The Last Ever Great Work Podcast!
If you’ve been a long-time listener to this podcast, you know that I’ve interviewed an eclectic bunch of people over the years. Sure, there’s been thought leaders and authors, but I’ve also talked to advocates for disability rights and a man who’s a champion for gay rights in Australia. All of us have the opportunity to do more Great Work, the work that has more impact, the work that has more meaning. The idea behind the Great Work Podcast was this: Let’s tap the wisdom of the room in the broader sense and see what’s out there.
Since we launched the Great Work Podcast eight or so years ago, my company, Box of Crayons, has both grown and focused in on its work. We help busy managers by teaching them practical skills for being more coach-like. So now it’s time to say goodbye to the Great Work Podcast. I’m thrilled to announce the launch of The Coaching Habit podcast.
Tune in to the last Great Work Podcast, and listen in as I give you a sneak preview of what’s to come.
Or bookmark it here to listen to later.
Michael: Hey there. It is Michael Bungay Stanier from Box of Crayons and this, this is the last episode of the Great Work Podcast. I know it feels like the end of the era. It probably is the end of an era, or at least in my life it’s the end of an era. We’ve had probably 400 episodes, maybe 350 guests from all over the place, plus assorted solo episodes with me pontificating and ranting about stuff.
Honestly, when I started this, it was really before the dawn of podcasting. We called the Great Work Interviews. We put it out not through a podcasting platform but just through our email list. Then, of course, podcasting came along and boomed. I’m like, actually turns out what I’ve been doing is a podcast. Who knew? We called it the Great Work Podcast, moved it onto iTunes and the rest. It’s been quite the ride. I’ve talked to some amazing people.
Really, it’s one of the things I’m proud of in this podcast series. It is true that the majority of my guests have often been authors, people with a point of view that they put out in the world, a book that I’ve read and I’ve gone this is cool, I want to share it.
I’ve tried to go a little beyond that so it’s not just thought leaders and book writers and the like. I’ve talked to people who are advocates for disability rights. I’ve talked to the sprint coach for a rugby player. I’ve talked to somebody who’s a champion for gay rights in Australia. I really wanted to get an eclectic bunch of people with the thought that all of us have the opportunity to do more great work, that work that has more impact, the work that has more meaning. Just because you’ve got a book written doesn’t mean you’ve got the only right to pontificate about that. Let’s tap the wisdom of the room in that broader sense and see what’s out there.
Now, since we launched the podcast six, seven, eight years ago, I didn’t even look that up, one of the things that’s changed is that my company, Box of Crayons, has both grown and focused in its work. Box of Crayons is now 15 years old, which makes me wonder how the hell did I get this old. Honestly, when we started Box of Crayons, it was me in my room. I called myself a company name to make me sound bigger than the one-person band that I was, but it was just me.
My business model was I’ll say yes to anything because I just moved to Toronto. I didn’t know anybody. I could turn my hand to a bunch of things, everything from leadership to strategy to innovation to market research. I’ve done all of that. I did an eclectic bunch of things and starting with a first piece of intellectual property that I created, something called The Eight Irresistible Principles of Fun. You can still find a little movie version of that on YouTube, if you want. Our mailing list group, we got some fans. I wrote about all sorts of stuff. I had a bit of a business focus, a bit of a self-help coaching, self-growth focus.
As the years have gone by, we’ve first of all, focused our business around the concept of great work. We would say we help people in organizations do less good work and more great work. That was supported by a book I put out in 2010 called Do More Great Work. By the way, we’ve just released the audio version of that, the same narrator who did the audio version of The Coaching Habit. He’s fantastic, Daniel. You’ll enjoy that if you like audio books. Supported by the End Malaria book that I did with Seth Godin, that even though it’s called End Malaria, it’s really 60 very smart people writing about how to do more great work. Of course, all the money, about $400,000, went to Malaria No More.
Whilst we still retain this commitment today to doing great work, that’s the impact we want in the world, the how we do that has really become much more narrow. Now when we talk about Box of Crayons, we talk about ourselves as a training company. What do we train? We train 10-minute coaching so busy managers can build stronger teams and get better results.
If you go to the website, boxofcrayons.com, we just bought the dot coms; I’m quite excited about that, you’ll see that we’ve recently given it a facelift. It’s just really clear, really unambiguous about what we do. We help busy managers and we give them the practical skills to be more coach-like. What that’s meant is that the Great Work Podcast, whilst a source of pleasure for me, has become, if you want to get strategic about it, unaligned with what we’re trying to achieve at Box of Crayons.
What I’ve been thinking about over the last little while is a couple of things. First of all, going what’s better aligned that will allow me to keep podcasting but support the business, and what could I do to shake things up a little bit because when I started sitting down and doing a 20 to 30-minute chat with somebody was not common, now it is the predominant podcast form, and there are a lot of podcasts out there, as no doubt you know. I’m like, how do we shift things around?
I’m going to tell you what we’ve come up with in just a second. In some ways I just want to think about before I talk about what’s next, how do I end this because this is a long series. There are some people in the world that are good at starting things and I’m good at starting things. There are some people in the world who are not so good at wrapping things up. I’m one of those people. I’m not that great at ending things. You may know the joke; there are two types of people in the world, those who start things and … that’s the joke.
I was thinking, who’s good at endings? I went to the Zeitgeist form of our time, TV series. I was like, lots of great TV, amazing TV series. It’s the golden age of TV series, they say. I thought about two series that I loved with different endings. The first was The Soprano’s. So good. I don’t know if you remember that last episode, but what we see is Tony Soprano and his family in a diner and the police closing in. Then it closes. We’re left in a state of unknowing, a state of ambiguity. How did it actually end? Of course, it’s a genius ending because rather than committing one way or the other and having people happy or sad or upset, it allows our own imagination to finish the series off.
The series that I’m using as inspiration for this is actually Battlestar Galactica. Honestly, I’m not a big science fiction fan, Marcella, my wife, said watch this series with me and it was fantastic; completely eclectic and random and philosophical, and I really loved it. The ending of Battlestar Galactica, and spoiler alert if you haven’t seen it and you wanted to see it, it ends at a new beginning. They find the planet that they’re searching for. You see the land, you see them starting to settle on the new planet, and other cool stuff happens. I was like, that’s the thing because that’s the nice segue way here. We’re ending, sure, but a new beginning is happening as well.
I’m really happy to announce that I’m launching a new podcast. It’s called The Coaching Habit. You can guess why. It’s aligned with the bestselling book, The Coaching Habit. I’ve had a quarter of a million copies are sold of that book, which is so thrilling for me. It’s been the number one coaching book on Amazon pretty much for the 18 months since its launch. It’s had a great success. It’s perfectly aligned with what we are and who we as a company at Box of Crayons, training busy managers to coach in 10 minutes or less.
The focus of the podcast is not really me just talking to coaches. That could be interesting, but really the people I serve are managers, leaders, normal people who want to be more coach-like in the life that they lead, in the work that they do. By more coach-like, I mean can you stay curious a little bit longer, can you rush to action and advice a little bit more slowly. It’s really about helping find people who I think show up in a coach-like way, and I’m talking to corporate leaders, I’m talking to entrepreneurs, I’m talking to book writers still, I’m talking to a few actual great coaches that I know.
Really, I’m just finding anybody I see who has a way of leading and a way of influencing people and going tell us what you know, tell us what you’ve gone through so that we all might be able to learn from that, similar in some ways to the Great Work Podcast, certainly in the caliber of the guests that I’ll be having.
We’ve got some interesting ideas to mix it up a little bit. We’ve got some little spin-off podcasts that we’ll be announcing and rolling off from that as well. Stay tuned. We haven’t launched it yet, but it is coming. We’ll put out a short announcement when the first episodes are available.
What have I actually learned from years of running podcasts? I thought to make it not just a pontification about my life and my podcast history, I’d share three stories, three lessons, if you like, that I’ve learned from my guests and that I now try and incorporate into my own life.
The first one would be this. I think these are skills that you can use not just if you get interviewed on a podcast, but actually just in life. These are good skills in terms of working with people, finding a better life. The first is to learn how to tell a good story. It is through our stories that we come alive. I’ve just been at a conference. There’s a whole bunch of sitting around and small talk and miscellaneous conversations. I was so struck by the fact that I would love it if somebody around this table told me a really good story rather than did banal small talk.
What is a good story? Find something from your past that’s entertaining or surprising or just has some meaning for you in that story. Then when you’re telling it, start fast. Just jump in. Take us there. Bring us to the imagination. One of the phrases that I love is, “you can see how it might work,” or “imagine this.” See, within “imagine this” we go, boom, and we’re into the story right away. Imagine this, I’m hiking in the Australian bush. Imagine this, it’s my first day showing up at Oxford. Imagine this, my first date with the woman who is going to become my wife. See, all of those are openings and entrances to going what’s going to happen next.
The second part of telling a good story I think is to know just a little bit about what the structure of what a good story is. The fancy thing to talk about is the hero’s journey, this 12-stage process that people have talked about that you see, for instance, in the structure of Star Wars most famously, I think, as a perfect example of that.
Honestly, what you need to know from the hero’s journey could be summed up like this: There’s hesitation, there’s uncertainty at the start, but you commit, you go into the darkness, the unknown. This is the adventure. You meet something difficult. You struggle a bit. You figure it out. You conquer it. You’ve probably got some people around you helping out, maybe some are leading you astray, maybe some are giving you guidance. Somehow you get back to the beginning again, a little smarter, a little wiser, a little richer, whatever that might be, and in effect, putting in some sense of conflict into your story. This is the hard thing I had to overcome is going to give your story richness and depth and drama.
I think the final thing about telling a story, if you wanted to get better at this, is to find a way to stick the landing. How do you finish strongly? I’m honestly not that good at this myself, but do you know how sometimes you hear a story and somebody just goes boom, drops the mic and walks off stage. It’s fantastic. Other times, and I’m certainly guilty of this, the story is a good story and then it trails away. You’re like, so … there you go. Just feels that a way of learning how to almost practice the ending is a way of really tying that story off with a bow.
The second lesson, if you like, that I think I’d encourage people to think about is, I want to put it like this, double down on your personality. I know that in my podcast, the Great Work Podcast, what I enjoyed the most are people who would show up full of themselves, and not in that way, one way you can interpret that which is I’m egotistical and I think I’m awesome. It’s more of a I know who I am and I’m showing up as that version of myself. One of the most, in fact, it’s maybe the last episode we put out with Jason Fox, a friend of mine from Australia, he’s a man with personality, and you totally get a sense of that personality coming through the podcast.
This is another way, in some ways of the Marcus Buckingham thing about play to your strength, work to your strengths. Of course, you’ve got to know what those strengths are. You’ve got to know what that personality is. I know my personality, for instance, has a dash of follow the rules and a dash of break the rules, a dash of provoke and stir things up. I’ll make a joke when I can find a joke to be made. I’ve got all of that. Rather than tamp that down, I want to bring that out to be the fuller version of myself.
There’s an exercise in the Do More Great Work book, that if you’re interested in this, you might be interested in. It’s called the This Not That Exercise. I’ve written about this as well on the blog. It says that one way of thinking about getting clearer on who you are is to create a little list of, let’s say, five to seven attributes of you at your best.
Rather than it just being a list of those positive attributes, it’s also paired up, each word is paired up with an attribute of you slightly not at your best. I have a list like this. It’s laminated. I carry it around in my facilitation bag so whenever I’m speaking or facilitating and I’m feeling nervous, I just refer to that list to remind myself of what I’m like at my best and what I’m like when I’m somehow just off my game slightly. Pairings are like step forward rather than step back. Be provocative rather than sycophantic. Don’t take it too seriously rather than worry a lot. You can see the nice little rhythms. I know that when I’m at my best, I’m light, I’m playful, I’m irreverent, and I know that sometimes I get suckered into not being that. That’s a bit of a ramble about doubling down on your personality.
Then the third thing I would say is this. Think about combining insight and action. Really, that’s what coaching is. I think of the coaching cycle simply like this: A new insight, maybe about yourself or about the situation, leads to action, behavior change, you do things differently. Behavior change leads to positive impact. Hopefully, positive impact then leads back to new insights that becomes this virtual circle of growth, insight, and impact. Wonderful.
So often in the work we do, the way we show up in life, is we pontificate about stuff. We talk about it in the abstract, but we don’t always translate theory to practice. As you think about the interactions you have, how can you think about turning what’s being said into an experiment, into trying something out, into doing something differently. I used a phrase, “here’s what that means” or “here’s one thing we could try” as a bridge to move from the idea I’ve been talking about to helping people put it into action.
There we go, my three lessons for their worth from the podcast conversation: telling a good story, doubling down on your personality, and combine insight with action. The final point is just to say thank you so much for listening to the podcast for so many years. I get so many lovely emails and notes from people saying they’ve enjoyed interviews or a particular interview. That’s always thrilling for me. I am excited to launch this new podcast. I really hope you’ll be part of that.
One thing I’d also say, maybe this is the final call to action. I am launching a new website. It’s boxofcrayons.com, which is about the training for coaches. Many of you listening are like, that’s good and I’m delighted for you, Michael, but that’s not something I’m particularly interested in, but I do like that other stuff that you do. I’m like, I like that other stuff as well.
A new website, michaelbungaystanier.com, it’s my full name. If you didn’t know this already, Bungay Stanier is my surname. When I got married, I combined my surname with my wife’s; michaelbungaystanier.com. Actually, if you go there now, you’ll see not much; the full website’s coming, but a chance to download a very cool eBook that I’ve written about the Power of Courage. A nice chance to pick up something new and interesting that you might enjoy. I do hope you’ll go over and check out michaelbungaystanier.com. Thank you. This is Michael Bungay Stanier of Box of Crayons and michaelbungaystanier.com signing off for, I think, the last time on the Great Work Podcast.