A trenchant guide to coaching for business managers.
Books with clever titles and pithy, time-saving concepts fill the crowded management and leadership genre, which targets busy executives, and too often, they overpromise and underdeliver, like empty-calorie snacks. But Bungay Stanier (Great Work Provocations, 2013, etc.), the founder of Box of Crayons, a Toronto-based training company, has produced something closer to an engineered nutritional bar, in which each ingredient contributes to the whole. The author explains why coaching is vital for managers and reviews reasons why they shy away from it, including the notion that dispensing answers and advice seems faster and easier than empowering subordinates. He persuasively argues that changing such habits can free managers to “work less hard and have more impact.” The book refines the coaching process into “Seven Essential Questions” and gives each its own chapter: “The Kickstart Question,” “The Focus Question,” “The Strategic Question,” and so on. Each one asks readers to note a situation that triggers the urge to dispense wisdom rather than coach, and gives cues to replace that habit with a new one. The questions then build naturally toward conversations about coaching. The book tailors its organization and length to time-pressed readers, who can finish it easily in a couple of hours or in 15-minute increments. Bungay Stanier writes with verve, effectively incorporating humor, surprise, and parables. Subheads are numerous, and pull-quotes often fill entire pages, but readers shouldn’t mistake the book’s compact size, slide-deck–style presentation format, and breezy tone for a lack of substance. It’s packed with actionable tips derived from training classes; on-point observations from leading business thinkers, such as Daniel Pink and Charles Duhigg; supporting research citations; and recommended resources for further study. Each chapter steers readers to the Box of Crayons website, where lively videos will reinforce the messages. In this way, the book serves as either an appetizer for a whole course on coaching or as a satisfying small meal on its own.
A sharp, habit-forming leadership manual.