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How To Work Less & Accomplish More

Michael Bungay Stanier, executive coach and author of The Coaching Habit. Courtesy photo

Michael Bungay Stanier, executive coach and author of The Coaching Habit. Courtesy photo

Michael Bungay Stanier is on a mission. He wants you to work less and impact the workplace more. A top executive coach in Canada, he’s written an entertaining and informative book that shows how managers can get great work in others, The Coaching Habit was published Monday (February 29).

And Bungay Stanier would know. He was named Canada’s first National Executive Coach of the Year. He’s been running his own executive coaching consultancy, Box of Crayons, for nearly 15 years. Through his own business and previous consultancy work, he’s coached more than 10,000 managers across industries and around the globe.

In The Coaching Habit, Bungay Stanier sets out to change the habits of managers from slowing down the desire to immediately give advice and deepen the curiosity. Bungay Stanier does this by offering a set of seven questions designed to “kickstart” a conversation with an employee to a deeper level.

Bungay Stanier took the time to speak with Poets&Quants in an interview in which he candidly speaks about which gaps management training fills and how simple changes in habit can increase your own productivity as well as those around you.

Where does The Coaching Habit fit into your work with Box of Crayons and your previous book, Do More Great Work?

That’s a really great question because Box of Crayon’s overall mission is to help people and organizations do less good work and more great work. Good work is your job description–getting things done–what your boss wants you to do and what your boss’s boss wants you to do. And great work is the work that has more impact and meaning–impact being the business side of things and meaning being the human side of things. And typically everybody wants a little more great work and a little less of the other stuff.

What we found over time is that if you have a manager, or are a manager or leader with practical coaching skills, it’s one of the core skills to help people around you and help yourself do more great work. So Do More Great Work includes 15 exercises that are self-management tools to help you towards focusing on your great work. This is more about helping those around you to do the same.

What gaps were you hoping to fill when writing The Coaching Habit?

If I had to have a whinge about business books in general, I find they’re either one slender idea stretched over 220 pages, pampered with stories from Southwest Airlines–which is annoying, it should be maybe a blog post–or they’re just a little too theoretical. They’re interested in theory and there’s no bridge to practice. Having worked in this world of organizational management and development, one of the neat things I heard recently is that corporate culture is just a collection of habits. And, you know, there’s all that talk in the business place about culture eats strategy for breakfast.

So what I’m looking to do is to answer how do you help people change their behaviors to be more effective managers and leaders? So they can work less hard and have more impact. There are some great coaching books out there, but I wanted this one to be the one for the busy manager who’s saying, ‘Look, I like my job. I like my people. I’m trying to do the best by them, by my company and by myself. I’m just a bit overwhelmed. And so, I don’t want this coaching stuff that’s this weird, touchy-feely, HR stuff. What I want is just a few practical tools that can help me and my team work less hard and have more impact.’ That’s what I’m trying to provide here. Here are the most simplistic yet effective tools you can use as a manager or leader to really make a difference in the way you manage and lead.

In the beginning of the book there was quite a bit of emphasis put on habit change. How does someone who has been engrained in certain habits for decades pick up this book and use it to begin to break the habits they want to break?

The answer is, it’s really hard. And everybody knows that. That’s why New Year’s resolutions are so depressing. We make these resolutions and then by January 31st, it’s clear that that’s never going to happen and your credit card is due, so now you’re really depressed.

Changing your behavior is tricky. There’s an enormous industry around weight loss and fitness. And it’s not helped by the fact there are all these urban myths going around about how do you change your habit. But what’s great is actually drawing on neuroscience and psychology and behavioral science, we’ve actually got good science now that says, it doesn’t make it easy, but it makes it a lot easier if you actually know the principles and practices for building new habits. And that’s what we try to unpack in the first chapter of the book.