Michael Stanier: Doing More Great Work

We live in a world where 'being busy' is a a badge of honor, where being productive every minute of the day is a virtue. But when did being busy become a measure of success?

A better measurement, perhaps, is doing work that matters. Michael Bungay Stanier, an Aussie with a Rhodes Scholarship, has been helping others learn to do just that through his bestselling books and inspirational talks.

The writer of books such as “Do More Great Work”, “Get Unstuck and Get Going”, “Presentation Genius”, and “End Malaria”, Michael tackles the complexities of the working world and presents them in a clear, precise, understandable path to innovative productivity.

Michael’s book Do More Great Work was an Amazon.com best seller, with original contributions from renowned thought-leaders like Seth Godin, Leo Babauta, Chris Guillebeau, Michael Port, and David Ulrich.

Doing great work, as Michael portrays it, is doing work that is meaningful. He has found for himself what work is meaningful to him and found great success doing it.

As a much sought after keynote speaker, Michael brings both wisdom and hopefulness to his audiences. He inspires them, shows them processes that are proven to get them from where they are to where they want to be, and keeps them engaged with his comfortable style.

But not all was always smooth. Michael was banned from his high school reunion, was sued by one of his Law School lecturers for defamation, was fired on his first shift as a garage attendant and has held a number of jobs where he had little or no impact.

So how did Michael Bungay Stanier, boy from Australia, become the highly desired, wise coach he is today with credits such as Canadian Executive Coach of the Year in 2006? How did he create a business that enables him to do what he does so well – spread his valuable knowledge to those whom really benefit from it?
Check out my interview with this inspiring, intelligent man and learn about how you too can 'do more great work'!


1. You have written a number of inspiring books to help people get motivated and figure out how to pursue their paths to more meaningful work. Your highly popular book “Do More Great Work: Stop the Busywork. Start the Work That Matters” emphasizes this idea of great work versus just good work. What is the difference between good work and great work?

Here’s the quick and easy summary:

Bad Work: waste of time, life-draining and soul-sucking work. Anything that makes you go: What on earth am I doing this for?

Good Work: Your “job description”, whatever that might be. So it’s likely to be productive, useful and getting things done. It’s also a bit of a comfortable rut for you, and it no longer pushes and stretches and challenges you

Great Work: Work that has an impact, work that makes a difference, work that you care about.

And of course Work isn’t just limited to your work. These are definitions that stretch across everything you do in your life.

2. You have created a life for yourself in which you get to do great work on a regular basis as a keynote speaker and motivational coach. How did you discover that this was your talent – the great work that you wanted to do?

It’s all about experimentation and reflection. Try a little something. Step back and ask: is this really what I want? So in fact, I do very little coaching now because my Great Work is more focused on creating cool stuff. Coaching was fulfilling for a way but became more Good Work over time

3. How did you get started as a keynote speaker?

One speech at a time. I now speak to crowds that can number more than a thousand, but I started off giving small workshops and speeches to small groups. Sometimes, really really really small groups.

4. What motivated you to write your first book?

A combination of frustration at some of the business books I was reading (and how predictable they were), together with frustration about how coaching sometimes works (and coming up with a process that I thought could make coaching more accessible to more people) and someone saying to me “I like the idea of the book you told me about 4 years ago, and I’m going to take it if you’re not using it…” which finally kickstarted me!

5. In 2006, you received the distinction of Canadian Executive Coach of the Year. Were you surprised by this honor? Back as a young Rhodes Scholar, did you think this was where your life would be today?

One of the reasons I’m not so keen on 5 year plans is just how impossible it is to guess how the future unfolds. It’s useful to have goals and aspirations of course. But it’s also useful to have a foundation of values and a flexibility to go where the heart takes you (and where opportunities show themselves).
So in short: it was absolutely impossible to guess that I’d be here in 2006.

6. What advice would you give to someone who wanted to become a motivational coach or speaker like you?

Start now and figure out two things: first, what’s your “voice”. What’s the authentic way you speak to the world through your writing and through your speaking. Try on other people’s styles and through that find your own.
Second, what do you stand for? What’s your point of view. Most successful people in this game – me included – offer “old wine in new bottles”. The truths are timeless, but how you frame them is all important in making your work distinctive.

7. Do you have plans for the future of your business? Any particular aspirations?

I want to keep doing cool stuff I’m proud of – my own Great Work. So I keep asking myself, what’s the best idea I’ve got as a Great Work Project right now.

8. Do you feel like you have had to make any sacrifices being an entrepreneur?

I think any life you lead involves sacrifice. Being an entrepreneur sometimes makes those sacrifices a little more obvious, but everyone’s life comes down to this question: What am I saying Yes to? And therefore, what am I saying No to? And in everyone’s Yes is the possibility you’re getting it wrong, and in the No lies the sacrifice you’re making to really commit to your Yes.
So get clear and be mindful and be courageous about what you’re saying Yes to!

9. Looking back on the beginnings of your entrepreneurial life, is there something you would do differently now that you’ve had the experiences you have had?

I love the quote: Inspiration is when your past suddenly makes sense. You can’t change your past and you never know how your past decisions have got you to where you are now. So it’s not really a question I engage with. I’m trying to be focused on the here and now.

10. As a business, what is the one best thing you have done to build your business?

Asked for help and got support from coaching, mastermind groups, colleagues and team members. Taken my fingers out of too many pies, so I could concentrate on the stuff I’m best at. Thought about scaling and created systems to help me do that. Removed myself from the hub. Reminded myself that the business is only one part of my life.

Thank You Michael


Watch a clip of Michael Bungay Stanier from February 24, 2011as he speaks about his book Do More Great Work. Michael was invited by Google to be part of their Authors@Google lecture series, which brings innovative authors to discuss intellectual topics.

Michael Bungay Stanier is a motivational speaker. He speaks regularly to businesses and organizations such as Google, IBM and AOL. He is also a popular speaker at business and coaching conferences around the world. You can find more about him on his website boxofcrayons.biz and on Twitter at @boxofcrayons

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