Unlocking the Power of Coaching: Insights from Michael Bungay Stanier – Lean Blog Podcast #243

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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

Thanks for listening!

Automated Transcript (Not Guaranteed to be Defect Free):

Announcer (1s):
Welcome to the Lean Blog podcast. Visit our website www.leanblog.org. Now, here's your host, Mark Graban.

Mark Graban (12s):
Hi, this is Mark Graban. Welcome to episode 243 of the podcast for February 29th, 2016. My guest today, Michael Bungay Stanier, takes us a bit outside of the typical lean realm that we cover here on the podcast, but you know, it's a good thing. Our topic today, which ties in very nicely to lean and Kaizen, as I think you'll hear on our conversation, is coaching. Michael's most recent book is titled The Coaching Habit: Say Less, Ask More, and Change The Way You Lead Forever. And it's available today through Amazon and other places you can buy books. It's a very practical book that's full of tips and seven key questions that you can use as a coach.

Mark Graban (55s):
Michael is founder and senior partner of Box of Crayons, a company that helps organizations do less good work and more great work. So if you wanna find links to Michael and his work and his books, you can go to leanblog.org/243. Michael, hi. Thanks for being in a guest here on the podcast today.

Michael Bungay Stanier (1m 18s):
I, you know, Mark, I'm really thrilled about it. I think there's such an interesting connection between Lean and the philosophy of lean and the importance of coaching to contribute to that. So I love that you've made the connection and I think we'll find us getting into some interesting, useful conversations about practical tools that people listening in who are champions of Lean can actually use to further the course.

Mark Graban (1m 39s):
Yeah. Well, I'm looking forward to exploring that. I think we're gonna have a, a great conversation here. Can you start off maybe in, in your own words, tell the listeners about your background and, and your career, some things you've done professionally?

Michael Bungay Stanier (1m 53s):
Sure. Well, I'm, I'll make it short. I'm Australian by birth. You might be able to hear that in my accent, although I've got a bit of a cold today, so you might not be able to hear anything. And I was having a good life in Australia. I did a, a law degree and an an English degree in Australia. I had the good luck to win a Rhode Scholarship and I say good luck, because it did two things. It stopped me becoming a lawyer and it got me to England, which is where I met my Canadian wife, who I'm still married to 25 years later. And so rather than rushing back to Australia, which had been Plan A, in fact the only plan, we lived in England for a bit, I finally got a job and I started off in the world of innovation and creativity kind of a little bit before innovation became this hot topic.

Michael Bungay Stanier (2m 40s):
I stumbled on what was then a, a pretty small agency and, and spent a number of years pretty much helping to invent products and services for clients. And in doing that moved into the world of training as well. We, we trained people on creativity and innovation skills. After that, I left their company and, and joined, joined a management consultancy focused on organizational change. In part because with the innovation company, it was frustrating how many good ideas kind of went into the company to die. Hmm. I was like, okay, what's going on there? So I moved to organizations and started to understand how change happens in organizations, what worked, what doesn't work. And that company took me from London where we were living and working at the time to Boston.

Michael Bungay Stanier (3m 25s):
Now, that was important because my wife happens to be an enormous fan of the Boston Bruins. So she was like, I love hockey. I'm all about the hockey. So we had a good time in Boston. We discovered amongst other things the best pizz in the entire world. Pizzeria Regina in Little Italy

Mark Graban (3m 40s):
That's been there. Yep.

Michael Bungay Stanier (3m 41s):
Here's, here's the, here's the added value of this podcast, immediately giving you some top restaurant tips. So really fantastic. But then, you know, we got a little restless in Boston, so we went to our local pub and on the, we drank a beer or two, and then we both wrote down the name of three cities we'd like to live in on the back of a beer coaster on the can of three. We flipped them over and Toronto made both the lists. So we booked a ticket to fly to Toronto. We booked that ticket on nine 11. So by the time we did get to Toronto, the job I had lined up had kind of fallen away. It was another consulting job. So shortly after that, I started Box of Crayons.

Michael Bungay Stanier (4m 22s):
And honestly, when I started this company Box of Crayons, my initial business plan was, I will do work for anybody who happens to have a wallet and a pulse. You know, and the pulse was actually, I, I didn't even need them to have a pulse, but if they could afford to pay an invoice, then I'd be up for it. But over the years in Box of Crowns has now been going since 2002. We, we've become much more focused. And so what we do now at Box of Crowns is we give busy managers practical tools so they can coach in 10 minutes or less. And that's it. That's become the, the whole raison debt of what we do and why we do it.

Mark Graban (4m 59s):
Well, great. And, and Toronto is a fantastic city and wonder wonderful place to be. I'm sure we have a lot of listeners in health systems throughout Ontario and other organizations there.

Michael Bungay Stanier (5m 11s):
So yeah, you know, Toronto is, I mean, I have to here as an Australian, I do find the winters here a little kind of tedious, but unfortunately my wife who's Canadian goes, I love winter. I love that freezing experience where you can't feel any of your extremities. I'm like, I do not understand that as a way of thinking about life. But I know that we've only done quite a lot of work with some of the healthcare providers in the hospitals here in Ontario and in Canada. And yeah, that's obviously a place where Lean, I know that's part of your focus with Lean as well working in healthcare systems.

Mark Graban (5m 43s):
Yeah. So may maybe your wife has opportunities to coach you on how to right. Handle the cold. And, but so, you know, as we're gonna talk about coaching here today and, and the title of the book again is The Coaching Habit. So it's, I guess it's not just about coaching and how to coach, but how to build the habit. You know, I'm, I'm always curious to ask authors what, tell me the story behind the book of, you know, the different things you're interested in and working on. Why, why write this book?

Michael Bungay Stanier (6m 13s):
Well, it's interesting. I don't know if, if anybody's listening in who has written a book or is thinking of writing a book, I have to tell you that for the most part, it's just a miserable experience. I mean, the first little rush is quite nice. You get this idea, you maybe write out a first draft, first drafts are typically terrible, but somehow you got something down on paper and you're quite excited about it. But then you need to work a second draft and then a third draft. And honestly, there are, there are times when you write a book almost to everybody, where you're like, I have no idea why I'm doing this. There's gotta be a better way. There's gotta be something else I could do. You know, even just, you know, lying down on the floor of my office and staring at the ceiling would be a better step up from this.

Michael Bungay Stanier (6m 53s):
But there's something about when you're writing a book, and this is actually number five for me, when it becomes an idea that you can't really let go of, that's what kind of pulls you through the, the valleys, the dark valleys of writing a book. And I had this idea for this book probably five years ago, maybe not three, maybe three years ago. And I started writing it. And honestly, first draft, terrible second draft, terrible third draft, I started pitching to my publishing house. We published some of my previous books. They like, we Hate it. I'm like, oh, and th this is the hardest book I've had to write. The others came fairly quickly, you know, I, I got an idea, I could kind of see how it all fit together.

Michael Bungay Stanier (7m 34s):
And I wrote it and it was up and down a little bit, but I got to the end fairly quickly. This one, I have literally written three entire versions of this book that ended up, you know, in the delete, the delete trash can on my computer. But my very first book is a book called Get Unstuck and Get Going. Came out about eight years ago now, and a writer and a thinker when I admire a lot, a guy called Peter Block wrote a blurb for it and he said, look, coaching is not a profession, it's a way of being with each other. And I love that. And it, it has actually become a central part to what we do around here, which is at Boxy Crowns.

Michael Bungay Stanier (8m 15s):
We, we really think that if managers and leaders can coach effectively make it part of their everyday way of working, it's really a way of helping themselves and those around them do more great work. And why do more great work? I mean, do work that has more impact and work that has more meaning. And you know, when I was, when I was thinking about this, this conversation we're having, and I, I was kind of revising what I knew about Lean. And I think this is, you know, when, when I think of lean, and I think this is as much connected to the Toyota way, this whole idea of eliminating waste and practicing respect, it's kind kind of at the heart of it.

Michael Bungay Stanier (8m 56s):
And I really think that coaching is, is all about that. Coaching is about finding out what the most important things are to focus on, what's the work that actually has impact, but it's also about finding out why the work is, it has meaning as well. How do you engage people around that work?

Mark Graban (9m 12s):
Yeah. And coaching, and, and this is one reason I I wanted to talk to you and get your perspectives here. Coaching is such an important part of the lean management style. I, I've often said that the role of a manager shifts from being a judge of ideas, a judge of performance, to being a coach of somebody who helps somebody perform better, somebody who helps develop ideas and turn them into improvements or, or innovative solutions. And, and coaching has been trendy, sounds like I'm disparaging it, but a trendy term, you know, there are quote unquote lean coaching summits.

Mark Graban (9m 53s):
There are, there's a lot of focus on this. And I mean, you know, to, how would, how do you dial in on a definition of coaching? Cuz I imagine a lot of different people might use the term in different ways. I'm, I'm curious, what, what's your definition of well, you know, so what, what do, what is this? It's, it's a way of being, but what is that way of being?

Michael Bungay Stanier (10m 12s):
Yeah, you know, I did a lot of research about how people define coaching and you're right, there's a, there's almost as many definitions of coaching as there are people selling coaching solutions. So, you know, there's a lot of it out there, but I've got two things to offer you. One is a kind of more general definition from a guy called Sir John Whitmore, one of the, one of the fathers of coaching, kind of largely responsible for making the grow model as popular as it is. And he talks about coaching is about helping people unlock their own potential, which I really like. But this is the bit i I like most of all, which is it's helping people learn rather than teaching them. And I think that's a really nice distinction.

Michael Bungay Stanier (10m 53s):
You know, teaching them tends to be, let me download my advice to you. Helping people learn means let me ask the questions that allow you to make the connections and you to actually expand your own self-sufficiency potential skill set by making your own connections. And when I think of the impact of coaching, it's a pretty simple virtuous circle. I mean, good coaching will first of all create new insights. Insights about yourself and insights about the situation. You know, you get a different perspective on what's going on. You different, get a different perspective on what you are doing in the midst of it. All new insights should lead to new action. You know, positive behavior change, you do something differently as a result.

Michael Bungay Stanier (11m 37s):
And then positive behavior change should lead to new impact, positive impact. And then ideally it kind of loops around on itself. So positive impact feeds back into the opportunity to get, gather new insights about yourself and about the situation. So those are the, the two ways that I, I think about coaching. One is a kind of philosophy, helping people learn rather than teaching them. And then, then there's the mechanics of how people learn insight needs to, action needs to impact. And then the loop continues.

Mark Graban (12m 6s):
And one thing I like about the book, you know, it's very practical, lots of great tips in there. You, you sort of alluded to this, I was wondering if you could elaborate on it because it stood out to me early in the book a question that that's helpful in terms of finding out what are the most important things to be working on. I think that ties in with lean thinking, not just what we want to work on, but what we need right. To work on. How do, how do you draw that out?

Michael Bungay Stanier (12m 31s):
Well, you know, I'm, I'm only guessing, but my, my guess is that part of the, the deepest level of frustration that lean addresses is that in organizations around the world, people are working really hard and bringing cre you know, creativity and courage and resources to working on the wrong problems. Because we tend to get seduced into thinking that the first challenge that shows up is the real challenge. And honestly, it, it almost never is. And if there's a, if there's a fundamental behavior shift, maybe two fundamental behavior shifts that are in the book, one is a little less advice and a little more curiosity.

Michael Bungay Stanier (13m 11s):
And the second is slow down the rush to action. You know, it's not, it's not, it's not meander, it's not never move to action, it's just we are also wired and triggered to leap into action that we often start chasing the wrong rabbit. Right? So the focus question, which is the third question that that's in the book, the third of seven essential questions, I think is a really powerful one. And the way it's phrased in the book is simply this, what's the real challenge here for you? And the way that's written is important, mark. Because if I just ask you what's the challenge here, I'm gonna get a certain answer, it's probably gonna be the first and most obvious thing to talk about the issue.

Michael Bungay Stanier (13m 54s):
It's a challenge here. If I just add a single word, what's the real challenge here? Suddenly you're making me think a bit more because it's like I can't just give you what the challenge is. I have to figure out what the real challenge is and that's becoming rich. But really I think the question becomes most powerful when you add the final two words, which are for you. So what's the real challenge here for you? And actually that changes almost everything about the conversation because suddenly you're no longer focused on, you know, the fire, you're focused on the person who's dealing with the fire. And when you're focused on the person who's dealing with the fire, that's where there's the opportunity for learning and insight to come.

Michael Bungay Stanier (14m 38s):
That's where we kind of connect back to those definitions of coaching we were talking about before. So what's the real challenge here for you, I think is a really powerful focused question. But let me give you one other question that I think can work in partnership with it that really kind of deepens the impact of this. And this is actually the second question in the book and what else? And we call it the best coaching question in the world. And it sounds innocuous cuz it's simply, and what else? Which doesn't sound that much, but, and it's such a great connection to Leno think here, you can guess that. And you've heard me say the first answer is never the only answer and it's rarely the best answer.

Michael Bungay Stanier (15m 18s):
So here's a script for, for managers and leaders listening in, you know, you come and you go, okay, so what's the, you know, somebody comes into your office and goes, mark, blah blah blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. You're like, oh okay. And you can feel yourself twitching to leap into action around it, but you don't, you resist now and you go, okay, so I hear what's going on, what's the real challenge here for you? And you know, listen to the answer. But after they finish the answer, resist now and I'm gonna do the air quotes, adding value by now telling them what to do, lean in and go, okay, what else? What else is a real challenge here for you? Nod your head, look interested, go and what else is the real challenge here for you? Okay, now they're really working and I love that part of our philosophy is be a lazy coach for your sake and for their sake.

Michael Bungay Stanier (16m 3s):
And then you lean in one last time you, okay? So knowing all of that, what's the real challenge here for you? And I can promise you in like three or four minutes you will have slowed down the conversation just a little bit, but you'll have deepened it and shifted it. And that for almost everybody, the the, the final answer they give will be different from the first answer that they gave you.

Mark Graban (16m 26s):
Yeah. And I think to me there's a number of connections to the lean mindset and, and what you've talked about there. One is the idea of, I think we say the first challenge or the real challenge. I think, you know, we could also frame that people might be familiar with the thought process if somebody describes a problem, but what they're really describing is a symptom. Exactly. And there's a root cause or the real problem or the real challenge that, that sometimes has to be drawn out through asking questions instead of jumping in too quickly and and giving advice. And if I remember right from the book, this, the, the and what else question helps maybe head off or delay that urge that people have to jump in with an answer and to continue Yeah.

Mark Graban (17m 14s):
Asking questions and making sure someone's had a chance to fully elaborate on their thoughts,

Michael Bungay Stanier (17m 20s):
Right? Precisely. So you're pointing to exactly the right thing, which is just understanding that and what else not only gets them to keep working and to deepen their answer, but it's a brilliant self-management tool cuz if you're, if the behavior you're trying to shift little more curiosity, little less advice, a little less rush to action, you need to find ways to actually slow down these deep habits that you've built up over the years and, and what else turns out to be a self-management tool to stop you rushing in.

Mark Graban (17m 49s):
And I, I see that question also being helpful in situations where people are talking about ideas or solutions or countermeasures or whatever term people use somebody, you know, if we're talking about the problem or getting to the root cause or the real challenge, what do you think we could do about that? They might have an answer and it seems like your method would prompt someone to say, well, and what else could we do? Brilliant, longer version of that question. Yeah, right. To continue brainstorming as opposed to locking in too quickly on just a solution,

Michael Bungay Stanier (18m 21s):
Right? Yeah. And that's really important. I mean, I call this first idea it where you, you run with the first idea that's, you know, not too scary, not too impossible, not too weird. And in the book I quote a piece of research that shows up in Chip and Dan Heath's book called Decisive. And this is a terrific book. It's about decision making and here's the, the research and it was done kind of laterally, so across different sectors. And this guy did some very thorough research on decision making in organizations and he found that 73% of the decisions that he researched were based on a binary choice.

Michael Bungay Stanier (19m 3s):
In other words, should we do this or should we not do it? It had a failure rate of over 50%. If you're wondering whether it's that good or bad, apparently that's worse than most teenagers decision making outcomes. And we know how bad teenagers are making decisions. Their brains aren't even fully formed yet by simply adding another option. And, and what else is a question that most easily gets you another option? The failure rate dropped from over 50% down to about 30%. So really significant to understand that if you can just add a few more options into the decision making process, you will get a better outcome.

Michael Bungay Stanier (19m 44s):
So to your very point, this and what else is a really terrific question to, once you've got clear on what the challenge is actually go, okay, let's see if we can come up with a number of ideas to see what options we have. And the, the target I give people is not an ambitious one. It's like five. If you can get to five new ideas, actually you are gonna feel like you have some interesting choices there cuz this is one of the things that is kind of cool about our unconscious brain. Our unconscious brain counts 1, 2, 3, 4 lots. So if you get to five ideas, it will feel like you have lots of options on the table and that will actually make you feel more confident and excited about the choices you have. Yeah.

Mark Graban (20m 24s):
Well, and o one thing we've talked about before on the podcast with previous guests is the failure of suggestion box systems that are often framed in just a binary decision of do we approve the suggestion or reject the suggestion. And what we see in a, in a real culture of continuous improvement is managers playing the role of coach. If an an initial idea is not workable or too expensive or right or has some problem, the obligation on the leader is to keep working on it to right to coach and find something that is practical and that's far less demoralizing than just being told no end of story.

Mark Graban (21m 7s):
No, but, or well, or I think even well and what else? That's a far less negative right kind of question, right?

Michael Bungay Stanier (21m 14s):
Yeah. And you know, there's a ton of research out there that says often the way to good ideas is through a whole bunch of bad ideas. But if you just shut the bad ideas down, you never get those other options opening up. So let me give people a kind of a phrase that is actually another useful phrase for that kind of idea generating piece. And the, the inside is this, if you're generating ideas. So, you know, let's say I go into Mark's office and I, he's my boss and Mark goes, okay, we have this conversation. He goes, Michael, what's the real challenge here for you? And I come up with the idea with, with the challenge and he's like, great, I think we've nailed that. That's exciting.

Michael Bungay Stanier (21m 55s):
And he goes, so would it be useful for us to have some ideas about how you can tackle that? And I might say no, cause I know what I need to do, but I might say, yeah, you know, mark, that would be really great. And so Mark would lean and said, Michael, tell me what ideas do you already have? And I tell him my first idea and then Mark will go, that's good, I like it. What what else could you do? Fantastic. And he goes, what else could you do? And I go, and now I'm doing all the work, which is really part of the philosophy here, be the lazy coach. But of course as the coach, Mark's got his own ideas as well and he's kind of looking to find a way to slip them in. Particularly if I don't get there myself, I may get there myself. And the longer you can wait the better. But at a certain point Mark's going, wow, I've, I've gotta tell him this other good idea cuz you know, my experience and my wisdom tells me that this might be a good option.

Michael Bungay Stanier (22m 42s):
So here's what happens. Mark goes, good, this a this, you've got a ton of great ideas, Michael, what else could you do? And I, I say an idea and Mark goes, huh, that makes me think of, and that's the phrase, that's the bridging phrase that's really nice. Which is, that makes me think of is a really useful way for somebody to slip in their own ideas and the conversation, but not in a way that kind of, you know, can suck the oxygen out of the conversation. Cause that's what happens when a boss shares their idea. You know, you go and see your boss and your boss goes, I think you should do this. And everybody goes, I think so too. That's an excellent idea, Mr. Boss or Mrs. Boss, I'll, I'll write that down. And that's kind of done and dusted. So part of your job, particularly if you're a senior, is to make sure that your ideas don't just become the obvious idea that everybody has to do just by nature of the power that you hold.

Mark Graban (23m 32s):
Yeah. And yeah, I think there, there's a really careful balance that has to be struck about giving input without stomping over somebody else's input. There, there's a similar point, and maybe you could talk about this, it's in the book about why it's important. If you're going to give advice, don't give it in the form of a question.

Michael Bungay Stanier (23m 54s):
Well, you know, it's, it's one of my frustrations teaching this stuff cuz you know, people, everybody in theory is pro coaching. Yeah, no, nobody's making a stand going, I don't believe in coaching. I just believe in command and control. I just wanna tell 'em what to do. So in theory, everybody's up for this in practice people have some old habits that they're trying to shift and make it difficult. You know, we, people don't even realize just how much they love to jump in and give advice, but some people have figured out a way to kind of make it sound like they're coaching. And the classic is this, have you thought of dot.dot? Which sounds like a question, but it's not a question, it's just advice with a question mark attached to the end.

Michael Bungay Stanier (24m 38s):
So my take on it is this, look, if you're gonna give advice, give advice, don't fake it. You know, if you're gonna ask a question, ask a question. And there are seven good ones in the coaching habit, so pick that book up. But if you're gonna give advice, that's fine. I'm not, definitely not saying never give advice again, I'm just saying slow down the rush to give advice to see what they can figure out themselves, cuz that serves them. They become more confident, more autonomous, more self-sufficient. They have a higher status, a higher rank. They become more engaged and more up for their work. And it serves you because you're spending less time doing their work for them because they become more self-sufficient and so on.

Mark Graban (25m 21s):
Yeah, and it is interesting you talk about that positional power. I often have to try to coach and remind executives who some I think lose track of their, their positional power and, and how that makes people view them. I I've seen a question that I think came from a place of honest inquiry, but you know, if it's phrased toward a, you know, a frontline hospital employee as why didn't you do such and such?

Michael Bungay Stanier (25m 49s):
Right? They,

Mark Graban (25m 50s):
They, that comes across as a criticism. You should have done such and such. Totally, even if it wasn't meant that way. I think a lot of times people, you know, react differently to a question from the same question from their boss or an executive than they would from a peer. Maybe that's an important thing to keep in mind as well. How do we ask these questions?

Michael Bungay Stanier (26m 11s):
So I'm gonna, I'm gonna build on what you're saying next. I agree with a hundred percent. So the tactics to take away from that, I've got two to offer you. The first is look to avoid questions, starting with the word why, because it's almost impossible to get the tone right, particularly if there's that kind of positional power difference between the people. So my bias, and you'll see this in all the seven questions in the book, is questions that start with the word what, that's much more powerful questions that start with the word how can be useful as well, but how is into the action phase? And what I'm trying to do is slow people up from the action phase. So my stand on it is the more what questions you've got to ask, the better.

Michael Bungay Stanier (26m 53s):
The other useful tactic here that people can make into a a habit is a powerful simple phrase to start almost any question that you ask. And what it does is it lessens the, the scariness of the question and the phrase is this out of curiosity. So, you know, I could ask you, so what's the, what's the challenge here for you, mark? Or I could go just outta curiosity, mark, what's the challenge here for you? And even though the question is the same, it just comes across as that slightly gentler question where there's less at stake to get the answer right.

Michael Bungay Stanier (27m 35s):
And if there's less at stake, it's easy for people to actually answer it

Mark Graban (27m 38s):
Or even, you know, back to my scenario, it might soften it just a touch if the executive had said, well yeah, out of curiosity, did you consider doing such and such? Because that, that helps give per the, the person a bit more of an out to say, well, we did consider it and that's a terrible idea. Or they probably wouldn't, they probably wouldn't say it that way.

Michael Bungay Stanier (27m 56s):
Right, right, right.

Mark Graban (27m 57s):
Exactly. Maybe more permission to, to push back or disagree.

Michael Bungay Stanier (28m 2s):
I think that's right.

Mark Graban (28m 4s):
We've got just a, a couple of minutes left. There's, there's a lot of great content and in, in, in the book, something you touched on earlier that I thought maybe you could summarize. You, you brought up this idea of coaching somebody in 10 minutes as, as part of a daily habit. I was, I was wondering if you could sort of introduce that idea for the listeners.

Michael Bungay Stanier (28m 25s):
Yeah, so kind of connects back to that Peter Block quote I was telling you about. It's, you know, coaching isn't a profession, it's a way of being with each other. And if you're trying to to drive insight, that leads to behavior change that leads to impact. It doesn't work to do a once a month coaching session with somebody. And the metaphor I wanna give people is they wanna be thinking about drip irrigation, not the occasional flash flood. Okay? But you go, well, okay, I, I buy that in theory, Michael, but do you know how busy I am? You know, I am already working way too many hours. I have a gadget attached to my hip or whatever. So I'm, you know, constantly checking.

Michael Bungay Stanier (29m 5s):
I feel overwhelmed at the moment and I'm like, absolutely, I get that. So that's why if you're gonna make coaching an everyday way of working with people, you have to be able to do it fast. You have to be able to coach in 10 minutes or less. So the way I, I wanna frame this for people is you, you wanna stop thinking of coaching as additive to what you're already doing because if you, if you think you just gotta add it to what your responsibilities already are, you're doomed. It's never gonna happen. But if you think of it as transformative, so you're trying to change the nature of the interactions you already have, then it becomes possible. And part of the deep philosophy of the book is you've gotta do this fast.

Michael Bungay Stanier (29m 47s):
So don't make a big deal about it. Don't make it capital C coaching, just think of it as a, another leadership way of interacting with people and you lead with curiosity. And the seven questions in the book are just seven essential questions to help you get there more easily, more often.

Mark Graban (30m 4s):
Well, I really do want to invite the listeners to, to check out Michael's book, the Coaching Habits, say Less, ask More and Change the Way You Lead Forever. Michael, as, as we wrap up here, what are the best ways for people to find you online? Learn more about the book, connect with you in social media?

Michael Bungay Stanier (30m 24s):
Sure, thank you for asking. So if you're, if you'd like to get more about the book, the coaching habit.com is the place to go. And you know, there'll be, there's a ton of free downloads and a ton of resources, all sorts of bits and pieces, though you can squeeze a lot out of that website without ever having, needing to buy the book. So that's a starting point. If you're curious about our programs, we're at boxofcrayons.biz. And if you're looking for me on social media, there are two places I hang out most. The first is LinkedIn, so I'm always happy to connect with people on LinkedIn. I am in fact the only Michael Bungay Stanier in the entirety of LinkedIn, probably the entirety of the world.

Michael Bungay Stanier (31m 7s):
And I'm also on Twitter at BoxofCrayons.

Mark Graban (31m 11s):
Okay, well great. Well I hope people will connect with you. I hope you'll check out the book. There's a lot of, I think, you know, very practical actionable insights in here. I think that's what people are looking for. But you know, there's also a lot of other citations and references within the book. Daniel Pink is, is mentioned in the book who was a previous guest here on the podcast. Lovely knows he has a, a very nice endorsement of the book on, on the back cover. So

Michael Bungay Stanier (31m 39s):
He does, I was thrilled to get that. He, he actually, he wrote the blurb for me and then he kind of wrote in the email kind of following, he goes, I think this book's gonna do really well for you. So now I'm cast all kind of tangled up in that going, oh, I want the book to do really well for me now. But it was really nice to get that endorsement from Dan.

Mark Graban (31m 54s):
Yeah, well that's, that's, that's amazing. And the book is available, it is available now or real soon,

Michael Bungay Stanier (32m 2s):
So it launches February the 29th. So you and I are doing this conversation just a little bit before that. But yeah, so February the 29th, if you're listening to this that week, the week of February the 29th at thecoachinghabit.com, there are a bunch of specials that people can get if they buy a copy of the book or more.

Mark Graban (32m 23s):
Okay. Well great. Well, Michael, thank you so much for being a guest, really interesting discussion and, and thank you for sharing your book and talking about it here today.

Michael Bungay Stanier (32m 32s):
Mark, it's a, a real pleasure. Thanks for having me on the the the Lean podcast.

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Mark Graban
Mark Graban is an internationally-recognized consultant, author, and professional speaker, and podcaster with experience in healthcare, manufacturing, and startups. Mark's new book is The Mistakes That Make Us: Cultivating a Culture of Learning and Innovation. He is also the author of Measures of Success: React Less, Lead Better, Improve More, the Shingo Award-winning books Lean Hospitals and Healthcare Kaizen, and the anthology Practicing Lean. Mark is also a Senior Advisor to the technology company KaiNexus.


  1. 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.)

    • 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.

    • 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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