The 3 Components of Doing Great Work

April 8, 2015

components of doing great work

How do you know if you are truly doing Great Work? See what Box of Crayons founder and senior partner Michael Bungay Stanier has to say about that particular challenge.

AMA: You speak a lot about the variables surrounding actually accomplishing things at work. What are the factors that contribute to doing Great Work?

MBS: There are three broad components you need to do more Great Work. Number one is focus. Focus is all. I think there are two places that you would choose to focus.  One is, focus on yourself ‑‑ who am I; what do I care about; what matters to me ‑‑ because until you’re clear about that in terms of what lights you up, what engages you, it’s pretty hard to find Great Work.  You need to know yourself and be able to steer your own ship.

The other place to focus involves what’s around you; where are the opportunities to do Great Work?  Because for most of us, our experience in work, I think, is: “I show up, there’s a bunch of stuff I have to get through. I do what I can to get through it as fast as I can ‑‑ get my inbox down, get my meetings done, etc.” Whereas what I’m saying is that actually you need to make some choices about where you truly give your time and energy and focus. In doing that, where do you reduce your time, energy, and focus rather than trying to do it all at the same level all the time? So focus is the first of the three components.

The second component is courage. This is because it’s one thing to know what your Great Work might be. It’s another thing all together to be brave enough to start doing it. Organizations are set up to do Good Work.  So to do Great Work is a courageous act.  In fact, it’s kind of almost a countercultural act at times to actually do that. Here’s one of the counterintuitive metrics that starts showing up:  If everybody is happy, you’re not doing Great Work.  One of the ways you know you’re on the right path is that somewhere, someone is feeling a little let down or disappointed or frustrated. That’s because you’ve chosen to say No to something so you can say Yes to Great Work.

The third component is resilience, because when you’re on this journey, there are times when you will fall, when you will stumble, where it will be ambiguous and you’ll get lost. It’s what sets the good apart from the great. When you’re up against it, do you give up, or do you get up and keep going?  This resilience will keep you from folding when times get tough, and that’s why it is the third element of doing Great Work.

Find out what else you can learn from Michael Bungay Stanier with this free webcast.

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About The Author

Michael Bungay Stanier is the Senior Partner of Box of Crayons, a company that gives busy managers the tools to coach in 10 minutes or less. He's the author of five books, the most recent of which is The Coaching Habit: Say Less, Ask More & Change the Way You Lead Forever. Dan Pink calls it "simple yet profound". Brené Brown says "practical and inspiring."

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