Five tips for building a new coaching habit

January 13, 2017
Five tips for building a new coaching habit

(Guest post by Michael Bungay Stanier)

Coaching has become an important concept in leadership development, but many leaders struggle to understand how to effectively coach their employees. Often managers feel that coaching needs to be a formal event. In reality, you can coach your employees in 10 minutes or less if you know how to ask questions and keep the advice to yourself.

By asking questions instead of offering advice, you encourage your employees to come up with their own answers, which helps them learn and develop in their career. That’s the good news. The bad news is that it takes some effort to build a new coaching habit like this. We’re used to giving advice and being praised for it, after all!

Follow these tips to make building a new habit a little easier:

1. Commit to it… for the sake of others

It’s hard to build a new habit if you’re not really clear on why you’re doing it. If you’re changing the way you do something with a purpose, keep that purpose in mind. Don’t just imagine an outcome; think about how your change is connected to others. Why are you building a new habit? Who will it affect? If you remember that your new habit will benefit others, it makes the effort you put into building it all the more worthwhile.

2. Figure out what makes you tick

If you’ve read The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg, you already understand that if you don’t know what triggers a behaviour, you’ll never change it. You can’t change something you don’t realise you’re doing.

Once you define your trigger, you can work on making a change and creating a new habit. And the more specific, the better: instead of broadly thinking about your behaviour at a team meeting, for example, think of a specific moment during the meeting that typically acts as a trigger for you. If you usually jump in to give advice, figure out the moment that happens. Perhaps it’s when Beth asks for feedback at your team meeting, or when you have your one-on-one weekly meeting with Raj. Define the moment you want to change, and you’ll be one step closer to changing it.

3. Make it easy and exact

Once you understand the new habit you want to create, make it easy to get there. Be short and specific. Start by creating a micro-habit. If your overall goal is to give less advice and ask more questions, plan to ask each employee you meet with, “What’s on your mind?” It’s a good starting point, as it works towards the goal of asking more questions in general, and it also helps keep you quiet.

4. Practise makes perfect

Building a new habit takes time, and even if you’re committed to it, it takes effort too. It’s easy to slip back into old habits, but if you keep practising and working towards your new one, you’ll get there. You’ve made a vow; you’ve defined your trigger and you’ve come up with micro-habits to keep you on track. All you need to do is practise, practise, practise.

5. Cut yourself some slack

It’ll take time to build your new habit and have it stick. When you slip, just get back on track. Make a plan. When you revert back to an old habit, catch yourself and try again. Everyone stumbles, but that doesn’t mean we have to fail.

Learn more about coaching and habits on the Box of Crayons blog:

About Michael Bungay Stanier

Michael Bungay Stanier

Author of The Coaching Habit: Say Less, Ask More & Change the Way You Lead Forever, Michael Bungay Stanier is the Senior Partner of Box of Crayons, a company that helps organisations do less Good Work and more Great Work. It is best known for its coaching programmes, which give busy managers practical tools to coach in 10 minutes or less.

Download free chapters of Michael’s latest book here.

Stay ahead with HR

Get free HR insights, expert tips and exclusive interviews, and start making more impact at work

Please enter a valid email address

See People HR in action

View our short video demo

Get started absolutely free

No credit card required

Talk with an expert to learn how People HR could help your organisation