Archive for November, 2010

Thanksgiving Table: A Rich Story Source

Tuesday, November 23rd, 2010

In my storytelling workshops, one of the assignements that creates anxiety–second only to telling one’s own stories–is coming up with a good story to tell. Many participants feel that everyone around them has far more interesting lives, and therefore, more interesting stories to tell.

The truth is, everyone’s life is filled with experiences that can inspire, inform, teach and/or entertain others. The key is to be aware of all the things that happen and to take note of the details as they occur.

As you gather with family and friends for Thanksgiving, you have a golden opportunity to “mine” the experiences of those in the room as well as memories of those who have gone before. While you’re enjoying the feast at the holiday table on Thursday, ask everyone for a favorite Thanksgiving memory. You’re sure to leave with a treasure of tales to tell!

Stories Cut through the Clutter (Data Update)

Friday, November 19th, 2010

As I tell my workshop and keynote audiences, one of the many benefits of using stories is that they’re very effective at cutting through the clutter in the marketplace. The sheer volume of information that’s at our fingertips–not to mention the amount directly bombarding each of us every day–continues to grow and weigh us down, keeping us from being able to focus on the most important tasks at hand.

And now comes word of this staggering piece of data: More information moves through the Internet in one day than was transmitted in the entire year of 1995. Granted, that was in the early days of the Internet; however, there was no small amount of information immediately available even then.

So if you find yourself wondering why your brain feels “fried” at the end of the day–or even midday–you at least can take comfort in knowing that it isn’t just you! The data is indeed growing, and piling up at a rate that’s truly mind-boggling.

Tribute to Leadership Storytelling Visionary

Wednesday, November 17th, 2010

I was shocked and deeply saddened to learn recently of the death of David Armstrong, one of my storytelling heroes. He wrote the first book on the use of story as a communication management tool, Managing by Storying Around, the first of several story collections he wrote about “people caught doing things right” at Armstrong International. That book inspired me to search for other companies that led through story when I set out to write my own book.

David was the first person I interviewed for Around the Corporate Campfire, and it was an exciting start to my research. His graciousness and enthusiasm for the subject generated a much longer conversation than I expected of a busy CEO, and it led to an ongoing relationship with Armstrong International for which I’m very grateful.

David died unexpectedly this past summer at the age of 52. He left an inspiring legacy of leading through example, guided by a set of core values that attracted dedicated employees. In keeping with the Armstrong culture, which exemplified the best characteristics of what a family could/should be, David Casterline, corporate director of communications, responded to my note of condolences in part by saying, “He was like a brother to me.”

If you’d like to experience David’s enthusiasm for the subject of leadership storytelling, check out the videos and other resources available on the company’s website at: http://www.armstronginternational.com/davidarmstrong

The Best Leadership Stories Tell the "Why"

Friday, November 12th, 2010

As a high school journalism student, I first learned the five W’s that make for good news stories–and the “Who, What, Where, When, Why”(and sometimes How)mantra has guided my writing since. In our Information Age, those guides to storytelling have become common reminders for writers in any endeavor to ensure they include the essential elements in any document they’re preparing.

Unlike a newswriter, who’s compelled to begin a story with the most important element among the 5 W’s and How, leaders, marketers and sales professionals always need to be guided first and foremst by the “Why.” The “Why” of an organizational story contains the most valuable part of the message; it conveys the end-user benefits of the organization’s products and/or services and clarifies the value of those products and/or services. The “Why” also underscores the organization’s core values, which attract and retain the most highly desired employees, customers and other stakeholders.

Good Leadership, Stories Are Inclusive

Wednesday, November 3rd, 2010

Good leaders make people feel that they’re insiders, says author and organizational consultant Warren Bennis. A good leader effectively makes people feel that they’re at the very heart of things, not at the periphery looking in.

In addition, Bennis says, a good leader makes everyone feels that he or she makes a difference to the success of the organization. That, in turn, makes everyone feel centered and gives their work meaning.

The communication skills Bennis is describing are those of a leader who tells stories. Jim Sinegal, co-founder and CEO of Costco Wholesale, is a prime example. As he says, “What else have we got besides stories? That’s what brings meaning to the work we do.”