How To Develop The Coaching Habit With Michael Bungay Stanier

The Answers From Leadership Podcast Episode 016

Today’s guest on the Answers From Leadership Podcast is Michael Bungay Stanier.

Michael is a recognized expert on topics such as coaching in organizations, how to engage and retain employees, and the challenge of doing Great Work in organizations. He has been featured in national media, such as Fast Company, the Financial Times, the Huffington Post, the Globe and Mail and Breakfast TV. And today we will be talking about how to build The Coaching Habit.

Develop your coaching habit

Listen To Today’s Answers From Leadership Podcast Episode

Podcast Show Notes:

Michael, what else do you want listeners to know about you?

I’m a very good, good looking man. As Joe can see and he’s shaking his head as I speak.

I’m Australian by birth but I left Australia about 25 years ago. I was a road scholar and got to Oxford.

The benefit of going to Oxford was two-fold. It saved me from becoming a lawyer. More importantly, I got to meet my future wife.

What does leadership look like to you?

I love that piece around influence. Of course, we all influence people all the time.

So, for me… The question is how do you increase your influence so that you are having as much positive impact in the world that you can.

There’s 3 types of work. There’s bad work. There’s good work. And there’s great work.

You could say one of the characteristics of leadership is helping yourself and helping those around you do more great work and less of all the other stuff.

What you need for great work is focus, courage, and resilience.

You recently released the book The Coaching Habit. How would you describe coaching?

I did a fair bit of research about what is THE definition of coaching. What I discovered was that anyone who is selling coaching has their own definition of coaching.

Let me give you 3 ways of thinking about coaching. The first one comes from John Whitmore.

He is one of the father’s of coaching. He has a definition that I think people like. He says coaching is about helping people to unlock their potential. Helping people to learn, rather than teaching them.

When I think about this, coaching has a pretty simple 3-step cycle.

What coaching does is generate new insight. New insight leads to positive behavior change. In other words, ACTION. Positive behavior leads to increased positive impact.

Why should coaching be an importance practice for leaders?

Often when people talk about coaching, it’s all about this will be so good for the people you’re leading and influencing. And that’s true.

But, probably unfortunately, we’re not wired to put people first.

Coaching is actually about helping you to work less hard and have more impact.

I notice you keep saying the word curious when talking about coaching. What is it about being curious that helps you get better results from coaching?

It comes back to that cycle of insight leads to action leads to impact.

How you generate insight in people, it doesn’t work when you tell them the answer. It would be great if you could tell people the answer, but people don’t learn that way.

What does stick is when people have the chance to reflect on what just happened and generate their own insights. You can actually see the new neural connections form when this happens.

You mentioned that a lot of leaders feel coaching can be another burden on their already heavy workload. Are there any other reasons leaders have a hard time developing the coaching habit?

The biggest reason is that they just had 5, 10, 15 years of telling people of what to do. It’s some very deep habits around telling people of what to do rather than to stay curious.

More subtly, there’s something about when giving advice, you’re staying in control, maintaining a higher status. By coaching, you’re giving up a sense of control.

How can a leader manage himself during that feeling of uncertainty or fear of what’s going to happen next?

PRACTICE. You sit there with the discomfort. You notice how uncomfortable you feel. You see if you can bear another one or two seconds of silence.

In The Coaching Habit, we talk about the drama triangle. It’s a great lens or model to understand when relationships get a bit dysfunctional.

When things do get dysfunctional, 3 roles play out. The victim, the persecutor, and the rescuer. All 3 of these roles have advantages to playing them but the price of playing them are even pricier.

Also, in The Coaching Habit, you mention the 3P model of coaching. What is the 3P model?

It’s a way of deepening the conversation. The 3P model allows you to explore the issue more deeply.

The 3 P’s in the 3P models are: Project, people, and patterns.

Project is the content you’re working on. People is about discussing the relationships involved and how they’re playing into the problem. Patterns is your own patterns of behavior. How those patterns of behavior get in the way of what you want.

You don’t have to go in a specific order. This model helps you flesh out the problem in whatever way you need to.

What kind of questions should we ask in a coaching session? Should we ask the same questions, different questions?

The starting point is to go and ask questions. You don’t even have to call it a coaching session. Ask more questions. Stay curious longer.

We provide 7 essentials questions that we think are essential in The Coaching Habit. If you master these questions, you will lift your game as a leader. And you can just use these same 7 questions again and again. They don’t wear out.

Is there 1 question you would say is the best coaching question?

I’m going to put this back onto you, Joe. I do have a favorite question and I think it’s the best coaching question in the world. It’s number 2 in the book. It has an acronym: AWE.

But, Joe, in your work and life what is your favorite question that has a lot of impact?

Listen to the podcast to hear my answer!

This is a great experience. What’s useful as a learning point is that when you ask a great question, the test is how quickly they have an answer for the question.

So, to me, the most powerful coaching question is simply the question “And what else?”

What I love about this question is that it makes any other question better.

Is there a certain number of times you should ask And what else?

No. But generically it would be more than you’re currently doing.

I typically fall into a pattern. By the third question I’m often asking Is there anything else? To kind of wrap it up.

What do you wish you would have known about leadership or coaching 10 or 20 years ago?

I’m not sure. I’m not sure. I’m not a great one for reflecting on the past. I’ve got the memory of a goldfish.

You can’t change anything about the past anyway. So be here now and look to the future.

One of the things I’m aware of is leadership and coaching, it feels like it’s about other people. More often it’s about you and how do you step up and break old patterns and get to the next level.

Do you have anything else you’d like to share with listeners?

I mentioned that I was very good looking already. So, we’ve got that covered. I’m also modest, you can see that coming through.

That is my attempt at humor…

All of this stuff, coaching, leadership, resilience… It’s all pretty easy. Or I should say is simple.

I phrase it as it’s old wine in new bottles. It’s not like no one has discovered the power of questions before.

Just because it’s simple, doesn’t mean it’s easy. For you to master these skills, it takes deliberate practice, deep practice, and habit building.

Resources Mentioned:

Charles Duhigg – Power of Habit
The Coaching Habit eBook – 6 1/2 Coaching Gurus
Anders Ericsson – Peak
Michael Bungay Stanier – The Coaching Habit

Where To Connect With Michael Bungay Stanier:

Win A Copy Of The Coaching Habit

Michael and his team have been gracious enough to provide a copy of his new book, The Coaching Habit, for one lucky listener. For your chance to win, go to the giveaway page.

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