Posts Tagged ‘managers’

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!

6-year-olds Offer Lesson on Managing Change with Story

Thursday, July 10th, 2014

Children can teach adults a lot of lessons about life–if the adults pay attention! One of my favorite lessons on managing change was demonstrated by 6-year-old twins whose father attended one of my Corporate Storytelling workshops for sales managers a few years ago. It’s a story I love to tell because it has all the basic elements of a memorable tale: it’s concise, it’s clear, it begins with a challenge to be overcome, describes how the hero overcomes the challenge, and concludes with a memorable lesson for leaders in any organization–business, nonprofit or family.

Paul Smith, a former Procter & Gamble executive, loves the story, too. He included it in his book, Lead with a Story, and asked me to share it when he interviewed me for a podcast that was broadcast yesterday. It’s a great example of how a meaningful business message can be conveyed in a charming and engaging story that everyone can relate to. We’ve all been children, after all, and we’ve all been faced with change. And sometimes, like one of the twins featured, we haven’t been sure how to handle a change that at first seemed overwhelming. Listen to the podcast here and let us know how you will apply this savvy lesson on change management from two 6-year-olds!

A Guide to Expectations of Millennials

Thursday, May 15th, 2014
Anna Liotta

Anna Liotta

According to an article by an expert on generational challenges in the workplace, Millennials (those born between 1980 and 1999) have such different expectations from their managers, that many managers are at a loss as to how to handle the younger generation. My colleague and friend Anna Liotta, author of Unlocking Generational CODES, says the Millennial generation is “the first generation to have no expectation of retiring from the company they are working for today. In fact, 91% of Millennials expect to stay at a job or position for fewer than three years.” What’s even more surprising to many managers is that a Millennial considers less than three years to be a long time!

With turnover costs equaling more than six months of a person’s salary, as estimated by The Society of Human Resources (SHRM), shorter-than-expected stays can be very costly for employers. Why are Millennials so eager to move on? Their motivations are based on a different set of expectations than previous generations have had. Chief among Millennials’ expectations are these:

* high pay (74%)
* flexible work hours (61%)
* a promotion within a year (56%)
* more vacation or personal time (50%)

Liotta’s research has found that Millennials “typically decide in their first 30 days if they will remain with a company for 6, 12, or 18 months. It’s up to their leaders to discover how to communicate effectively to keep them engaged in the work and committed to the organization. That, int urn, will enable the employer to realize a more satisfying return on its talent investment. Liotta offers guidance on how to do that through books and articles available on her website as well as through speaking engagements and trainings. Access those resources and learn how to contact her by visiting her website.

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?

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.”

Your Personal Story Is Key to Success

Wednesday, April 10th, 2013

In the drive to build a successful career, most people have followed traditional guidance. It starts with learning to play well with others in pre-school, in the neighborhood and on the school playground. From kindergarten on, you’re told to pay attention in class, do your homework, make your best effort, get a good education, and then be willing to start at the bottom and do whatever you’re asked to do, even if the work seems beneath someone with your now-stellar preparation!

The one piece of important advice that’s often missing is this: Know your personal story and tell it well.

Yes, your personal story is crucial to your career success. That point was driven home to me this week when I talked with a prospective client about a training program for top-level managers being considered for the ultimate promotion to partner. One of the factors the candidates will be judged on is the authenticity and relevance of their personal stories. Why you? How have you proven yourself? Are you ready for the top?

Using the personal stories as one of the selection criteria clearly illustrates the truth of Annette Simmons’ book title: Whoever Tells the Best Story Wins.

How about you? Do you clearly answer the questions in your audience’s minds when you’re trying to sell a service, a product, an idea–or yourself as the right person for the position?