Seven Essential Questions

Seven Essential Questions

Leaders are expected to do be superheros these days. We want them to be engaging, tell amazing stories, and be change champions whilst being authentic and agile.

Sadly, there is no cookie cutter for this ideal leader and we put our faith in great role models, mentors, coaches, team managers to produce the leader of choice.

However, there is help. And I believe I have found a very inexpensive tool. It’s a book, the first of my reads for the 2016/2017 financial year read-athon!

Michael Bungay Stanier (an Aussie turned Canadian) has taken four years to get this book right. The Coaching Habit is a gem. It’s ready for every wannabe great leader to be the more engaging, less busy, less lazy and a more purposeful leader.

It’s an easy, fun, practical read, even pushing you to videos on his website to further understand the data provided in the reading. The book is about Seven Essential Questions to boost your management repertoire and everyday conversations.

Funnily enough, the first of the seven questions faces us every day when we check our newsfeed on Facebook. (OK, most of us have a Facebook account, or our partner or kids have one – look over their shoulder.)


Known as the Kick Start Question – this question gets to the art of coaching, getting you to reflect.

Do you know it?

“What’s on your mind?”

Go on, think aloud and respond to this question … ”What’s on your mind?”

It’s a great little question, pushing you to grab hold of the thoughts consuming your brain space.

If you feel uncomfortable asking this question, then this book is for you. The additional six questions are presented in a neat framework to help with your coaching approach and it’s supported by credible research; it’s also a text book, encouraging you to identify your triggers which divert you to use your ‘old’ habits and purposely write questions using your newly learnt habit.

Habit forming is the intent of this book and we know to change a habit is difficult. Myths are busted and an alternate approach is on the menu. You are coached on every page to reflect, think and apply. And there’s more!

I was amused with the prompting of an app to be download to receive my ebook version for free – which I have been unsuccessful at doing (at this stage). However, the video references, which the book incorporates into the learning are really cool. From a learning perspective – it’s an almost full proof package to form a new habit.

So, what are these Seven Essential Questions?

What’s on your mind? – This is a warm up question and like Facebook, it evokes what is challenging you, stressing you, keeping you awake and what’s chewing up all the energy in your body.

And, what else? – Coaches know to keep digging to find the real ‘what’s on your mind’ answer. This question mines for more detail until you’ve exhausted all thoughts.

What’s the real challenge here for you? – This question is your focus question – of all your mind filling thoughts, what’s the critical one that we can work on now?

What do you want? – Whilst this seems unlike your typical coaching question, it’s your foundation question to elicit an authentically articulated problem.

How can I help? – Oh no, Coaching is not about helping!!!  More on focus and encouraging the articulation of how your ‘manager staff’ relationship can work best. (You do want your staff to think you are helping them in your conversations.)

If you’re saying yes to this, what are you saying no to? – This is a strategic question – it has loads of potential and I found the accompanying video really useful to bring it to life.

What was most useful for you? – This is a great question. This is where the learning and habit building solidifies. Reflection is paramount.

Of course, this is merely a list and doesn’t do justice to the work Michael has put into the writing, compilation of information and perfection of the simplification of his framework.


My key take-away from reading The Coaching Habit is a simple statement from another book Make it stick: The Science of Successful Learning: ‘What’s essential is to interrupt the process of forgetting.’ The more you ask questions about what they’ve done and said, the more opportunity there is for them to recall the information and potentially do something about the matter.

I think you get the gist that I liked this book. I’ve carried it around all week in my handbag, read it at breakfast and even at the red lights in the car! I literally couldn’t put it down. It’s what I want leaders to read so that they can perform better as leaders and become what’s expected of a leader.

I’m endeavoring to read 52 Business/Professional/Personal Development books in 52 weeks. Yep, that’s one a week. As I read each book, I’ll share my thoughts, learning and recommendations. If there is a book that you’ve been meaning to read, let me know and I’ll read it for us!