Posts Tagged ‘values’

Storytelling and Listening for A Collaborative Culture

Thursday, March 5th, 2015

Do you have a collaborative culture? One where people are open to others’ ideas? Where individuals consider how their colleagues’ ideas can work, rather than instantly pointing out why they won’t work? A culture where people are comfortable expressing even “far out” thoughts,  knowing that it’s safe because everyone realizes that sometimes the farthest out ideas are the ones that spark absolutely brilliant new products or services?

If you don’t have a collaborative culture but want to build one, storytelling is a tool you can’t do without. By sharing stories with one another–where you came from, why you believe what you believe, how you learned valuable lessons about work and life–you get to know one another, discover shared values and interests–and Speakingbuild strong connections. The bonds developed over time through workplace story swaps lead to a strong sense of “being in this together” and motivate people to listen carefully to one another. They will begin to treat treat one another with more respect and will develop a ready willingness to collaborate and help one other. I’ve seen this happen time and again when leading work teams through my Corporate Storytelling® system.

Listening to others’ stories is a crucial component of the process. As Nelson Farris, Nike’s official storyteller for many years, says the company’s success “is based on collaboration, and the only way you’re going to collaborate is to talk to each other. That means you have to talk and then listen.

“Listening is huge. If we don’t listen, then the collaboration begins to disintegrate.”

Here are a few steps to get started with storytelling to build a collaborative culture:

  • Tell a well-developed organizational story, or a personal “lesson learned” story that conveys your values, your mission and your specific goals
  • Tell this story–and others you develop–repeatedly and systematically
  • Train others in your organization on how to tell stories
  • Underscore to your employees and other stakeholders the importance of telling values-based stories
  • Incorporate storytelling in regularly held meetings

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.

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!

 

 

Transmedia A New Approach to Storytelling

Thursday, July 3rd, 2014

“What’s transmedia storytelling?” you may ask, and I’m sure you’re not alone. I hadn’t heard of it until recently, when I discovered Omar Kattan’s blog, “Brand Stories: New Age Brand Building.” As he explains, “Transmedia storytelling  is the technique of telling a single story or story experience across multiple platforms and formats using digital technology.”

But transmedia storytelling isn’t simply telling the same story via different media; it’s telling different elements of a story to various audiences, with details tailored to each audience’s preferences and interests. In a sense, the technique represents a full-fledged communications program with the key message tailored to each audience through multiple formats. And it’s a dynamic process. It invites–and depends on–audience interaction and feedback.

Chipotle’s “The Scarecrow” ad campaign is one example, which Kattan discussed in an earlier post. It won this year’s award for a story-based ad campaign at the Cannes International Film Festival. “The Scarecrow” tells the tale of the hero going to work in a dark, depressing factory owned and operated by a scarecrow’s primary nemesis, a crow. After struggling with the conflict of values and the devaluation of his contribution by an unappreciative employer, the scarecrow overcomes the challenge of his demoralizing grind by transforming himself–and his entire life. Following his heart’s desire to work in the light, fresh outdoors, he quits his job and becomes a farmer. He grows sustainable crops (illustrated by a Chipotle chili and burrito basket), a product he’s proud to take to market.

After releasing the video, which became viral, Chipotle created a game app that educates its audience about industrialized farming. Then, to encourage support for sustainable crops, the app invites viewers to “help the Scarecrow rescue the City of Plenty from Crow Foods.” In essence, as Kattan says, the ad serves as “a mini trailer for the game app.”

It will be fun to see how other advertisers extend their brands by customizing the key messages to different audiences through a variety of technologies. How about you? How can your company convey its corporate culture and values, gain stakeholder support, and better reach its customers with transmedia storytelling?

 

A Values-Based Story about Canlis Restaurant in Seattle

Thursday, April 3rd, 2014

A reknowned Seattle restaurant often rated among the best in the country as well as the world, Canlis is a third-generation family-owned business with an impressive values-based story. The family’s values guide the owners’ long-term plans as well as day-to-day operations. Those values, as explained by Chris Canlis, the second generation to run the elegant dining room, are simplified as TGD: trustworthy, generous, and other-centered.

Speaking recently with his son, Mark, at a meeting of the Seattle Philanthropic Advisors Network (SPAN), Chris was quick to explain, “I’m not an owner; I’m a steward, and it’s my job to care for it and pass it on.” According to the restaurant website, the family believes “everything we are, we were given.” Chris says their perspective is based on a Bible passage in the book of Proverbs: “Do not withhold good from those to whom it is due, when it is in your power to act.” He added, “Generosity is not a decision; it’s a function of character. It isn’t conditional on how well you’re doing. The poorest of the poor can be generous.”

As an example, Chris said, his wife, Alice, grew up in a family that “had nothing material and all things familial.” He described her parents’ home as a place where “the door was always open and an unusually long dining table (which seated 18) always had room for one more.” He said most of what he knows about philanthropy he’s learned from his wife.

For more than six decades, Canlis’ generous philanthropy has helped many organizations, even when the economy slows and business suffers. Mark described a time when he was prepared to turn down a request for a donation to a community event during the recent recession–and then realized that even though times were challenging, the restaurant should still be generous. Among the beneficiaries of Canlis’ support is FareStart, a well-known Seattle restaurant that serves as a training facility to teach marketable skills to homeless adults and at-risk youth. Guest chefs from a range of Seattle restaurants are a regular feature at FareStart, giving trainees a close-up look at how to succeed in a service industry.

When Chris and Mark were asked how the parents have passed their values to the next generation, Mark, the father of three, jumped in. with an answer that befits his generation: “Living with three kids is like living on reality TV with three cameras in the house. They watch everything you do!”

Chris and Alice are still involved with the business, but turned over the reins to Mark and his brother, Brian, in 2005. The brothers have been careful to make incremental changes with an eye on retaining familiar features of the iconic restaurant overlooking Lake Union. Beloved by generations of Seattleites and sophisticated travelers, Canlis is consistently a top choice for celebrating special occasions. Exemplifying the family’s guiding values, the new generation of management is committed to continuing the tradition: delivering a fine-dining experience in every detail by focusing on the guests.

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!