The Bregman Leadership Podcast
Episode 187

Michael Bungay Stanier

The Advice Trap

About

Book: The Advice Trap
Bio: Michael Bungay Stanier is a leading coaching expert, renowned keynote speaker, and bestselling author of The Coaching Habit, which has sold more than 500,000 print copies since its 2016 release, and Do More Great Work (100,000 copies sold). His follow-up to The Coaching Habit,The Advice Trap, will be released in February 2020. Michael is the founder of Box of Crayons, a company that strengthens leadership and culture within organizations by giving busy managers and leaders the tools to coach in a way that works. Under Michael’s guiding influence, Box of Crayons designs and delivers programs that reframe how people think about coaching as a strategic skill. He works with clients from all sectors, including Microsoft, Volvo, the United Nations, Sotheby’s, and PwC. A Rhodes Scholar and an influential thinker in the coaching space, Michael was selected by Marshall Goldsmith as the #1 Thought Leader in Coaching in the world. He lives in Toronto. www.mbs.works

Video

Transcript

This transcript is unedited.

Peter:

With us today is Michael Bungay Stanier. Michael is a friend of mine. I’ve known him for a little while and it’s been a, I’m richer for it. He’s an interesting, no, literally not literally metaphorically Richard for it. He is really taking a coaching to a new level. His book, the coaching habit sold over 700,000 copies, has 1000 more than 1,005 star reviews on Amazon and he is named a number one thought leader in coaching by the thinkers 50. So he comes well credentialed also, he introduced himself when he was three as, hi, my name is Michael. I can hop. Do you want to see me hop? So Michael, while we’re here, I don’t really want to take you out of that space at all. Can we see you hop?

Michael:

Yeah, exactly. I love how, I mean I’d like to see your hall anyways. I mean I always think that I’m like, that is how I used to go up to strangers and supermarkets according to my mum and introduced myself and you know, things have shifted a little bit but not a whole lot. Cause in some ways the purpose of getting out there and sharing ideas and going, here’s how I see the world is a little bit, Hey, I’m Michael for now a 51 year old man, but I can hop watching you haul sleep somebody please watching your house.

Peter:

It’s actually in some ways the most true and real thing that we do is just to be clear and uncensored about it and say, see me, see me.

Michael:

Like I’m hoping I can help you instead of you, but you’re going to notice me first. So that’s partly, that’s one of the ways we know each other. Like, I remember coming across your writing and HBR when you used to write all the time for them and going and who is this guy? And then following up with your books and you know, we’ve probably known each other probably closing in on 10 years now.

Peter:

Yeah. And we’re both metaphorically richer for it. He has literally pull reform

Michael:

Parties that I’ve come through, which have been fantastic.

Peter:

Yeah, you’re literally out of pocket. Literally pour for Michael’s newest buckets, the advice trap. Be humble, stay curious and change the way you lead forever. So we’re here to speak with you about that. Thank you so much for being on the podcast.

Michael:

I’m excited to be here. It’s a, you know, sometimes podcasts feel like you’re being interviewed by somebody who doesn’t quite get where you’re up about, but you are like a useful guest for them when I hope. But I hope the conversation for us is because we both think about play in the same world. It’s like us just having a chat about the stuff we care about, the stuff that we see influencing how people show up to live a better life. To lead others. And I’m curious to know what, what we ended up talking about.

Peter:

So let’s start actually with the book and your main premise of the book, which, you know, I love the book and I violate, it’s it’s, it’s recommendation all the time. I give advice when I’m coaching and I actually don’t think it’s about thing and, and I want to share a story, which is that I was with my family on vacation and I was eavesdropping on a conversation at a table next to us. And it was a woman who worked at Google, I found out and who had been assigned a coach. And she said to me, she said to her friends, I thought it was to me cause I was listening, but she wasn’t talking to me. So I know her friends. And she said, yeah, I got a coach at Google, which is why I started eavesdropping. And she said, I thought it was going to be really terrible, but it turned out it was great.

Peter:

And so then I, you know, they weren’t really talking more about it, but I jumped in and I said, look, I’m eavesdropping. I wish I could say I’m sorry but I’m kind of interested so I’m not that sorry, but I’m eavesdropping and I would love to ask you what you were expecting the coach to do and what the coach actually did that made you change your mind. And she said, look, I am smart. I’m very capable. What I thought the coach was just going to do is asking me a bunch of questions about stuff I had already thought about and that it would be a waste of my time. And what in fact this coach did was, yes, asked me a bunch of questions but actually gave me some advice because it was in her area of expertise and it was actually very useful advice. And I found the coaching to be much more helpful as a result. And that coincides with my experience coaching, which is I’m coaching CEOs and leadership teams and in areas I don’t know about, I don’t give advice, but in areas I know about I S they want my advice and I give them the rest. So here’s, that was a long introduction to say why is advice-giving so bad?

Michael:

Essentially not, it’s not accurate. Like we all give advice in is a really good place for giving advice. So one of the things that you don’t want to take away from the book is this idea that Hey, giving you advice is bad. You know, the definition I use when I talk about coaching is, and it’s kind of behavior based. Can you slow down the rush to give advice and move to action? Can you stay curious a little bit longer? And what you’re looking to do is you’re looking to break the default habit most of us have of, if somebody is talking, my job is to have an answer and supply that uncertain supply, that insight and that solution and that piece of advice and give that to them. So what we’re looking is we’re looking to change a pattern of behavior and to recognize that there is often an incredibly valuable moment where you give advice. Because if I had to put money on it, that coach the coach who is coaching the woman there, my bed is say she didn’t just launch into advice. As soon as she started talking, they had a conversation, she asked some questions, she got the Google person to go, here’s what I do know, here’s what I do understand he’s the insights I already have. And then on top of that conversation went well, that’s brilliant. Let me give you some additional thoughts or advice on top of that. Who can, I can help you out with that.

Peter:

Great. So it’s not giving advice as the first move. The first move is asking a bunch of questions, understanding the situations and then to the extent that it’s useful sharing advice in your area of expertise

Michael:

And you know there is a, it’s one of those, is it a scientist or not? I think it’s an often an odd to go look. There are some times when giving advice, even if you’ve got the right advice is still isn’t the right thing to do. And sometimes just depends on the power relationship you have. Like when you’re a coach, you’re there to say, look, I’ve got a bigger picture that I’m trying to serve this client to have a good life to achieve the goals that they want. And I’m going to do that through a combination of a little bit of love and a little bit of a push, a little bit of curiosity and driving them to generate their own insights and a little bit of my own advice. That’s actually a little bit different potentially if you’re a team leader, like if I’m leading you as a, as a team member, Peter, we’re having a conversation, you’re like, here’s what I’m struggling with.

Michael:

And I go, okay, so what’s the challenge here for you Peter? And you’re like blah, blah, blah and what you want and you’re like, Oh blah, blah blah. And you come up with a solution and I’m thinking to myself, it’s a, it’s not a bad solution. Do I have a better solution? Cause I’m older and wiser and better looking than Peter, well possibly I possibly do, but now unbalance, what’s most important here? The sense of insight, the sense of enablement, that sense of empowerment that this person has to deliver a solution that’s probably good enough. Or should I go, I’ve got a, I’ve got a solution that’s 4% better and giving that solution that maybe 4% better, it’s less likely to be implemented. It’s disempowering, it takes ownership back to me. It raises my status. That means lowering their status. Part of it is about weighing up the prizes and punishments. You know, Peter, you and I are both members of this, this collective, this group called the Marshall Goldsmith 100. It’s a cabal and it’s a secret society. I mean, we can’t say anymore about it.

Peter:

It’s a, it’s a secret society with a website.

Michael:

Yeah. I think like with all the members listed on the website clearly, but you know, one of our spiritual members of the Marshall Goldsmith 100 is Ellen Malali, the former CEO of Ford, who, you know, famously first CEO that wasn’t a Ford family member came in when they were losing, I don’t know what it was, $1 billion every 35 minutes or so. And when you hear him talk about how he managed his leadership team, which was in disarray because they were losing all this money, but nobody can fast to anything that was going wrong. Is that reside? No, everything’s good. In my part of the business, finally somebody goes, ah, this is a struggle for me. This is difficult. This is broken. Even in that moment, and Holy cow, if ever the force is strong to go, I think I’ve got a solution because you’re costing me this, the company, there’s money you might be costing me. My job out in Melanie was like, my job was never to give the solution. My job was always to open the space and allow them to find their own solution. So just to say there’s a time and a place and a type of relationship where advice is really powerful. Right? All I want you to do to everybody listening is to say, look, slow down, to slow down the rush to advice giving. See what happens if you stay curious a little bit longer, see how that changes and involves the relationship you have.

Peter:

And, and it also, I guess depends on the person you’re giving the advice to. Meaning some people will, would love to let go of the accountability of execution because it’s your idea. So, you know, like it was your advice, your idea tried, it didn’t work. You have any other ideas. And now I’ve sort of removed myself out of the picture. And then there’s other people who you might be coaching who are you know, who are actually, you know, have really own the problem and want your perspective so that it could shed light on it for them. And I guess those people, it’s, you know, we could be more liberal in sharing our advice because it’s not taking away from their accountability.

Michael:

Yeah. And then there’s context. I mean, here’s a very specific tactic I use in my leadership and my coaching as well. When somebody comes up to me and goes, Hey Michael, how do I do insert thing? And when people ask you that question, cause we’ve all been asked that question, you can feel every fiber of your being leading fall going, this is amazing. They literally asked me how to do this. It would be wrong, it would be churlish who would be unrest, irresponsible not to give them the answer. So you’re kind of in this colluding collusion of a conversation where you, I know you tell me what you want to tell me and I’ll pretend to listen to what you’re telling me. And here’s what I say. I’ve got a script so people can just write down the script and use it and practice and make it into a habit.

Michael:

Pages come to me and go, Michael, how do I do the thing? And I got Peter, I’ve got some ideas on how to do the thing. They’re good ideas and I promise you that I will share them with you. But before I tell you how I would approach doing the thing, how would you do that thing? What are your first ideas? What’s one idea that you’ve got? And Peter goes, well actually I’ve got an idea, it’s blah, blah, blah, blah. And I’m like, brilliant, I like it, Peter. Good one. What else could you do? And then what else could you do? And is there anything else you could do? And this is great, Peter. Is there anything else? And then at the end of that, after Peter’s generated his own ideas and insights and thoughts and there’s always going to be some, I’ll go, I like all of these. Look, I’ve got one other thought that I just add to your really good list and here’s my idea on my thought around that. So one of the [inaudible],

Peter:

But I don’t necessarily know that my idea is any better than any of your ideas.

Michael:

Exactly. So if particularly this is a power thing, if you’re a senior, if you’re a boss, if you’re a leader, you know what happens when the boss gives this suggestion. Everybody goes, that’s a brilliant idea, boss. I’m writing it down. I think we should do your idea.

Peter:

I I was, I was having a conversation with a CFO of an organization, a new CFO of a very large organization, and we were talking about this very thing, and he said, and I was talking to him about his power and he said, you know, you’re 100% right. He said, I made this offhanded comment in an elevator when someone said something to me. And I said, yeah, that’d be kind of interesting to understand that better. What I didn’t mean to happen was for a team of 10 people to spend three weeks exploring the idea, right. Which is what ended up happening. And yeah,

Michael:

We built, we built the submarine that you’ve requested. What summary? I didn’t even, Oh, the [inaudible]. No, that was what happened to you. You’re like, yeah, you know, I heard somebody say, you know, it was a, it was some senior leader in the military and maybe an Admiral going, yeah, all of my offhand remarks, their orders. Right. So it’s just that piece around recognizing your power and going, okay, how do I serve people best?

Peter:

Let me ask you a question that’s a very different kind of question. And it kind of takes us out of the corporate arena but, but it could also be in the corporate arena, which is what about when we see someone struggling and we really want to help them and they haven’t asked for our help. And I could think about it in terms of anything from a colleague who’s struggling with a client for example. Or it could be a family member, like someone wants to eat better or stop smoking or you know, and, and you’re watching it happen and you think to yourself, I could really help this person. Like if you really want to lose weight, maybe eating that chocolate moves right now is not the best move but, and so you kind of want to give them the advice. But we all know that that’s how blowup fights happen and that that doesn’t really work.

Peter:

So what do we do in a situation where we see something that’s happening that we know is self destructive to someone else? We know and we know it because they’ve stated what they want and they’re doing things that are not, that are not moving them towards that. We also know asking the question like, do you really want to eat that or do you really want to make that phone call? That’s just going to piss them off even more. So what’s the best way without giving advice to engage that person and to support them in making the change that they have said they want to make?

Michael:

My suggestion is you take a taser, you walk up to the Muzak [inaudible] throw him in a cupboard, lock them in a cupboard for three to five days, and then let him out. And everybody has calmed down after that, you know? Yeah.

Peter:

Seek a, you should speak

Michael:

To medical professionals before following that advice. Yeah. Possibly. Possibly realize that that’s not serious advice. It’s, it’s hard isn’t it? It’s really hard. I mean there’s entire industries built up around the process of how do you support people who are struggling that you know, you, you have the kind of extreme about it or somewhat extreme, we have an alcoholic in the family or in the relationship. What do you do that actually helps them, what you do that actually enables them and continues to dysfunctional relationship. So I don’t have an easy to say here. I don’t think there is an easy answer here. I think, I don’t think there’s generic advice here either. I think it’s something to wrestle with in the moment and what doesn’t work is a, a kind of uninvited appreciated uncontracted for intervention. I meaning the chocolate mousse, Peter comes up to me and go, Michael, look, we haven’t spoken for a while but I’m noticing you’re looking a little chubby and you really want to be eating that chocolate mousse.

Michael:

The answer is yes, I am now fully invested in eating this chocolate mousse and I think I will order a second chocolate mousse just because I need to make a point with Peter. But there’s a way to say, look, if you’re there and you’re on somebody’s side, how do you contract socially contract with them in a way to say, let’s have a conversation about how I can support you in the work that you want to do. I’m thinking of a relationship at the moment actually with my wife and she had to blood test, had high cholesterol and was like, okay, I’m going to change the way I eat and I’m going to stop drinking for a period of time. As part of that. And I was like, okay, this is great and how do I support you in this? So we had this conversation which was like, so when we have that moment where we’re both like, I could murder a bottle of wine right now, how do we have that conversation and how do we hold each other accountable and how do we support each other?

Michael:

I’m not going, well I’ll have the wine if you have the wine. And then like I will, I’ll have the line as well. And you kind of go down that path. A complicated question, but I think there’s something to say like, let’s get clear around what your, what your goals are. Let’s get clear about how I can help. Let’s get clear that in the end, your life, you get to make these decisions. And if you make decisions at a country, to our contract, our agreement, the way we work together, there are consequences to this relationship. As part of that.

Peter:

Have you found that there are any ways of helping someone become more curious? So this book is all about curiosity. Stay curious. And so when I think of the situation I’m describing, it’s like you want to help you, you know, not writing the coaches, you’re wanting to help someone become more curious about their own behavior so that they’re willing to engage in a conversation where you might be able to be helpful. So I understand how you and I can be curious, how do we help someone else who’s not particularly curious in the moment, but who may be working against their own best interests, become curious. I’m not, I’m not loving easy questions that year.

Michael:

[Inaudible], Which is why this is a really great conversation because I’m like, that’s, that’s a great insight, which is because there’s a connection to here. And this is me. Spitballing Pete, I don’t have an easy answer, but you know, there’s this something around mindfulness which is as much as curiosity is just the awareness of the pattern that’s happening. You know, if the, I know, I’m sure plenty of people that have, are aware of the kind of the science of habit building, you know Charles Duhigg’s book, the power of habit change clears book that built on that, that probably habits are near aisles, books around habit boarding as well. So there’s this thing that when we are in habits that are not helpful for us, the three, the three parts of the habit cycle the trigger, the behavior and then the reward and the trigger just happens when we’re like, it just happens. And before we know what we’re doing, that behavior that we wish we weren’t doing. You know it’s like suddenly you find yourself in the kitchen holding a pint of ice cream meeting and you’re like, Oh how did I get here? Cause I was so determined not to eat ice cream.

Peter:

Right. And actually to use an example of that’s very specific to your book, the trigger for this particular habit of giving advice that we’re trying to disrupt is the trigger that says someone comes and asks you for advice or asks you for help. Right? So it’s a little bit of a different situation than we’re giving but, but it’s like that’s the, the trigger has asked for advice, the responses I’m going to give advice and then we both walk away happy in the moment because I’ve given advice, he asked for advice, she wanted to hear, she wanted the advice I fulfilled that I feel great about myself. They feel great about leaving. And the only problem with that whole setup is that my job as a manager and a leader is to build an independently capable team. And what I’ve actually done is built dependence and incapability in my team.

Michael:

And possibly you’ve given not very good advice to solve the thing that isn’t actually the real problem that needs to be solved, right? So there’s also a kind of lower level failure as well, occasionally as well.

Peter:

So that might be the trigger. So, so now I want to come back to this question of like how do we get people to be curious? So you’re saying the trigger

Michael:

I think it’s really hard in the moment because in the moment the habit is an unconscious action. So it’s your, you’re literally not curious cause you’re test reacting and responding to the T to the, the stimulus that’s out there. So part of what this is about, and this is why the shift to stay curious longer for many of us isn’t testing easy thing. It isn’t, Oh I hadn’t thought of that. Right? We’ll just start doing that now. It’s actually starting to go, this is a new habit that I’m looking to build. So you kind of need to do the work beforehand to say, all right, I’m starting to notice those places where I default to giving advice more often. Oh, it’s an that team meeting where Peter always asked me to have an annoying question. Or it’s that moment where somebody comes into my office and you guys help, it’s burning and you’re like, okay, I just jump in there.

Michael:

Or it’s when the kid comes up, my kid comes up to me and goes this and I’m like, Oh, here’s what I always do. And it’s about recognizing those moments and Cindi to go, let me build an alternative plan in that space. You know, it says that the requite knows where this quote comes from, but it’s like you don’t rise to the challenge. You sink to the level of your training. Right? And there’s a way that in this moment, if you’re looking to shift to become more curious, there’s a way that you won’t rise to the challenge because your habits will take over your shift to the level of your training. So if you, so it’s about going right when Peter comes to me, my training is when pity guys, how do I do this? When you training is go Peter, good question. I’ve got an answer, I’ll tell you. But before I tell you my thoughts, what’s your first idea? Right? And now it’s, you’re building that new habit, right? I said, Oh that’s a really interesting question. I love that idea, that recognition that when somebody’s doing something dysfunctional, you want to help build their awareness and their curiosity as to what’s going on so they can notice it and they go, wait, what’s happening here? What am I doing? I need to shift that.

Peter:

Yeah. And I like your point that it’s important to have that conversation when they’re not in the triggered state. Right? So, and the, the time when you want to have that conversation is when they’re in the triggered state. Cause that’s when you notice it and that’s when you want to subvert it. And so what you have to do is disrupt your own reaction of trying to help them in the precise moment that they most need it. And they most that are most unable to hear it. So that’s like the dynamic.

Michael:

Surely you’ve had a conversation earlier, right? You’re like, Hey, if you catch me, if you see me jumping in to give advice or drinking the wine or eating the chocolate mousse, here’s what I want you to do. Kind of shake me a bit and go, what are you doing? We had this conversation, I’m just pointing out that you’re doing the thing that you said you didn’t want to do

Peter:

Well and you know what? Maybe for the sake of, of supporting their curiosity in that moment rather than shaking them and saying, this is what you said you didn’t want to do. Assuming you’ve had the conversation earlier in a non triggered state, in the triggered state, what you can do is say, Hey, like you’re doing that thing you didn’t want to do. And I’m not telling you not to do it, but I, you know, it could be useful to be really curious about what’s going on for you right now. Like this is something that you said you didn’t want to do. So you know, enjoy it. Do whatever you want to do, but notice why you doing it. What’s it doing for you? What does it feel like, what you know, like what’s going on for you, that you’re now doing this thing you didn’t want do. That’s really nice and then you don’t have to necessarily get into it with them, but you’ve begun to create what you’ve, you’ve talked about mindfulness and you, you, you talk about these three things, empathy, mindfulness and humility in the book. And I love all four of these definitions of future you, you know, like of how you, and, and so it’s, that’s a big part of the mindfulness of like just check about what’s happening for you right now. Right?

Michael:

Part of one of the shifts that is a kind of deeper shift that we’re talking about in the book is this shift away from trying to rescue people. You know, it’s exhausting. It’s impossible. And so many of us for good reasons with you have big hearts and trying to save the person, fix the person then gets out job to save people from themselves. What we can be is we can be alight. You know, we can be a guide, we can be a shining vowel to go, Hey, I noticed this, we talked about it. Do you want to notice it as well? Do you want to make some other choices? Do you want to just be aware of what’s going on for you right now? Cause that awareness and that ongoing awareness is what helps people start shifting their behavior.

Peter:

You know, it’s a little bit like if you’re trying to catch a tiger, don’t chase the tiger. Just put out some milk and you know, and it’s like create a situation which makes it more likely for the person to come to you for advice. And when they come to you for advice, then you can use that line that you’ve talked about, that bait and switches. I actually have some ideas, but we’d love to hear your ideas. And then you’re often medic. That’s great. You, you talk about a number of things that we do to get in the way that gets in the way of our own ability to, to sort of coach effectively or trip us up when we’re trying to uncover real problems. And I’ve often said about coaching that the heart where most coaches go, and this is to to your point in the book where a lot of coaches immediately go is to advice to solving the problem that the person says they have. But to me the magic of coaching and the most important move that we can make as coaches is to help people out. I’m curious if you agree with this, to help people understand a different problem than the one they think they have. Meaning I go into coaching with a basic assumption that people are really smart and so for the most part they’re as smart as me and they figured out how to solve the problem in any way that I could help them solve the problem.

Michael:

Let’s see. Most of them, most of them are smarter than you.

Peter:

The smarter they are. That’s true. Absolutely smarter. Like by far, by far smarter than them 100% right. And, and and so the question isn’t have they thought of my solution? The question is can we think about this problem differently so that a different set of solutions up here,

Michael:

It’s fundamental and foundational and I am going to be violently agreeing with each other now because one of the things that I think is most powerful and you know this white is a whole chunk of the book about this is the assumption I have is the first challenge that they come up with is never the real challenge. Right? It’s not the only challenge and it’s almost never the real challenge. Right? And the ability to stay curious enough just to interrogate the challenge shifts the challenge. And you know, the question I talked about in the book as being this foundational piece and it’s kind of taking the question and I talked about it in the coaching you have evoke, which is what’s the real challenge here for you? And then kind of unpacking that and going deeper into that. But when you go, what’s the real challenge here for you?

Michael:

And what else is a challenge and what else is a challenge? So what’s the real challenge here for you? Nine times out of 10 the challenge shifts, it becomes more personal, it becomes more profound. It becomes more articulated. And crisper, you know, I literally just ran a webinar for a big, big company this morning and some senior leader was willing to step up and be coached in front of the 3000 people that were on the webinar, which is amazing. I mean, it’s already a great act of leadership doing that. And he started off and I’m like, it’s okay. So what’s the real challenge here for you? And he’s like, ah, you know, I’ve got this great word piece. I’m in charge of these, all these legacy systems. You as a CIO, as part of the company, and I’ve got this vision for, for the future and the technology we’re moving towards.

Michael:

So it’s classic kind of a it challenge, but we enter this process. Let me just asking the same question. What’s the real challenge here for you? And it shifted. And by the end it was I need to have the courage and the vulnerability to build some of the relationships I need to get buy into my plans for this future state solving the same problem but an entirely different expression of what the real challenge was. Much more personal, much more about his leadership edge. And in just three minutes, in three minutes we were able just to move the focus of the problem. So if you’re a coach or you’re somebody who is more coach, like in the way that you lead your teams and influence people around you, that willingness to say, look, my job is not to provide the solution. My job is to help make sure that we’re tackling the real challenge. That is a profound and powerful shift in the way that you show up and lead. And actually what I’m doing here, Pedro, is just taking a much longer to explain the same point that you made in a much clearer crisper way.

Peter:

No, no, you’ve said it beautifully. And and, and part of the, you know, like part, part of when I look at the methodology and I think about this, you know, your, what you call the fourth question, the foundation question, which is what do you want, right? I, and I’m curious what you think about this. I like to, I like to ask that question. When I, when I start my coaching, every coaching not only big, but every coaching session starts with what I call, what is your big arrow? Meaning what is it that we’re going after here? What is the most important thing for us to achieve over the next 12 months? And that focuses the challenge already to say, you know, it’s, we’re not just open up to a conversation about what do you want to talk about today? It’s what do you want to talk about the day today in the context of what you’re trying to achieve over the next 12 months? And what challenges or opportunities are you facing in moving towards that? So it’s already starting to guide the conversation in a way that puts them in the right sort of focus area. And I’m curious what you think of that.

Michael:

Well, here’s where I go with it in the end. Strategy is their willingness to make a tough choice about the key thing to focus upon. And a lot of the conversations people have around strategy is look at the vast array of tactics we’re trying to pull off. And it makes people more scattered, more distracted, more overwhelmed. And you look at the people who are ruthlessly good at being strategic and it means that they’re ruthlessly good at saying no to stuff. So they can say yes to the one or two big things that really matter. And what I hear in your process is you say to them, every conversation we have, I elevate to a strategic conversation because I remind you about the one big thing, the one big thing that is your strategic driver for the next 12 months. And all conversations now fit within that context and they will rise to the challenge of that.

Michael:

And what that does is if you want to use the Steven Kovey model around what’s important and what’s urgent, what you’re saying to people is, I get that every time we show up and have a conversation, there’s a bunch of urgent happening that fires burning people screaming metaphorically or literally. But I’m going to remind you at the start of every single conversation what’s important and then we’ll have a conversation about what can we talk about now that is got a line of sight to what matters and let’s make that conversation powerful and strategic. And this is what leadership is. It’s disability to rise above the urgent and the noisy and the fiery and the shiny and go. I’m still remembering what matters here.

Peter:

Right? That’s great. That’s great. And it puts all of these in that and then you’re off and running to, you know, don’t give advice about it, ask a bunch of questions, understand the problem, understand the problem differently than they’re understanding the problem and then help them find it

Michael:

Intentionally. Give advice about it. Because as we started on this conversation, like there is a place for advice and there may be the thing where you go, you know what? I do have a pre-Civil inside fear around this. I’m going to person, I want you to meet. I got an article that I read, I’ve got a practice that I want you to do. There’s a place for it, but you’ve done the work to create curiosity to find the real challenge, and now that you have a choice to go, it’s the right thing to give advice or is the right thing to do something differently.

Peter:

Right? We’ve been speaking with Michael Bungay Stanier. His book is the advice trap. Be humble, stay curious and change the way you lead forever. Like all of our conversations. It’s a joy to speak with you, Michael, and I so appreciate you being on the Bregman leadership podcast. Thank you.

Michael:

It’s fantastic. I mean, I love that conversations as well. It makes me want to fly down to New York and just hang out a little bit more often than we do, so I should do that.

 

Comments

  1. Colleen Simo says:

    Wonderful – episode – all coaches need to be reminded of these fundamental tenants of coaching. I especially appreciated the honesty about giving advice – Michael’s scripts on how he handles requests for advice – and your own were helpful.

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