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Michael Bungay Stanier

December 12, 2013 by Speakers' Spotlight

Spotlight On: Michael Bungay Stanier, Organizational-Change Coach

Most organizations are set up to do good work—solid, reliable, efficient work that delivers the next quarter’s numbers. Michael Bungay Stanier wants to change all this. He believes it’s time for companies to stop doing good work, and start doing great work. Named “Canadian Coach of the Year” in 2006, Michael’s speeches and training workshops infuse audiences with enthusiasm and excitement for what’s possible, while helping them get “unstuck” and get going on the work that matters. We shine the spotlight on Michael this morning:

What inspired you to want to be a speaker?

At the age of five, I was going up to strangers in local supermarkets and saying, “Hi. My name is Michael. I can hop. Do you want to see me hop?” I guess my MO hasn’t changed much in forty years time…

Speaking, along with writing, is how you create connections and spread a message. At Box of Crayons [Michael’s company], we’ve got a goal to “infect a billion people with the possibility virus,” and so speaking is a key part of that plan

Any advice for aspiring speakers?

Realize there’s wisdom in the room beyond your own. The more you can tap into that, the better.

What do you like to leave audiences with?

A plan to do at least one thing differently, and the sense of relief that “this wasn’t an hour of my life I’ll never get back.”

How do you prepare before a talk? Any special rituals? A good luck talisman?

I don’t have any rituals, but on the days I’m feeling anxious, uncertain, jittery I do have a little list of attributes that remind me what I’m like when I’m at my best. It’s called the “this/not this” list and has pairs like “provocative/not sycophantic,” and “step forward/not retreat back.” It helps me show up as the best version of myself.

Do you have an especially memorable event you can tell us about?

The biggest reaction I got walking on to stage was at law school and the annual reveue we put on. The skit was called “Synchronized Nude Male Modelling.” You probably don’t need any more details other than that.

Any funny or embarrassing situations you found yourself in as a speaker?

Beyond being naked on stage? Not so much.

Is there a charitable cause that you feel passionate about? Why?

In 2011, I published (with Seth Godin) a book called End Malaria. It had 60 well known people sharing their best tips on how to do more “Great Work,” and all the profit from the book, about $20 per copy, went to Malaria No More. We’ve raised close to $400,000 and the book got to #2 on Amazon.com. Very exciting. I love that with $10 you can buy a net that saves lives and addresses one of the UN’s Millennial Goals.

If you had to choose a new career, what would it be?

I’d like to be a magician. I’m just not very good with magic.

Desert island album?

Something from Bob Dylan, although it’s hard to know which one to pick.

Best subject in school?

English lit. I’ve got a BA and an M.Phil from Oxford in literature.

Last book you read?

Because I read multiple books at once, I can mention Eric Reis’s The Lean Startup and also a New Zealand writer Elizabeth Knox’s latest, Mortal Fire–a brilliant YA book.

Last film you saw?

I’d feel more posh if it was something with subtitles, but it was actually the second Mockingjay/Catching Fire movie, which was terrific.

Celebrity crush?

Annie Lennox. So good.