Posts Tagged ‘leaders’

Exceptional Leaders Enliven Vision through Infectiousness

Thursday, April 23rd, 2015

In a recent post (March 26), I wrote about effective communication as one of the 12 behaviors of exceptional leaders  identified by Travis Bradberry, president of TalentSmart & co-author of Emotional Intelligence 2.0. Today’s topic is another of the 12: infectiousness.

Infectiousness isn’t a trait that usually is cited as a key leadership skill, but I suspect it’s because that trait is often described differently. It could fall under the oft-mentioned “charisma,” “charm” or “engaging personality,” or a number of other descriptors. Infectiousness also could be encompassed in other characteristics, particularly passion, which is another of the 12 behaviors on Bradberry’s list. But I like the fact that he calls out infectiousness to stand on its own because unless the leader’s passion is expressed in a way that employees “catch the bug,” it won’t have a lasting effect.

As Bradberry explains, “Great leaders know that having a clear vision isn’t enough. You have to make that vision come alive so that your followers can see it just as clearly as you do. Great leaders do that by telling stories and painting verbal pictures so that everyone can understand not just where they’re going, but what it will look and feel like when they get there. This inspires others to internalize the vision and make it their own.”

untitledStarbucks’ Howard Schultz is a great example of infectiousness. First, he looks for employees who share his customer-centered values,  including a desire to contribute to their community. Building on his belief that “people want to be part of something larger than themselves,” new employees, or “partners,” as Starbucks calls them, undergo 24 hours of classroom training. The company also pays for additional workshops and classes that partners choose to take.

New senior leaders are put through a four-month “immersion in the Starbucks culture” to ensure that everyone understands the coffee business from start to finish. And Schultz emphasizes the values that comprise the culture by sharing his “unbridled enthusiasm and love” for the company at regularly-held district meetings.

Quoting the Rev. Theodore Hesburgh, “The very essence of leadership is that you have to have a vision. It’s got to be a vision you articulate clearly and forcefully on every occasion. You can’t blow an uncertain trumpet.”

Personal Values Trump B2B Brands

Thursday, February 19th, 2015

In Dan Ariely’s book, Predictably Irrational, he describes his research that led to this conclusion: despite their protestations to the contrary, human beings make decisions based on emtion, then justify those decisions by developing a rationale after the fact. This process held true in a wide range of case studies that Ariely conducted involving insignificant decisions, such as choosing a beer or a dinner entree when out with friends, to more significant choices, such as buying a new car or selecting from an offering of business tools.

His findings are confirmed in a study conducted by the Corporate Executive Board in partnership with Google. Based on a survey of more than 3,000 B2B buyers, as well as 70 marketers and 15 academics, thought leaders and consultants in different industries, the research revealed that the power of brands’ “unique selling propositions” has greatly dimished. Instead, the ability to connect with customers through personal values makes all the difference in a company’s ability to grow and prosper.

In the summary statement reporting the results of the survey, the CEB and Google point out that 1) only 14% of B2B buyers see a valuable difference between brands’ business value”, and 2) personal value will provide 2x as much impact as business value will on a B2B purchase. In other words, connecting on a personal level enables a company to cut through the increasingly cluttered marketplace. To learn more of the data and the compelling reasons to emphasize emotion rather than features and benefits in your marketing, download the complete survey report, “From Promotion to Emotion.”

The bottom line is, as more and more businesses realize the necessity to connect emotionally with their customers, the use of values-based stories in marketing and sales will grow even more dramatically than it has in the past 10 years. As I’ve been teaching Corporate Storytelling clients for the past 21 years, stories are far more powerful than most people–and especially business leaders–realize. Among the many reasons are that they help us make sense of the world, they illuminate values, and they help people remember essential information, which sometimes means the difference between destruction and survival. Stories have always fulfilled a multitude of purposes. They do so by touching people’s hearts.

Powerful Listening Wins Employee Engagement

Thursday, January 22nd, 2015

Listening Ear

When you hear the word “communication,” what do you think of first: speaking, or listening? My hunch is that most of us think of speaking. In our hyper-busy, 24/7 culture, in fact, the “art” of listening–truly listening in a focused, intentional way–has been lost. It may sound like an oxymoron, but there is power in the ability to listen.

In fact, listening is an absolutely essential skill for leaders to develop. According to a recent Gallup poll, 63% of the global workforce is not engaged, and that translates into a waste of half a trillion dollars! And listening is one of the most powerful ways to engage employees, writes Greg McKeown in a wonderful article in “Harvard Business Review”. Unfortunately, leaders, like most of us, tend to focus on the messages they need to convey and forget that they need to listen to their employees.

By listening carefully to the people in their organizations on a regular basis, leaders will learn invaluable information:

  • what’s on employees’ and customers’ minds
  • what employees most want from their leaders
  • what employees most need from their leaders

What can be done to close the communication gap between leaders and their employees? McKeown suggests adapting a listening process used by the Quakers called the “Clearness Committee.” He describes in some detail how the process works and acknowledges that few companies would have time to invest in it.

But McKeown says the business world can adapt the process this way: “When one of your team members comes to you with a particular challenge, you can ask her questions to define what the real dilemma is, instead of jumping in with premature, well-intended solutions that actually miss the mark”….and you can increase the ratio of listening to speaking by asking questions.

He suggests spending at least 50% of any conversation actively listening to the other person speak. “The bottom line is this: if you want to engage your employees at a whole new level, if you want to become a person of greater influence, and if you want to discover a new kind of power — listen.”

5 Easy Ways to Use Storytelling in Corporate Communications

Thursday, August 28th, 2014

After 21 years in the practice of Corporate Storytelling, I’m surprised to still get the question, “How can stories be used in business (or any other organization)?” I usually respond by pointing out that storytelling is a communication tool, then ask, “What do you commuicate about?”, or “What’s the main message you want people to get when you create a document or deliver a speech? What story can you incorporate to make your point come alive?”

Stories, after all, are the ideal way to create and sustain the culture of any type of group–business, nonprofit, government agency, family, friends, etc.  Stories touch hearts as well as minds, and the emotional connection they generate is one of the key reasons for the inherent power of a good story.

Here, then, are five ways you can begin using stories in your own communication efforts:

  1.  Convey corporate values: Leaders need to continually remind people of the organization’s core values. By telling stories about employees “caught doing something right,” they underscore core values, give recognition to deserving employees, and celebrate individuals’ successes.
  2. Build more effective teams: When a new team forms, have the members share stories of their experiences–in the organization, their careers or their personal lives. This builds connections and solidifies relationships, leading to better mutual support and, ultimately, improved customer service.
  3. Help people cope with change: As a company goes through major change, such as a merger, acquisition, or reorganization, morale and productivity usually take a nose-dive. People feel unprepared for the change, and that makes them uncomfortable and anxious, so they seek solace from one another instead of focusing on the job at hand. Managers who share their own “war stories” of successfully adapting to change will calm employees’ fears and increase workforce effectiveness and commitment.
  4. Increase sales: As natural storytellers, gifted salespeople often tell prospective customers about past customer successes to explain product or service benefits. Sales managers can help their people be more successful by sharing stories of exceptional customer service, rather than just raw sales figures, so salespeople can learn better “how it’s done”.
  5. Attract and retain employees: Organizations that accurately convey their values and culture attract and retain employees who not only fit in easily but also become loyal supporters who stay with the company.

How have you used stories in the past? Which of these five easy ways will you try next? Share your successes with us!

Truth Be Told, Your Story Must Reflect Your Culture

Thursday, July 17th, 2014

True StoryDoes your corporate story reflect your company’s values–and your leaders’ behavior? Or are prospective employees told one story, only to see a totally different one enacted after they’ve been onboarded?

With the youngest generations in the workforce expecting to move up quickly, and moving on much more often than previous generations would even consider, companies need more than ever to ensure that the story of their culture is true. If they don’t, they’ll find themselves struggling to compete not only in recruiting the best and brightest, but also in retaining them. As a result, they’ll incur increasingly higher costs due to employee turnover and continuous recruitment.

In a recent worldwide survey, Randstad found that the trait people want most in an employer is honesty (78%). They want to know that the story they’re told is true! The survey of 11,000 prospective employees also found that 71% value reliability and 62% look for financial security.

How does your corporate culture stack up with those traits? Does your core story ring true?

If there’s a disconnect in your stated values and the behavior employees observe, it may be because not everyone is clear on how to enact the values. To ensure alignment of values, mission and purpose with goals, department by department and employee by employee, you need clear, consistent communication. You need a collection of stories that exemplify the desired behavior and show employees how to succeed in the organization.

That’s where Corporate Storytelling comes in. If you’d like to explore how the Storytelling system will help your organization  reflect its true values clearly and consistently, let’s talk!

 

 

The Mystery of Storytelling Revealed

Wednesday, June 26th, 2013
Every organization needs a corporate story--and needs to breathe life into it by telling it continuously.

Every organization needs a corporate story–and needs to breathe life into it by telling it continuously.

How can stories be used in organizations? Even though the practice of storytelling has virtually exploded all around the globe in recent years, many people are still puzzled about how to use stories in their communications. After 20 years of leading Corporate Storytelling® workshops, I’m surprised that the practice is still mysterious to so many people.

There is any number of ways that businesses, NGOs and governmental agencies–not to mention people in everyday life–can leverage the power of story. Storytelling is, after all, a communication tool, and communication is central to human interactions. When you need to communicate, there’s often a way to leverage the power of story. Use a story

  • to attract investors, donors and employees
  • to persuade people to a point of view
  • to galvanize support among stakeholders
  • to inspire
  • to inform
  • to build a cohesive team
  • to nurture a culture
  • to teach a lesson
  • to heal
  • to enliven historic events and people
  • to explain the rationale behind a decision
  • to breathe life into a vision
  • keep people focused on a mission
  •  to demonstrate how a product or service improves or even saves lives
  • to explain how a product or services makes everyday activities easier
  • to underscore core values

And, of course, there’s at least one more use for stories that’s familiar to everyone: entertainment. We regularly share amusing stories with friends, family, co-workers and people we encounter in all areas of daily life. Leaders who understand the power of humor recognize that entertainment plays an important role in organizations. They know when to include a lighthearted tale to relieve tension in difficult times and how to incorporate fun stories when it’s time to celebrate.

Our days are filled with opportunities for storytelling. So what are you waiting for? Tell your stories!

 

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.