Podcast #243 – Michael Bungay Stanier, “The Coaching Habit”

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My guest for Episode #243, Michael Bungay Stanier, takes us a bit outside of the Lean realm… but that's good. Our topic today, which ties in very nicely to Lean and Kaizen (as you'll hear in our conversation) is coaching.

His most recent book is titled The Coaching Habit: Say Less, Ask More & Change the Way You Lead Forever and it's available today. It's a very practical book that's full of tips and seven key questions that you can use as a coach.

Michael is “founder and Senior Partner of Box of Crayons, a company that helps organizations do less Good Work and more Great Work.” You can find him on LinkedIn and Twitter.

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For a link to this episode, refer people to www.leanblog.org/243.

For earlier episodes of my podcast, visit the main Podcast page, which includes information on how to subscribe via RSS, through Android appsor via Apple Podcasts.  You can also subscribe and listen via Stitcher.

Questions, topics, and quotes include:

  • What is “coaching?”
    • “Coaching is not a profession, it's a way of being.”
    • Coaching is about helping people unlock their own potential, helping people to learn instead of teaching and “downloading advice to them.”
    • “Stop thinking of coaching as being additive to what you do.”
  • How do you “find out the most important things” to work on in a workplace?
  • How can you coach somebody in 10 minutes or less (and why is this important)?
  • Why is it important to not give advice in the form of a question?
    • “If you're going to give advice, give advice… don't fake it in the form of a question.”
  • The best coaching question in the world: “And what else?”
  • “Be the lazy coach”
  • Why the bridging phrase “That makes me think of” is a good way to share an idea without squashing somebody else's
  • Avoid questions that start with “Why….” It's hard to get the tone right, especially if you have positional power. It's better to start with “What…” questions. Starting with “Out of curiosity…” can soften the question.

Videos with Michael Bungay Stanier

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  1. Josh Worthley says

    I LOVED this interview. So much so, I listened to it 3 times and I’ve shared it with a load of people. Michael Bungay-Stanier’s content is wonderfully practical and not in the “you must do another 4 hours of study,” kind of way, but immediately applicable. Really, really good stuff.

    I’ve been trying to figure out what, if any, is the relationship between asking “what else” and asking “why.” Seems to me both are trying to get to the root issue, but “why” is appropriate for a problem because there is no emotional/behavioral/human factor. We don’t have to worry about what mindset we are putting a part or process in as they are amoral and rational. “What else” is better for digging into the human thought process for all the opposite reasons and for everything Michael talks about. I think you probably could use “what else” when dealing with a part or process, but “why” doesn’t work so well when constructively helping a person dig through their thought process.


    (I realize it doesn’t really matter at all, I just think it is an interesting thought exercise.)

    1. Mark Graban says

      Thanks, Josh. Glad you liked the episode!

      I see “what else?” as more of an initial relationship building question… to get somebody to open up about problems or opportunities for improvement.

      Why? can be helpful for finding a root cause… asking as many times as necessary. But, the question “why?” can make people defensive, so sometimes we have to be careful with that. Instead of “why did that happen?” asking something like “what allowed that to occur?” can soften the tone a bit.

    2. Andrew Bishop says

      Agreeing with Mark, but slightly different take on your question:

      “What else?”, as presented here, is a coaching paradigm – interpersonal, developmental, etc.

      Asking “Why?” 5 times is an analytical tool – we are asking it of the situation in a problem solving context (though a person may be there to verbalize the answer). That’s very different from “Why?” in a coaching context, if you get my drift.
      I, too, thought the podcast and Michael Bungay-Stanier were brilliant. As a long-time, largely self-taught user of the Socratic method of management (thank you, Pascal Dennis for starting me on this path) I found it very helpful and look forward to the book arriving in my mailbox! My people have already been hearing “What is the REAL challenge for you here?” and “What else?” for a couple of days now… I need those other 5 questions!

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