Hands up if you have been looking forward to a great week at work this past Monday morning? Had you been counting down the hours till arriving at the office, fresh from your thanksgiving dinner(s), full of turkey & stuffing, relaxed by red wine, and sweetened by pumpkin pie (not that you needed sweetening). This week’s podcast is with Michael Bungay Stanier author of Find your great work. The concept about great work came from a book Michael was reading by Milton Glaser, the designer who created the ‘I Love New York’ advertisement campaign. Milton shared how there are different kinds of work, some of which he defined as great. We all have observed great work in our lives: it clearly stands out.
This question about great work led Michael to ask the questions around what makes for great work? How does an individual find great work? What would happen if we had more great work in our lives? This has led him on a 5-year quest seeking answers to these questions. Michael started by looking at the different types of work that we all do, and divided this into three categories.
1. Bad work. This usually incorporates doing busy, bureaucratic, and boring work where you’re often thinking, “this is not what I signed up for when I accepted this role.”
2. Good work. This is defined as the type of work that has a measure of comfortable engagement. We do it often, we do it well, and we get predictable results.
3. Great work: is defined as being in “flow” where time is almost standing still and we are in an immersion experience. This is one of those rarer occasions where we are pushing our skills and truly producing some extraordinary results often surprising our own sense of our skills.
Where is your great work? One simple exercise Michael suggests is to identify 5 times in your career where you achieved some outstanding results where you were on the edge and ask yourself some of the following questions.
- What were you doing?
- What was the setting?
- What was your role?
- Who were you with?
- What were the results?
Take some time to look at the patterns that are emerging. What are the themes? I tried this particular exercise myself recently, and it revealed an area in my work that I want to spend more time focusing on. What would your life be like if you did more great work? How much more energy would you have? How much more influence would you have?
I know this idea of great work sounds out of reach in some ways. One thing that really clicked with me is that work shouldn’t be great all of the time as that is an impossible mark to set. It is the mix of the three types of work and finding the right balance, which is key to your long-term career satisfaction. The great work journey takes commitment and time. Over the course of our careers we are all on the journey of finding the right mix of great and good while minimizing (or outsourcing) the amount of bad work.
As Michael remarked, “I have rarely heard professionals sharing they are too engaged or too stimulated at work or in relationships.” The irony is that as you pursue great work there are so many others that will benefit. The great work journey is worth the commitment.
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Finding the balance, along the road with you!
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