The 7 Step Coaching Process

For indepth analysis please check out the full book by Michael Bungay Stanier titled

the COACHING HABIT: Say Less, Ask More & Change the Way You Lead Forever on Amazon.

Coaching for Performance is about addressing and fixing a specific problem, sorting something out. Development is turning from the issue to the person dealing with the issue, calling individuals forward to learn, improve and grow. The remainder of this blog will follow this structure:

  1. The Kickstarter Questions “What’s on your mind?”
  2. The best coaching question in the world… “And what else”
  3. The Focus Question: What is the real challenge here for you?
  4. The Foundation Question: “What do you want?”
  5. The Lazy Question: “How can I help?”
  6. The Strategic Question: “If you are saying yes to this, what are you saying no to?”
  7. The Learning Question: “What was most useful for you?”

These simple triggers should form a line manager’s 101 bible for helping coach their team around them.

20 Tips To Avoid The 40% Failure Rate When Onboarding A New Leader

Most of the onboarding of new leaders and managers is common sense. Still, different people latch on to different nuggets that help their chances of success in a world where 40% of new leaders fail in their first 18 months.

These tips all nest under the importance of getting a head start, managing the message, setting direction, building the team and delivering results.

1. Failure to deliver is the #2 cause of failure. Get done what they need you to get done.

2. Adjusting to the culture. Keep your eyes open and adjust to changes as they arise.

3. No one cares about you. They care about what you can do for them.

4. Avoid the 100-Day Plan for Interviews trap. If asked to prepare a 100-day Plan for a final interview, position your plan in the context of the company’s objectives and 12-month goals.

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5. Plan your meetings. Live meetings can have flexible agendas. Virtual meetings need deliberate and detailed content, meeting flow, and technology planning, preparation, and rehearsals.

6. Answer three due diligence questions:

      • What is the organization’s sustainable competitive advantage? (Organizational risk.)
      • Did anyone have concerns about this role; and, if so, what was done to mitigate them? (Role risk)
      • What, specifically, about me, led the organization to offer me the job? (Personal risk.)

7. Dig into the culture. Make sure you understand:

      • Behaviours: Flexible vs. stable discipline | Interdependent vs. independent | Enjoyment vs. order
      • Relationships: Purpose vs. authority | Informal vs. formal communications | Diffused vs. hierarchical decisions
      • Attitudes: Innovation vs. minimum viable strategy | Proactive vs. responsive | Learning vs. safety
      • Values: Purpose as intended vs as written | Open/shared vs. directed learning | Caring vs. results focus

8. Assess the onboarding risk. 

      • If it’s low, do nothing out of the ordinary. 
      • If it’s manageable, manage it in the normal course of events.
      • If it’s mission-crippling, resolve or mitigate before accepting the role.
      • If the barriers are insurmountable, walk away.

9. Identify the contributors, watchers, and detractors. Contributors share your agenda. Detractors want to stop you. Watchers haven’t decided yet. Turn the contributors into champions, the watchers into contributors, and get the detractors out of the way.

10. No one will believe what you say. They will believe what you do.

11. MAP your communication efforts across Messages.

      • Switching the “we” immediately, never talking about your old company again,
      • Stand on the shoulders of those who built the organization as you go forward,
      • leverage new change models to turn the old guard into partners.

12. Do not talk about yourself. No one cares about you. Their only question is “What does this mean for me?” 

13. Clarify your organizing concept. Get the strategy behind your communication points right.

14. Make your communication emotional, rational, and inspirational– in that order. Emotionally connect with people, then be honest about the truth and facts of the situation. Then provide an inspired solution with a specific call to action to inspire.

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15. Create an imperative.

      • If you tell people to do something, the best you can hope for is compliance.
      • If you want people to contribute, sell, test, or consult.
      • If you want their commitment, you need to co-create.

16. Put in place milestones. Strategies are practically useless until turned into actions with clarity. Make sure someone owns the process and follows through on milestone tracking regularly.

17. Get the right people in the right roles early on. The #1 regret leaders have when reflecting on their careers is not moving fast enough on people.

      • Invest in under-performing people in the right role.
      • Support effective people in the right role.
      • Move out under-performing people in the wrong role.
      • Move up outstanding people who are in the wrong role.

18. Systematize a management cadence. Manage core talent, strategic, capability and operating processes annually/quarterly.

      • Track programs monthly.
      • Track projects weekly.
      • Track tasks daily – perhaps with huddles.

19. Observe. Assess. Plan. Act.

      • Downplay minor and temporary changes. Control and stay focused on priorities.
      • Evolve through minor and enduring changes, factoring into ongoing team evolution.
      • Manage major and temporary changes. Deploy your incident management response plan.
      • Restart following a major and enduring change. Jump-shifting your strategy, organization, and operations to lead through the point of inflection.

20. Keep going. Keep growing, conducting a self-assessment, and getting stakeholder feedback to inform course corrections in culture, priorities, and leadership approach.

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5 Steps To Calming The Waters When A New Boss Enters The Pool

… of all the things that can cause ripples in our ‘pond,’ changing leaders should be considered the equivalent of doing a cannonball dive into the water …

A quick note from Steve:

This article focuses on the new manager or leader, but the discussion can apply to anyone taking on the role of ‘New Boss.’



As leaders, we often consider organizational changes that impact our culture or progress toward successfully achieving our goals.

The change could be a location change, IT changes, new strategic plans, economic downturns or a myriad of organizational changes that can cause ripples in our corporate waters.

In my experience, one of the least managed organizational changes is a leadership change.

And of all the things that can cause ripples in our ‘pond,’ changing leaders or managers should be considered the equivalent of doing a cannonball dive into the water.

An additional complication is that boards of directors increasingly seek leaders from outside their organization. 

In 2017, 44% of US companies & organizations searching for new leadership hire from outside the organization.

Often, outsiders are chosen to deliver strategic course corrections, restructures, mergers, culture change, or digital transformation, and under short timelines, incoming leaders or managers need to have a deep understanding of their leadership competencies and effectiveness. 


The new leaders or managers as an organizational change challenge.

Most incoming leaders or managers, internal or external, get off to a rocky start. 

Society for Human Resource Management research shows that 58% of senior leadership hires struggle in their new positions after 18 months. 

18 months!

Therefore, carefully planning a new chief executive’s integration is crucial. 


What is the key to success? 

Your success must be gained by building momentum across the whole organization.

Not by acting frenetically but by thoughtfully choosing the speed to help the organization mobilize, execute, and transform effectively. 

The incoming leader or manager must need to:

  • gain knowledge of board expectations,
  • understand the bench strength of the leadership team, and,
  • appreciate the organization’s culture.

This will help leaders or managers understand when to gather insights when to make fact-based decisions, and when to execute quickly.


Five steps to speed up new leaders or managers’ integration

In my experience, new leaders or managers who take the following five steps have the best chance at successful acceleration.


  1. What are your unique strengths?

The characteristics that have served you well so far may not lead to success in a new role as a leader or manager. 

Success in your new role depends on navigating the organization’s current cultural context and quickly understanding the roadblocks to performance. 

Self-awareness is crucial. The ability to reflect upon and assess one’s strengths, weaknesses, and leadership style will enable proper planning on how to change the culture and increase performance.

Consider the following questions to help align your and the organization’s unique strengths: 

  • Why was I hired for this role; what is my differentiation?
  • What is my vision for this organization? 
  • What distinctive strengths can I leverage in this context? 
  • What might derail me within this organization?
  • How do I become more self-aware and plan for my blind spots? 
  • What do I hope my legacy will be?

 Read the seven career-saving questions you should ask before starting a new project.

  1. Build an adequate influence base.

External leaders or managers are typically brought in to drive transformational change.

Everyone expects change, so every move of the new leader or manager is evaluated and scrutinized for meaning. 

Understanding the formal and informal sources of influence within an organization takes time.

You need to talk to your people to get a clear view of what they love and hate, what they see as most broken, and what excites them. 

As a new leader or manager, you will be under a lot of pressure—from the board, your leadership team, and the culture itself—to show up and make change happen quickly. 

Don’t fall into the trap of making big decisions too quickly—you don’t know enough to know whether they are the right decisions. 

Getting to know the key stakeholders will help new leaders or managers develop a plan to build relationships that can quickly transform influencers into advocates.

Addressing the following questions is a significant next step: 

  • How do I identify the key influencers? 
  • Where are the real influencers within the organization below my leadership team?
  • What questions should I ask key constituents to build my knowledge base?
  • How do I effectively structure a listening tour?
  • How will I structure my story and share my vision for the organization?

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  1. Define success and priorities.

Incoming leaders or managers typically align highly with the board and other senior executives regarding what constitutes success and what the priorities are. 

The new leaders or managers need a detailed definition of success and what needs to be addressed first. 

It is essential to take the time to define the high-impact opportunities that will impact customers, products, systems, and people. 

Careful management of the first 100 days is critical to the success of the new leaders or managers. 

This is the time when the stakes are high for both the organization and the reputation of the incoming leaders or managers. 

Ideally, the 100-day playbook will accelerate the integration of new executives into their new environment while prioritizing quick wins and longer-term strategic capabilities.

Addressing the following questions will get leaders or managers started on this step: 

  • What are the performance indicators for this role?
  • How will my performance be evaluated in six months and a year? 
  • How (and from whom) will I receive feedback?
  • How will I get oriented to our markets, customers, and organization?
  • How will I get clarity on and manage board expectations? 

Read more about managing competing priorities.

  1. Mobilize the top team quickly.

Most often, a new leader or manager makes changes to the senior team. 

In 2017, 91% of S&P 500 companies indicated that changes in leaders or managers would accompany changes at the director or senior executive levels.

Given the change agenda, new external leaders or managers need to develop an understanding of the senior team’s performance and quickly make decisions on how to bolster the team’s effectiveness.

Addressing the following questions will help new leaders or managers shape and mobilize their top teams: 

  • How will I assess my team’s baseline level of performance?
  • What are the business goals or outcomes for which my team members are mutually accountable?
  • How will I determine membership on my top team?
  • What operating norms do I think are needed on this team?
  • Who will support me in developing my team to accelerate performance?


  1. Shape the culture

Organizational culture is a crucial driver of change and a barrier to execution. 

In my experience, everyday cultural strengths and liabilities have become so ingrained and automatic that they are not questioned. 

If the cultural fit between the new leaders or managers and the organization is off, execution can feel like pushing a rope.

This challenge has been defined as the Culture Eating Strategy’s lunch because dysfunctional cultural habits can chew up any improvement the new leaders or managers try to make. 

A major study shows that 70% of all change efforts fail to achieve their objectives. 

The new leaders or managers must quickly become familiar with the cultural values, unwritten rules, and practices of their new organization. 

Addressing the following questions will give new leaders or managers a cultural grounding:

  • What are the strengths and liabilities of the current culture?
  • How do I shape the culture to align with our new strategic direction?
  • How do I improve high-performing behaviours such as accountability and collaboration?
  • How can I better understand the shadow of my leadership team?
  • What is the execution effectiveness of my organization?

 Read more about culture.


Newly appointed leaders risk failure unless they address the obstacles to their organizational and personal success. 

If poorly made, a new leader or manager’s initial set of decisions and actions will create unintended consequences that will be difficult to reverse. 

Therefore, initial actions and decisions must be carefully planned.

An acceleration requires new leaders or managers to:

  • assess and develop themselves to be most effective in the new context; 
  • understand their organization’s influencers and culture, 
  • how to leverage both for success; 
  • develop a detailed and shared understanding of success and priorities, and 
  • mobilize their top team. 

Those who take the time to do so put themselves on the best path toward lasting success.

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Why 75 Is The Single Most Important Number You Will Ever Need To Lead



I have been in the leadership business for over 40 years and have worked with thousands of leaders, and I have found people consistently struggle with the same three things:


Making Decisions; and,


 Well, Ladies and gentlemen -Drum roll-  here for your leadership pleasure is the 75% solution:


A great friend of mine, Hugh Culver, used to speak a lot about time management. The first time I met Hugh, he gave me productivity advice that I started using immediately following the workshop and still use to this day.

 Hugh made the point that, as leaders, we should not schedule more than 75% of the available time in our calendars.

 If you jam your calendar full of back-to-back appointments, you will never have time to deal with all of the things that you need to do, from the inevitable emergency to walking around talking and checking in with team members to going to the bathroom.

 read more about time & millennials


One of my all-time favourite leaders is General Norman Schwarzkopf. He is best known as the Commander of all the Coalition Forces during the 1st Gulf War, and he said that the quality of your decisions would not increase beyond knowing 75% of the available information.

 His point is that at a certain point, you have all the information you need to make a good decision. Trying to gather more information will seldom improve that decision. In common parlance, avoid analysis paralysis.

Learn about making good decisions.


Have you ever pushed yourself to your maximum discomfort and physical ability threshold?

Once you hit that threshold when your mind believes you are done, your body only uses 75% of your energy.

Special Forces soldiers know that when you think you are done, your body can still do 25%—40% more. Humans are evolutionarily designed to have energy in reserve, so when you are trying to run down a mammoth or escape a sabre-tooth tiger, you feel you have nothing left to give. You still have a reserve, hopefully enough to either escape or bring dinner home.

Learn More about Sabre-tooth Tigers

In the Citizen’s Interest: A Dynamic Talk with Steve Armstrong

A quick note to my Readers.

In addition to my work and business, I serve on several Boards and working groups in the healthcare field. Through volunteering with Imagine Citizens Network, I was asked to share my thoughts on improving the healthcare supply chain following the COVID-19 pandemic.

Thank you, SCAN-H, for the privilege.

(Scroll to the bottom of this page to watch the video of the interview)

In the intricate web of healthcare supply chains, disruptions can have far-reaching consequences, profoundly impacting the everyday lives of Canadians. Recently, the SCANH team convened a Citizens Forum, bringing together diverse voices to tackle the challenges of the healthcare supply chain. At the heart of this forum lies the Imagine Citizens Network is an Alberta-based network dedicated to amplifying citizen voices and driving transformation within the healthcare sector.

Reflecting on the discussions held at the forum, it is very evident that citizen perspectives are indispensable in shaping resilient healthcare supply chains. Drawing from insights shared by Steve Armstrong, a recent guest on our podcast, we recognize the importance of incorporating citizen voices into the healthcare Supply chain resilience dialogue.

As Armstrong aptly stated, “Most of us don’t care day to day until we need it… even with toilet paper, nobody thought it was a precious commodity until someone thought we were running out of it.”; This sentiment underscores the reality of what many people take for granted: the seamless functioning of healthcare supply chains until confronted with shortages or disruptions.

“They just want to be able to go to a hospital, go to the doctor, go to the pharmacy, get what they need, and come home because we’re kind of spoiled that way,” Armstrong further emphasizes. This desire for seamless access to healthcare resources underscores the importance of citizen-centric solutions prioritizing accessibility and reliability.

Armstrong highlights the need to humanize the conversation around healthcare supply chains, recognizing patients as individuals with unique needs and experiences. “I think what I offer as a potential patient… is how we level out the information and how we bring the conversation down to earth that we talk about patients as human beings,” he remarks. In doing so, we recognize that the endpoint of the healthcare supply chain is a person, a human being, and humanity must be central to healthcare supply chain solutions. Healthcare supply chain solutions must foster empathy and ensure that they are tailored to meet the diverse needs of every citizen.

As we navigate the complexities of healthcare supply chains, Armstrong stresses the importance of inclusive dialogue and citizen participation in shaping solutions. “I think we have to make sure that we’re having these conversations, so people feel heard and participatory in the solution,” he asserts. Indeed, engaging citizens as active stakeholders in decision-making processes is essential to fostering trust and driving meaningful change.

Moreover, Armstrong urges a shift towards collective problem-solving, recognizing that “We need more citizens and conversations. We need more citizens at the table. Your voices matter, and it is essential to understand how the healthcare supply chain impacts you.” By leveraging citizens’ collective wisdom and experiences, we can Identify innovative approaches to enhance the resilience and effectiveness of healthcare supply chains.

Against this backdrop of local insights, global events are stark reminders of the far-reaching consequences of supply chain disruptions. From the recent cyberattack on a major health insurer in the United States, disrupting prescription drug orders for thousands of pharmacies, to ongoing drug shortages affecting individuals managing health challenges, the imperative for action looms large.

In the face of these challenges, citizens emerge as potent agents of change, wielding collective power to advocate for their needs and catalyze meaningful action. As SCANH Citizens Forum and the Imagine Citizens Network chart the path forward, citizen perspectives must remain central to supplying resilience strategies and providing solutions. They are not just about health systems and logistics but are fundamentally about people.

This partnership embodies the vision of a healthcare system designed in collaboration with citizens to achieve optimal outcomes for all. As we navigate the complexities of healthcare supply chains and build solutions to advance resilience, let us remain steadfast in our commitment to putting people first and ensuring that no one is left behind in the quest for healthcare resilience and equity.

Check out Steve’s episode here.

3 Steps To Building Trust So It’s Ready When Your Team Needs It

We often think of trust as a fixed, static idea, such as “We trust the Union” or “The Operations Team doesn’t trust us.”

However, trust is more complex than that, and oversimplifying our understanding of it prevents us from applying the proper techniques to improve it. Instead, leaders should consider the three fundamental raw materials on which trust is built: competence, benevolence, and reliability.

How these materials mix will depend on context. However, effective leaders need to assess which of these trust components is lacking within their teams and follow steps tailored to that specific component of trust.

It’s time to abandon generalized, generic models for building trust. Below, we share the three steps you can follow to build trust. First, identify which of the raw materials of trust your teams lack and then use the proper methods to increase them.


Step 1: Make Sure Everyone Knows What They’re Doing (Competence)


What It Is: Competence is the ability to do something efficiently and successfully. It includes hard skills, such as technical knowledge (the ability to create and deliver a product or service), and soft skills, such as social knowledge (understanding people and team environments). In short, competent people are “good at their job.”

How You Know It’s Missing: In many ways, competence is often the easiest to assess, as people either possess the necessary skills to execute their jobs or don’t. However, poor performance is not always a direct result of incompetence, as other factors may be at play. Someone may know how to get the job done but lack the capacity due to many factors, such as having too many tasks, personal stress, or not being given the proper tools to succeed. Determining which factor may be at play as a leader prevents acting on faulty assumptions.

What To Do About It

Provide targeted feedback. To give effective feedback, you must first clarify what “good” looks like. This might be a job description or a conversation at the beginning of a project to clarify expectations for each team member. Establishing that benchmark first allows you to provide targeted feedback by comparing actual performance to already agreed-upon expectations. Once you understand the gap between performance and expectations, you can work with your team members to develop an improvement plan.

Ask questions and coach. The best way to change someone’s behaviours is not to tell them the answers but to ask questions that help them find the answers themselves. Try asking a struggling team member: “I saw x and y this week, and I am concerned; can you tell me what’s going on?” and “What do you think should happen next, and how can I support you?” Asking – rather than simply directing – empowers your people to act and builds a relationship of mutual respect.

The Six Questions You Must Ask To Be A Better Coach

Acknowledge your strengths and weaknesses and openly share that information with others. Demonstrating self-awareness regarding your skills will give others confidence that you understand your limitations and the value you can add to the team. Then, proactively take steps to mitigate those limitations, either through personal development (training, mentoring, practice) or procuring the support of others who can ensure no balls are dropped.


Step 2: Build your Team into a Community (Benevolence)


What It Is: Benevolence is the quality of being well-meaning and the degree to which you have others’ interests at heart. Benevolent people care about others. The more a teammate can demonstrate the motivation to serve others or the team, the greater trust is built.

How You Know It’s Missing: A lack of benevolence can show up as siloes, where people consistently choose themselves and their team over others. Other subtle ways include team meetings where people may respond to others with what seems like agreement before following up with “but,” interrupting speakers or ignoring requests for help.

Read more about how one word can impact your culture 

What To Do About It: Avoid judgment when you notice a lack of benevolence. Every person believes they’re doing the right thing under the circumstances. So, leaders should understand why they took a particular action that appeared self-serving. Techniques to improve benevolence include:

Active listening helps demonstrate that you’re paying attention, wish to understand someone else, and care about their answers and, by extension, them as a person. Active listening can be broken into three subskills, all of which you can start implementing today to understand your people better:

    • Paraphrasing- Restate what the person said in your own words.
      “Let me say that back to you to make sure I understand…”
    • Labelling- Identify the emotion being shown by your team member
      “Seems like that is frustrating.” or “Sounds like that made you angry.”
    • Mirroring- Ask someone to explain what they mean by certain words or phrases: “I just don’t understand what they think they’re doing. It’s so confusing.” Or, “What do you mean by confusing?”

Get your copy of the 27 open-ended questions ‘cheat sheet’

Ask for help when you need it. As a leader, your willingness to share and request assistance sets an example for others to follow and signals to everyone that this is where we help each other. First, start with small tasks that may not take much time but might make a considerable difference in freeing up your capacity. Be sure to recognize and thank those who step up to help.

Step 3: Build Consistency Into People and Processes (Reliability)

What It Is: Reliability is the ability to be dependable and behave consistently. Reliable people do what they say they will.

How You Know It’s Missing: The easiest way to know reliability is lacking is when timelines are not respected. However, a lack of reliability can also manifest in other ways, including treating others inconsistently (showing favouritism or being particularly hard on someone) or being hypocritical in asking people to do something they wouldn’t do themselves.

What To Do About It: Reliability begins with accountability and transparency.

    • If someone is not delivering what they’re supposed to, when they’re supposed to, explicitly have that conversation about expectations and consequences. By mutually agreeing on objectives, responsibilities, and expectations and putting them down in writing, you now have a vehicle to hold people accountable for something they decide to own. If they need more support, create frequent check-ins, but lessen the oversight as they develop a proven track record of delivering.
    • Create transparency in what decisions are being made and why. Any time a request is made, it includes an explanation of the ultimate objective to help people understand why they are being asked to do something. That deeper understanding lets individuals know where/how to deviate from the project should circumstances change. People like having reasons, so give them the ‘because’ behind a request so they can figure out what the team needs without being asked.

Learn more about better results through communications

Unfortunately, these actions will only change your teams’ trust after some time.

Trust is hard to build and happens slowly, so it is essential to start now.

And even if the returns of these actions are down the line, there are slow, smooth actions that you can implement today that build the capacity for fast action when needed most.