Michael Bungay Stanier is an entrepreneur and expert on coaching. He is currently the Senior Partner of Box of Crayons, a company that provides companies with skills to elevate from good to great work. He is the bestselling author of Do More Great Work, a primary resource facilitating that process.
AMA: Does coaching have to happen in person? Is it just as effective remotely or can coaching even happen through technology?
MBS: I do almost all of my coaching by the phone. I don’t coach that much now, but some of the people I coach, I’ve never actually met. So I think very strongly that coaching can happen by e‑mail or by phone.
Let’s stop creating the big capital C that is coaching and just go, “You know what? Coaching is a way of showing up and being with somebody.” So when you get an e‑mail and, while part of you wants to start giving advice and let the advice monster out, instead say, “You know what? I understand the situation. Let me ask what the real challenge here is for you?” and then you hit send. That’s a nice piece of coaching. So everything you do, whether it’s meetings in person, on the phone, by e‑mail, think to yourself, how could I make this about helping them find the answer and less about advice giving?
AMA: It can certainly be difficult for some people to inspire results via e-mail or over the phone, so what does one do to spark action no matter where they are coaching from?
MBS: So there’s something here about just getting clear on what the action actually is. I actually have five questions that I use as a kind of habit, a routine, to nail down the action.
The first question is, what are you going to do? The second question is, by when? The third question is, what does success or finished or completed look like? This way, you get an agreement on when you cross the finish line.
Fourth, how will you let me know? Are you going to e‑mail me, phone me, hang out for a beer with me? How are you going to communicate that it’s been completed? And, fifth, what are the consequences if you don’t do this? And I think those five questions are another way of actually getting really clear on action and really clear about, “I’ll be coming back and checking in on this.”
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