50: How to Shift to a Coaching Culture

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How do you create a coaching culture within an organization? Michael Bungay Stanier, Founder of Box of Crayons in 2002, teaches ten-minute coaching and joins us to answer this question. In the first of back to back episodes, Michael describes the three components of corporate culture; the steps involved in building new habits; and how to shift an organization from its current culture to a culture that embraces and practices good coaching habits. Michael is the author of The Coaching Habit: Say Less, Ask More and Change the Way You Lead Forever. A Canadian Coach of The Year, he is a top 10 Global Guru in Coaching and a Rhodes scholar. 
Listen (above) or watch the video (below) to catch Fred's interview with Michael.

Key Learnings From This Episode

  • What is on Michael’s mind? To ensure the podcast is a useful and practical 20 minutes for listeners to walk away with new insights and be able to do something differently as a result. Insight is not enough. Knowledge is not enough. Everything you always wanted to know is now found on Google. You have to learn how to translate knowledge into practical, useful action. 
  • What does a coaching culture look like in an organization? Clients never say, ‘we don’t want our managers coaching’, but very few of them are coaching. What is it about organizations that can make that shift? It is useful to understand what you are even talking about. People are not able to articulate it. Edgar Schein has written about career anchors and how to be more effective as an internal and external consultant. His largest body of work is around understanding corporate culture, and he authored a book, The Corporate Culture Survival Guide. He explains that to understand a culture, you need to understand the three different levels from which culture evolves.   
    1. The artifact level –  what can you see. How the parking is organized, people’s job titles, the org chart, whether values are on the wall or not – these are all the artifacts. People often think that is the culture because you can see it, look at it and point to it. And it is part of the culture, but it is just the tip of the iceberg.  
    2. Espoused values – what people talk about as important to them. In a large organization, that is often what you hear leaders say ‘we believe in putting the customer first’ or ‘we believe in putting the employee first’ or integrity, etc. It is about what ‘the word’ is around the place - about what matters to them, and it can show up in terms of what is printed on values sheets or values posters. In HR, it is not only the corporate culture but also the internal values – the 10 competencies, the 163 behaviors that everyone is expected to aspire to based on the values and competencies – which ultimately becomes ridiculous. Box of Crayons has its list of values:  Provoke Impact, Be Generous, Pursue Elegance, Have Fun, Nurture Adult-To-Adult Relationships. 
    3. Unconscious assumptions – the way we behave when we are not really thinking about what we are doing. It is often articulated, ‘it is the way we do things around here’. It is the habit, the expected norms of behavior. 
  • Michael Bungay Stanier Quote on HR Studio PodcastIf all three levels are lined up, you have a strong culture. If innovation is a value - you have the artifacts of creativity and innovation; you see constant innovation and associated behaviors; then you have a strong culture. Typically, you find the third level out of sync with what is talked about at the top two levels. An organization might say employees are the number one concern but if the reality is a ‘sweatshop’ where people are thrown under the bus, the unconscious behavior is out of alignment, resulting in a weaker culture. As an HR professional, if you don’t change the third level, then nothing changes. Unconscious assumptions are habits. If you look at the collection of habits in an organization, in order to change the culture, you need to change the habits. 
  • Building habits resources. Malcolm Gladwell’s 10,00 Hour Rule, the work of Charles Duhigg who wrote The Power of Habit, BJ Fogg’s website – TinyHabits.com, and Leo Babauta’s blog - ZenHabits are all good resources. Box of Crayons has authored, The Coaching Habit which includes the New Habit Formula, having three parts:
    1. Part One is the trigger. The trigger starts with the phrase, ‘when this happens... .’  You realize a situation needs you to shift your behavior – this is a trigger moment that tips you into behaving reflexively in that old way – this comes from Duhigg’s work. 
    2. Part Two. This is when you articulate what the old habit was that you no longer want to enact in that certain way. 
    3. Part Three, which draws on Fogg’s work, is ‘when this happens, I will . . . in 60 seconds or less’. Fogg’s insight is, ‘when you are defining a habit, define it so that it takes 60 seconds or less to complete’. If you make it any more complex than that, the status quo will win out. You will hack your own good intentions, and you will go back to your default way of working. 
  • Being more coach-like. You can hang up artifacts of ‘coaching is good, we love coaching in the organization’, but it is not going to change anything. You can have your senior leaders start saying, ‘coaching is really good – here are some statistics, we want to build a coaching culture here, coaching matters, coaching is a value, coaching is a behavior, coaching is a competency’ – but it is not going to change anything.  If you give people the tools to build new habits, then you start being able to build a coaching culture.
  • How HR or line managers can become more effective coaches. In The Coaching Habit, there are seven great questions which lift your game as a manager, a leader, an HR professional if mastered. An example using the Habit Formula: ‘When I have my one to one meeting with ‘Fred’, and he starts complaining (the trigger), instead of leaping in to fix or solve it and saying, ‘I’ll take care of it, I’ll do it for you, or I’ve got your back’ – instead of ‘rescuing’ Fred - I will (my new behavior) ask Fred, ‘what is the real challenge here for you?’ – question #3 in the book – the Focus question. You are not making a bold declaration, you are being more coach-like. You are building this muscle – it is there but withered at the moment. People need to learn to battle their ‘advice’ monster. As soon as people start talking, HR people tend to think, ‘this is amazing – I am going to add value to the conversation by telling them stuff, giving them the answers, telling them what to do’. Michael and the team are trying to get people to manage, to slow down, to try to control their advice monster.
  • Team meeting example. I’m having my team meeting, and we’ve had some ideas. Instead of saying, ‘ok, that’s a good idea, let’s move on’, I’m going to ask, ‘what else can we do?’ What else? is a great way to continue the conversation and to stay curious. Our big behavior shift is simply, ‘can we have people stay curious a little bit longer, can we have them rush into action and advice a little more slowly?’  What else is the ‘uber’ question to help you do that?

Recommended Reading and References From this Episode

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Michael Stanier Bungay HR Studio Podcast Show Notes - Episode 50
Michael Stanier Bungay HR Studio Podcast Show Notes - Episode 50
Tuesday, March 13, 2018 - 8:00am
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Fred Bunsa
Michael Bungay Stanier
HR Studio Podcast