Interview with Michael Bungay Stanier: “The Advice Trap”

As a follow up to his number one best selling book The Coaching Habit – one of the top books that I recommend to clients – Michael Bungay Stanier is releasing a new book on February 29th titled The Advice Trap!

I first learned about Michael a few years ago when I was creating materials for a new coaching workshop that I was developing…as well as pondering writing a book myself. I searched using the terms “coaching habit” and Michael’s book The Coaching Habit was the number one hit. Of course I had to buy it – and quickly was jealous that he wrote the book I wish I had written!

I’m grateful that MBS did write The Coaching Habit – and has followed it up with another fantastic, tangible, witty, and actionable book, The Advice Trap. I now have another go-to book to recommend to clients, and I highly recommend it to you too!

(My book writing energy took my a different direction and led me to collaborate with Isao Yoshino on leadership lessons from 40+ year of working at Toyota! More info coming soon for its release in June 2020).

Register for The Advice Trap Book Giveaway

Congratulations to the readers of this post who each won one of three free copies of The Advice Trap – courtesy of Michael Bungay Stanier himself. Giveaway is now closed, but you can still get your own copy of The Advice Trap or The Coaching Habit on Amazon.

Also check out for some special offers from Michael Bungay Stanier and his team at Box of Crayons.

Interview with Michael Bungay Stanier on his book “The Advice Trap”

I was thrilled to get access to a pre-release version of The Advice Trap and to have a “Q & A” interview session with Michael – read on below to read with MBS has to say.

1. Writing a book is a major undertaking! What inspired you to write your latest book, The Advice Trap?

You’re right: it IS a big deal. It’s a bit like women who have a second child … something biological has blocked out just what it took to have that first kid. The Coaching Habit was a big success, and lots of people have found it practical and useful. But plenty of people also continue to struggle to make curiosity a bigger part of their life. Turns out curiosity is a superpower: it increases engagement and impact. But its kryptonite is the Advice Monster … and that’s what the new book is all about. How do we #TameYourAdviceMonster.

2. When you look back a year from now on the first anniversary of book’s release, what does successful impact of The Advice Trap look like?

I try to focus on process goals, rather than outcome goals. As far as I can tell, NO-ONE (professional publishers included) knows if a book will be successful or not. So, success for me is a year spent getting the flywheel spinning, encouraging people to post reviews, appearing on podcasts and the like … and doing all I can to give the new book a chance at taking off.

3. I’m often asked by leaders and other coaches: “How do I know when I should tell someone what to do or give my advice?” What advice do you have about when someone should step out of asking questions and actually give their advice or share their idea?

Well, as a rule of thumb it would be “just a little later than you do it now.” And then, stop guessing and just ask, “Would it be helpful if I offered up some advice?” Then at the end ask, “What, if anything, was useful about that advice?” so you can get feedback on timing and value of what you’ve offered.

4. What is on your mind today, as you sit down to answer these questions, about coaching, asking questions, and giving advice?

Well, it’s two weeks [at the time of writing] until the official launch of the book, and at this very moment managing all the bits and pieces is all-consuming. So, it’s doing all we can to have the “minimum viable product” of a website and so on ready for February 29.

5. Of the three personas of the Advice Monster (Tell-It, Save-It, and Control-It) that you describe in the chapter “Taming Your Advice Monster”, which persona is most commonly triggered for you? And what specific practice have you found helpful to tame your own Advice Monster?

I’ve got a healthy dose of all three. But if I have to pick just one, it’s Control-It. And how to tame it? Curiosity is the most basic “chop wood, carry water” practice. And then for me, constant small experiments to test what happens when I let go of control.

(There’s a questionnaire at, so people can find out which Advice Monster is strongest in them, if they’re curious!)

6. What is something that you learned about coaching from the process of writing The Advice Trap?

What really struck home is, that for many of us, being more coach-like (i.e. staying curious a little bit longer) is easy in theory, and really hard in practice. That why we dive into this idea of Easy Change and Hard Change, and spend time on how to #TameYourAdviceMonster.

7. Building on one of your seven essential coaching questions, “And what else…?”, what is one question that I haven’t asked you here that you would like to answer? What is that question and what is your reply?

“What’s a fun project you’re up to right now?”

Nice question! The thing I’m most enjoying right now, and it’s a meta-answer to this question, is a new video series I’m posting call #MyBestQuestion. It’s a short video (no more than two minutes) posted Monday through Friday on LinkedIn (search the hashtag) or on my Instagram (@mbs_works). I’m really enjoying the commitment to film one or two of these every day. It’s got my creative juices flowing!

8. Unrelated to the topics of your book, I also have a question for you about the process of launching one’s book into the world. I’m about to publish my first book in June. What is something that you learned about publishing and promoting either The Coaching Habit or The Advice Trap that you wish you knew as a first-time author?

I get asked this a lot, and I wrote a big, juicy article about it here.

[Note from Katie: I’m super grateful for all of MBS’s advice as I move toward publishing my book Learning to Lead, Leading to Learn: Lessons from Toyota Leader Isao Yoshino on a Lifetime of Continuous Learning!].

Additional resources

If you are looking for more from Michael Bungay Stanier, check out this Episode of the “Just in Time Cafe” podcast interview with Elizabeth Swan (a Japan Study Trip participant of mine from May 2019).

And here are a few relevant blog posts of mine related to the topic of coaching, questions, and advice:

3 Tips for “Getting Out of the Habit of Telling” – Lean Talk from the Lean Transformation Summit 2018

Effectively Coaching for Problem Solving Webinar

How to Ask Effective Questions

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