Archive for March, 2015

Leadership Requires Effective Communication

Thursday, March 26th, 2015

Communication is the chief responsibility of a leader according to many management experts, and that makes complete sense. If a leader isn’t able to communicate his/her vision for the organization, anything else s/he does is wasted effort because people will be confused about the overall direction of the company and heading toward different goals.

Dr. Travis Bradberry, co-author of Emotional Intelligence 2.0 and president of TalentSmart, agreed in his article, “12 Habits of Exceptional Leaders.”  While he ranks effective communication at the #2 spot, behind courage, he calls communication “the real work of leadership.”

His point about courage is that “people need courage in their leaders. They need someone who can make difficult decisions and watch over the good of the group. They need a leader who will stay the course when things get tough. People are far more likely to show courage themselves when their leaders do the same.”

In discussing the need for effective communication, Dr. Bradberry points ot that people need to be inspired. They also need to feel a connection with their leaders that is “real, emotional, and personal, regardless of any physical distance between them. Great communicators forge this connection through an understanding of people and an ability to speak directly to their needs.”

All those desired results of effective communication are exactly what stories do. They reach people’s hearts as well as their minds and create lasting connections between individuals. That’s why corporate storytelling is a crucial skill for highly effective leaders.

How would you rank your own leadership communication skills? Are your people inspired? Do they feel a real connection with you and a desire to follow you wherever you want to take the organization?

Great Corporate Storytelling at Microsoft

Thursday, March 19th, 2015

Microsoft-Stories-1-600x370

 When I saw the Google news alert about an article on Microsoft’s great use of brand storytelling, I was immediately intrigued. As a long-time contract writer for Microsoft, I helped create the company’s intial collection of corporate stories, but that’s been a few years ago and I haven’t checked their website for months to see how the storytelling efforts have grown. Not only that, but I helped a colleague with a book on technology branding more than 20 years ago–before most consumers were familiar with technology products by brand.

When I checked out Arik Hanson’s blog discussion of the Microsoft Stories site, I was captivated even further by the screen shot included in the post (shown). As Arik points out, you’d expect to see the program manager being featured to be show in the office working on the development of great new software. But instead you see a dominant photo of the employee in a barrel room sipping wine. That drew me in even further because my husband and I have been part of a wine-making group for the past 11 years–and we live in Washington near the largest collection of tasting rooms in the state!

So you’ll understand why I agree with Arik that it’s a great example of corporate storytelling. Employees are brand evangelists, and they’re also interesting people whose non-work activities are at least as fascinating as their professional involvement. By helping co-workers and customers get to know the whole person, Microsoft is creating deeper, more lasting connections than work-related topics alone ever would.

Key point: When people develop deeper connections, they become more committed to one another’s success. Stories that help people get to know one another more fully result in a win for everyone involved.

How about you? How well are you telling corporate stories that do that?

How Siemens Drives Results with Storytelling

Thursday, March 12th, 2015

“Storytelling is a really powerful add on that helps you get a message across in a way that resonates and connects to people. It should be something that all companies…use,” Keith Ritchie, storyteller at Siemens, told Marketing magazine.

Citing a range of technology developments and products for a number of uses–from energy, healthcare, and industry to city infrastructure, Ritchies says that Siemens’ content is “extremely rich…. It’s a matter of picking out what the great stories are and which ones the customers will allow you to work with them on. Some customers don’t like to share what the technology has actually done for them.  But there is no shortage of great stories here.”

Siemens uses corporate storytelling internally as well, identifying employees who relate life experiences that apply to workplace situations, such as safety concerns. And business stories, such as those about customers whose operations were greatly improved by Siemens products, Ritchie points out, can be made relevant to customers in totally different businesses from the one featured. It’s all about highlilghting the company’s ability to develop solutions.

Measuring the effects of stories can be tough, but Ritchie says it’s often as simple as watching how people react. When people clearly are touched by a moving story and start talking about it, you know it’s had an impact. And when you hear about business increasing after customers hear solutions-based stories, it’s clear that the stories are having the intended results.

Well-told stories are “conversation starters,” Ritchie says. “I think for us, this sort of thinking is a bit of a game changer.”

How about you? Are you ready for a game-changer? If you want to explore how stories will drive results for your organization, let’s talk!

Storytelling and Listening for A Collaborative Culture

Thursday, March 5th, 2015

Do you have a collaborative culture? One where people are open to others’ ideas? Where individuals consider how their colleagues’ ideas can work, rather than instantly pointing out why they won’t work? A culture where people are comfortable expressing even “far out” thoughts,  knowing that it’s safe because everyone realizes that sometimes the farthest out ideas are the ones that spark absolutely brilliant new products or services?

If you don’t have a collaborative culture but want to build one, storytelling is a tool you can’t do without. By sharing stories with one another–where you came from, why you believe what you believe, how you learned valuable lessons about work and life–you get to know one another, discover shared values and interests–and Speakingbuild strong connections. The bonds developed over time through workplace story swaps lead to a strong sense of “being in this together” and motivate people to listen carefully to one another. They will begin to treat treat one another with more respect and will develop a ready willingness to collaborate and help one other. I’ve seen this happen time and again when leading work teams through my Corporate Storytelling® system.

Listening to others’ stories is a crucial component of the process. As Nelson Farris, Nike’s official storyteller for many years, says the company’s success “is based on collaboration, and the only way you’re going to collaborate is to talk to each other. That means you have to talk and then listen.

“Listening is huge. If we don’t listen, then the collaboration begins to disintegrate.”

Here are a few steps to get started with storytelling to build a collaborative culture:

  • Tell a well-developed organizational story, or a personal “lesson learned” story that conveys your values, your mission and your specific goals
  • Tell this story–and others you develop–repeatedly and systematically
  • Train others in your organization on how to tell stories
  • Underscore to your employees and other stakeholders the importance of telling values-based stories
  • Incorporate storytelling in regularly held meetings