Mastering the Art of Working with (Almost) Anyone with Michael Bungay Stanier

Michael Bungay Stanier at the CultureLab Podcast

The average person spends over 90,000 hours working over the course of their career. That’s a substantial amount of time building connections with colleagues, clients, and collaborators. What’s truly fascinating is the profound impact these relationships have on our careers, company culture, and overall life satisfaction.

Extensive research has revealed that excelling in your career isn’t solely dependent on job performance, but equally influenced by the strength of your relationships. Whether you’re aiming for a promotion, seeking professional growth, or simply desiring a fulfilling work environment, the quality of your connections matters.

We’ve all encountered colleagues who enrich our work lives, making the workplace more vibrant and enjoyable. On the other hand, we’ve also encountered individuals who posed challenges to collaboration. Despite the significant impact of these working relationships, many of us allow them to develop haphazardly, relying on chance rather than intention.

This is where Michael Bungay Stanier steps in. He has recently written a book on implementing intentional approaches that enhance workplace relationships, and we’re privileged to have him back on the show to discuss how we can effectively work with (almost) anyone.

In this episode, we uncover valuable insights on nurturing and maximizing the potential of your professional connections.

“What’s your best is different from what you’re good at. And what are you good at can be a bit of a trap, because we sometimes get captured by our own competence.”

Here are some key highlights from our conversation:

  • The keystone conversation: We explore a transformative approach centered around five essential questions that shape how we engage and connect with others. These conversations can unlock growth and understanding.
  • Universal characteristics of exceptional relationships: We explore the key qualities that make relationships thrive—safety, vitality, and repairability. When these elements are present, we cultivate lasting connections.
  • The Best Possible Relationship (or BPR): We discuss how improving a relationship, even by 3%, can make a significant difference to your reality at work. By intentionally investing in our connections and striving for small improvements, we can unlock extraordinary results.
  • The five questions that can guide you in a keystone conversation: Engaging in a keystone conversation involves asking five essential questions that shape the conversation and deepen the connection. We discuss these questions and the va;ue they can bring to both parties.
  • Identifying BPRs to have keystone conversations with: discover how to identify individuals who can have a significant impact on your professional growth. These relationships can be catalysts for your development.
  • Psychological safety and psychological bravery: Michael highlights the role of psychological safety and bravery in fostering healthy working relationships. These qualities empower us to express ourselves authentically and take risks in our growth journey.

    “The biggest of all things is to be the person brave enough to say, let’s have a conversation about this.”

  • The ultimate manifestation of care: Initiating a keystone conversation demonstrates a deep level of care. It is an invitation to engage meaningfully and shows your commitment to relationship-building.
  • Company culture as a pointillist painting: Michael offers an analogy that illuminates the intricate details and nuances of company culture.

Join us in this episode as we uncover strategies to intentionally nurture and enhance your professional connections and build a better company culture.

Listen to the interview in the player below or on iTunes. If you like what you hear, please leave a review, and it may be featured on a future episode.

More about Michael Bungay Stanier

Michael Bungay Stanier is at the forefront of shaping how organizations around the world make being coach-like an essential leadership competency.

His book The Coaching Habit “unweirds coaching”. It is the best-selling coaching book of this century, with over a million copies sold and more than ten thousand five-star reviews on Amazon.

In 2019, he was named the #1 thought leader in coaching. Michael was the first Canadian Coach of the Year, has been named a Global Coaching Guru since 2014, and was a Rhodes Scholar. His most recent book, How to Work with (Almost) Anyone, shows how to build the Best Possible Relationship with the key people at work. Michael founded Box of Crayons, a learning and development company that had helped hundreds of organizations transform from advice-driven to curiosity-led. (Learn more at Michael is a compelling speaker and facilitator, combining practicality, humour, and an unprecedented degree of engagement with the audience. He’s spoken on stages and screens around the world in front of crowds ranging from ten to ten thousand.

His TEDx talk has been watched by a million and a half people. (Learn more at

En route to today—and these are essential parts of his origin story—Michael knocked himself unconscious as a labourer by hitting himself in the head with a shovel, mastered stagecraft at law school by appearing in a skit called Synchronized Nude Male Modelling, and his first paid piece of writing was a Harlequin Romance-esque story involving a misdelivered letter … and called The Male Delivery.

Companies mentioned in this episode

Box of Crayons

Google’s project oxygen

Project Aristotle

Books mentioned in this episode

How to Work with (Almost) Anyone by Michael Bungay Stanier

The Coaching Habit by Michael Bungay Stanier

People mentioned in this episode

Amy Edmondson

Shannon Minifie, CEO of Box of Crayons

Whitney Johnson

John Gottman

Additional resources

CultureBrained® Community – a one-of-a-kind virtual community for Heads of Culture, founders, and leaders who want to up their culture game.

The Culture Playbook Guide.

Discover Your Personal Values.

Readme or user manual guides

Previous episode of Michael Bungay Stanier: Building a Coaching Culture

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