Alexa Cutteridge reviews ‘The Coaching Habit Say Less, Ask more & Change the Way you Lead Forever’

Alexa Cutteridge, Head of Curriculum PE and Assistant Head of Year 7, gives a short review of ‘The Coaching Habit Say Less, Ask more & Change the Way you Lead Forever’ by Michael Bungay Stanier


“We live in the world our questions create.” (David Cooperrider)

“The minute we begin to think we have all the answers, we forget the questions.” (Madeleine L’Engle)

“Get comfortable with silence”

“Without a good question, a good answer has no place to go” (Clayton, Christensen)

As a PE teacher, I have spent most of my professional career practically coaching on the sports field, but I have been on a journey to bring coaching techniques to my leadership roles, and apparently, I am not alone! As noted in the book, Daniel Goleman (psychologist and journalist who popularised the concept of emotional intelligence) suggested that coaching is one of the six essential leadership styles, but is one of the least used as many leaders claim to not have time to practise it. Stanier guides you through easy ways to change your leadership behaviour, to incorporate a coaching style in a way that you do ‘a little more asking people questions and a little less telling people what to do.’ Stanier considers that it is not initially an easy concept to increase questioning and so he helpfully outlines how to change, before looking at what to change.

The seven coaching habit questions are:

  • The Kickstarter Question – ‘What’s on your mind?’ the way to start any conversation in a way that is both focused and open.
  • The Awe Question – the best coaching question in the world – ‘And what else?’ This works as a self-management tool for you, and as a boost for the 6 other questions.
  • The Focus Question – ‘What is the real challenge for you here?’ This question helps you slow down so you can solve real problems and not just the first problem.
  • The Foundation Question – ‘What do you want?’ This allows you to identify the needs of an individual and get a better understanding how you can support them.
  • The Lazy Question – ‘How can I help?’ This helps cut right to the request and additionally it stops you from leaping into action unnecessarily.
  • The Strategic Question – ‘If you’re saying yes to this, what are you saying no to?’ This allows the people you are working with to be fully committed to their yes and aware of the no’s which will create the space and energy for the yes to happen.
  • The Learning Question – ‘What was most useful for you?’ This works with the Kickstarter question to make the Coaching Bookends. It helps to ensure that everyone finds their interactions with you even more helpful.In the educational arena, applying the coaching habit and the simple, yet powerful seven questions, has the potential to positively transform the leadership of Teachers, Heads of Departments, Pastoral Leaders, Senior Management or even pupils on Student Leadership Team. After reading this book, it is important to highlight that I do not think we need to do away with the leaderships styles we already have, but merely bring the coaching habit questions into the mix, in a way that works for us. How does that sound?

Coaching at WHS: developing approaches to academic and pastoral support

Emma Gleadhill, English Teacher, speaker, trainer and coach specialising in wellbeing, relationships & harnessing the power of emotional intelligence, discusses the ways we are using coaching at WHS to support the academic and pastoral strands of the school.



September 2019 marks a significant change in my role at Wimbledon – where 1:1 coaching becomes more central. It has taken a year of serious soul-searching and being coached myself in order to move away from a strength and passion (teaching A Level English) which has provided me with so much joy and fulfilment in order to use my ‘Co-Active’ training as a professional coach to work in greater depth with individuals and small groups.

So why? Why coaching? I thought it worth sharing what I see as the value of coaching – what it is and what I believe it has to offer. Coaching has been in the press a great deal over the summer – and as a relatively unregulated industry, there are many different perceptions of what it is and how it can help. Coaching is a relatively new strand to the multi-layered pastoral support Wimbledon High offers. The aim is to provide a rich range of opportunities for courageous conversations to take place that will enable pupils, and sometimes also teachers and parents to develop their voice, consider perspectives, explore their needs, and arrive at a point of choice so that they can act and thrive.

My work as a coach links strongly to my ethos as a teacher – it is about bringing my best energy, attention and training to bring about transformation. This involves examining the mindset, motivation, and creativity – for people to ‘play big’ in their lives and achieve their goals. Whether it is someone seeking coaching because they feel stuck in some area of their life, or someone who wants to dial up their performance, or change the dynamics in their relationships, for me it is about holding the space for the truth to be spoken, fears to be addressed and for obstacles to action to be brought into focus so that a clear path forward can be found. And when that connection is made, in the coachee, we really do have lift-off. Giant leaps are taken and as the momentum builds, my work is to help celebrate, savour and wire in the goodness, the motivation and energy of the possible.

Coaching is all about empowering and enabling others to engage their creativity and resourcefulness and commitment to change. As with teaching at its best – it is entirely in the service of supporting and challenging others to be the best that they can be. Unlike teaching or mentoring you are not approaching problems from a point of expertise and providing content.

What is coaching?

Coaching is:

  • More about listening and questioning than giving advice and ‘telling’.
  • Confidential – the only exception is where someone is at risk of significant harm.
  • Focused on the values and meaning of the topic or situation – what is at stake, why it matters, and what you want.
  • Forward-looking – designing practical steps towards your goals rather than dwelling on the issue.
  • Challenging YOU to do the thinking, to reflect and deepen self-awareness in areas where you are stuck or play small.
  • About using mind and body connections to tap into the emotional resonance of the topic (if it was as simple as thinking it through, you’d be doing it already!)
  • Rigorous – you will be held to account for whether you do – or don’t – take the next steps you design at the end of the sessions.
  • Time-limited – it is designed to move you on to greater fulfilment and to take the actions that will help you reach your goals.
  • Empowering – you will be called upon to recognise and act on your innate creativity, resourcefulness and wholeness. (I trained in the Co-Active method).
  • Celebratory – through the joys and the pains of doing the hard work of making meaningful life changes – as a coach, it is my job to champion you and remind you of your strengths, your capabilities and your awesomeness.
  • All about personal growth – living more authentic, connected, fulfilled and purposeful lives. Coaching is a major tool for career development in the corporate world. It is like having a personal trainer for your mind, heart and spirit.

What is coaching not?

For me, coaching is not:

  • A cosy chat or conversation as we experience in our wider lives.
  • Focused on the detail of a problem (because what you focus on grows).
  • Therapy – the assumption is that you are creative, resourceful and whole (Co-Active) and ready and able to act on the dialled up self-awareness that your sessions should tap into if the coaching chemistry is right.
  • A self-indulgent, ‘Woo-woo’, millennial fad. Trained coaches work in a way that is informed by research in the world of psychology, and emotional intelligence, and have to keep up their own training and self-development. This is why businesses invest in coaching.

So coaching is not only a response to a problem, it is also a powerful 1:1 space to dial up your performance, name and tame the things that hold you back, and generate perspectives on your situation so that you can come to a point of choice. It is all about connecting you to your power and unlocking your potential.

Coaching approaches can also be used in the classroom to develop self-direction, ownership, engagement and independence in learners– as well as to make deeper, more memorable connections with issues by concentrating on their emotional resonance. Training as a professional coach has transformed how I lead as a trainer when I am running speaker events and workshops. It has meant what I have to offer is more focused and the collaborative approach means I am meeting people’s real needs and interests, not overloading with content I have chosen! A discipline indeed!

Final thoughts…

When could we take opportunities to use coaching approaches to encourage and empower young people in our lives to greater independence, ownership and engagement in solving their problems and the problems in the world today?

Further reading