Ep031: The Coaching Habit – How to Say Less, Ask More, and Lead Better through 10 Minute Coaching Conversations with Michael Bungay Stanier

Ep031: The Coaching Habit – How to Say Less, Ask More, and Lead Better through 10 Minute Coaching Conversations with Michael Bungay Stanier on The TalentGrow Show podcast by Halelly Azulay

This is a conversation with a funny man, and it’s fast-moving so hold on to your hat! Michael Bungay Stanier, an award-winning and sought-after coach, author, and speaker, talks about his latest book, The Coaching Habit. Michael wants us leaders to learn to stay a little more curious a little longer and rush to ideas and advice a little more slowly, which will ultimately let us be more effective and work less hard. He teaches us three of the seven coaching questions from his book that will help you have better coach-like conversations that take 10 minutes or less. We discuss the neuroscience of engagement, ways to help people get more ‘Ahas’ to cement their insights and learning, and the kind of question we should all try to avoid. Finally, as in every episode of The TalentGrow Show, Michael shares a highly actionable piece of advice to help you upgrade your leadership skills right away – this one in answer to a listener’s question.

What you’ll learn:

Listen to Stitcher
  • Why career zig-zags are normal and cool – it’s important to recognize the crossroads and know it’s okay to deviate from the norm (3:47)
  • Why the ‘expectations’ that seem to come in life are not mandatory – you have freedom and choices and you just need to step up to take accountability for the choices you have (4:52)
  • What is Michael not trying to do in his new book, The Coaching Habit, and what he does hope to accomplish (8:35)
  • Who is Michael’s audience, whom he wants to help work less hard and have more impact? (Hint: I think it’s you!) (9:07)
  • What is the least utilized style of management? What does Michael want people to stay a little more curious a little longer and rush to ideas and advice a little slower (9:42)
  • Why did Michael choose seven questions for his book and what are they (10:10)
  • What is the first, powerful question in the book and that you should use to kick start a coach-like conversation that takes 10 minutes or less? (11:07)
  • What’s a suggestion for starting your meetings to get much more interesting conversations more quickly (12:47)
  • What’s the neuroscience of engagement? (13:13)
  • What are the four factors that the brain uses to decide if there’s danger or reward, which Michael calls the “TERA” quotient? (13:37)
  • How to ask a question to finish a coach-like conversation more powerfully (14:30)
  • Why do you need to know how people learn to really help them? (14:55)
  • How can the learning question help people get the aha moment on their own and synthesize what they’ve experienced? (plus some examples of such questions) (15:20)
  • What’s a trick Halelly shares for a habit that can help everyone get more learning moments (although she doesn’t really use it as much as she should) (16:49)
  • Halelly reads a Haiku Michael wrote to summarize his book – it’s clever! (18:18)
  • What’s the Advice Monster and why we should tame it? (and why Michael says that we are all advice-giving maniacs) (19:02)
  • What is the psychological reason we feel so good about giving advice even though it doesn’t work very well? (20:40)
  • What’s the empowering thing about asking questions? (21:17)
  • What’s servant leadership and why it ultimately allows you to work less hard? (21:52)
  • What’s the ‘fake question’ that people use to masquerade advice as if it’s a question, and why it’s not gonna work (22:23)
  • It’s not that you should not give advice anymore. What will make your advice more useful and more likely to be acted upon? (23:12)
  • What’s a greater challenge for Michael now to keep learning alive for people beyond the classroom to help sustain engagement with new skills and behaviors? (24:14)
  • Halelly asks Michael a listener-submitted question from Frode Odegard and it allows him to suggest another question from the book, and he suggests an actionable habit to implement to have better conversations (26:05)

Resources

About Michael Bungay Stanier

Michael Bungay Stanier is the Senior Partner of Box of Crayons, a company that helps organizations do less Good Work and more Great Work. Box of Crayons is best known for its coaching programs, which give busy managers practical tools to coach in 10 minutes or less.

On the way to founding Box of Crayons in 2002, Michael lived in Australia, England, the United States and Canada (his current home), where he worked in the fields of innovation and change management.

He’s written a number of books, the best known of which is Do More Great Work, with almost 100,000 copies sold. He’s proudest of End Malaria, a collection of essays about Great Work by thought leaders that has raised $400,000 for Malaria No More. His latest book, The Coaching Habit, is already being called a modern classic.

To balance all this out, Michael was banned from his high school graduation for “the balloon incident,” was sued by one of his law school lecturers for defamation and managed to give himself a concussion while digging a hole as a labourer...

He was the first Canadian Coach of the Year and is a Rhodes Scholar.

“If I had to pick a person to have dinner with, when I need to be prodded and challenged and inspired to think about the things I really am committed to think about for myself and what I'm doing, I’d pick Michael Bungay Stanier. He has an ability to shake our tree and make us more conscious and responsible about what we know but aren’t willing to admit we know yet.” — David Allen, author of Getting Things Done

Transcript

Announcer: Welcome to the TalentGrow Show, where you can get actionable results-oriented insight and advice on how to take your leadership, communication and people skills to the next level and become the kind of leader people want to follow. And now, your host and leadership development strategist, Halelly Azulay.

Halelly: Hey, welcome back to another episode of the TalentGrow Show. I’m Halelly Azulay, your leadership development strategist and this week’s episode features Michael Bungay Stanier. He is the founder and senior partner of a company called Box of Crayons, which helps people and organizations all over the world do less good work and more great work. Box of Crayons is best known for its coaching programs that give busy managers the tools to coach in 10 minutes or less, which is one of the key topics of our conversation on this episode, which is also covered in Michael’s new book called The Coaching Habit. Michael is a really funny guy. He’s a friend of mine. I think you’re going to love listening to this really fast-moving episode and we talk about how leaders can learn to stay a little more curious, a little longer, and rush to ideas and advice a little more slowly, which will ultimately let us be more effective and work less hard. Doesn’t that sound good? And in his book, he teaches seven questions, coach-like questions, that leaders can use to have conversations with people that take 10 minutes or less, but in this episode he covers the two bookend questions from that book – how to start great conversations like that and how to finish them strong. We also talk about the neuroscience of engagement, how you can get people to have more insights and learning and a-has from their experiences by using questions in that way, and the kind of question that we should all try to avoid. And of course, we always end every episode with the guest giving a very actionable piece of advice that you can use to upgrade your leadership skills right away. So Michael definitely delivers on that promise. I hope that you’ll enjoy this episode and that you’ll stick around at the end to give me some insight, some feedback, some comments on the show notes page. Without further ado, here we are – episode 31, with Michael Bungay Stanier.

Michael, I’m so glad that you’re on this show with us because you have so much to share, and before we get into the meat and potatoes of all of the great stuff that you’re working on, give us a little bit of stroll through history, if you would, and really a short version of your very interesting journey. How did you get here? Where did you start?

Michael: You know when you read other people’s biographies and it sounds like this planned, linear path, where they went from step by step by step toward whatever greatness they have achieved? I can make my story sound like that, but that would be a lie. It’s a process of stumbling from one thing to another, coming to a crossroads and going, “Do I go left or do I go right?” Just having stuff happen that’s kind of changed the way things worked. So the very quick version is this. So I’m Australian by birth. Some people might be able to hear that kind of faintly in my accent.

Halelly: Yeah mate!

Michael: And I did a law degree in Australia plus an arts degree in literature and I was on the track to becoming an unhappy and not very good lawyer. I mean, I finished law school being sued by one of my law lecturers. That’s how bad things were! I was lucky enough to win a Rhodes Scholarship and it led to two awesome things. It stopped me becoming a lawyer, which would have been bad, and it’s where I met my wife. Now we’re actually today celebrating our 21st wedding anniversary.

Halelly: Oh, congratulations! That’s amazing, great.

Michael: It is amazing. The downside is now that I live in Canada because she’s Canadian. I love Canada, I love Toronto, except for that whole winter thing. That’s kind of overrated. But how did I get to Canada? Well, when I finally stumbled out of University, because I did a master’s degree at Oxford, I got a job in the world of innovation and creativity. So I invented stuff, I invented products and services, but I also started teaching and designing training programs around creativity and innovation. After some years there, I went into the world of change management. How do big organizations change and evolve and grow and how do you successfully make change happen? Because it’s really hard. Most people fail to make change happen and I’ve certainly got my share of failures as well. And that took me from London to Boston. My wife happens to be an insanely huge Boston Bruins hockey fan, so she was pretty happy about that. And I’m pretty sure that the second best pizza in the entire world is made in Pizzeria Regina in Little Italy, so I was pretty happy about that. So we spent three years in Boston, and after three years we went, “You know what? Time to move on again.” So we decided to head to Toronto. My wife and I headed to a pub in Boston. We didn’t really know where we wanted to go, so we each wrote down the name of three cities on the back of a beer coaster and on the count of three flipped them over. Toronto was on both lists, so we moved to Toronto. And shortly after that, I started my company, Box of Crayons, and after a certain amount of time kind of experimenting, we got this focus which we have now, which is helping busy managers and giving them practical tools so they can coach in 10 minutes or less. So that’s the specific thing that we deliver and the outcome we’re trying to help people do is to have less good work and more great work in their lives.

Halelly: Which of course was the subject of your previous book, which is one of my favorites.

Michael: Well thank you. Do More Great Work, and I think it’s probably five years old now. It’s been around for a while.

Halelly: It’s awesome. What a great story, and I love the way you told it with so much humor. Thank you for sharing that. The reason I do this – aside from just having people get more familiar with the guest – is because I am personally fascinated with how most people’s careers are not as linear as they think they ought to have been. So a lot of people feel awkward about doing the zig zag, and I want to show that there is all kinds of really cool zig zag ways to get to all kinds of awesome outcomes.

Michael: Yeah, I mean, it’s in part I think recognizing the crossroads when you come to them. And then recognizing you have choices to deviate from the norm. I mean, there’s a bunch of things that I have in my life where I’ve deliberately chosen a less traditional path. I mean, everything from my wife and I are happily child-free, we’ve never owned a house, we’ve always been renters, I’ve never owned a car, we’ve always lived in the center of a city where we’ve been able to bus and subway and rent cars to get around. It’s just the life comes with so many kind of prepackaged expectations, and they are often really useful and great choices, but I love it when people realize that they’re choices rather than obligations. You don’t have to do this, you don’t have to do that. You don’t have to follow this path. You have choices all the time. One of my favorite thinkers and writers in this whole space of I guess human potential is Peter Block, really he’s the kind of grumpy old dude, but he’s got some real wisdom. I once heard him say he considered his purpose to give people responsibility for their own freedom. And I love that phrase, because it just reminds us that we have this freedom, these choices, particularly those of us lucky enough to live in any kind of first world countries. You know, step up to take responsibility, which means step up to take accountability for the choices that you have in front of you, rather than defaulting to the easier path every time.

Halelly: Right, or lamenting the choices that you don’t have, because how is that helpful?

Michael: Exactly.

Halelly: Well, good! This is great. I love it. I’m inspired already. I was inspired by you when I saw you speak at a conference where we were both speaking at D.C. at a coach’s conference, so it was cool to meet you then. It’s been great to follow your success along the way and reconnecting just recently at another conference where we were peers, learning together, is fabulous. And you were the Coach of the Year in Canada, right?

Michael: I was. I was the very first Canadian Coach of the Year. And as an Australian, I thought that was a pretty good achievement.

Halelly: I’m sure it’s an achievement, no matter where you’re from. So you know a thing or two about coaching, which is a great reason why people should pick up your latest book, which is call The Coaching Habit: Say Less, Ask More and Change the Way You Lead Forever. I love this book. I think all of your books are really short, not fluffy, very practical, easy to read and in fact beautiful too. I think just the design, the way that you go about the design, to me, it makes it a much more palatable book.

Michael: You know, I love that you’re pointing to that, because design really matters in my opinion. We are all overwhelmed by content. There is so much stuff out there that we can’t possibly consume it all. And for me, the design, the look and the feel of anything, the experience, the workshop, the book, the report, really matters as a way of making information valuable, but also for me – and thank you for the nice compliments – when I started writing this book, the thing that really helped it was my goal to say, “I’m trying to write the shortest book possible but the most useful.”

Halelly: Yes. And so in this book, you actually give – I love how you describe that managers could become really good leaders with 10 minutes or less a day if they use these seven questions, right? And every chapter in your book focuses on one of these seven questions, and I hope that people pick up the book because for goodness sake, it’s good. You should use it. But because maybe right now they’re on a jog or washing dishes or whatever, I’d love for you to give a really high level summary of the seven questions, but give us a tiny bit more on one of them, whichever one is your favorite.

Michael: Sure. The thing I’d say before we kick into that is one of the things I’m not trying to od here is turn anybody into a coach. There are lots of coaches out there, lots of them are doing a good job. And lots of people – and I bet a bunch of people who are listening here – don’t actually want to be a coach, but they are quite interested in perhaps being more coach-like. Because if you’re more coach-like, my promise is you can actually work less hard and have more impact. So, that’s the driver for me. You know, I hope that when anybody who interacts with other human beings, when they pick up this book, they’ll find something useful there. But it’s really written for the busy manager, the busy leader, who is going, “Look, I like my job, I like my team, I like why I’m doing the work I do. I just wish I could get more traction. I wish I wasn’t so overwhelmed and stuck and is stretched thin over time.” And it’s really helping those people work less hard and have more impact.

Halelly: I love that. You’re opening up a new way of being a leader that is less overwhelming.

Michael: Yeah. You know, Daniel Goldman many years ago – 15 or 16 years ago – wrote an article for the Harvard Business Review called “Leadership gets results,” and he said leadership actually has six different manifestations, six different styles of leadership. Coaching is one of those styles. It’s the least utilized of those styles. So honestly, Halelly, what I’m trying to do at a behavioral level, get people to stay a little more curious a little longer and rush to ideas and actions and advice just a little bit slower. Sounds simple, but it’s really hard.

Let’s talk about these seven questions. So, you’re right, I basically … and I toyed around with this. At one stage I had five questions, at one stage I had 162 questions, and kind of went back and forth between what is the optimal number here? And we chose seven because we thought they covered all sorts of different opportunities that people could have the most impact. Everything from the foundation question, which is what do I want, what do you want, what do I want? There’s the strategy question which is what should I say no to so that I can truly say yes to the thing that matters? It’s really strongly connected to that whole piece around doing more great work that you and I talked briefly about. But let me talk in some more depth about question number one and question number seven, because those are the coaching bookends. So really, practical for people listening going, “Okay, this will help me start more quickly and finish more strongly.”

So the coaching, the kick start question, which is the very first question in the book, and the thinking behind this is that if you think that being more coach-like could be useful and I’m hoping everybody is nodding their head at this stage, our belief is this – if you can’t be more coach-like, if you can’t coach in 10 minutes or less, you just don’t have time to coach. Because we’re all busy, busy people. So how do we get into a conversation that matters, a conversation that has some meat to it, more quickly? And that’s the point of the kick start questions, about getting there fast. So here it is – the question is, “What’s on your mind?” What’s on your mind? And why I think this is such a powerful question is it has two parts to it. It is an open question. It’s a classic, open question. It’s trusting the other person, giving them autonomy, giving them freedom, giving them the trust to say, “You get to choose what we talk about.” Rather than me telling you the agenda or setting up, you get to talk about what we’re talking about. But we’re not going to talk about anything. We’re going to talk about the thing that matters most. The thing that’s exciting you or overwhelming you or worrying you or getting you up at 4:00 in the morning or just kind of feeling all consuming. Let’s talk about that. Let’s talk about the thing that matters most. So that’s the power of the kick start question. It’s both open, but there’s a real encouragement to say, “Okay, let’s go somewhere that matters. Let’s go somewhere important in this conversation.” So for folks listening in, if you work in an organization and you run meetings, rather than doing the regular one-to-one meeting or team meeting structure where you kind of have an agenda and go through it, why don’t you go round the participants and ask, “What’s on your mind? Where should we start?” That’s going to get into a more interesting conversation more quickly.

Halelly: It lets them set the agenda.

Michael: Right, and so part of what’s feeding all of this is this understanding of neuroscience, and the neuroscience of engagement, which is basically five times a second, Halelly, people’s brains are scanning the environment and in an unconscious level going, “Is it safe here, or is it dangerous?” A place of risk or a place of reward. And if they feel like a place of reward, if it feels safe, people are engaged. If it feels dangerous and risky, they disengage. There are four factors that make the brain go, “Okay, this is what I’m measuring. This is how I decide whether it’s risk or reward.” We talk about this in the book. It’s called the TERA quotient. T-E-R-A. It’s an acronym. And these stand for Tribe – in other words, are you with me or are you against me? Expectation, do I know what’s about to happen or do I not know? Rank, am I more or less important than you, and autonomy, do I get to make some choices here or are you making the choices for me? The more you increase the TERA quotient, the more engaged people are. Part of the power of asking questions, and as you just said giving them the choice, is among some of the things really pushing on that autonomy piece to really raise the TERA quotient.

So that’s the kick start question. So the other bookend question, how to finish a conversation more powerfully, it rests on the insight that for you to be an effective manager, leader, person, one of the roles you can play is that of a teacher – helping people learn. People, because when they learn, they create new neuro-pathways, they become smarter, they have more potential, they become more self sufficient, more autonomous, all good things. But for that to work, you need to know how people learn. And you know, people don’t learn when you tell them stuff. Frustrating as it is, because amongst other things, Halelly, you and I are in the world of learning and development, and so we love to tell people stuff. Look, let me teach you some stuff. But, that often just goes in one ear and out the other ear. What you’re actually looking to do is to go, “Okay, how do I help you get the a-ha moment yourself?” And that’s where the learning question comes in.

So the final question is this – what was most useful or most valuable for you from this interaction? So one of the things we could ask people listening to this podcast is, you know, they’re enjoining it in the moment. You’re smart, being a wonderful host, I’m trying to be self deprecatingly brilliant over here and offer up useful stuff. They’re going to go, “Yeah, another great podcast from Halelly. I always love her podcasts.” But the danger is, 20 minutes after they stop listening, they’ve forgotten almost everything. But if what happens at the end of the podcast is we go, “Okay, everybody listening in, you’re still here, that’s great. Let me ask you, what was most useful or most valuable from this podcast? What you know now that you didn’t know before? What you want to remember? What you want to go tell somebody else?” All of those questions designed to make the a-ha moment happen, the learning moment happen. And help it stick.

Halelly: It’s great. It causes people to quickly synthesize. You know, if you were looking for, because you’re asking them an evaluative question, right? So they have to think about the totality of what they’ve experienced and choose something and then articulate it, and all of those things actually help cement it into their learning, into their memory.

Michael: Perfectly put.

Halelly: And you know, I totally agree. I’m trying to think, I read somewhere, somebody said that after every single meeting, no matter what kind of a meeting it is or a training session or a webinar or just a one-on-one, that person has a journal and they always write down the 30 second summary of that. And as a habit. I appreciated it, but I didn’t implement it as I probably should. Halelly, note to self, do it! That’s so clever, because it causes you to really think about things.

Michael: It’s interrupting your flow, disrupting it, and creating a learning moment so you reflect and extract what is valuable about it. I mean, I do a little thing at the end of each day. I have a little email pop up. It’s from a system called “I Done This,” and it basically says at 5:00 o’clock each day, “Hey, what did you get done today?” And what I’m trying to do is I try and write down what was most useful or most valuable or the thing that mattered most to me. Rather than just a list of tasks that I completed. Now, I don’t always succeed. Sometimes I just write down what I did, because I'm lazy or just too weak willed or something, who knows why. But when it’s at its best, I’m actually getting a chance to reflect and celebrate. It’s partly a celebration of the day, partly it’s a learning of the day. And that can be really powerful, and I just set that up as an automatic system just to help me do a better job at that point of reflection.

Halelly: Cool. I’ll link to it in the show notes. I’ve heard about that also from Daniel Pink, he recommended it at some point, and I tried it for a while too. Cool, very good. You know, not everybody can summarize things very easily, but certainly not as a haiku, and you’ve done that. You have summarized your whole book as a haiku, and I thought that was very clever. So I’ll read it to the listeners – you say the haiku version of your book is, “Tell less and ask more. You’re advice is not as good as you think it is.” Very clever.

Michael: I think I’m hilarious! Half the time I write these jokes I’m like, “I don’t mind if anybody else laughs or don’t laugh.” I just think I’m funny.

Halelly: Well, I think you’re funny too, so it’s at least two of us, and I think a lot of other people, which is why you’re so hugely popular. So tell us a little more about this advice monster. You know, you alluded to it earlier that we love to teach others, we love to tell others, we like to give advice, and especially I talk to leaders all the time – in a similar role as you, I try to help leaders be better leaders – and a lot of times they feel so much pressure to solve the problem and to be smart. And so if somebody comes to them and say, “I’m struggling with this or I don’t know how to do that,” they feel so much pressure to solve it for them. And you’re saying, slow down on that and tame the advice monster, so talk more about that.

Michael: Well, you’ve summed it up really nicely. I mean, I’m going to be more blunt about what you’ve just said. I think we are all advice giving maniacs. I mean, we don’t even know how much we love to give advice, how quickly we’re triggered into starting to think about solutions and advice giving. I mean, you can be in a conversation with somebody you don’t know at all, you’ve been talking for 25 seconds, and you’re like, “I don’t know what’s going on here. I don’t know who you are, but I’ve got some ideas that I’d like to share with you about what you should be doing.” And honestly, it comes in part from a good place which is you’re trying to be helpful. It comes in part because of habit. You know, you spend a lifetime being rewarded for having an answer. It starts in school, goes to university, goes into our work. It’s like know what’s going on. Have the answer. So our system, our processes reward that. There’s also something just psychologically nice about being in the position about giving advice. Because here’s the thing – when you are giving advice, even though it’s probably not that great advice, I mean, honestly, you’re probably giving advice about the wrong thing and don’t know what’s going on. And even if it’s brilliant advice, they probably aren’t really listening to it or understanding it or probably certainly not going to act on it. Even though all that’s true, it still feels pretty good giving advice. Because look, you’re the smart person, you have the answer, you are adding value and inserting comments, you’re in control of the conversation, you have high status in the conversation. So all those TERA factors around expectation and rank and autonomy, you’ve got them all.

So we feel as good giving advice, even though it doesn’t work very well. When we ask a question, we step into a place of a good deal more ambiguity. Like you ask a question and suddenly you go, “Was that a good question? What are they going to say? What if they have some crazy answer that I don’t really understand? What’s happening now? Why are they waiting so long to answer the question, they’ve waited for well over a second.” And you’ve empowered them, given them control of the conversation. I mean, that’s the thing about empowerment. It means giving up power so somebody else has it. So asking a question is a less comfortable place to sit but in some ways, this is what servant leadership is. Where you go, “I’m willing to feel uncomfortable to play the bigger game of helping them understand their own answers, helping them become more self sufficient, helping them become more accountable, and allowing me in the end to actually work less hard.”

Halelly: And when I do these kinds of exercises, sometimes coaching leaders, I try to push them into an asking mode, harder, faster, more. And one of the things I know you’ve seen is the fake question. I forget what you call it – you have a clever name for it – but you masquerade advice and you just sort of phrase it as a question.

Michael: So I call it advice with a question mark attached. And the common phrases that people recognize are things like, “Have you considered? Did you try? Have you thought of? What about the …” You know, all of these things sound like questions and they kind of are, but honestly what it really is is, “Hey, here’s my thoughts! Let me phrase it as a pseudo question to make it sound like I’m curious rather than I’m just telling you what to do.

Halelly: Don’t do that, okay?

Michael: Exactly, don’t do that. If you’re going to give advice – because here’s one of the key things to know. I’m not saying stop giving advice and never give anybody any advice at all. I’m definitely not saying that. I’m merely saying, “Can you slow down the rush to give advice?” What you’ll find is the longer you can wait, the more likely it is that they’ll figure it out by themselves. And if they don’t, then the more likely it is that your advice will actually be more focused, more useful and more likely to be acted upon.

Halelly: Exactly. I 100 percent agree! Really awesome. Well, Michael, it’s about that time when we have to start wrapping up, and before –

Michael: No!

Halelly: I know, isn’t that ridiculous?

Michael: Time flies when you’re chatting away, right?

Halelly: Yeah, so I would love to keep this going and maybe we can have a part two one day. But before you share that one specific action I always call my guests to issue, what’s something new and exciting for you? What’s a new project or discovery on your horizon that you’re really excited about?

Michael: Well, I think there are two things for us. So, we’re a training company. We make our money by offering coaching programs, training programs, to give busy managers practical skills so they can coach in 10 minutes or less. Now, we know our in-classroom stuff is really good, people love it, they’re very enthusiastic about it. For me, the greater challenge now is not the experience in the classroom so much, but how do we keep that learning alive and engaged with people? And it’s an interesting time. Technology is doing all sorts of interesting things and throwing up opportunities. So for us, we’re really looking at that, to go, “How do we sustain engagement with the stuff that we’re trying to teach?” So people end up changing their behavior, not just having a good time in a classroom.

And the second thing is, we’re growing as a company. The new book has helped drive a nice little new bump of business to us which is exciting. So we’re in the process of moving from a plateau where we’d been stable for a few years to just becoming a little bit bigger and a little bit more complex, and we’re kind of riding the white board of that experience at that moment, as we try to blow up some systems into better systems.

Halelly: That’s an exciting place to be, and congratulations. I forgot to tell you one thing – I put out a little call for questions from my network when I was preparing for this conversation with you, and a common colleague of ours, a gentleman originally from Norway, Frode Odegard, asked me to ask you this question, and I forgot to ask it.

Michael: Well ask away!

Halelly: Maybe we can blend it with that one specific action that you recommend that listeners take this week to upgrade their leadership skills. So Frode asks, “What’s the most powerful question that leaders often neglect to ask their people?”

Michael: That’s the perfect setup. I love that, it’s great. So the second question in the book is the question I claim to be the best coaching question in the world and it’s very simple. It’s just three words – AWE, that’s the acronym. So it’s literally an awesome question. That question is, “And What Else?” Because here’s the thing you need to know. The first answer somebody gives you is never the only answer and it’s rarely going to be the best answer. So if you want one key behavior to take away from this, what I would suggest is you pick one question from the book and a great one to start with is AWE, And What Else, and see if you can use it at least two times a day. Ask a question, get an answer, and instead of rushing off on that answer – because it’s not the only one and it’s probably not the best one – just see if you can tame your impatience a little bit and ask what else. What else could we do? What else is here? What else is new? What else is your challenge? And I’m going to tell you, you’re going to have more interesting conversations as a result.

Halelly: Perfect! I love it. Thank you so much Michael.

Michael: And thank Frode for the good question.

Halelly: I will. How can people learn more about all the great stuff that you’re doing and stay in touch? I will be linking to whatever you mention in the show notes plus probably lots more.

Michael: Perfect. Thank you. So look, if you’re interested in the new book, it’s on Amazon and all those good places, but there’s a hub, thecoachinghabit.com. Even if you don’t pick up the book, which is fine, get it from the library or just read an article or two about it, but there’s a lot of free resources on thecoachinghabit.com.

Halelly: And he’s not kidding! There’s a lot of free resources, videos and webinars, oh my God.

Michael: There’s a lot there, so feel free to jump on and pillage that as much as you like. If you’re curious about our company, Box of Crayons, and there’s lots of resources there as well. Boxofcrayons.biz – B-I-Z. And then in social media, I show up in two places mainly. Either on Twitter, and it’s @boxofcrayons on Twitter or on LinkedIn, and I am the only Michael Bungay Stanier in the entire universe, so definitely the only one on LinkedIn as well.

Halelly: Cool, that’s something we share in common. I’m the only Halelly Azulay that I know of, so I always say that I have to keep myself on the straight and narrow because it’s findable. Whatever I do, it’s going to haunt me!

Michael: Nobody is going, “Which Halelly was that who robbed the bank?” They’re like, “I think we know which one we’re searching for.”

Halelly: And where to find her! Very cool. So I haven’t robbed a bank and I don’t plan on it. Michael, thank you so much. Thank you for sharing your wisdom. Thank you for helping us ask better questions, ask more questions, linger in curiosity longer, and become better leaders as a result. Everyone, I hope that you pick up Michael’s book and all of the wonderful resources. Go to the show notes to get a load of that, and in the meantime, and until then, make today great. Thank you Michael.

Michael: My pleasure Halelly. Thanks for having me along.

Halelly: Isn’t it great how that works? Just by having one of the listeners submit a question to Michael, we got not two but three questions from his book. And something super actionable that I think you should implement to take your conversations to the next level and of course, as a result your leadership skills to the next level.

I wanted to add that between when I recorded that podcast episode and now that you’re listening to it, I’ve actually had a chance to see Michael one more time, and this time he was presenting at the same conference as I was, which is the ATD International conference and expo in Denver, that drew 10,000 people from 84 countries, and Michael had a standing room only, packed room, with hundreds of people. It was so funny, and he was so engaging, and he had us doing hands on exercises and practicing things and it was just such a phenomenal experience. And it just reminded me that not just of the masterful coach that he is, but he’s also a masterful facilitator. So I hope that you will look for an opportunity to see him live, because that was such a treat.

At any rate, I hope you enjoyed this episode and that you will take action and I hope that you have already downloaded the free tool that I’ve created for listeners of this podcast, which is the 10 mistakes leaders make and how to avoid them. If you haven’t, it’s free. I hope you’ll go and grab it. It’s right there in the show notes page and very easy to get. So you go to talentgrow.com/podcast/episode31, and you get all the show notes, all the links, all the things that we mentioned in this podcast, plus a way to download that free tool, and of course a place for you to put in your comments and then you can share it with others. Just share it on Facebook, share it on LinkedIn, share it on Twitter, share it on email, share it by talking to people. But it helps spread the good word and get more people doing more great work, just like Michael said.

Thanks for listening. And in the meantime, I’m Halelly Azulay, your leadership development strategist, telling you to make today great.

Announcer: Thanks for listening to the TalentGrow Show, where we help you develop your talent to become the kind of leader that people want to follow. For more information, visit TalentGrow.com.


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