Archive for the ‘General’ Category

Managers Need Training to Meet Expanding Expectations

Thursday, May 1st, 2014

A survey reported in “The Wall Street Journal” yesterday discovered that, while companies are adding responsibilities to managers’ already heavy workloads, they aren’t providing training that helps those managers handle their expanding responsibilities. Standard approaches, such as relying on “loaned executive” programs to nonprofits, company-developed formal training, or support from HR, were rated as the least helpful forms of training.

The most helpful training, according to managers surveyed, were provided by external leadership programs, encouragement from family and friends and support from peer networks. Leadership training for people who are promoted is the main exception.

However, the author and conductor of the survey, Herminia Ibarra, quickly adds that fewer people are being promoted, so the overall benefits of such training are not as far-reaching as previously. One of her conclusions is that continual training should be the standard, especially for “promising” managers, who will have the opportunity to learn from their peers over a long period of time as they all develop their skills. Ibarra also recommends that organizations facilitate more cross-departmental collaboration so that individuals get to know co-workers in other areas and gain better understanding of the roles and operations across the company.

Another recent survey found that soft skills training is the greatest needed in the corporate world. Individuals who lack so-called “people skills,” including the core component of communication, are unable to collaborate and that inability results in diminishes productivity and overall organizational effectiveness. Corporate Storytelling training provides the tools not only for clearly informing, directing, and supporting others, but also teaches the importance of listening–an often overlooked necessity in today’s constantly “plugged-in” world.

How are your storytelling and listening skills?

Brand As Verb A Brilliant Presentation

Thursday, April 24th, 2014

Of all the articles and blogs written about the revolutionary changes in the world of branding,BrandAsVerb a  SlideShare presentation titled “Brand As Verb” stands out as brilliant. It clearly explains what organizations need to do to keep their brands relevant to their consumers by involving them in the process. Creating by Ben Grossman, strategic director of London-based Jack Morton Worldwide, the presentation lays out five essential principles of the new approach to effectively branding organizations and their products.

As you would expect, I especially love the stories of how some familiar (and some not-so-familiar brands) brands have excelled at garnering customer involvement. Exemplifying Grossman’s points, the stories describe inventive campaigns to inspire consumer participation in all aspects of developing and nurturing a brand. My favorites are the delightlfully creative HP campaign in Paris and the ingenious ordering system for home delivery created by Dubai’s Red Tomato Pizza.

Review the slide presentation at http:bit.ly/BrandAsVerb and then leave your comments.

What are your favorite ideas? Why?

Meaningful Storytelling A Top Responsibility of Leadership

Thursday, April 17th, 2014

An engaging article in “Forbes” online recently featured a discussion by David Slocum, professor at the Berlin School of Creative Leadership. Slocum analyzes the Hollywood version of business stories, as illustrated in the hit movie, “The Wolf of Wall Street,” with stories that exemplify authentic leadership. Slocum’s cogent article contrasts the “simple and dramatic” approach used by moviemakers (and arguably, rightly so if they want to succeed at the box office) versus the qualities that, in fact, are essential elements for effective storytelling in organizations.

Clearly dissecting the main character’s selective editing of his own story, Slocum points out that when Jordan Belfort wrote his book, on which the movie is based, he chose not to focus on how he made a fortune in penny stocks by manipulating the market–a transgresson for which he was convicted of securities fraud and money laundering. Instead, Belfort concentrated on describing the personal excesses of high living and wild partying afforded by the tens of millions he raked in. Likewise, the movie plays up the salacious details of a life run amok.

As Slocum explains, while businesses need to stay true to their mission, they also must adapt to market changes. Accordingly, their”…stories should convey essential truths about the business they describe while still having rough edges and opening out to continuing interaction.” The professor sums up by saying, “Although that doesn’t necessarily work in Hollywood’s scripts and productions, such openness and adaptability in meaningful storytelling about organizations and business activities are among the paramount responsibilities – and most powerful opportunities – of real leadership.”

Do you agree? Tell us what you think about how flexible businesses should be, or need to be, with their storytelling.

 

Word Choices Determine Whether A Story Soars or Bores

Thursday, April 10th, 2014

When I lead workshops–whether the focus is Corporate Storytelling, media relations, or business writing–one of the key components is a segment on developing–and especially, editing–the participants’ core stories. Just as story construction can make or break a good tale, so can word choices. They determine whether your story soars, bringing the audience along for a spectacular ride, or bores, losing the audience to the multitude of distractions surrounding us all 24/7 (or even worse, putting some to sleep).

Here are a few tips from a colleague in South Africa, Graham Williams, that I particulary endorse. He included these in an article about word choices in a recent issue of his e-zine, The Halo and the Noose.

1. If there’s a choice between a long word and a short one, use the short one.
2. If a word isn’t necessary to convey the message, cut it out.
3. Whenever possible, use the active form of a verb instead of passive.
4. Never use a foreign phrase, scientific word or jargon if there’s an everyday term that will work.
5. Ignore any of these rules if following it complicates your story or makes it sound awkward.

I especially love the story Williams shared to illustrate his points. It’s from the book, Halo and Noose:The Language of Work, the Language of Story, written with Dorian Haarhoff. As Williams explains, We refer to a cartoon where Hagar and Lucky Eddie are exchanging ideas. One says to the other, “I can’t stand people who use big words. They are pretentious.” The other asks what pretentious means.

What simple, everyday word(s) would you use to simplify the first character’s statement?

A Values-Based Story about Canlis Restaurant in Seattle

Thursday, April 3rd, 2014

A reknowned Seattle restaurant often rated among the best in the country as well as the world, Canlis is a third-generation family-owned business with an impressive values-based story. The family’s values guide the owners’ long-term plans as well as day-to-day operations. Those values, as explained by Chris Canlis, the second generation to run the elegant dining room, are simplified as TGD: trustworthy, generous, and other-centered.

Speaking recently with his son, Mark, at a meeting of the Seattle Philanthropic Advisors Network (SPAN), Chris was quick to explain, “I’m not an owner; I’m a steward, and it’s my job to care for it and pass it on.” According to the restaurant website, the family believes “everything we are, we were given.” Chris says their perspective is based on a Bible passage in the book of Proverbs: “Do not withhold good from those to whom it is due, when it is in your power to act.” He added, “Generosity is not a decision; it’s a function of character. It isn’t conditional on how well you’re doing. The poorest of the poor can be generous.”

As an example, Chris said, his wife, Alice, grew up in a family that “had nothing material and all things familial.” He described her parents’ home as a place where “the door was always open and an unusually long dining table (which seated 18) always had room for one more.” He said most of what he knows about philanthropy he’s learned from his wife.

For more than six decades, Canlis’ generous philanthropy has helped many organizations, even when the economy slows and business suffers. Mark described a time when he was prepared to turn down a request for a donation to a community event during the recent recession–and then realized that even though times were challenging, the restaurant should still be generous. Among the beneficiaries of Canlis’ support is FareStart, a well-known Seattle restaurant that serves as a training facility to teach marketable skills to homeless adults and at-risk youth. Guest chefs from a range of Seattle restaurants are a regular feature at FareStart, giving trainees a close-up look at how to succeed in a service industry.

When Chris and Mark were asked how the parents have passed their values to the next generation, Mark, the father of three, jumped in. with an answer that befits his generation: “Living with three kids is like living on reality TV with three cameras in the house. They watch everything you do!”

Chris and Alice are still involved with the business, but turned over the reins to Mark and his brother, Brian, in 2005. The brothers have been careful to make incremental changes with an eye on retaining familiar features of the iconic restaurant overlooking Lake Union. Beloved by generations of Seattleites and sophisticated travelers, Canlis is consistently a top choice for celebrating special occasions. Exemplifying the family’s guiding values, the new generation of management is committed to continuing the tradition: delivering a fine-dining experience in every detail by focusing on the guests.

Reality TV Techniques for the Corporate World

Thursday, March 27th, 2014

Driven by the desire to create video content that’s engaging and also “takes viewers on a Kim Goodhart had to overcome early doubts about her ability to face up to senior executives. Photo / Chris Louftejourney,” two New Zealanders are applying reality TV techniques to videos they produce for corporate clients. As explained in an article in the New Zealand Herald, the partners said they realized well-told stories have the power to transform lives, and they set out to empower and inspire companies’ employees through ad lib video interviews with people at all levels instead of relying on tightly-worded scripts for executives, as corporate videographers traditionally do.

The result since their 2009 launch is a thriving business called Real TV, which counts major corporations among its clients. Co-founder Kim Goodhart, who earned a degree in psychology, never imagined she would be a business owner. For her the hardest part of launching a business has been learning how to run a business, but it “has become a real passion.”

She enjoys helping companies get their message out to the right audience and using video to help them get their great ideas disseminated into the international marketplace. It’s exciting, she says, to be “able to help them tell that story or promote their product in a way that means that they can send it to anyone, anywhere in the world, rather than having to fly out there and demonstrate it.”

Goodhart and her partner, Reuben Pillsbury, want to be the best in the world at providing reality TV for corporate storytelling, and she also wants to use the technique to benefit society at large. The approach, she says, “can be a powerful tool for helping society change and grow.”

Kim Goodhart shown above, photo by Chris Loufte

Communication Skills Among Top 10 Tips for New Executives

Thursday, February 13th, 2014

A top executive recently wrote an article in The Wall Street Journal listing the top “10 Tips for New Executives”, and two important communication skills were among them. Fay Vincent rose to the top of three distinctly different enterprises, demonstrating that he knows what he’s talking about. He’s the former president and CEO of Columbia Pictures Industries, Inc., executive vice president of Coca-Cola Co., and the eighth commissioner of Major League Baseball. He’s the kind of person we’d all like to have had advice from in the early stages of our careers, and his 10 Tips are insights he wishes he had known sooner.

The two communication skills he included on his list are

  • Listening for advice
  • Explaining your strategy frequently, stated in different ways

Why are these two skills important? Vincent explains that regular interaction with employees at all levels and listening to what they’re talking about is essential for effective leadership. You need to know what’s important to the people you’re asking to follow you. If anyone wants to talk with you, take time to listen to their views and if it’s a criticism, consider the person’s position and respond thoughtfully, even when you disagree.

Repeatedly explaining your core strategy will ensure that everyone is moving in the same direction and maximizing productivity. By rephrasing the strategy periodically, people at all levels, who may have different communication skills and vocabularies, will be sure to hear your meaning. In other words, let there be no doubt what success looks like in your organization. I would add to this that telling stories of “people caught doing things right” is a proven way to make your goals clear. People understand a story and can apply the lesson to their own jobs much more easily than they can “translate” a high-level mission statement. Are you listening?

Corporate Story Collections Essential as Boomers Retire

Thursday, January 30th, 2014

Any organization that hasn’t yet started to systematically collect its “sacred bundle” of stories is going to lose a priceless treasure of knowledge when the last of the Baby Boom generation retires in the next 20 years or so. Born between 1946 and 1964, Boomers started exiting the workplace in the late ’90s and those who continue working until age 70 will be gone by 2034.

As Daniel Burrus wrote in his blog Monday, the retirement of Boomers is a Burrus Hard Trend™ — one that’s based on “measurable, tangible, and fully predictable facts, events, or objects.” His proprietary Hard Trend system is used by many top companies, such as Deloitte, Lockheed Martin and IBM, to forecast future needs and develop strategic plans. Soft Trends, he says, are projections that “might happen: a future maybe. Soft Trends can be changed, which means they provide a powerful vehicle to influence the future and can be capitalized on.”

So the fact that Boomers are retiring is a Hard Trend, the best-selling author, innovation expert and global futurist says. A reasonable projection based on that fact “would be which companies will implement a system to collect knowledge from them” and “implement a knowledge-sharing network” before they go. Systematically collecting and cataloguing stories is an effective way to capture and manage knowledge, as some consulting firms have learned and many corporations are catching on.

The Environmental Protection Agency is first organization I’m aware of that began a story collection when it realized it was about to lose a vast amount of valuable knowledge due to retirements. The people who began leaving 30 years following the founding of the agency carried with them not only nuggets of the developing culture, but the details of the early years. Those details include how regulations were established, why they were written as they were, and the intitial dreams as well as the stated long-term goals. To capture that knowledge, the EPA began shooting a series of video interviews with legacy employees so that following generations could learn from them “first-hand,” in a sense, by “sitting in” on the interviews.

What is your organization doing to preserve the knowledge stored in the minds of the “elders”? Their experiences encapsulate invaluable information about the history of the company; the major challenges and how they were overcome; the main characters; and tales about everyday experiences that enliven the culture through the years.

If you haven’t yet begun to capture the stories, get started before it’s too late! If you need help, a Corporate Storytelling® workshop will give the foundation for identifying, developing and telling your core stories. Follow-on writing and coaching services will help you establish a solid base collection and keep the program on track.

Capture your stories before all that valuable knowledge walks out the door! And tell them often. Stories live only when they’re told.

21st Century Business Culture Requires Soft Skills

Thursday, January 23rd, 2014

According to branding expert and best-selling author Dan Schawbel, 61% of managers value soft skills over hard skills. If you haven’t yet developed and honed your own soft skills, including the ability to tell your own unique story, this book promises to be a valuable guide, outlining what it takes to build a successful career in new business culture of the 21st Century.

Soft skills include effective interpersonal communication (listening as well as speaking or writing), the ability to prioritize work and handle conflicts, and basic traits such as having a positive attitude. As Schawbel explains in his latest book, Promote Yourself: The New Rules for Career Success, having these skills and being able to brand and promote yourself is more crucial today than ever due to the dynamics of the internet, social media, and a non-stop 24/7 business schedule.   

Schawbel’s book explains how to navigate this new environment as an employee. Based on his own research on the current workplace, he details outdated standards and details how to succeed despite economic uncertainty and the need to constantly adapt.

Among the topics Schawbel covers in this book are how to use your current job as a platform for landing a better one; today’s new rules for the workplace; the need for continuing education; and how to use social media appropriately. He explains the disconnect between Gen Y and their managers and posits that the awareness of your own unique strengths and the ability to differentiate yourself are crucial.

Stephen R. Covey, who rose to fame with his first best-seller, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, says “Schawbel’s book is a game-changer for any employee who is looking to get ahead at work. It reveals the skills and strategies that will turn you into a future leader.”

WestJet Enlivens A Great Corporate Story

Wednesday, January 8th, 2014

Even communication professionals are sometimes hard pressed to bring their corporawestjet-logote core stories to life. How much detail do I need to include–of the situation, the main character,or the outcome? How do I identify stories that will enliven our core message? And how do I know which story to tell at a given time to convey a particular message to a specific audience?

WestJet’s wonderful holiday video is a charming example of how a creative idea can not only enliven the corporate story but also engage viewers and touch the heart of every single person who watches it. It’s a fun wrap-up to the best memories of the Christmas season as we forge ahead into 2014.

Watch it and let me know how it made you feel and what you think about WestJet, whether or not you’ve ever flown their airline or ever will! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zIEIvi2MuEk