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An Rx for Influence: The Two Story Solution for Change Management

two pills

photo by Dean Hochman / BY CC

This article was first published on Anecdote.com.

The problem with a negative story

Being negative is an easy trap to fall into.

When trying to prove a point or change someone’s mind, the natural tendency is to use a story that has a negative point-of-view to warn against an outcome and perhaps shock the listener a little.

The problem with a negative story is that it is only a warning and it is only attention-grabbing. Using a stand-alone cautionary tale tells your audience how not to behave, but fails to fill the void with a better idea.

A powerful anecdote I recently heard could effectively be used in many settings. For instance, if you were coaching a young professional about how to handle questions regarding their level of expertise.

Sometimes the wrong explanation can hamper your ability to move ahead in your career. Anna visited a doctor to discuss an elective procedure. She asked the surgeon the very obvious question, “How many times have you done this operation?” The doctor’s response was, “Five.” With that answer, Anna resolved that she would not be his sixth.

Certainly every doctor – or any type of professional – needs to gain experience and practice, but there has to be a better answer to that question because no one wants to be the guinea pig.

This story is instructive, but only to a point. If the coaching ends here, many questions are left unanswered. Therefore, to truly change a mind, you also need to exemplify the desired behavior.

The perfect complement to a negative story

A second story that demonstrates the positive perspective is the perfect complement to the negative story.

A helpful secondary story could be:

A young surgeon was asked in clinic by a patient “How many times have you done this operation?”

She told the patient who was in need of a major surgery: “Never. I haven’t done this exact procedure before because every patient is different. I approach each surgery knowing that no two patients have the exact same anatomy, pre-existing conditions, or medical history. That being said, I’ve spent years training at some of the best medical institutions with world-renowned teachers and this has prepared me to take on any case, including yours.”

The patient responded favorably and was comfortable signing the consent forms because the answer was honest and it instilled confidence. That’s what you want to achieve when responding to a question about your capabilities so that lack of experience never hinder your career growth.

A prescription for success – the two story solution

For a young person preparing for a job interview, you can see how a revelation might occur after hearing these two stories. That’s because taken together, the negative example followed by a positive one is both a diagnosis of a problem and a prescription for success.

An example that serves as a warning certainly will catch the attention of your audience, but alone it probably isn’t enough to achieve your preferred result. Consider using the negative and positive story technique the next time you are leading change because influence isn’t authoritarian, nor is it restrictive. True influence is education with a dose of inspiration.

 

The Dotted Line: Calling All Change Agents

The October 2014 issue of The Dotted Line features news + resources for leading change. Subscribe to receive future issues of The Dotted Line delivered to your inbox.

 

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Be the Change By Telling the Story

The last Storytelling for Leaders public workshop of 2014 will be held on Monday, November 17 in Washington, D.C. at the Le Méridien Arlington. Get details and register or take your chances trying to win a seat at the training by heading over to Facebook.

If you can’t make it to D.C., bring Storytelling for Leaders to your team, company, or corporate training academy. 2015 dates are already being booked. Find out more.

 

Resources for Change Agents (Like You)

How to Make Yourself Memorable
from Business Insider

Whenever you meet someone new, you can be sure that they want to know two things about you. No, it’s not where you’re from and what you do for a living. Those superficial questions are actually trying to ascertain what you’re about and what you want.

Your employees also seek the same information from their leaders, especially during times of change. Until you provide answers, they are going to resist change because they doubt your sincerity, ability, and motive. Find a way to connect with everyone you meet by using these four steps for creating your own connection story that will improve your effectiveness as a leader.

The Cure for Micromanaging
from Simply Hired

Leading change is a stress-filled endeavor, so don’t make it worse by breathing down the necks of everyone on your team. Micromanaging won’t make you a better leader (unless being annoying is your goal). This cure for micromanaging results in the need for less direct oversight and fewer rules, while encouraging more engagement. It’s sort of like a magic pill, but it’s not bitter at all.

No One’s Favorite: Flavor of the Month Leadership
from LinkedIn

Humans are hardwired to seek consistency. That’s the reason we hate hypocrites and are justified in demanding some degree of certainty at work. Leaders violate that trust when they roll out a new initative or switch the strategy too often. As a result, employees revolt by refusing to participate, their reason being that “it’s just the next flavor of the month”. Put an end to this complaint by taking a hard look at your organization and identifying which of the five root causes apply to you.

 

 Executive Coaching
*  One Opening  *

One-on-one coaching works for busy executives who want to learn communications and influence skills that will enhance their effectiveness in the boardroom, behind the podium, or across the desk. You’ll be led through a proven program that’s customize to your specific needs and current workplace challenges.

Just last week a client in Atlanta used these skills to deliver a presentation to a skeptical executive team and he was elated to report that he ultimately won their support for his initiative.

I have opened only one new spot for an executive who is ready to improve his or her communications and leadership skills. Inquire today.

 

Upcoming Events


Storytelling for Leaders public workshop
in Washington, D.C.on Monday, November, 17.
Reserve your spot.

Make Your Strategy Stick: Storytelling Roles of Management and Communications in Cincinnati, Ohio, on Thursday, November 20. Sponsored by the International Association of Business Communicators. Sign up.

Little Stories that Pave the Way for Big Change podcast interview with Jesse Lahey of Engaging Leader to air in early 2015. Learn more.

……
Request a speaker on the topics of change communications,
corporate culture, employee engagement, or business strategy.

 

Connected Strategy Group was founded by Amanda Marko, president and chief connection officer, to help leaders increase their influence through deeper connections that enhance the effectiveness of business strategy, change management, employee engagement, and corporate culture initiatives. Amanda recently became one of only a handful of people globally – and the first in the U.S. – to partner with Australia-based Anecdote to deliver their Storytelling for Leaders program. Storytelling complements her consulting work to help leaders better influence, engage, and inspire others.

 

Strategic Storytelling Workshop for Corporate Executives Who Want Training in Using Stories to Improve Their Leadership

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The last public Storytelling for Leaders workshop in the U.S. is on Monday, November 17. Learn more and register.

Additional public training sessions in strategic storytelling will be scheduled in 2015.

Go here for details about bringing oral business storytelling to your workplace, attending a public workshop, or receiving executive coaching in storytelling techniques.

 

 

 

 

What Leaders Can Learn from Howard Stern

Howard Stern

Photo by B Norton / BY CC

I first published this article on LinkedIn

Media star Howard Stern is known for putting his guests in the hot seat and for conducting the most interesting and entertaining interviews on the air. His style isn’t adversarial, yet it’s provocative enough to elicit never-before-told stories from the most guarded people: celebrities.

Your employees are also on-guard. They’re protecting their emotions, career prospects, and reputation, as well as their livelihood and their family who depends on their income. As a result, they are reluctant to share the truth with management because they fear what you will do with the information.

Yet, uncovering your employees’ stories is a worthwhile endeavor because their anecdotes will help you discover truths about your corporate culture, your team’s engagement level, and opportunities for improvement. Just keep in mind that gathering their revelations and failing to act on them is equally as bad as betraying their trust; good leaders do neither.

Guests on Howard Stern’s SiriusXM show are not dissimilar to your employees. First-time guests on his show move through a series of three predictable stages:

  1. Apprehension: Howard’s guests invariably admit during the interview that they were “so afraid about coming here”.

    Take-away: Regardless of your open-door policy, many employees are threatened by your authority, worry about jeopardizing their future, or are fearful of embarrassing themselves.

  2. Disclosure: Howard is entertaining because the information divulged on his show is unlike what you will hear on any other talk show. He is able to coax people into sharing stories about themselves that they’ve never before told.

    Take-away: Encouraging your employees to tell you stories about their experiences will make you a better manager because you will obtain a deeper understanding of how your team actually operates and what motivates your people.

  3. Elation: At the end of the interview, usually as the guest is being dragged from the studio by a handler who has already allowed the interview to exceed its scheduled time by 20 or 30 minutes, the guest gushes about how much fun the interview was and asks to return. The guest and Howard have formed an unexpected bond.

    Take-away: Your employees will also feel closer to you after sharing their stories, which will increase their loyalty, job satisfaction, engagement, and performance.

During the intermediate step – disclosure – something magical happens. It’s where trust is built, stories are told, and the relationship deepens. Just like Howard does with his A-list celebrity guests, making your employees comfortable enough to share sensitive information is a hallmark of an exceptional leader, one who strives to improve the team’s – and perhaps the the entire company’s – effectiveness.

As a manager, it’s in everyone’s best interest if you know what is really happening in your organization. One way to discover these truths is to gain the trust of the skeptics. You too can learn from The King of All Media’s methods for putting guests at ease and transforming apprehension to elation. In business, that’s like turning disengagement to engagement.

Leaders can learn more from Howard Stern. In the second part of this series, I will share Howard’s techniques for building trust. In the third part, I’ll reveal his formula for asking questions that evoke stories.

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Amanda Marko is president and chief connection officer of Connected Strategy Group, which helps leaders communicate their business strategy and engage stakeholders during times of change.

Storytelling is an effective change management tool that can be taught to leaders. The next public workshop is in Washington, DC; in-house training for teams or one-on-one executive coaching in leadership communications techniques are also available.

For more storytelling resources, download the free 30-minute audio training, Making the Business Case for Storytelling.

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