Posts Tagged ‘storytelling’

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.

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.

Five Words Fundraising Stories Should Elicit

Thursday, April 18th, 2013

Speakers naturally are gratified when a crowd gathers around them after a presentation, exclaiming how great they were and how impressive their work is. But how closely do you, as a speaker, pay attention to the meaning of the comments you’re hearing, particularly when you’re helping to raise funds for a non-profit organization?

Much of the feedback fundraisers hear is, contrary to their beliefs, not expressing support of their cause, according to The Rev. Eric Foley, founder and CEO of Seoul USA/.W. He says that when a person tells you after a fundraising presentation, “You’re great! Man, I could never do what you do,” that person is saying that s/he never will do what you do–or support what you do. The person is telling you that your organization’s story didn’t touch the individual’s heart.

Having trained more than 1,300 Christian organizations in the art of fundraising, The Rev. Foley has concluded that five key words tell you whether your presentation was a success. Those five words are, “I see myself in you.”

When you hear those words from an audience member, you know you’ve made a connection and won over a new donor. How often do you hear those words after a fundraising presentation? How might you improve your stories to elicit those words?



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 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?

Concise Storytelling for Stanford Business Grads

Wednesday, October 3rd, 2012

Stanford University’s Graduate School of Business (GSB) has included storytelling in its curriculum for years. I had learned about it when I met Stanford professor Chip Heath at a conference where we both spoke, and he told me that he used my book, Around the Corporate Campfire: How Great Leaders Use Stories to Inspire Success, in his classes. More recently I’ve learned that the GSB incorporates storytelling instruction in numerous ways, inclduing a class for alums who were preparing to tell their business stories at an upcoming event at the school.

The focus of the class was how to prepare a concise story, which was defined as four minutes or less. In the videotaped course and an accompanying article posted online, J.D. Schramm, Ph.D., a lecturer at GSB, outlines six guidelines for narrowing the focus of a story so that it’s brief. The video is 138 minutes, so you may prefer to read the article. But if you choose to watch the video as well, look for the segment somewhere around the 60-minute mark that features two alums telling stories they’re developing–and getting feedback on how to improve them. It’s very instructive for those who haven’t yet had the opportunity to attend a storytelling class.

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?