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January 19, 2010
Less good work, more great work

I suppose everyone should exercise in the morning. But this was a networking exercise lead by Box of Crayons founder Michael Bungay Stanier: “I want you all to pull out your business cards. Stand up. Go and find somebody you’ve never met before and introduce yourself. Now, for three minutes, here’s what I want you to talk about: What was the high point and the low point of last week for you? Go.”

That’s right, the first PMCQ breakfast meeting of 2010 started with corporate speed dating. Did you meet anyone special? Connect with a potential client? Find your soulmate? If you didn’t, then you got a chance to do it again. When the bell (yes, there was a bell) rang, we were told to thank the person and return to your seats.

Stanier’s high-point-low-point conversation starter is his way of trying to improve the small talk so many of us are not good at, but need to be in the world of business. It’s also a powerful coaching technique if you manage people, including clients, and build a different type of relationship with them.

Stanier’s company, Box of Crayons, is all about helping people to “do less good work and more great work.” Their approach to helping you and I is aptly summed up with a life-inspiring quote from Steve Jobs: “The only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking. Don’t settle. As with all matters of the heart, you’ll know when you find it.” Michael Stanier wants you to imagine everything you did fell into one of three boxes: bad work, good work and great work. What exactly is bad work? “It’s the work that makes you want to pick up a fork and stab it into your eye repeatedly.” It’s pointless meetings. Senior management going on and on about pointless stuff. Processes. Paperwork. Bureaucracy. Hoo boy, he’s singing our song.

Inspiration for doing away with bad work comes from an electronics retailer in the UK called Richer Sounds who are cited in the Guinness Book of records for having the highest retail sales per square foot. Their bureaucracy features a Cut the Crap Committee. Nuff said? The job of the committee is to rid the company of useless wastes of time and energy. In other words, they eliminate bad work. So what’s good work?

For Stanier, the best definition of good work is your own job description: what you do most of the time, most of the day. And there’s nothing wrong with it. Your organisation is set up for it. It’s the hard work you do week after week. But can you remember any of it? No, because it’s not great work.

Great work is the stuff you’re going to brag about. Put it on your CV. Write a blog about it. But great work comes with a whole lot of fear because it’s not easy. You could screw it up. If it was easy, you’d be doing a lot more of it. And we’d all like to be doing more great work because it’s exciting (when you succeed), but it’s just not as comfortable as sticking to the good work.

More speed dating (and much hilarity) ensued as our intrepid pharma pros gamely took on additional speed dating / networking exercises; exchanging stories of bad, good and great work we have all experienced. And everyone appeared to be willing to share their stories of failure and success — stories that united us all regardless of background, age or career experience. I suppose that really is the point of quality networking. We can exchange business cards, but can we turn small talk into stories that might be perceived as either wallowing in self-pity or just bragging? Depends on how you define your own bad, good and great work.

Rich Hammond


Wednesday, March 17, 2021

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