The author, Michael Bungay Stanier, was the Canadian executive coach of the year in 2006 and is a business consultant. Core message of the book is that many of us do far too much good work ("treading water") or bad work (energy draining activities) and not enough great work (offering true satisfaction). Stanier opens the book by defining Bad Work, Good Work and Great Work. And then rolls into the 15 short and snappy exercises supported by highly effective visual maps to help guide you through the process via brainstorming, reflection, analysis of actual observations.
1) Where are you now? (Map current mix of bad, good and great work. Assess)
2) What's Great? (Recall peak moments. Assess)
3) What are you like at your best? (Recall emotions at peak moments. Map "I am this...not that")
4) Who's great? (Think of role models that are inspiring and assess why. Choose characteristic. Emulate & Visualize)
5) What's Calling You? (Scan landscape for great opportunities. Analyze. What surprised you? Inspired you?)
6) What's Broken? (Map aggravations that "erode the quality of our lives." Assess. What can you change)
7) What's Required? (Map all the work you do on daily or weekly basis into one of 4 quadrants: a) They Care/You Care (Sweet spot/Do more-convert from good to great work) (b) They Care/I don't care. (Stop doing), (c) I Don't Care/They Care (Must do - delegate or be more efficient-embrace adequacy." (d) You Care/They Don't Care (Do it Elsewhere; do it undercover; re-label it)
8) What's the Best Choice? (Map your options. Rate/rank the options.
9) What's Possible? (Map creative new ideas and explore what can be converted to great work)
10) What's the Right Ending? (Explore different ways forward - What can be, what's changed, new outcome)
11)How Courageous are You? (Map safe to impossible methods to do more great work)
12)What Will you do? (Map (a) what is easiest to do, (b) what would have the greatest impact, (c) what do you want to do, (d) what Will you do)
13)What Support Do You Need? (Map people who have influence, skills, or love you)
14)What's the Next Step? (Map what you will do, by when, what's the first step, what accountability do you need - then analyze)
15)Lost Your Great Work Mojo? (Revert back to steps 1-14 and assess)
And the book concludes with 4 great work truths:
Great Work Truth #1: Things only get interesting when you take full responsibility for the choices you make.
Great Work Truth #2: To do more Great Work, you must both narrow and broaden your gaze.
Great Work Truth #3: Decide what to say no to.
Great Work Truth #4: Stop Making everyone happy.
Great Work Truth #5: Ask for Help.
This is an exercise workbook (more than a book) where Stanier allows reader to work their way forward to a solution to finding their own Great Work. The book also includes relevant and thoughtful quotes (Camus, Edmund Hillary) and passages from contemporary coaches (Seth Godin, Dave Ulrich, Penelope Trunk).