say Less, Ask More & Change the Way You Lead Forever

by Michael Bungay Stanier

The Coaching Habit teaches you how to make coaching a regular, informal part of your day, so managers and their teams can work less hard and have more impact.

7 Essential Coaching Questions

  1. “What’s on your mind?”

  2. “And what else?”

  3. “What’s the real challenge here for you?”

  4. “What do you (really) want (from me)?”

  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?”

Additions to the questions

  • “Out of curiosity…” — softener that can be added in front (also: “Just so I know…”, “To help me understand better…”, or even “To make sure that I’m clear…”)
  • “And what else could you do?” — encourages deeper thinking
  • “…for you?” — add at the end. Moves focus from performance to development-oriented
  • “What have you learned since we last met?” — encourage learning


  • Ask “What” instead of “Why”
    • Instead of “Why did you do that?” ask “What were you hoping for here?”
    • “What made you choose this course of action?” instead of “Why did you think this was a good idea?”
    • Instead of “Why are you bothering with this?” ask “What’s important for you here?”
  • First is not best
    • The first answer someone gives you is almost never the only answer, and it’s rarely the best answer (which is where “And what else?” comes in handy)
  • No advice with a question mark attached
    • Stop asking “Have you thought of…?”, “What about…?” “Did you consider…?”
  • Find out the real problem
    • What people are laying out for you is rarely the actual problem
    • When you start jumping in to fix things, things go off the rails in three ways:
      • You work on the wrong problem
      • You do the work your team should be doing
      • The work doesn’t get done
  • Stick to “what” instead of “why”
    • If you’re not trying to fix things, you don’t need the backstory.
  • Recognize the need to address the want
    • Articulate what the real need is behind the request
  • Saying yes slowly and stay curious before committing
    • “Why are you asking me?”
    • “Whom else have you asked?”
    • “When you say this is urgent, what do you mean?”
    • “According to what standard does this need to be completed? By when?”
    • “If I couldn’t do all of this, but could do just a part, what part would you have me do?”
    • “What do you want me to take off my plate so I can do this?”
  • It works on email, too, and it could sound like
    • “Wow, there’s a lot going on here. What’s the real challenge here for you, do you think?”
    • “I’ve scanned your email. In a sentence or two, what do you want?”
    • “Before I jump into a longer reply, let me ask you: What’s the real challenge here for you?”
  • The 3Ps are vital because a challenge might typically be centered on a
    • Project
    • Person
    • Pattern of behavior, which usually goes unaddressed

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