Posts Tagged ‘leader’

3 Tips for Telling Your Own Story

Thursday, May 14th, 2015

A friend asked me to give her daughter feedback on her resume because her daughter had just learned about the job of her dreams–and, of course, she was eager to present her credentials in the best way possible. I, in turn, asked another friend–a former HR director and executive recruiter, for her input since she’s truly an expert on the subject.

As I looked at my recruiter friend’s best tips, I realized how they dovetail with tips on crafting a good story. That shouldn’t have surprised me. After all, a resume is a brief version of a person’s career story.

Here are three tips for crafting a compelling story, whether it’s a story you’ll be telling to your employees or one that you’ll be writing in the form of a resume:

  1. Know your audience — Who are they? What do they most care about? What do they need to hear from/about you to accomplish their goals? When you have a clear understanding of the audience’s needs and desires, you’ll be better able to create a story that’s interesting and meaningful for them.
  2. Edit ruthlessly! — After you’ve prepared your first draft, read it from the audience’s point of view. Which words relate key elements of the story? Just as importantly, which words are unnecessary to convey your message? Cut everything that isn’t absolutely essential.
  3. Use descriptive verbs — Enliven your story with verbs that clearly convey what happened. Did you learn a lesson, or were you struck by a lightning bolt of insight? Would you like a particular job, or are you excited by the challenge?

It’s difficult for everyone to determine what someone else wants to hear from them or about them. But when you start first by considering who the audience is, you’re able to see yourself from their perspective. With the audience in mind, you’ll be able to build a solid foundation for shaping and telling an engaging story, regardless of the format or the presentation mode.

 

Culture of Communication Maximizes Employee Engagement

Thursday, February 5th, 2015

According to a recent Gallup poll, over 50 percent of the current workforce is not fully engaged with the company; they simply show up and do what they need to do to keep their jobs–a steady income, in other words–but they do no more than absolutely necessary. What’s worse, nearly 20 percent of employees are “actively disengaged,” which presumably means they “push the envelope” on how little is enough to get by.

Margie Warrell, a leadership coach and author, discusses this woeful situation in an article on Forbes.com. Pointing out the urgent need for effective leadership communication, Warrell says that a leader’s level of interaction with employees makes a huge difference in how the workforce feel about their organization. As she rightly asserts, it’s crucial for a leader to regularly walk through the workplace and talk with employees. Transparent communication that divulges failures as well as successes is at the heart of creating a truly connected workplace, a culture of interdependence and mutual trust. And reminding people that their contributions are valuable inspires lasting commitment.

When people feel connected, they support one another fully and provide top-notch customer service. As Warrell says, “Relationships are the currency of the workplace, and so the stronger a leader’s connections, the better placed they will be to engage their employees…. Only when leaders demonstrate the courage they wish to see in those around them will they be able to unleash the human potential within their teams and organization, tap ingenuity,  raise the bar on innovation and optimize the value their organization contributes to all of it’s stakeholders.”

Stories are the best way for a leader to make those essential connections: stories that envision the future and make it palpable; stories that remind people of successes, both past and current;  stories about “lessons learned,” including those that describe mistakes the leader has made–and that have shaped the leader.

Over the past 21+ years, during which I’ve led hundreds of Corporate Storytelling workshops and delivered tens of keynotes, I’ve seen thousands of people light up when they experience the power of story. It’s the way humans derive meaning about life, from daily routines to remarkable accomplishments. Stories are the way we learn about one another, discover shared values and appreciate how much we can accomplish together.

Leaders who leverage the power of story with clear, consistent communication are sure to beat the competition. Their workforce will be fully engaged and committed to doing whatever it takes to realize the vision.

What People Do During Conference Calls

Thursday, January 29th, 2015

The growing number of articles on the fast-disappearing art of listening has tapped into one of my pet peeves. I’m pretty certain most, if not all, of you have noticed that people increasingly are attempting to multi-task instead of focusing on what they’re purportedly doing. This includes so-called “communication” activities!

It isn’t just my imagination. According to a report in “Harvard Business Review” based on research by Intercall, 65% of the people on a conference call are doing other work; 63% are writing emails, and 55% are eating. A high percentage of others are going to the rest room, texting, checking social media and even doing their shopping (no kidding).

One of the most obvious signs that someone is hurriedly trying to “check things off the to-do list” is when the person answers an email containing several questions or concerns, but responds to only the first one. It’s clear that the person read only the first line, or the first paragraph, of the original email and feels a sense of having “handled” it by responding at all.

Another indicator of preoccupation is a conference call during which only one or two people of a number on the call say anything. Sometimes this may be because a high-level executive in an organization is on the call and others are too timid to express their opinions or observations. But in other cases, such as the strangest conference call I’ve ever experienced, several of the people on the line were joint decision-makers–and yet, only one of the five spoke at all during a 20-30 minute call. The rest of the conversation was between the primary client contact and me. It was very odd that the partners, for whom the call was arranged, said nothing. My primary contact explained later that “they’re busy executives who probably were doing other things” during the call. That begs the question, “What was the purpose, then?”

A sense of humor helps me to cope with puzzling situations such as that. So I was delighted to discover this well-written and artfully executed video. It’s an entertaining demonstration of what happens all too often when the leader of a project meeting or conference call attempts to get down to business. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did–but of course, not during a conference call!

Howard Schultz Tells Starbucks Story

Thursday, October 31st, 2013

As evidences by a recent post, I’m becoming a very big fan of Howard Schultz’s leadership of Starbucks. He not only clearly communicates his personal, and his company’s, core values, but he also demonstrates his commitment to those values by enacting them.

In a talk at the University of Denver’s School of Business, Schultz tells the story of how Starbucks has survived during the economic downturn, turned around a precipitous decline in business during those years, and also rekindled the fire for the business that for many reasons had nearly burned out among many of the company’s employees (known as partners). His return to the position of CEO after almost eight years as Chairman sparked a renaissance based on tough decisions and an astounding commitment to retraining employees and re-energizing his own–and the company’s–social consciousness.

This story also is told in his books, Pour Your Heart into It and Onward! Both are recommended reading.

Watch Schultz’ talk at the University of Denver: http://tinyurl.com/mzeatkj

Creating Culture Is Most Important Job of A Leader

Wednesday, June 12th, 2013

At Inc.’s annual Leadership Forum this week, CitiStorage Founder Norm Brodsky related both his successes and failures as a leader. The two top lessons he learned: 1) Leadership communication does not mean yelling at people and maintaining tight control over them, and 2) a leader’s most important job is to create a strong culture. And, I would add, storytelling is a key leadership communication tool for doing just that.

In an article by Issie Lapowsky posted yesterday on Inc.’s blog, Brodsky said in his first business, “If an employee messed up, I yelled at them or fired them. I was a control freak.” He credits his wife with helping him learn better ways of interacting with people and developing better leadership skills. When he started CitiStorage, he told the audience, he focused on building a strong culture–one that emphasizes ways to help employees succeed.

He realized by then that the way he treated employees and the benefits he offered were as important as the way he treated customers. “It’s all part of culture,” he said. “When you have a warm nurturing culture people like, they’ll stay with you.”

The companies featured in Around the Corporate Campfire: How Great Leaders Use Stories to Inspire Success bear this out. Storytelling companies recognize the importance of taking good care of their employees as well as their customers–and their use of stories serves is part of the glue that binds everyone together. Most of the companies’ employee turnover rate is among the lowest in their industry.

What Leaders Need to Know about Resistance to Change

Wednesday, October 31st, 2012

In a recent Harvard Business Review blog, Rosabeth Moss Kanter writes that successfully leading people through change requires that a manager first understand the reasons that people resist any alteration to their routines. Kanter says that manifestations of resistance at every level, from foot-dragging to outright rebellion, can be managed if the leader recognizes the “predictable, universal sources of resistance” and then develops strategies for maneuvering around them.

In her experience, five of the most common reasons that people resist change are:

  1. Loss of control — When change is imposed, individuals feel they’ve lost self-determination and their sense of autonomy. By inviting employees to participate in planning changes, a leader gives them choices. As a result, employees will take ownership in the outcome.
  2. Excess uncertainty — People would usually prefer to remain “mired in misery,” Kanter says, than head into the unknown. Leaders need to help employees prepare for change by explaining the process and outlining the timetable.
  3. Surprise, surprise! — People need time to get used to the idea of a major change that’s coming. Instead of springing a major re-tooling on them without warning, a leader should at least communicate hints about changes ahead, and preferably, include them in the planning.
  4. Everything seems different — A lot of changes all at once can be confusing and disorienting. Leaders need to consider how much needs to changed and keep as much of the familiar as possible while implementing a series of changes gradually.
  5. Loss of face — Individuals who have been with the organization a long time, and especially those who may have participated in creating current procedures, will be defensive when another way of doing business is instituted. Kanter advises leaders to “help people maintain dignity by celebrating those elements of the past that are worth honoring, and making it clear that the world has changed.” This will help people let go of the old and adopt the new.

Leadership Communication Is Key to Successful Change

Wednesday, August 29th, 2012

Insufficient communication is second only to fear of change or failure as a major stumbling block to successful change in organizations. According to a global survey of nearly 1,100 managers conducted by New Catalyst, LLC, it’s essential for leaders to “constantly communicate” before, during and after attempting to implement a significant change.

Constant communication is the way to gain “employee support and trust,” which is essential for a change “to stand any chance of success,” say the authors of the survey, Kelly Nwosu and Nick Anderson. I totally agree. As I emphasize to clients during my speaking and consulting engagements, it’s more important than ever to communicate regularly–even daily–during times of change and any other period that might be described as a crisis.

New Catalyst found that there are three primary messages for leaders to focus on in order to gain employee support for upcoming change. Those three messages must be clear explanations of the why, the how and the benefits of the change.

As a participant in one of my storytelling workshops for sales managers observed, “People aren’t afraid of change per se; they’re afraid that they aren’t prepared for change.” When a leadership repeatedly reassures everyone by explaining 1) the reasons for the change; 2) how it will be accomplished (including the specific role for each division, and cascading down, each person); and 3) the benefits of the change for the organization and everyone affected by it, the odds of success skyrocket.

Lessons from Steve Jobs on Succession

Thursday, December 1st, 2011

A phenomenal visionary and innovator, Steve Jobs also demonstrated a lot of skill as a leader. One case in point is the thoughtful way he handled succession planning, an area many CEOs avoid, to their company’s disadvantage.

Information Week writer Robert Strohmeyer reported earlier this year that author Carmine Gallo, who followed Jobs’ career closely over the years and wrote two well-received books about him, identified the five key lessons to be learned Jobs’ succession planning:

  1. Focus on the customer, client, and user experience, above everything else
  2. Ensure that the culture of the company is held up as a higher value than a particular person’s leadership so that everyone realizes the company can succeed without certain individuals
  3. Control the core message and exemplify it (walk your talk)
  4. Be proactive about turning over the reins gradually so that people become accustomed to the new CEO before it’s time to leave
  5. Select your successor by evaluating the person’s ability to do the job rather than assessing whether the personality is similar to yours

What do you think is most important to remember when preparing to step down from a leadership role? Please offer your thoughts, ideally based on your experience.

Thousands of executives, top-flight sales leaders and savvy marketers have learned—with Evelyn Clark’s help—how to identify, create and deliver messages that stick in audiences’ minds. An author, workshop/retreat leader and keynoter, she is a recognized expert and pioneer in organizational storytelling. Learn about her Corporate Storytelling® system and services, or buy her book, at www.corpstory.com.