When you’re leading a team, people turn to you for answers. But where does that get you?

Constantly providing all the answers makes it easy to get caught up in the day-to-day grind, putting out fires for people who are totally reliant on your expertise. How can you focus your team on larger goals and objectives while building trust and collaboration in a way that empowers them?

According to Michael Bungay Stanier, you need to shift from having all the answers to asking the right questions.

In his book The Coaching Habit: Say Less, Ask More & Change the Way You Lead Forever, Stainer gives concrete advice for leaders looking to pull themselves out of the overdependence trap. He presents his strategy in a simple format, focusing on the Seven Essential Questions and how they can yield the strongest results.

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The book starts by clarifying that coaching does not need to happen in lengthy, exhausting sessions. This is something that can—and should—be done on a daily basis in increments as small as a few minutes. Sounds a lot less intimidating, doesn’t it?

Because training yourself to ask the right questions takes practice, Bungay Stainer devotes an entire chapter to habit-building. You can go into more depth on this topic in James Clear’s Atomic Habits, but this chapter of The Coaching Habit offers a solid primer on starting positive habits and getting them to stick.

Next, it’s time to dive into the Seven Essential Questions. Bungay Stainer explains why questions such as “What’s on your mind?” or “What’s the real challenge for you here?” seem simple but are actually powerful tools.

The Coaching Habit


The questions outlined in this book are worded for specific purposes such as building trust, granting employees autonomy, and focusing conversations directly on core problems rather than abstract ones. The seventh question, “What was most useful for you?” creates space for reflection and learning, ensuring that people retain the knowledge they’ve gained from working through these challenges, creating a more self-sufficient team.

While The Coaching Habit contains lots of explanations of these questions’ purposes and how to apply them, it goes even further to help these lessons stick. Each chapter ends with a workbook-style guide for building your new habit. Readers have space to fill out answers to prompts such as “Instead of [habit you want to top doing], I will [new habit].” This is a useful way to reinforce the importance of applying knowledge to build habits rather than simply soaking it in and moving on.

If you’re feeling overwhelmed, burned out, or not getting the results you want from your team, start by examining how you’re leading. Are you actually coaching them to be better, or are you just telling them how you’d do things and not allowing them to grow?

If it’s the latter, we recommend picking up The Coaching Habit. Michael Bungay Stanier has provided an easy-to-follow guide for slowing down and doing more listening than talking. Building a habit of implementing these questions into your leadership will allow you to build a stronger, more empowered team. Even better, it will free you from some of your management burdens, leaving headspace for more focus on larger goals.

Grab your copy at the Brand Outlaw bookshop page.

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