Five Ways to Be More Coach-Like, From Michael Bungay Stanier
Written by Geoff Knight.
January 16, 2020

As a series of posts leading up to our annual conference, Teaching | Learning | Coaching, we will be sharing thoughts and ideas by experts who will be presenting at the conference. The posts will surface many different ways of looking at coaching, and like the conference itself, we hope they inspire, educate, and provoke new thinking.

We don’t always agree with everything said by our colleagues, but we are grateful for others’ thinking. We move forward by challenging our beliefs, and we hope you feel challenged, too. You can keep up with the thought-provoking posts by subscribing to our newsletter.



From talking with coach and author Michael Bungay Stanier, we have learned some ways by which we can all become more coach-like. In this post, we are sharing our favorite five ways.


#1 A Coach Knows When to Be Lazy

Being lazy means stopping to rush in to fix things, do things, solve things for others, and instead let them have the opportunity to do that themselves. The problem with rushing in to fix everything for people is that it not only leaves them feeling exhausted and frustrated, but, often, even though your intention is good, rushing in is actually a disempowering act. Anne Lamott, who’s a great writer on writing (her book is called Bird By Bird), speaks about things she has learned about life from writing. Among these, I especially love the following advice “stop pushing your help on people because your advice is not nearly as good as you think it is.” That’s really what being lazy is about.


“This sets us up for this deep belief that we can actually coach in 10 minutes or less. This understanding is important because one of the great barriers to feeling that you can coach is thinking that you don’t have time for it.”


#2 A Coach Knows How to Be ‘Often’

Being “often” means recognizing that being more coach-like isn’t an occasional, formal act, like “Hey, come into my office because I’m going to coach you now.” Instead, it involves understanding that every interaction we engage in can be a bit more coach-like. This, in turn, sets us up for this deep belief that we can actually coach in 10 minutes or less. This understanding is important because one of the great barriers to feeling that you can coach is thinking that you don’t have time for it.


#3 A Coach is Comfortable Being Uncomfortable

Coaches shouldn’t be afraid to make any of their experiences in schools fun, engaging, and outside of what might be considered “conventional practice.”

On his book Get Un-stuck & Get Going… on the Stuff That Matters, Stainer writes:

“From my background in innovation and creativity, I have realized that one of the most important things coaching does is that it helps people generate better ideas and possibilities so that they make more courageous choices about what they end up doing.”


#4 A Coach Knows His or Her Types of Work

In his book Do More Great Work, Stainer writes about three types of work: bad work, good work, and great work. Bad work may be thought of as a waste of time, soul-sucking bureaucracy, and, let’s face it, teachers and administrators have plenty of that going on! Then there’s good work; good work is best defined the way a typical job description reads: productive, effective, makes a difference, has an important role to play. Great work, in turn, is work that has more impact, makes more of a difference, and has more meaning. In other words, it speaks to one’s values and what matters.


#5 A Coach Stays Curious

On his book The Coaching Habit, Stainer writes:

“It turns out that most people, no matter what their profession is, tend to be advice-giving maniacs. People love to give others the answers, and that’s the behavior this book is trying to shift. The first chapter talks about the science of habit building and why we need to understand what a habit is so that we can be more deliberate about changing our behavior. We often need a reminder to slow down the rush to advice-giving and stay curious a bit longer.”

If you would like to read a full interview with Michael Bungay Stainer check out our previous post.


Check out the full list of presenters at this year’s Teaching Learning Coaching Conference!  We hope to see you in San Antonio!




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