🚀 Breathe.



Not every working relationship is going to be unicorns dancing through the field burping up rainbows, but you want to have the best possible relationship with them.

In this episode

You can transform every working relationship into a source of personal and professional growth.

It starts with building the best possible relationship you can have with your team members. Michael Bungay Stanier highlights how elevating everyday working relationships to their highest potential can amplify and encourage better performance. 

Michael Bungay Stanier, also known for his #1 bestseller ‘The Coaching Habit,’ returns to Supermanagers to discuss his new book ‘How to Work with (Almost) Anyone’ where he delves into the art of strengthening every working relationship you have for the better. Michael has been a guiding force in shaping and forging effective management and leadership habits.

In episode #183, Michael delves into the intricacies of building relationships, emphasizing safety, vitality, and repairability. He also touches on the crucial concept of ‘keystone conversations’—dialogues focused on how team members can work together effectively rather than just on the work itself. 

Michael’s practical approach aims to enhance team dynamics, improve personal interactions, and create a more productive, enjoyable workplace. 

Tune in to discover Michael’s advice on how to cultivate the best possible relationships in your workplace!

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


How to Work with (Almost) Anyone


The qualities of a best possible relationship


Taking the initiative


How to have a keystone conversation


Investing in the relationship

Resources mentioned in this episode:


Michael, welcome back to the show. 

Michael Bungay Stanier 03:16

Yeah, it is cool to be back. Thanks for having me. Clearly, you failed to learn your lesson from the last episode or you’ve got memories as bad as mine is and you’re like, I don’t even remember what he’s like. So I appreciate you having me back.

Aydin Mirzaee  03:29

I mean, for those who don’t know, Michael, check out episode 92. But I think a lot of people know you I mean, your your book, ‘The Coaching Habit’ is like literally the book on coaching. I don’t know that there is another comparable one. You know, it’s so interesting, just I mean for fun, so that, you know, it’s performance review time we’re recording in December, although this is going to go live in the new year. But you know, performance review time, oftentimes, like especially when you’re coaching managers, you know, one of the things is like you should get better at coaching, right? And like, my lazy answer to get better at coaching is go read Michael’s book, ‘The Coaching Habit,’ and so many copies have been distributed.

Michael Bungay Stanier  04:07

I love that. And you know, I wrote it for people. I didn’t write it for coaches, I wrote it for normal people, managers and leaders who are like, alright, HR or whoever making me be more coach-like how do I do that? How do normal people do coaching? So the goal was to unwed coaching make it feel like an everyday practical tool. And as hard as like staying curious, a little bit longer, really unlocked all sorts of great things. 

Aydin Mirzaee  04:34

Yeah, that was the key phrase that I also remember, which is Stay curious just a little bit longer. And you know, it’s just such a powerful thing, and I’ve repeated it so many times. So yeah, everybody should go check out episode 92. Amazing. If you haven’t for some weird reason. You’ve been living under a rock and you have not read this book. Check it out. But I have good news for everybody who doesn’t know you’ve decided to write author another which has been out for a few months now I think like six months or so. Right? 

Michael Bungay Stanier  05:04


Aydin Mirzaee  05:04

The book is called ‘How to Work with (Almost) Anyone.’

Michael Bungay Stanier  05:10

Which is the best book title I’ve ever come up with. I love this book title, because everybody immediately laughs and goes, Oh, I get that. I get why that’s important that I guess I get why there’s an almost in the title.

Aydin Mirzaee  05:22

Yeah, it makes it more believable. It feels like if they almost was in there would be maybe like too big of a promise.

Michael Bungay Stanier  05:29

I couldn’t write a book on how to work with anyone, because I’m like, I don’t know how to work with anyone. But I do reckon I can get a better shot and making it a bit better with most of the people with whom I work. And I’ve got some really useful tools to help other people do the same.

Aydin Mirzaee  05:43

Yeah, super excited to dig in. So why don’t we you know, I always like to know, you do a lot of work in this space. And you write a lot, speak a lot, publish a lot. What drove you to write this book, like what series of events happened that made you think that this needs to be brought into the world?

Michael Bungay Stanier  06:00

Well, there’s a long term event and a short term event that were behind it, the long term event was actually this is a tool I’ve been practicing and using for 20 years are taught to me in a different version by a guy called Peter Block, who’s one of the really great thinkers in this space about how do you build better relationships? How do you stay? And how do you build adult adult relationships in your workplaces? And so I’ve been using it and testing it and tinkering with it for 20 years. So when I sat down and thought, What’s my next book, that was just one of those tools, where I’m like, I don’t think I’ve seen anything like this out there. I think this could be helpful. But the catalyst, Aydin, was this, I was back in Australia, and my dad was dying, he’d actually survived a sort of scary bout in the ICU, the emergency part of the hospital, and he come home. But we knew he had a terminal illness, we knew he was dying. And so the house was set up, there’s a hospital bed, I traveled from Canada, where I live, and I was staying in that in the house as well. And Mum was trying doing her best to look after Dad, and they had a really successful 55 year long marriage. But they were kind of snippy at each other, you know, they were finding it hard for all the really obvious reasons. And in a burst of, I’m not sure what, courage, madness, I said, let me help you guys have a conversation together, about how you want to be together over the coming weeks or months, so that the last time you have together is as good as it can be knowing that it’s a terrible situation. And mom and dad were like, that sounds like a terrible idea. That sounds like the worst. And I’m like it does. Because we’re not a family who are into the kind of this kind of touchy feely stuff particularly. But I kind of insisted gently. And I kind of persuaded them to have this conversation. And they did it. And they were brilliant at it. And they had this really hard conversation about how do we want to be? What does it mean when I do this? And what does it mean when I do that. And that really lit the fuse of going, this is a really important tool if you have people in your life, and you want relationships that are more resilient and more alive and able to last longer be more powerful than the tool I teach and how to work with almost anyone. Can you help with that? 

Aydin Mirzaee  08:22

Oh, that’s amazing. So this is really just working and living and having a relationship with actually almost anyone. So it’s not necessarily just in a work context, it could be any sort of relationship that you have that needs to be had.

Michael Bungay Stanier  08:35

I write for managers, I love being on this podcast, because I’m like, the people who listen to the podcast and the people I write for, but I also try and write books that are evergreen. So with ‘The Coaching Habit,’ for instance, I know that it gets read by people who are parents, by people who are sports coaches, by people who are interacting with other human beings. So you wanted to sum up what I do in a general way. It’s like I simplify tools for humans so they can build better working relationships with other humans.

Aydin Mirzaee  09:01

Awesome. So let’s dig in. So what is the core essence of the book? I know you and I were chatting about this idea of the best possible relationships that you can have. So yeah, tell us about that. 

Michael Bungay Stanier  09:14

It starts one step back, which is just to have people acknowledge that their happiness and their success is so strongly influenced by the quality of their working relationships. And if you doubt that, think of one of the worst working relationships you’ve had. I mean, cast your mind back, hopefully, it’s years ago, but maybe it’s more recent. Maybe it’s live right now. And just think about that hard, frustrating, disappointing working relationship. And think of the impact it’s having on you, on how you see yourself and how you show up on the quality of the work you do on this sense of your aliveness of this sense of enjoyment. And when I ask people this, they’re like, it has a huge effect. It is diminishing, it shrinks people down, they lose their sense of self, they lose their sense of what they’ve done and what they could do, they lose their ambition, they grow timid. And equally, if you think of the very best working relationships, you see the opposite of that you see people amplified and encouraged and expanded and courageous. And so it really makes a difference if you can have better working relationships in your life.

Aydin Mirzaee  10:22

So I guess this is an interesting one, because when you talk about relationships that can say put you down and not bring your best self, those seem to be easier to identify. And that like you just know, right away. And I think like, one of the observations that I’ve had is a lot of times, you know, people in the workplace, you know, will say, like, you know, how’s your relationship with so and so? It’s okay. And I think that what you’re trying to say, and what you’re pointing out is that there’s actually it doesn’t have to just be okay, like, there’s a level where it brings out your best self. So if you’re thinking about like diagnosing what does the Promised Land actually look like? When a relationship is really, really good? How do you know that what kind of things happen? 

Michael Bungay Stanier  11:05

Yeah, so what I love that you’re pointing to is, you’re immediately picking up this isn’t just about fixing the bad working relationships. I mean, for most people are working relationships, the quality is on a bell curve. So you know, you’ve got some at one end, a few that are great, some at another end, a few that suck. And most of them in the middle, which are like they’re good enough, they’re fine. But I think you can make all of those better, or your working relationships can be a little bit better. And the three generic qualities of a BPR—best possible relationship is that they’re safe. And they’re vital. And they are repairable. Safe and vital and repairable. And whether you’re trying to make some of your worst, or your hardest working relationships, and you’re trying to make those workable, unbearable, or whether you’re trying to amplify the really good ones to make them extraordinary, or just taking the ones that are okay, and bumping them up. So there’s a bit more magic, you’re trying to find the right balance of safe, vital, and repairable between them. So let me just teach those three points. Safe is a really good place to start. Because there for 10 years or more, Amy Edmondson, has been teaching us about psychological safety. And we’ve just come to understand that that’s a really important thing. It allows people to show up, it allows people to talk about their mistakes that allows teams to flourish. I mean, a key part of Amy’s work and her new book now is the teams that are best able to talk about the mistakes or the teams that are most successful. So you want to have safe working relationships where people can, you can remove the fear. And that’s a wonderful place to start. But for me, it’s not sufficient. I mean, I’ve been in safe working relationships that have also felt a little boring. If I’m honest about it. I’m like, it’s like it’s comfortable. It’s like being in a warm bath. And I’m not a bath person. I don’t like baths. So I’m like, I want I want more than safe. And so the second element is vital, vital means alive, it means essential, but it also means alive. So can you take risks? Can you push, can you provoke? Can you innovate? Can you step to the edge? And so any working relationship is going to have a dance between safe and vital. Like you and me, you and I before we hit record had a quick conversation about how do we want to show up? What does it mean to be a great podcaster? What does it mean to be a great podcast guest? How do we work together to try and find what the appropriate mix of safe and vital isn’t this working in this immediate working relationship. And then the third element is repairable because he’s you know, spoiler alert, it always goes off the rails in some way does to some extent something goes wrong. And, you know, having kind of done deep research in all the people who write about intimate relationships like Esther Perel, and Terry Real and Dan Siegel. And the lot. A common theme through all of their work is the relationships that get repaired are the ones that last and the ones that flourish. So every working relationship has potential. Not every working relationship is going to be you know, unicorns dancing through the field burping up rainbows, but every key relationship, your boss, your team, your colleagues and collaborators, your vendors, your clients, customers, you want to have the best possible relationship with them. The right mix of safe and vital and repairable.

Aydin Mirzaee  14:28

This is super interesting. When I think about these three characteristics, it makes me think that the safe and vital maybe I can kind of tell or have a good guess on this particular relationship qualified does it do well here there are a parable one is is a must have repaired it before I don’t know that it would be repairable. Is that a predictable thing? Or is that like the first time that it breaks? That’s the opportunity to show if it’s repairable or not.

Michael Bungay Stanier  14:53

Well, pointing to a number of good things here. The first is when I ask people you know safe, vital, repairable. Which one do you think you’re best at at the moment, it’s pretty much an even split between safe and vital. Sometimes safe is a little bit ahead. But always repairable comes in third. And last, there are fewer people who feel that they’ve got a handle on what does it take to repair a relationship. And the research backs us up the researchers, as human beings are pretty crap. going, Oh, it’s going wrong? Oh, let’s get in and let’s fix it. And let’s make it better. Most of us kind of like, throw up our hands and go, you know, I guess this is just the way it has to be. So there’s that. But the second thing, and this is really important, he said, so how would I know? I mean, you don’t really know until it goes wrong. And you’re like, is it repairable or not? And I think the key inside of the book is build best possible relationships. The key tactic of the book is have keystone conversations, conversations about how you work together, before you get into the work. So if you and I hadn’t had a, you know, if we were, let’s say, co launching a podcast together: Supermanagers and Michael Bungay Stanier. We’re doing a collab, that shouldn’t be amazing. We were a nine month project time in front of us, I would sit down with you and go, Okay, how will we fix it when it goes wrong? Because when we start having this idea, you and I are super excited. We’re like, Yeah, this is gonna be amazing. You’re amazing. I’m amazing. And we’re all on the honeymoon period where it’s like, it’s only going to be great. But somewhere down the line, something goes wrong, I screw up or you screw up or you misunderstand what I said, or I didn’t have breakfast. So I’m just grumpy and kind of, I’m Australian. So I say something that you’re like, that sounds like an insult. And I’m like, No, that wasn’t meant to be an insult, just an Australianism. And but you and I have that conversation about how will we fix it when things go wrong? It means that when it goes wrong, we’ve just got a better chance of actually getting it fixed.

Aydin Mirzaee  16:55

I want to talk about the keystone conversations. And I think it’s super interesting, the almost negotiating that in advance. But before I asked about that, the thing that comes to mind is you know, if you are safe, I have a sibling, it’s kind of hard to unsee sibling yourself from someone you know. And so it’s the repairable part is almost like forced in some way. And, you know, it makes me think that the closest thing that I can think of in the workplace that would get you to stick together longer or want to repair things is probably like purpose and mission. Like I kind of feel if you’re all in this for this super important thing that’s bigger than yourselves, then we’ll just have to repair the relationships because the mission is just too important. And I wonder like, are there other things that can influence the repairability? Before we talk about the keystone conversations?

Michael Bungay Stanier  17:48

Well, I think sometimes they’re just structural reasons why you’re stuck with people. I mean, siblings are like, it’s hard to disown a sibling. I mean, you can do it, but it takes some effort. But you know, at work, I know, there’s been times where in my past, I’ve been working, and I’m like I’m on a team with this person, they might actually have a degree of influence over my success and my happiness. They’re annoying that the hell out of me, like we’re not getting on. And not working with them is not an option. We’re on a team together. Either one of us quits the team or quits that job or quits the role or quits the company, or we exist in a state of ongoing dysfunction. Or we repair it to some extent, and we figure it out. And too many times, relationships end with somebody quitting. I mean, you know, the saying people join organizations, but they leave managers. So part of what this book is about is like, don’t be that manager, don’t have that manager, join an organization or a team you love with the mission and with the vision with the purpose that you’re talking about. But then know that it’s going to take some work, because you’re gonna be working with people who for all sorts of good reasons, you’re like, we just don’t click. So how do you make it the best possible relationship you can with that person?

Aydin Mirzaee  19:04

The keystone conversation idea is an awesome one. And I understand that, like, you break this apart quite a bit in the book. But one of the questions I have is, it makes sense to me that these are conversations that you have in the beginning, right, just like you said, if we’re starting a podcast together, we should discuss all sorts of things, including what do we do when things go wrong? Right? If there’s, it’s a standstill, we can agree we should probably have like some mechanism where we can maybe there’s a third party something and it makes sense that these things happen in the beginning. Like I know whenever I have a new person on my team, one of the things that I think about is like I want to do these things. If I’m going to have hard conversations, I would love to have an example hard conversation in the very beginning to kind of like test those things and and learn how to work well together. But for everybody, you know, who hasn’t had that? Right? Like they’ve just been living life and working the way that they have and then all of a sudden they pick up your book ‘How to Work with (Almost) Anyone’…

Michael Bungay Stanier  20:01

You’re like ‘I need to fire everybody,’ and then start all over again with everybody. Yeah.

Aydin Mirzaee  20:06

yeah, exactly. I haven’t had keystone conversations. What do I do, Michael, what do I do? Hey, everyone, just a quick pause on today’s episode to tell you about something that we’ve been working on that we’re super excited about. It’s no secret that, you know, meetings have been on the rise since the pandemic, there’s studies that showed that in some organizations, people are spending as much as 250% more time in meetings. And there hasn’t been a solution out there to really tackle this problem. At its heart, some companies are doing interesting things. Shopify, for example, is now incorporating a meeting cost calculator into all of the meetings that are booked. And so whenever someone’s trying to book a meeting, they get to see the cost of that meeting. And what we’ve decided to do at fellow is take this idea of a meeting cost calculator, and make it available for everyone for free. And we’re calling it our meeting cost calculator, it integrates with your Google Calendar. So if you’re on a Google Calendar, what you can do is go to Fellow.app/calculator. And what it’s going to do is it’s this extension, you install it super easy. And when you do, you’ll be able to see the cost of every meeting that you’re attending. And so what this does at an organizational level, and it’s very easy to install organization wide, your IT administrator can very easily do this. And when you do this, every person in your company, when they’re about to book a meeting, they’ll be able to see the cost of that particular meeting. And really, the intention here is to make it easy for people to really think carefully about the people that the invite to the meeting how large the meeting is going to be. And really the purpose and make sure that time that is organized through this meeting is actually going to be time well spent. And so we’re very excited to announce this, it’s easy to get, you can go to fellow dot app slash calculator, get the extension and get it for your team, it’s free to use. And if you like what you see there, we have a series of other things that we built along these lines with that extension, we’re calling the Meeting Guidelines. And it’s a series of other things that help change organizational behavior around meetings in your company. But start with a calculator. It’s really cool. And when you try it, let us know what you think. And with that said, let’s go back to the episode.

Michael Bungay Stanier  22:35

Well, you know that saying the best time to plant an acorn is 20 years ago, but the second best time to plant an acorn is today. And I think that applies here. So I think even when you have ongoing relationships, which everybody does, when you look at the ones that matter most, there’s an opportunity to just hit pause for a moment and reset. You know, it sounds something like this, Hey, we’re doing our performance management. So, Aydin is great. I want to talk about how we’ve been working together for the last 12 months, I want to talk about our performance and how you’ve been performing. I also want to talk about how you and I are working together because how you perform is also really related to how you and I work together. So I want to talk about your performance. And then I want to have a reset conversation about how you and I can work best together. And you’ve got that opportunity for a keystone conversation. Or you just say, Hey, I’ve just picked up this book, Aydin, it’s great. Can you and I go and grab a coffee. Because I’m I’m really enjoying working with you at the moment. But I just wonder if we can fine tune it to be even better. And I’ve got this book, I’ve got some tools. And I think it could be really helpful for us to actually sit down and have a chat about how we can work better together before we keep plunging on in the work. And in the book, knowing that this is undoubtedly a slightly awkward conversation, because most people are like, I’ve not done this before. How do you say it exactly? The book is full of really specific scripting. So you can just copy the language so that you can go look, just cut and paste and copy the words that are in the book. And you can set up these conversations.

Aydin Mirzaee  24:09

Yeah, so I think you’ve given everyone a lot of hope. So in any relationship you can do this with it’s never too late.

Michael Bungay Stanier  24:16

Well I love that you said hope. But what I really want to give people as a sense of agency, because I want people to move from, I hope this gets better to what can I do to improve this just a little bit. If there’s a singular call to action, I would love people to act on probably second to even second to buying the book, which I would obviously love but forget the book. Do this be the person who reaches out be the person who starts a conversation around, hey, how will we work together? That could be a little bit better for both of us. If people will have that sense of agency rather than I’ve just got to suck it up, then that would be a big win for me.

Aydin Mirzaee  24:55

One of the interesting things that, you know, I get to see in you know, being the host for this podcast is just like all these different things that people do. And you can take these to different levels. Right? Like, I know that some managers have things or some leaders have, they basically have a table, and they actually have the people on the team or the people that they interact with. And they’ll have a column on strength of the relationship or like, are they winning in this position? Are they not? Are they positioned to win, are they not, and you can actually go down and rank everybody. And then it’s not just about fixing the bad relationships, you can say, like, Ah, this one is not as good as it could be. And I can actually move it up a notch.

Michael Bungay Stanier  25:34

The other thing that’s really powerful about this is, if you’re that leader, and you’re like, how do I make the people on my team be more happier, be more effective in the work that they do? It stops being your job to come up with the solution to fix it, and to solve it. I mean, when you when you talk about those people with those kinds of those charts, one thing that kind of whispers in my ear, it’s like, it feels like it’s their job to know all of this, and fix all of this and worry about all of this. And I want that responsibility to be a shared one. Like when you and I are working together, if you’re my boss, I still want to feel like I’ve got some responsibility to the quality of this working relationship, not just you, for my sake, and for your sake, because that’s how you show up and build adult adult working relationships. And when you’ve got adult adult working relationships, you’ve got the best of people showing up at work.

Aydin Mirzaee  26:26

Yeah, I think the key word that you use was agency. And that really hit the point home for me, the other thing that came to mind is obviously like, as we’re talking, we’re talking about our relationships, and we’re thinking about it that way. But in reality, like for leaders, there are many relationships that are had amongst the people on your teams. And so you can, and we’ve all been on teams or lead teams where you know, two of the individuals like it’s very obvious that aren’t working as great as they could be. And so, you know, I think, yeah, there’s a lot that this can be applied to. But let’s talk about some of the details of like, what a keystone conversation is all about.

Michael Bungay Stanier  27:05

So keystone conversation is, the headline is, it’s a conversation about how we work together, not a conversation about the work. And of course, we’re always pulled into conversations about the work because the work always feels urgent and important and exciting, and right there. And that’s your job. But kind of it’s you pull yourself up out of the work and you look at that other person, you go, Hey, will we best work together? So I’ve got five questions. So let me rattle through them. The first is the Amplify question. And that question is what’s your best? What’s your best? What I mean by that is, when do you shine? And when do you flow? Now, you’ve heard variations of this question before, but I like this more than what your strengths are, what are your values? And what are you good at? Because when I say what are your strengths, and they give me their top five strengths from strength finder, I don’t actually know what to do with that. I mean, like, I’m delighted that they’re strategic, and I know people oriented. But that doesn’t tell me what it’s like to work with them. When I go, when do you shine? When do I notice you in your in your state? When do you flow when you feel like you’re in that that amazing state where everything, you’re at the best of who you are. Now you’re telling me about you coming in live in the context of your work. And, you know, if you’re having a conversation, Aydin, and I’m telling you, when I light up when I shine and when I flow in, you’re doing the same for me. We’ve already got a ton of really good information about what this is what we want, just what we want, you and me shining and flowing. So that’s the first question. When do you shine? When do you flow? What’s your best? The second question is the Steady question and it’s like what are your practices and preferences? This is like the mechanics of how you work together. Because it’s amazing how small things can really break a relationship. Know everything from how you pronounce your name. You know, my name is Michael Bungay Stanier. Now, it’s a slightly complicated name. Bungay Stanier is my surname but there’s no hyphen because when I got married, I took my wife’s surname when we combined them together, but we didn’t hyphenate them. So people are never quite sure whether Bongo is a middle name or a part of a surname. Some people add a hyphen, everybody misspells it. So you know, I’ve been called Michael Banging Spaniel before, it’s a particularly great version of Bungay Stanier. And then my name is Michael, not Mike. Like, some people love to just start calling me Mike. And I’m like, don’t call me Mike. I’m definitely a Michael. And of course, nowadays, we often go you know, my pronouns are he hears or whatever they might be. There’s just lots of load or things that you can trade to say, this is how I work, morning person, Zoom person. This is how I like my to dues. This is how I like to run a meeting. You can trade those mechanics and it just means that you’ve got a better sense of the minutiae of how you work. The third and the fourth question, are the Good Day and the Bad Day question so they’re related it. The key insight is that our past tells us the patterns of our future, the past will repeat again in the future. So the good day question is, what can we learn from past successful working relationships? And the bad day? Question is what can we learn from past frustrating working relationships? Because if I tell you, let me tell you about a great, a great working relationship I had, and let me tell you what that other person did to make it great. That’s super useful information. Let me tell you about a working relationship I had that was pretty awful. And let me tell you all the things I did to contribute to kind of colluding to make that not great, that’s really useful information for you. And likewise, if you tell that to me, as well, and then the fifth and final questions when we’ve already touched on, and it says, how will we fix it when things go wrong? The Repair question.

Aydin Mirzaee  30:53

Very interesting. And as you’re going through these things, it makes me think about some of the questions, you know, there’s always templates around, you know, best one on one questions, and the first one on one conversation that you have with someone and one of the things that is often asked is this idea of the who has been your best manager and why and you know, who’s the best person you’ve ever worked with, and why and in these things are very telling, because it’s almost a way of finding out what the other person values and what the other person likes and dislikes. And it really gives you like a holistic sense for how they operate. 

Michael Bungay Stanier  31:29

That’s exactly right. And what it does is, it overcomes, or it kind of counterbalances our very human tendency to judge another person, we are pattern making machines. So when you show up and you meet somebody, or you’re interacting with somebody, within a heartbeat or three, you’re like, Yeah, I know who you are. I’ve already made my conclusions and assumptions about who you are. And this breaks down some of those assumptions so that you can get a sense of who they are and their kind of messy glory complexity, and so they can do the same for you.

Aydin Mirzaee  32:04

So one of the things that I suppose I’ll ask you, and I’m sure you’ve been asked this before, so going back to the you know, how to work with almost anyone, I think most people I’m, you know, I’m gonna volunteer myself, I don’t know that I’ve had Keystone conversations with everyone that I should have had. And so now I know better. It’s not too late. It’s not too late. But when you know, when you actually can’t work with someone, like is there a point at which you do call it quits, and it’s time to pack up your bags and go elsewhere?

Michael Bungay Stanier  32:35

There is definitely a point because there are some people with whom you just, it’s not worth it, either, because there’s too much history, it’s too broken. They’re a sociopath, you’re a sociopath in their company. There’s just all sorts of reasons where you’re like, it’s not worth it with them. But here’s what I hope, I hope that once people have identified the one or the two or the three people where they’re like, I’m just not going to bother with them, because it’s my job with that is to minimize and endure, as best I can. What that does is it leaves everybody else. And what I hope is that people don’t go: the only people I can work well, with other people I really work well with. There are so many other people where you’re like, we can make this better. So you know, when I think of the sort of people I’ve got in my life, I’m like, I’ve got a range of names that come to mind where I’m like, yep, there would have been no point in attempting that with this point person. I wasn’t in the right place. They weren’t in the right place. I guess the way I would answer it is like this, every choice you make, as prizes and punishments. You’ve got two choices in this moment. You either try and build a BPR with somebody or you don’t. If you don’t, there are prizes and punishments to that decision. If you do, there are prizes and punishments to that decision. So you try and weigh up the prizes and punishments and you go, is it worth giving it a shot, it doesn’t always work. Like there are times where you try and set it up and you’re like, didn’t really move very much forward now. But for the occasional failure, there are far more successes than you might expect. And that becomes a win for you and for them. And for the two of you and the work that’s getting done and for your organization. 

Aydin Mirzaee  34:19

Yeah, so it seems like make this type of a judgment call. But I think the assumption again, like when I think about the title, most people should be able to work with most people like we are hopefully talking about more rare circumstances where it does not work, right.

Michael Bungay Stanier  34:34

When you think of all the people who you work with, whether that’s on your team or your boss, peers, collaborators, customers, clients, vendors, most of those people are fine. Hopefully all of them are fine for you at the moment. Most of them are fine most of the time. So pick one and go. This is a person who is worth investing in. This is a person it’s worth trying to take this relationship up to the next level. so that I feel safe and vital, and it’s repairable. And so we do more work and we are happier working together.

Aydin Mirzaee  35:07

Yeah, I love this, I would almost say that everybody should do this, not only with people on their team, but also kind of identify important working relationships that, you know, people on your team have with others. So for example, you know, head of one department with a head of another department or just like key people that you work with, and then just make sure that these are conversations to be had. The thing that you made me think about, Michael, is that a lot of times, there’s a lot of, you know, people who’ve talked about this idea of like the first one on one and what kind of stuff you should talk about in your first one on one. But I don’t think like the same sort of rigor has been done on other working relationships that you have with others, right, like the first time that you interact with a new person and setting the stage in this way, I think it really goes a long way to approach it in that systematic way.

Michael Bungay Stanier  35:58

It also drives trust, like if somebody sits down with you, and the first thing they say is, before we get into it, how do we work really well together? Because I’m excited about trying to build a really good working relationship with you. I’m immediately feeling I’m more interested in this. Right away. I’m more optimistic about this. So I do think it has some good long term effects.

Aydin Mirzaee  36:20

Yeah, so definitely everybody should check it out: ‘How to Work with (Almost) Anyone.’ And I did also want to give a shout out to your website. So you actually created a website for this bestpossiblerelationship.com? And what can people find on that website?

Michael Bungay Stanier  36:37

Yeah, the two key things that people can find is, first of all, they can find downloads of the five questions. Because what I learned from the Coaching Habit, which also has, that one has seven questions, and that people love a list of the questions like these are good questions, how do I keep them handy, but also, because I really want to just say, again, I know for a lot of people, they’re like, this feels useful and interesting, but I’m not quite sure how to do it, because it’s new, and therefore feels slightly awkward. There’s actually a video of me having a keystone conversation with somebody on my team. She’s just got promoted. So we’re just having a conversation about how we’ll work together with her in her new role. So it’s a genuine conversation. But you see us going through the five questions and kind of asking and answering those questions.

Aydin Mirzaee  37:18

Awesome. So yeah, everybody check that out — bestpossiblerelationship.com. Also wanted to point people to your newsletter, which is ‘How To Do Stuff That Matters.’ So yeah, I mean, great conversation. Thank you so much for coming back on the show telling us about the new book and walking us through how to have those better working relationships. Our last question is always, for all the managers and leaders constantly looking to get better at their craft, are there any final tips, tricks, or words of wisdom that you would leave them with? 

Michael Bungay Stanier  37:51

Well, the deeper work that I’m trying to do is for all of us to maintain, and grow our humanity in the work that gets done. I think organizations, organizational life just has a default of nudging you towards less human experiences, because we’re all trying to get stuff done, and all of the systems and structures and metrics. And so it’s, if you can come back to this idea of remembering that the people that you manage and you lead and you work with and you influence a human beings as well. And you can see them and hear them and be present to them and contribute in bringing out their best. That feels like a really great contribution as a super manager. 

Aydin Mirzaee  38:38

That’s awesome. That’s great advice and a great place to end it. And Michael, thanks so much for doing this.

Michael Bungay Stanier  38:42

Yeah, my pleasure. Thanks for having me in.

Aydin Mirzaee  38:44

And that’s it for today. Thank you so much for tuning into this episode of the Supermanagers podcast. You can find the show notes and transcript at www.Fellow.app/Supermanagers. If you liked the content, be sure to rate, review, and subscribe so you can get notified when we post the next episode. And please tell your friends and fellow managers about it. It’d be awesome if you can help us spread the word about the show. See you next time.

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