What Do You Really Want? – Featured Interview with Michael Bungay Stanier

Author, Speaker, and Senior Partner of Box of Crayons

Michael Bungay Stanier, author of The Coaching Habit, talks with Bill Ringle about how to strengthen your management effectiveness by giving less advice.
Key points that you’ll learn from this interview:
  • What it means when managers create an environment to stay focused, engaged, and learning as the standard
  • How to avoid being an advice-giving maniac
  • Tactics to get beyond the first answer to a deeper question (which is not the only answer and rarely the best answer)
  • Why your organization will become more productive when there is less of a rush to action
  • What makes up 50% of our waking behavior and rarely gets the attention it deserves

Show Notes

Interview Insights

Click to Read the Show Notes

1:23 Stanier describes how his high school peers’ teenage angst inspired him to begin coaching.

1:51 “The typical thing was we’d go out dancing, or something like that, and on the drive home I’d be sort of listening to somebody in the car…I remember feeling right there at the time going ‘you know what? I am obviously ok with this whole listening thing.”

2:34 “When I went to university one of the things I did was I took a telephone crisis counseling course, so effectively a suicide hotline for teens, and that was my first kind of formal training in this area. So I had a sense of how you might respond when somebody’s struggling.”

3:28 [On transitioning from coaching to training] – “But of course these days I actually don’t do very much coaching anymore myself. My real focus is training managers and leaders to be more effective coaches in their day to day working lives.”

4:20 [On the negative connotations of coaching] – “If you’re getting coaching you’re probably broken, you know you’ve screwed up somehow. You know coaching, it’s just a code word for ‘We’re going to fire you in three months time but we’re going to do this token thing before we get to the year 2000.”

4:37 Stanier discusses Daniel Goleman’s HBR article about Emotional Intelligence: Leadership Against Results.

5:00 “You can identify coaching as a style of leadership but [Goleman] said you know even though it really has a great job driving engagement and driving kind of cultural change and driving even bottom-line success, it’s perceived as taking too long and too much effort for it to be a much used leadership style.”

5:24 [On the importance of engaging employees with meaningful work] “What I’ve noticed over the time is that the focus now has turned into: ‘We know that we need to keep our people focused on the stuff that matters and we need to keep people engaged so that they’re doing work that’s meaningful for them.”

6:40 [On John Whitmore’s view of Coaching] – “Its not you unlocking a potential but helping others unlock their own potential and then [Whitmore] says it’s about helping people learn rather than teaching them.”

6:53 Stanier discusses the key distinction between teaching someone and helping them learn.

7:10 [On what really helps people learn] – “Helping them learn is when you help them make their own connections and that’s when new neural pathways kind of happen in the brain that’s when people with potential and capacity and self-sufficiency all increase.”

8:11 Stanier’s tools for leaders in helping their employees get to the next level.

8:19 [On the benefits of offering curiosity] “[The tool] to make your life more effective is to give a little less advice and to offer up a little more curiosity.”

9:07 [The focus question] – “The focus question acknowledges that in many organizations people are very busily, very creatively, with best of intentions coming up with answers to solve the wrong problems.”

9:26: “The focus question is about helping slow down the rush to action and actually spend time trying to figure out what the real challenge might be. So what is that question? Well, it’s pretty simple: it’s simply to ask, ‘What’s the real challenge here for you?”

10:43 [On persisting with the focus question] – “If we stick with that question for a little bit you’re going to find you’ve got better focus on what really needs to be done, but you’re also going to walk away with some insight as to how you’re part of the issue and what you need to do to overcome your own challenges so that you can better answer this problem that’s in front of you.”

12:05 How asking your people the right questions can help them change their behavior.

12:37 [On the benefits of employees taking ownership] – “It’s a very sweet thing when, actually, the person you’re working with understands what’s happening as well as you do because it makes the system even more effective and more efficient.”

13:08 Stanier discusses his company Box of Crayons and its role in managerial training.

13:42: [On why most training programs don’t work] – “Most training programs don’t think hard enough about the behavior change that’s required. How do you shift from new insights into new actions? How do you help people do things differently when they walk out the door? But the other key sites where these things fall short, in my opinion, is that they’re often, I would say, non-strategic; meaning there’s a kind of ad-hoc ‘let’s just throw some training at people and hope that works.’

14:32: How a Canadian company upped their bench strength for better problem solving.

15:42: The best coaching question in the world.

16:38 “The first answer somebody gives you is never the only answer, and it’s rarely the best answer.”

16:59: [On the importance of slowing down] – “The other thing we’re trying to achieve is a
little less rush to action just slow down the action a little bit so that when you move you move more effectively and more efficiently.

17:55 [On the benefits of strategic laziness for managers] “We actually want people to be lazy so that they’re better able to coach the other person. The other person gets to do the work and gets the benefit of the learning, increasing their own capacity, increasing their own potential.”

18:13: “[If] manager finds him or herself working too hard the focus is probably back on them providing [their employees] with the solution rather than helping develop and cultivate the kind of thinking that will make them a more valuable asset to the company.”

19:18 [On helping people use the tools Box of Crayons provides] – “if there’s one thing at the very heart of it all…it’s about teaching people how to build new habits because habits are the building blocks of our behavior.”

19:38 “At least 50% of our waking behavior is purely habitual.”

20:08 Best of the available information concerning habit building.

20:36 The three parts of Stanier’s new habit forming formula.

21:41 [On asking instead of telling] – “Asking a question always takes less than a minute.”

23:17 [On the practical nature of the formula] – “It’s not mystical you don’t have to go up on a retreat you don’t have to sacrifice a small animal, you don’t have to entice a life coach or do anything like that. It’s really practical it feels like this is accessible to anybody.”

23:31 The difficulty of forming new habits to replace old ones.

25:24 “There’s definitely a role for [managers] to play to support and encourage and
help and hold accountable and check in with people, but I wouldn’t write their habits for them…nobody wins from that.”

26:17 “If you’ve got the discipline and the courage and the willingness to be in service to the people who you lead and influence, then you’ll have that greater commitment to be able to. in the moment, be more coach like – which is where the power lies.”

26:53 The characteristics of organizations who are ready to adopt behavioral change.

27:30 “If you were a culture which is massively disengaged, where people have kind of opted out, then this behavior change won’t in itself be sufficient to shift things.”

28:15 Stanier discusses the process of writing the book, and how hiring an editing “coach” helped him create the best version of it.

31:05 “I’m not saying never give anybody any advice ever again, I’m just saying slow down the rush to [give] advice until you really know what the challenge is.”

32:42 “Often advice creates resistance so the very help that you’re offering…it really creates a breakdown in trust and influence when you go for authority first rather than truly looking to understand a problem.”

33:08 [On Edgar Schein’s Helping] “The more you try and thrust help upon people the more you create resistance.”

33:53 The research process for the books – testing with real people.

35:30 The miracle question.

36:08 “I don’t imagine it being 10% better, I imagine it being 10x better.”

36:46 [On the most powerful question: What do you want?] “Once people are clear on what they want that’s actually a strong foundation for some really interesting action.”

37:10 [On the lazy question] – ‘It’s a bit of a paradox of a title because the question is, ‘How can I help?’ And when people hear that they go, ‘That doesn’t sound like a lazy question at all that sounds like it’s more work for me…but [the lazy question] forces them to make an explicit request rather than an implied request.”

37:54 Why explicit requests are far better than implied requests.

41:00 The importance of being clear of what you want in your own mind before asking for it.

Expert Bio

Michael founded Box of Crayons, a company that helps organizations all over the world do less Good Work and more Great Work. The Box of Crayons company is well known for their coaching programs that help time-crunched managers coach in 10 minutes or less.

Michael left Australia 22 years ago to be a Rhodes Scholar at Oxford University, where he fell in love with a Canadian and explains why he now lives in Toronto. He is the author of Do More Great Work, which has sold over 100,000 copies, and several other books, including his most recent, The Coaching Habit: Say Less, Ask More & Change the Way You Lead Forever.

For more information, visit Michael’s website.

Contact Info for Michael Bungay Stanier

Web address: http://www.boxofcrayons.biz

Travels from: Toronto, ON

Phone: (416) 532-1322

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