August 22, 2023

The Business of Meetings – Episode 180 –How to Work with (almost) Anyone with Michael Bungay Stanier

Step into the world of coaching brilliance today as we embark on an extraordinary journey with coaching industry rockstar, Michael Bungay Stanier!

Michael’s reputation precedes him! Armed with a treasure trove of simple and remarkably effective ideas, he has left an indelible mark on countless individuals seeking growth and transformation. From the resounding success of his bestseller, The Coaching Habit, with over a million copies sold, to the launch of his latest book, How to Work with Almost Anyone: Five Essential Questions, his wisdom knows no bounds!

Prepare to be inspired as we dive into the mind of the one and only Michael Bungay Stanier and unravel the secrets to his remarkable success!


Michael Bungay Stanier helps people know that they’re awesome and are doing great. He is best known for The Coaching Habit, the best-selling coaching book of the century and recognized as a classic. His most recent book, How to Work with (Almost) Anyone, shows how to build the best possible relationship with key people at work. Michael was a Rhodes Scholar. He is Australian and lives in Toronto, Canada.

How It All Started for Michael

Michael’s journey into the coaching world began during his teenage years when he noticed he had a knack for listening to his friends and offering advice. Intrigued by the power of asking questions and listening to the answers, he became a crisis telephone counselor for youth. That experience taught him the value of staying curious and understanding that the first answer might not be the whole truth. His interest in coaching grew while working in the world of innovation and organizational change in London and Boston. In 2001, he moved to Toronto, where he did his first coach training and launched a coaching practice that led him to write books on coaching.

Becoming a Reference in the World of Coaching

Michael’s journey to becoming a reference in the coaching industry took shape with the publication of his book, The Coaching Habit. Initially rejected by traditional publishers, he decided to self-publish the book and took control of the brand, look, and feel. His commitment to making it a classic and marketing it extensively through podcasts and writing contributed to its success. The book focuses on simplifying coaching, emphasizing curiosity, and refraining from rushing to give advice. That resonated with readers and made it highly influential. Subsequent books and his unique podcast, Two Pages with MBS, further solidified his position as a prominent figure in the world of coaching.

Balancing Curiosity and Giving Advice

A lesson Michael learned was about the power of staying curious and helping people figure things out themselves. As a coach, he emphasizes the importance of understanding a client’s challenges before rushing to provide immediate solutions. He cautions against trying to solve the wrong problem and highlights the value of enabling individuals to learn and grow, fostering their autonomy and self-sufficiency. By refraining from rescuing them and instead being a guide in their journey, he believes coaches can add value to their clients’ lives.

How to Work with Almost Anyone

Michael’s latest book, How to Work with Almost Anyone: Five Essential Questions, addresses the critical aspect of working relationships and their impact on success and happiness. The book explores having “almost” working relationships, where some individuals may present challenges. Michael invites readers to consider how improving key working relationships can lead to positive outcomes. The title resonates with many, as almost everyone has experienced challenging working relationships at some point. The book offers essential questions and insights to help individuals navigate and enhance those crucial connections.

Building the Best Possible Relationships

Michael emphasizes the importance of having a keystone conversation with colleagues or employees before diving into work. He explains that the keystone conversation is about understanding each other’s best qualities, preferred working practices, past successful and frustrating experiences, and how to repair the relationship when things go wrong. He points out that having this conversation can make working relationships less awkward and more productive.

Creating Safe Environments

Michael believes that while there may not always be a completely safe environment, there can be safe individuals. He explains that psychological safety is essential for people to feel comfortable expressing themselves honestly and openly. That is why fostering an environment where team members can be straightforward and share their positive and negative experiences is necessary.

Applying Keystone Conversations 

Implementing keystone conversations in the orientation process can be valuable when onboarding new team members, enabling them to understand their colleagues’ working styles and preferences. There are other contexts where that practice can also be helpful, such as hiring students and working in procurement to build better relationships and save time and money.

The Five Questions of the Keystone Conversation

  1. The Amplify Question (People asking each other about the moments when they are at their best and in a flow state.)
  2. The Steady Question (Individuals discussing the logistics and mechanics of how they prefer to work together, including communication tools and working hours.)
  3. The Good Date Question (People learning from their past successful working relationships to understand what contributed to their success.)
  4. The Bad Date Question (Understanding past frustrating working relationships to avoid repeating negative patterns.)
  5. The Repair Question (Individuals agreeing on how to fix things when issues arise, emphasizing the inevitability of conflicts and the importance of addressing them constructively.)

The Importance of Strong Working Relationships

Michael stresses the significance of building strong working relationships. He explains that improving challenging relationships can profoundly impact the reduction of stress and the improvement of overall well-being. Fostering positive relationships and creating a safe and supportive environment can lead to more successful outcomes within and outside of organizations.

Best Possible Relationship 

The “best possible relationship” concept connects with the keystone conversation. The best possible relationships are characterized by psychological safety, bravery, and the ability to repair themselves. The keystone conversation is a tactic to help individuals build such relationships by discussing their best qualities, working practices, past experiences, and ways to address challenges.

Coaching Session with Brené Brown

Michael had a personal experience of coaching Brené Brown during a podcast interview. He remembers being surprised when she asked him to coach her during the conversation and how he successfully guided her through the coaching process, showcasing the power of silence and active listening in coaching.

Connect with Eric

On LinkedIn

On Facebook

On Instagram

On Website

Connect with Michael Bungay Stanier

On his website

On LinkedIn

Download Michael’s five keystone questions for free at

About the author 

Eric Rozenberg

For two decades, Eric Rozenberg has consulted with Fortune 500 companies and produced conferences in more than 50 countries across diverse industries. His focus is creating meetings that are not only breathtakingly memorable but which bring corporate strategies to life and amplify team motivation/performance.

{"email":"Email address invalid","url":"Website address invalid","required":"Required field missing"}
Hacking Growth Event Business Formula


Hacking Growth In Your Event Business

In less than 5 minutes, you’ll learn 3 proven strategies to increase your profits and get the recognition you deserve.