By Phil Klutts
August 15, 2023

Practical strategies for work relationships

Tired of workplace misunderstandings? In this book, learn the skills to foster better connections at work.

How to Work with (Almost) Anyone

By Michael Bungay Stanier

So many aspects of our working lives revolve around the people in our organizations: coworkers, bosses, subordinates, clients, etc. Yet many of us don’t put strategic effort into making them better. In his book, “How to Work With (Almost) Anyone,” Michael Bungay Stanier gives us a framework and tactics to improve our working relationships. He brings forward five questions to complete a “Keystone Conversation” that will lead to what he calls the “Best Possible Relationship.”

“How to Work With (Almost) Anyone” outlines how to prepare for the conversation, ways to execute it, and methods to maintain a good relationship. Each chapter is short and easy to read, making this a great book for even professionals who don’t love to read. The chapters include a story, drive home the point, and give an exercise, diagram, or chart to help implement the topic. Stanier also includes ways to dive deeper into any of the five questions. 

The purpose of the Keystone Conversation, and the five questions that go with it, is to better know yourself and the person you work with. You prepare for the conversations by answering the questions yourself before asking your counterpart to answer the questions during the Keystone Conversation. And yes, you will also share your answers with the other person. The Keystone Conversation creates permission, shared responsibility, and a deeper understanding of the relationship between those that participate. Stanier says that relationships can be created that are “safe, vital, and repairable.” And he gives practical ways to make it happen. 

The five essential questions are not ground-breaking. They come across as straightforward and are easy to answer quickly. But Stanier knows the power of simple questions (check out his book, “The Coaching Habit”) and how powerful they can be. He points out that although they are easy to answer quickly, these questions can take time and thought to answer well. You may be surprised by what you find out about yourself but also enlightened by what others will share during the five questions. 

The questions are: 

  1. The Amplify Question: What is your best? 
  2. The Steady Question: What are your practices and preferences? 
  3. The Good Date Question: What can you learn from a successful past relationship?
  4. The Bad Date Question: What can you learn from a frustrating past relationship?
  5. The Repair Question: How will you fix it when things go wrong? 

Once you’ve reviewed the questions and started the conversation, there are a couple of things to remember. First, don’t try to fix or solve anything that is shared. This is a conversation to learn, not to respond or give advice. Second, Stanier encourages us not to skip the hard parts. Talk about the uncomfortable things in your past or your relationships. The benefits in the future will far outweigh the challenges. 

The hardest part about the Keystone Conversation is not the reflection or answering the questions. The hardest part of having the best relationship ever is the bravery it takes to start the conversation. You’ll face resistance from yourself and the coworkers you ask to have the conversations with. Once you get past this resistance, you will start to enjoy the benefits of building trust and thriving in work relationships. 

“How to Work with (Almost) Anyone” is a book that will impact almost anyone who reads it, assuming they put it into action and have keystone conversations. Stanier has set out to start a movement that will improve 10 million working relationships. Pick up a copy of the book and join the effort. 

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About Phil Klutts

Phil is an Edmond native and has managed to keep his wife here instead of traveling the world, which they both enjoy. They have two boys who love the outdoors, adventures, and learning new things. Phil is a problem-solver at heart and enjoys connecting people to the resources they need.

In addition to being the co-owner of Edmond Business, Phil founded the CK Group LLC after working for large and small businesses in the Energy, Construction, and Fitness industries. He focuses on helping small businesses and entrepreneurs improve their systems and processes. CK Group LLC's mission is to eliminate chaos and create clarity for small business by connecting vision, strategy, and implementation.