🚀 Breathe.



If you ever found yourself as a manager, as a leader, taking responsibility for other people's work, taking responsibility for other people's careers, then you're in rescuer mode. And of course, that shows up in micro-actions all the time. Somebody comes to you with a question and rather than asking them a coaching question, you go, let me tell you the answer to that.

In this episode

How many times have you told your team the answer to their problems rather than ask them questions? 

We’ve all done it! 

Michael Bungay Stanier is the founder of Box of Crayons and author of “The Coaching Habit” & “How to Begin”. 

In episode #92, Michael dives deep into what it really means to coach. We discuss performance versus development-based coaching, and the 3 principles to be more coach-like. 

Michael also talks about the advice monster and why most leaders try to rescue and protect their team. 

We also talk about how to incorporate coaching into the everyday and why every goal comes with mosquitoes. 

Tune in to hear all about Michael’s leadership journey and the lessons learned along the way!

Like this episode? Be sure to leave a ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ review and share the podcast with your colleagues.


Karpman drama triangle


Performance and development based coaching


3 coaching principles


The advice monster


Coaching in the every day


What was most useful and most valuable?


Goal setting with thrill


Goals with mosquitoes


Pick a question, a person, and a moment



Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app)  00:34

Michael, welcome to the show.

Michael Bungay Stanier (Author)  02:24

Aydin. I’m really happy to be here. Thanks for having me. Yeah, it was good to be on a podcast, also Canadian podcast. So you’re in Ottawa, I’m in Toronto. So we’re kind of like bonding across the Ontario province.

Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app)  02:35

Yeah, you know, I did not know that you were in Toronto. So that is really cool. It’s, it’s not often that I get the chance to do this with someone that’s not too physically far. So this is awesome, pleasant surprise. I have been really excited to chat with you. I think the audience is gonna love a lot of what we’re going to talk about today. But you are the founder of Box of Crayons. And you obviously wrote this amazing book, the Coaching Habit. And you were named the number one thought leader in coaching. So lots of things that we’re going to dive in today. But what I wanted to start with was, if we were to rewind back and think about the very early days that you started to think about leadership and management, and putting some of that into practice. Do you remember some of the early mistakes that you would have started to make back then?

Michael Bungay Stanier (Author)  03:23

Oh, sure. I mean, lots like mistakes that are so they feel unique to you, but actually come to realize that the mistakes that we often make, I would say when I the first people that I started to manage, the biggest problem I made was rescuing them. And doing all the work to try and make them better rather than inviting them compassionately to step up and take responsibility for their own freedom, their own career, their own life. I remember the very first person I got to manage. And it was a tough situation I was in this really small startup, I had this kind of two bosses who kind of Maverick and not very good at management. And I was a bit of a kind of touchy feely people focus personally like, Alright, there’s this person going manage her. And what they were really saying was, we want to fire her because she’s not very good. And she’s not changing her behavior. But maybe you can save her. So I went in and I spent a year just trying to do everything I could to get her to step up. And in the end, she quit. And I understand why she’s not having a good time. But I really wish I knew a bit more than I knew now, which is Look, your job as a manager is to be people centered and go How do I help this person become the best version of themselves and a combination of teaching and a combination of opportunities. But it doesn’t mean taking away their self sufficiency, their autonomy, their responsibility for the way that they show up as well. So you can put it down to also a bit of an anxiety around conflict and holding people accountable for stuff.

Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app)  05:00

Yeah, no, I’ve never heard of it put in that way, which sounds really interesting, which is, try not to just jump in and rescue the person is there like a I’d love to dig into an example or of something that you see commonly like what what’s an example of someone just jumping in and rescuing the person.

Michael Bungay Stanier (Author)  05:20

But let me explain the thinking behind it. And where this comes from that that language in particular, there’s no simple but powerful model in the world called the Drama Triangle, the Cartman Drama Triangle. And it says whenever a relationship gets dysfunctional, and of course, all our relationships, suddenly the important ones get dysfunctional all the time, not apocalyptically dysfunctional, but just kind of a little bit off the rails a little bit broken. In the Drama Triangle. Three dysfunctional roles play out as the victim is the persecutor, and there’s the rescuer, victim persecutor rescuer, and with all great models, people immediately go Oh, yeah, I know, I know what we’re talking about. I know what a victim looks like. And sounds like you know what a persecutor looks like. And sounds like, I know what a rescuer looks like, and sounds like. And with each of those three roles, there’s some benefit to, in the short term to playing each of those roles. But there’s a real price you pay longer term for yourself and for the other person, if this is the perpetuating pattern in these relationships. So the rescuer is the role that most people self identify with first. Now, if you go, which role of these three roles to play the most 5% of people stick up their hand around persecutor. 1% of people stick up their hand around victim 95% of people stick up their hand around restaurant because they’re like, Oh, yeah. So this is when you think to yourself, look, I’ll try and fix it solver, take it on, make it better, it’s my job to save them my job to rescue the situation may control the situation. So if you ever found yourself as a manager, as a leader, kind of sticking your fingers in other people’s pies, taking responsibility for other people’s work taking responsibility for other people’s careers, then you’re in that rescuer mode. And of course, that shows up in just micro actions all the time, somebody comes to you for with a question. And rather than asking them a coaching question, you go, let me tell you the answer to that. That’s just a little moment of what a rescuer can look like.

Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app)  07:27

I think that clarifies it a lot. I have heard many a time managers saying things like sometimes it’s nice to be kind of like the umbrella that shields you know, my team from the chaos of the the rest of the organization. Wow,

Michael Bungay Stanier (Author)  07:44

it could be, but I actually think that can be seen as a really helpful role for a manager, she’s like, You know what my job is actually to kind of figure out how we navigate the messiness of organizational life because organizations are complex and messy and difficult and slightly chaotic, and not entirely rational. So I do think there’s a way to say, look, I, my job is to actually try and be a heat shield from some of the stuff that’s going on out there. But that doesn’t then mean that you don’t get to step in fully into the thing that you’re responsible for, and that you’re accountable for. So I’d say one, the heat shield thing is kind of looking out going, Look, I’m gonna, I’m gonna take this stuff on, you don’t need to know about it, or you don’t need to be kind of in the line of fire for some of this stuff. But that doesn’t at all, stop me from holding you clearly, in a supportive way. accountable and engaged around look, I’m trying to get you to your work that has more meaning, and to do work that has more impact that my job when I’m looking at my team.

Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app)  08:45

Yeah, so that makes sense. So it’s not diving in and just saying what the answer is, because it’s almost about developing self sufficiency.

Michael Bungay Stanier (Author)  08:54

Look, I think that is the it’s obvious when you hear it, but it’s one of the elusive things to stop our organizations being the best they can be. And I put it like this, Aiden, what if the right job was at the right level with the right person as much of the time as possible. And I think in many organizations responsibility to tends to move up to be at a higher level where it needs to be because of hierarchy because of power, because of status because of lack of trust. But if you think to yourself, look, my job is to put this piece of work in exactly the right place it should be and how it should be owned by the right person and let them get on with it. If my support and encouragement, then you’ve got a better chance of bringing the best of your people and having them be working on the stuff that really matters.

Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app)  09:46

Yeah, I think that makes a lot of sense. So one of the tools that we have in our toolkit is coaching arguably is the job and there are two different types of coaching. I have hadn’t really thought about it this way. But you kind of divide things into performance space and development based coaching, what is the difference?

Michael Bungay Stanier (Author)  10:07

I mean, it’s a bit kind of jargony. So if people are like, I don’t know what, who cares what the difference is, for me, it’s very simple. Coaching performance is when your only focus is on getting the task done. So in many ways, coaching for performance, it’s just a polite way to put a little bit of almost command and control management style in which is like, really get this sorted out, then we manage you lead you coach you to get that thing sorted out. Coaching for development, is when you say, Look, my job is not only to get the stuff sorted out, but it’s to grow the person to make them a better version of themselves. Because just as you were saying earlier, you know, if you can build capacity and confidence and autonomy and self sufficiency and strategic Knouse, and the people that you lead, you’re going to succeed, you’re going to win. And if you’re overly focused on just a task and not the person doing the task, then you make some progress, but you don’t ever develop the capacity of your team. So the metaphor I use is this coaching for performance is the fire. Whenever you have a fire, you’re looking to build it up or to stoke it or to manage it in some way the fire needs to be looked at. And of course, the fire is, is bright, and it’s hot. So it pulls our attention. But coaching for performance is when you look at the person who’s responsible for the fire, you say, how do I get them to understand the challenge, to take responsibility for the challenge. And to get better at building up the fire or putting out the fire or stoking the fire whatever is required. And the magic is cooking for development can happen much more quickly than people realize. And when you do that, you also get the benefit of performance as well.

Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app)  11:50

Seems like it’s like the master key to unlocking but I’m biased, of

Michael Bungay Stanier (Author)  11:53

course. I mean, I’m such a champion for this, but I do think I mean, I like what you said just earlier, it’s like, arguably, it is the job. And I do think if you frame coaching as a way of having more impact in growing more meaning in people’s work, then I think it is the job.

Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app)  12:09

So this is interesting. If someone were to say, well, how much of my time should I spend in each one of these buckets? As a percentage? I mean, none of these things are ever easy to just classify. But just as a rule of thumb, like how much should you try to do? Yeah, Veatch?

Michael Bungay Stanier (Author)  12:28

Well, I reckon the question may not be the right question to ask, because it makes it sound like you’re going to sit down on a Tuesday and go Aydin, it’s our coaching for development conversation today. So here we go, I’m gonna develop you. And then Monday, Wednesday, through Friday, I’m just gonna get performance out of you. And I wanted to be a little less formal and a little less awkward, less weird. So the three principles I have around being more coach like, is be lazy, be curious, be often, to being curious means taming your advice monster slowing down the rush to give advice and move to action, which so many of us have the call to action is stay curious, a little bit longer. That’s the middle one, being lazy, which is certainly the most provocative of the three, this is like, Look, stop doing everybody else’s work for them. Stop jumping in to fix it, save it, solve it, rescue it, just slow down and let other people take responsibility for the work that is theirs to do. But honestly, even the most revolutionary in these is the often. And this is the inside. If being more coach like and staying curious a little bit longer. Every interaction can be more coach, like in a conversation, one to one in a team meeting, or a Slack channel, on email, on a phone, walking to the car, at the end of the day, walking to the office at the start of the day for magazine that we’re going back into the office. All of that is possible because you’re just staying curious. So for me, they are an integrated conversation. It’s not a back, it’s not two buckets into one bucket. But you’re you’re changing the mix of the liquid within because I think at the moment, the mixes almost all performance and a tiny bit of development. And I think that almost every conversation, you can quickly and easily just keep nudging people’s growth for their development forward.

Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app)  14:27

That makes a lot of sense. The lazy one, you know, all of what we were just talking about. It just made a lot more sense when you put it that way for whatever reason for me. Yeah, it’s like, Yes, stop trying to do everybody else’s job. If everybody assumes that when a disaster occurs is a problem to be solved. You’re going to be the one to jump in. Well, guess what? They’re not going to even try so that makes a lot of sense. And I’m glad you talked about the advice monster I know you have a TED talk about this. It has over a million views. I highly encourage everyone to go check it Let’s talk a little bit more about the advice monster. Like what are some characteristics? What are some things to watch out for

Michael Bungay Stanier (Author)  15:08

the background hood, Aiden is a wrote the Coaching Habit. And it’s gone on to have this kind of big success. So we’re million copies are more used in organizations everywhere to help managers and leaders be more coach like, and when my company Box of Crayons goes into train people, there’s a bell curve, your response to it. There are some people who just go There’s amazing I love this stuff. I’ve been waiting for the seven questions hallelujah. It’s, you know, they’re kind of we don’t have to sell them because they’re already sold. They’ve just been waiting for this to show up. You got to another people at the other end of the bell curve ago, I hate coaching. I hate you. I hate the questions. You suck. I’m like, Okay, you’re, you know, there’s no point in fighting this. You’re just it’s not right for you at the moment. And then there’s a bunch of people in the middle who are like, I like the idea of staying curious a little bit longer. How do I do it in a way that helps me and helps those around me? And those are the people I’m like, kind of tip into being curious a bit longer. And what I find is some people are able to take the seven questions and just go for it. And they integrate it into the way that they work. And other people find it harder than they realize they’re like, ah, in theory, I’m totally on board for asking questions and practice. I keep telling people what to do. What’s that about? So that’s where I kind of created this impulse into the advice monsters, and there are three callate, save it and control. Tell it whispers interference is where you add value. As you give them the answer, you need to have all the answers for all the people all the time, if you don’t, you’re failing yourself and you’re failing them. Your lots of us carry this burden, particularly new managers, people who are just stepping into a role for the first time that I my job as a manager is to have all the answers is there. Not surprising insight you don’t have, it’s impossible to have all the answers, then is savor it. And we kind of talked a bit about that. And the kind of the rescuer, which is like my job is to make sure that nobody struggles or stumbles or finds it hard or finds it difficult. My job is to be the person who protect everybody and fixes everything for everybody, or so exhausting, also impossible. Then the third advice monster is controller, my job is to keep my hands on the wheel, protect everybody from the future can protect everybody from the unknown. Again, impossible. And also just not that helpful. The irony is that whereas all three of those behaviors have their time in their place, when it is your default response, then you’re not serving yourself and you’re not serving others as well as you might

Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app)  17:35

you don’t I think that last thing that you said is very important. And I’m glad that you said it. Because a lot of times I hear it’s difficult to say, you know how often you should follow, you know, certain protocol. You know, for example, I come from the software world, say if you know the servers are down, and everything and you need to get everything up. And you know the answer. And maybe in my situation, you should just say like, Hey, we need to do this specifically right now in the next four seconds. That’s totally

Michael Bungay Stanier (Author)  18:08

right. I mean, if the house is burning down, you don’t go how do people feel about smoke, the reference for this comes back to a guy called Daniel Goleman, who’s kind of the guy who popularized the idea of emotional intelligence. And 20 years ago, he wrote an article for Harvard Business Review called leadership that gets results. And he says, Look, there are six different styles of leadership. They all have their moment. They all have prizes and punishments, pros and cons. Great leaders know the right style of leadership in the right context. Typical managers and leaders use two, maybe three of the six, one of the least utilized of those six leadership skills is coaching. Because common says nobody has time for that. And so my passion, my drive here is a law. You can code people in five minutes or less, 10 minutes or less, it can be part of your everyday way of working. And it can move, underutilized leadership skill into a really practical everyday one. Yeah, and it’s not the only answer. There are some times when the server’s Down you go, let me give you some commands about what needs to happen right now.

Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app)  19:18

This is super interesting, because I think like the interesting thing about this is, you know, the right type of management for the right context, but I love your framing, which is, hey, the most underutilized one happens to be coaching. So just be careful what your defaults are. And you’re absolutely right, like defaults tend to shift in the other direction. I think, you know, a lot of times what I find myself when I am not doing the coaching style, it’s often when I feel time pressured when I feel like there’s a lot of material to get to it. I started default into the wrong place. But that is a problem. That probably has a lot more to it than that. meets the eye. But I know that

Michael Bungay Stanier (Author)  20:02

you’re in good company. And you’re not alone, that that’s the default that we’re all fighting against, which is Oh my God, no time, how am I going to get this done? I just got to get people cracking, let me just tell him what to do. And that short term solution actually just doesn’t work as well as you hope it well.

Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app)  20:18

Yeah, you know, Michael, I’ve been chewing on this idea, I haven’t really actually talked to very many people about it. But it’s very interesting, I’ll kind of tell you what it is. And you know, as someone who has been in technology, you know, building companies, starting small teams and growing them, it turns out that like, if you actually want to be successful, and you want to grow your team and have a larger and larger organization, your management style actually has to change, like very simple example of team of three, obviously, you’re going to do a lot of the work team of 10,000. Clearly, there is nothing that you specifically can do to move the needle in any way. So I wonder how much of the lessons that we learn from management and leadership come from people who’ve kind of like been through this scale, or seen things at varying points, taking those advices and those rules of thumb, and then passing them down. And then they could potentially be dangerous, because if you apply some of those things at, you know, a team of three people, it could actually be the wrong choice for you. So there’s a lot of context, I feel like in these tools,

Michael Bungay Stanier (Author)  21:23

I think the broader picture is that we all spend a lot of time in our early years, being rewarded for having the right answer. And now first years, you know, all the way through school all the way through university, it’s like, do you know your stuff? Prove It, tell us what you know. And then when you start your career, what you’re doing is you’re doing two things. So you’re learning what it means to work in an organization? Because that’s weird. Compared to what you were doing before. You’re like, what? Wait, I have to show up for work again, tomorrow. What’s that about? What for eight hours. So you’ve got this whole shift into learning that, but you also make you build your reputation by doing the work. And again, you’re praised for action, you’re praised for movement, you’re praised for hitting goals, then then becomes this time when you step into management, and things do shift, you lessen the amount of control you have on the specific outcomes, because now you’re managing people. And now you’re like I’m trying to make get people to do stuff and make that happen. And it’s very hard to realize that you just need to shift, there’s a significant shift in the way that you’ll actually be doing the work now. And it gets to a deeper level eight and around why people in coaching or being more coach like buckle, which is our you’re trying to empower other people to do the work. But here’s the thing about empowerment, because everybody, very few people who are anti empowerment. But actually empowerment means giving up some of your power in your status, in your certainty in your control, so that other people can do that. So as a really kind of obvious example, telling people what to do almost always feel as good. Because you’re in control, and you’re clear, and you’re the boss, and you’re you’re making decisions, and we’re moving ahead. When you ask a question, you have this moment of uncertainty and ambiguity. And did they get it? And was it a good question, and they’re going to take it on and, and it’s less comfortable. But it wins the bigger game, which is what we were saying before around autonomy and self sufficiency, and competence and competence.

Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app)  23:29

Yeah, I think that makes a lot of sense. Questions, I think was it Peter Drucker that says is your that your job is basically to ask the questions. I’m butchering the quote, obviously, but one of the questions that you like to ask at the end of meetings is what was most useful and most valuable? It is a super. So I’d love to ask you, how did you come up with this particular question? And what is the power of this question? What can it actually do? If you start asking this question, say, at the end of various meetings?

Michael Bungay Stanier (Author)  24:01

Yeah, almost any interaction, you can ask this question, and there’s going to be a winner. It comes back to exactly where you pointed us earlier on admin, which is like, I think your job as a manager, as a leader is to go How do I make my people better? Because if I can make my people better and smarter and braver and more courageous and competent, confident and autonomous and self sufficient, like it’s good for them, it’s good for humanity. But it’s also good for me, like I just got better, smarter. People doing better, smarter work on my team, we win from this. So then you got to ask the question, well, how do people get better and smarter? And then you go, Oh, but my job as a manager or leader is to be a teacher to help people learn to how do people learn? Well, here’s what’s annoying. They don’t learn when you tell them stuff. I mean, it goes in one ear, and it goes out the other ear pretty quickly. And if you doubt that, think of all the stuff that you’ve been told to do over the years and how much of it you You ignored or you forgot. So that doesn’t work. And it doesn’t even work when they just do the work themselves. Sometimes they learn a bit from that, but not not that much. What the science tells you is people learn when they have a moment to reflect on what just happened and to extract the learning. So this question, or was most useful or most valuable here for you? Or know, variations on your What are you taking away? Obviously are high here? What’s the thing that you want to remember from this conversation? Or are those the same? The same basic question which says, reflect on what’s just happened and extract the value. And two things happen here, or maybe three? The first is, you’re helping them make some important stuff stick stuff, they will forget, otherwise, you’re just increasing the odds that they’re going to remember this, they’re going to go all I’m learning from this, I’m not just doing it, I’m learning from it.

Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app)  25:53

Yeah, you know, just on that point, it is fascinating how that works. Like it is the the most interesting thing something will happen. Or I will say, read a book, listen to podcasts. And then I will describe that to someone else, whatever it is, that I described to other people is the only part that I’m going to end up remembering it shot, right, that works. It

Michael Bungay Stanier (Author)  26:14

is. So you have to do that kind of active moment to choose to reflect and learn to actually give you a chance of holding on to some of this stuff. But there’s more to it than that if you ask what was most useful and most valuable here for you. At the end of formal meeting, at the end of a quick chat at the end of a conversation with a vendor or a customer, you help them learn. But they then give you feedback as to what was useful or valuable for them. So you get smarter about the interaction, you’re like, Oh, I didn’t think any of this was good. But apparently some of it was really helpful. Or I was really sure that this thing I was saying was the gold dust. Turns out that wasn’t the pole at all, it was something else. And there is a kind of bonus is a kind of added benefit. At the end of the year when there’s some sort of performance review going on. And the person is asked, Hey, what’s Aiden? Like, as a boss, they will go you know, every conversation I have with him, I walk away with something that’s useful and valuable, is amazing. Because what you’re doing is you’re framing every conversation with you as I want this to be useful and valuable for you. I’m going to make sure that you hear it and say it so that you just build and you strengthen the relationship, you strengthen the trust within that relationship. So that’s the power of the question. Now how I came up with it? Well, honestly, I spent five years writing the Coaching Habit. And it went through all sorts of iterations, whereas some of them, one version of the book had like 170 questions. And as I actually give you every good question, I know because there’s so many good ones out there. So I wrote this book. And it’s like two pages per question. There’s just a terrible book. It was like boring, tedious and confusing and overwhelming. I’m like, Oh, I’ve got to curate this. So I went through all sorts of iterations to go if I could only give people seven questions. What are the seven questions that I think would be, cover most of the territory most of the time? And I just knew from the research that I’ve done that this learning question was such a powerful way to finish almost any compensation.

Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app)  28:19

Hey there before moving to the next part of the interview, quick interjection to tell you about one of the internet’s best kept secrets, the manager TLDR newsletter. So every two weeks, we read the best content out there, the greatest articles, the advice, the case studies, whatever the latest and greatest says, We summarize it, and we send it to your inbox. We know you don’t have the time to read everything. But because we’re doing the work will summarize it and send it to your inbox once every two weeks. And the best news, it’s completely free. So go on over to fellow dot app slash newsletter, and sign up today. And with that said, let’s go back to the interview. Yeah, no, that’s amazing. I mean, when you explain how much work has gone into coming up with the question, it’s even more, I’m excited to start using this. I can say that it’s so much better than Do you have any feedback for me? I can write confidence because that,

Michael Bungay Stanier (Author)  29:13

right? Or even, was this a useful meeting for you? Because what you’re doing is you’re just getting a yes or no answer. Yeah, who’s gonna say no, who cares? Right? Whereas what was most useful, most valuable? They have to think, and remember, be lazy. So now you don’t have to, you’re not going to try and give them the answer. You’re being lazy. As you watch them make the new neural pathways and the new neural connections. You see people getting smarter literally in front of you, because they’ve just made a connection that they hadn’t made before. And then they tell you, and then you get smarter because you now make a connection you hadn’t made before and between you the collective intelligence of you get smarter because you both have a connection you didn’t have before. So it’s such a fast, simple way. Just keep leveling up in terms of how nuanced and how clever you can be individually and collectively.

Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app)  30:06

Yeah, no, that makes a lot of sense. So I do want to talk about goal setting. But this is another thing. So obviously, your coaching is very important. Goal setting is arguably very related, intertwined. What is this book going to be about? So it’s

Michael Bungay Stanier (Author)  30:25

called How To begin, start doing something that matters. And look I want in our lives, not just our organizational lives, but our lives. I want people to grow. And I want them to grow, empowered by working on the stuff that matters, working on stuff that is thrilling, and important, and daunting. You know, writing books, always involves writing a crappy first draft of a book. So when I started writing this book, I sent my first draft off to some friends. And my friend Misha wrote back and said, Look, I’ve read 40 pages of your book, and none of it makes sense anymore. I don’t even know what this book is about. Like, ah, so painful, true friend, right? But a true friend Exactly. Because he did it with the best of heart, the best of intention. And it’s one I was hoping for some real feedback. So I picked my way through the rubble of this first draft. And one of the things that survived was a simple but powerful phrase, we unlock our greatness by working on the hard things. And I do think in organizational life, we can just get swept into the busyness of it all, rather than having the courage and taking a bit more time to figure out what’s the important thing to work on. So everybody knows about smart goals. And I’ve never seen anybody get really excited about smart goals, they feel more bureaucratic, you know, how are they right form, like, ISO 900, to try make your goals, you know, meet a certain quality. But I’m like, there’s no point in a quality standard of a goal that isn’t ambitious enough, isn’t exciting enough. So this whole idea of a worthy goal is finding something that is thrilling. In other words, it means something to you, it lights you up, it’s something you care about, get excited about. It’s also important, it serves the bigger game serves a bigger picture contributes to the world or it contributes to the essential strategy that an organization is playing out. And is a daunting, because as it is it going to help you grow and learn and expand your capacity and your confidence, get you to level up to that next best version of who you can be. So I’m really hoping that this kind of slows down the conversations we have about what’s all the stuff we just got to get done. Going how do we focus on the worthy goals that will make the real difference?

Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app)  32:47

And this is beyond just is this just within the organization? Or is this also in our personal lives?

Michael Bungay Stanier (Author)  32:54

Honestly, it’s probably flipped in terms of it’s mostly about post, it’s about our lives. I wrote this for not necessarily as a business book. But as a book for anybody who’s going, Look, I want to have a life I’m proud of, I want to be able to look back and go, you know, I feel like I did stuff that I that meant something to me and made the world a little bit better. And it’s a handbook to help people with that. But I think, you know, it’s already becoming obvious to me that it seems to have resonance within organizations as well.

Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app)  33:25

This is a very important one. And obviously, if you learn how to set goals properly for yourself, then you can help others be that coach and make that happen. I think people would gain a lot by having goals that are thrilling. I mean, just using the word thrilling in itself has like so much emotion that goes with it. And so, yeah, to have goals that are thrilling and daunting and important. Makes a lot of sense. What about mosquitoes? You also say that every girl comes with a swarm of mosquitoes. What is that?

Michael Bungay Stanier (Author)  33:58

Well, I don’t know about you, Aiden. But I’ve had lots of moments in my time where I’ve gone Oh, I think this is an exciting goal. And then for some reason, I just don’t make the progress on it that I want. And I kind of fall off the track and I get a bit stuck. And it’s frustrating. And there’s a process in the book in three sections in the book, each section has three chapters, and in the middle section. So are you really up for this? Are you really willing to commit to this, and part of the commitment process is to look at what’s happening right now and kind of go take an audit of what’s happening right now and how you’re showing up and me the mosquitoes are all the things you’re doing and not doing that are contrary to this worthy goal that you’ve actually set yourself. And it’s embarrassing to actually name these mosquitoes because you’re looking at your gun. And you know, I’m excited by this goal, but I’m also colluding against myself and all these kind of small, subtle but significant ways You know, no mosquito is going to kill you probably, maybe malaria, but in the real world, but generally speaking mosquito, it’s just an irritant. But enough mosquitoes and you get distracted, and you kind of wander off the path. So yeah, this mosquito thing is like, take stock, of all the ways that you are undermining yourself right now undermining your very commitment to the worthy goal, because that’s going to allow you to make a better decision as to whether you’re really up and willing to commit to it or not.

Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app)  35:30

I think that makes a lot of sense. One of the questions that I want to ask you about goal setting, there are many, I mean, you talked about smart goals today. OKRs objectives and key results are all the rage. And one of the concepts that people talk about in OKRs, is you want them to be ambitious enough that you only hit 70% of the goals.

Michael Bungay Stanier (Author)  35:53

You don’t want all green, yellow, and green, yellow and red. Yeah, it’s like a good spread of your goals. Yeah.

Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app)  35:58

And yeah, what are your views on that? Is that like the right way to think about goal setting? Maybe put some more context, right. So as someone who leads an organization, one of my responsibilities is to set ambitious targets. And so oftentimes, one might get carried away with these ambitious targets. And so there’s this kind of like fine balance of what’s achievable, and you know, what isn’t achievable? And then it can be? So I always this is, this is something that I’ve always struggled with, which is, what is too ambitious? What’s ambitious enough? And where do you find the balance?

Michael Bungay Stanier (Author)  36:38

Well, there’s so much here, it’s such a good question. In the book, I introduced this idea of the Goldilocks zone, which people may have heard of it comes from astronomy, and the search for exoplanets or other planets around other stars, very exciting. They found 5000 exoplanets in the Milky Way. So far, they’ve just found the very first exoplanet in another galaxy, other than ours. I mean, how incredible is that 28 million light years away, and they can see the hint of a planet there. And exoplanets are interesting in themselves. But if they’re in the Goldilocks zone, they’re particularly interesting, because the Goldilocks zone is not too close to the star and not too far away from the star so that water can be liquid, because there’s an assumption that liquid water may be a precursor to life. And that ability of not too hot, not too cold, is I think, something to bring into this idea of goal setting, which is like does it have the right haft? Because you’re right, I think there’s a tendency to go one of two different ways. One is keep all the goals small. Because then you can crush them. And you can go, Look, I’ve crushed all my goals. Yeah, you’ve done that great, but you just didn’t choose big enough goals to really stretch you and grow you, or contribute to the business in the way that we want. But there’s an equal bias that people go, I’m just going to name some enormous goal that is too big, too hard, and actually is memorializes people rather than gets them excited. So I think there’s a couple of ways to be playing with this that goes beyond the goal setting process in itself. The first is to go, do we have a culture that will allow us to strive and fail? Like what happens when we don’t reach the goal? Like, who takes responsibility? How is it celebrated? How do we learn from it? Is it a source of shame? Do people get sent to Siberia, because they were working on that particular project? You know, the culture around how we accept how these goals play out, is a significant part of it. And then I think there is a and this is kind of the first third of the book, which is often we don’t interrogate the goals, enough to understand if they have the right kind of weight to them. Because so often, you know, you’re a founder, I’m a founder. So you know, honestly, for the rest of the people we work with when nightmares for people, because we’re all about the ideas. We’re all about the ambition. And you know, well, I just had a podcast with Michael, I got seven new ideas of things we should be doing. And their team is like, oh, man, your podcast projects a nightmare, because every time you talk to somebody, you come back to the business initiatives. And I’m like, that’s true with the people I work with as well. They’re like, don’t let Michael get on a plane. Because then he has six hours of uninterrupted thinking, and he always comes back with stuff to do. So. And all of our ideas, agents sound brilliant to us. Because you know, they’re coming in about brain like, Oh, it’s another amazing thought from Michael. Hello, the process of the word ego thing, the first third of the book is to go look, your first idea, that’s interesting, but it’s not the final idea. It’s your first draft. Let’s test it. Let’s actually hold it up against thrilling important and daunting and kick the tires, refine it, and practice it and kind of go through two or three drafts of it to kind of go this feels like it’s got the right amount of half the right amount. possibility. And if you do that with a team, then you’ve got the collective wisdom to do that. So, you know, if it’s you just laying down the goals for your team, then there is a chance that they’re like, it’s too big or it’s too small, I am not bought into it. If you’re like, look, I want progress in one, two and three areas, go away and come up with a worthy goal, or goals that are thrilling, important and daunting. And let’s work through the process to really see if we’ve got buying in that, then we’re like, we’ve taken our best guess, because there’s no certainty in this. But if you interrogate your worthy goal more rigorously, at the start, you’re increasing the odds that you’re on the right path.

Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app)  40:44

I love that. That’s incredible advice there. So Michael, I know we’re coming up on time here. This has been incredibly insightful we talked about I mean, I love talking about your early management mistakes, obviously, the Coaching Habit, the advice, monster, setting goals, so many different things. But one of the questions that we like to ask all of our guests before we under discussion is for all the managers and leaders out there constantly looking to get better at their craft. What final tips, tricks or words of wisdom would you leave them with?

Michael Bungay Stanier (Author)  41:20

If you’re listening to this, and you buy into the idea that staying curious a little longer could be helpful? Or is at least worth experimenting with? Well, I can tell you, that doesn’t work. It’s just going away going? Yeah, that’s good. I’ll just try and be curious, a bit longer. It’s too big, it’s too broad. And the gravity of the status quo will just suck you back in. So I would encourage you to pick a question, pick a person, pick a moment and decide to practice a question with that person. Now, in the Coaching Habit book, there are just seven questions. So you could pick any one of those. But the question I say is the best coaching question in the world is the question. And what else? Because it says, You know what? The first question is never the first answer is never there only answering it’s rarely their best answer. So if you’re listening to this, you know, well, what do I do with all this stuff, Michael, other than preorder the how to begin book, obviously, that’s the subtext to all of this. But really, what you might go is like, I’m gonna pick one question, it might be what was most useful and most valuable for you? That’s a question Aydin put a spotlight on it might be and what else, pick a person that you’d like to try that with. And kind of almost imagine that interaction and go like, I’m going to try it out with that person at that time, in this context, and give that a go. You know, we build habits by starting and then repeating them. So my suggestion to people is like, think about how you might choose to build a Coaching Habit. That’s incredible

Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app)  42:48

advice, and a great place to end it. Michael, thank you so much for doing this.

Michael Bungay Stanier (Author)  42:53

My pleasure. And thanks for having me on.

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