Posts Tagged ‘organization’

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?

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!

Stories Called the Greatest Relationship Builders

Thursday, May 22nd, 2014

Storytelling is one of the five new realities of sales discussed in a new book entitled, Duct Tape Selling: Think Like a Marketer, Sell Like a Superstar. The author, John Jantsch, discusses each “new reality” in depth, including storytelling, which he says is the new “nurturing.” The other four new realities of selling offer equally interesting perspectives on the new way of doing business. They are 1) Listening is the new prospecting, 2) Educating is the new presenting, 3) Insight is the new information sharing, and 4) Connecting is the new closing.

In a blog summarizing the author’s explanation of the five new realities, Dave Kerpen says Jantsch describes stories as the world’s greatest relationship builders. The author explains that salespeople need to make their organization’s core stories relevant to their customers and the world they live in. (Actually, relating to the customer has long been an essential element of effective advertising and selling.) When that relevance is presented as a well-told story, Jantsch posits, the story not only resonates with the customer, but the customer takes ownership of building a new story with the salesperson’s business as the lead character. The salesperson’s company actually becomes the hero of the story, meeting the customer’s problems head-on and solving them.

Many successful salespeople naturally use stories to help the prospective customer imagine what life would be like after they benefit from the product or service being offered. Most don’t. Instead, they focus on the features of their product or service and leave the prospective customer to figure out how it’s relevant to their lives.

In today’s fast-paced, constantly changing world, it’s essential to have an array of carefully crafted stories to draw on at any given moment. You need to be able to pull out and tell the best brief tale that “sings” to the individual you’re presenting to. The Corporate Storytelling® system will give you the knowledge, the skills and the tools you need to create and tell stories that resonate with your ideal customers; when you do that, they will see your company as the hero they’ve been looking for.

Starbucks Story Is about Passion and Authenticity

Wednesday, September 25th, 2013

Starbucks is proof positive that passion and authenticity can drive a company to huge success. Founded in Seattle in 1971 by two guys who sold whole bean and ground coffee as well as tea and spices in a retail store in Pike Place Market, Starbucks originally set out to educate consumers about dark-roasted coffee and the wide variety of beans and teas in the world. The founders were comfortable being small and selling only bagged products for customers to brew at home. The company grew by leaps and bounds only after Howard Schultz, now chairman, president and CEO, got involved.

Hired in 1982 to head up marketing, Schultz became CEO in 1987 after leaving the company for a while to start his own business. When he returned to take the top post, Schultz convinced private investors that his vision was achievable. Aiming for a national chain of European-style warm, inviting neighborhood cafes, he and his management team grew the business from a company with 6 stores to a national chain of 1,300 stores and 25,000 employees–within 10 years! Now a global company of more than 20,000 stores and 151,000 partners in 62 countries, Starbucks is still an organization run on passion.

Schultz had been bitten by “the bug” of high quality coffee and the classic Italian cafe culture in 1981 when he first sipped a cappuccino at a neighborhood coffee bar in Italy. He’ll never forget that pivotal moment–and he still loves sharing that experience with the world. He was certain Americans would enjoy the experience just as much as he did, and in some communities Starbucks is, in fact, the “Third Place” gathering spot that Schultz envisioned. And his concept caught on to a far greater degree than he originally imagined.

As he says in his first book, Pour Your Heart into It, How Starbucks Built a Company One Cup at a Time, “People connect with Starbucks because they relate to what we stand for. It’s more than great coffee. It’s the romance of the coffee experience, the feeling of warmth and community…. Starbucks strikes an emotional chord with people. Some drive out of their way to get their morning coffee from our stores.”

Based on an authenticity that permeates the culture, Schultz’s leadership emanates from his contagious passion for coffee. The mission “to inspire and nurture the human spirit–one person, one cup and one neighborhood at a time” inspires store managers, executives and partners at all levels. Management decisions, as well as the one-on-one interactions between baristas and customers, are evidence of their commitment.

Starbucks has proven, as Schultz says, that “a company can grow big without losing the passion and personality that built it, but only if it’s driven not by profits but by values and by people. If you pour your heart into your work, or into any worthy enterprise, you can achieve dreams others may think impossible.”

How about your organization? Is the leader’s passion evident? Is the vision clear? And what about you? What dreams do you have for your own future that passion and authenticity will help you achieve?

Stories Are Powerful Tools for Shaping Culture

Wednesday, June 5th, 2013

Siemens is truly a storytelling culture–one that tells stories deliberateSiemens AGly in a number of ways. One purpose is to build and shape the corporate culture. In an interview with Keith Ritchie, Siemens’ official storyteller, “Marketing” relates how the company has used stories to emphasize safety practices.

“… we want a change of mindset so that people actually want to be safe, “Ritchie explains. “To do that, you’ve got to make an emotional connection, and the best way to make an emotional connection is through storytelling.” He goes on to tell about one employee who volunteered to describe how he lost an eye when he was an apprentice. He became part of a video series, “This Is My Safety Story.’ Ritchie says the man’s story–as well as others in the series–is powerful because “it’s authentic, it’s coming from a person, it’s not a manager telling you how you have to be safe….”

What are the current top-of-mind issues and concerns in your organization? How can you use stories to ensure that employees understand not only what’s important but why it’s important?

Virtual Storytelling Works Well for Introductory Presentation

Wednesday, April 24th, 2013
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If your organization needs storytelling training but would rather dip a toe in the water instead of diving straight in, an introductory presentation that’s delivered virtually may be the answer. After speaking to several groups “live” via web-based video chat technology, I’ve concluded that it works–and works very well.I had my doubts about being able to form a strong connection and interact naturally with people in a room at the other end of the country, and I was pleasantly surprised. The bond that starts to form when people tell stories occurs even when they’re separated by thousands of miles. This was true whether I was in my own office using a simple web cam or on-site in front of a corporate audience with their colleagues in another state linked via the corporate video system.

The accompanying photo shows the video screen set up in a board room when I delivered a 90-minute keynote-style presentation from my office. The session included time for the viewers to share stories with one another and also allowed  for audience interaction through a Q&A segment. I was able to discern each of the 12 people seated around the table, and as you can see, my image was bigger than life!

We followed up the introductory program with one-on-one telephone consultations to help each board member develop a story illustrating his/her special connection to the organization. Stories that relate a meaningful personal experience are especially powerful. They develop connections with the audience at a deep level and naturally win support for an idea or a mission.

If you’d like to explore how a virtual session would work for you, give me a call at 1-425-827-3998. You’ll be pleasantly surprised by how easy and how effective it is.

Even Data Scientists Need to Tell Stories

Wednesday, April 3rd, 2013

data-analysis-cartoon-1Two data scientists acknowledged in a recent blog post that even they need to sharpen their storytelling skills rather than thinking it’s enough to keep on cranking out data. They also urged their colleagues to recognize not just the power of storytelling, but also the need to tell stories to give their data meaning.

Writing on the “Harvard Business Review” blog, Jeff Bladt and Bob Filbin of www.DoSomething.org explain that there’s a good reason many people immediately think “Big Brother” when they hear the term “Big Data.” While computers can do a lot–and keep on cranking out reports and numbers 24/7–people intuitively know that their core needs as human beings can’t be quantified or fulfilled by a machine. So the more computers are able to do and asked to do, the more anxious people become.

“As the cost of collecting and storing data continues to decrease,”Bladt and Filbin write, “the volume of raw data an organization has available can be overwhelming. Of all the data in existence, 90% was created in the last 2 years.” Yes, you read that correctly: 90% of all data at our disposal today was created in just the past 2 years! The authors caution that human translation and context is essential to make use of that information successfully.

“Without a human frame, like photos or words that make emotion salient,” the scientists say, “data will only confuse, and certainly won’t lead to smart organizational behavior.”

What do you think? How does your organization process and manage the data it collects? More importantly, perhaps, is this question: How well are all the humans in your company coping with the flood of data you’re expected to use?

Brain Study Confirms Stories Are Powerful

Wednesday, September 5th, 2012

A recent neurological study confirms what writers have long known from experience: The human brain makes little distinction between reading about an experience and encountering it in real life. So, for example, when a person reads sensory descriptions, such as the smell of lavender or cinnamon, the words generate a reaction in the sensory cortex, generating a nearly identical reaction as the experience described. In other words, stories are powerful!

In an article in The New York Times, Author Annie Murphy Paul says that “The novel, of course, is an unequaled medium for the exploration of human social and emotional life. And there is evidence that just as the brain responds to depictions of smells and textures and movements as if they were the real thing, so it treats the interactions among fictional characters as something like real-life social encounters.”

Keith Oatley, an emeritus professor of cognitive psychology at the University of Toronto (and a published novelist), has proposed that reading produces a vivid simulation of reality, one that “runs on minds of readers just as computer simulations run on computers.” Dr. Oatley says that fiction “is a particularly useful simulation because negotiating the social world effectively is extremely tricky…. Just as computer simulations can help us get to grips with complex problems such as flying a plane or forecasting the weather, so novels, stories and dramas can help us understand the complexities of social life.”

Storytelling practitioners would make a case (from their own experiences of audience reactions) that hearing well-told stories produces a similar reaction. How about you? What’s your experience with storytelling? Does your organization generate good experiences with descriptive stories?