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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.



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.


Light Up Your Business Storytelling Skills

photo by Giacoma Carena / BY CC

photo by Giacoma Carena / BY CC


A guest post by Christopher Kogler, president of Narrative Intelligence

Using stories in growing your business is a unique skill that is easy to master but few take full advantage of. Unlike a PowerPoint presentation or a written report, stories, especially those that are spoken, engage stakeholders on an entirely different level.

The three essential elements of business storytelling are:

We believe that stories used in business are best told orally. Certainly you want to outline your story and make sure your thoughts are coherent, but throw the script away and work from your notes. There’s no requirement to tell your story word-for-word exactly the same way you told it the last time. In fact, you might develop a long version and a shorter version of the same business story which will give you some flexibility in terms of your presentation, i.e. the time you have to present and the audience you’re presenting to.

The best stories are personal and are drawn from your unique, personal business experiences. When leaders draw from their personal experiences – whether it’s a great success or a failure you’re sharing so others may learn – magical things begin to happen. Because you’ve lived the experience and are now sharing it with others, your story brings a strong sense of real world authenticity to the words you’re speaking. Being authentic in your storytelling is essential for building trust and rapport with your audience and stakeholders.

The third essential element in creating powerful business stories is your stories should be emotional. Stories that are emotional make your listener want to care. And, if your listener cares about what you’re saying and trusts you, they will be much more inclined to remember what you’ve said. Also, if action is needed, they’ll be much more inclined to take action based on the concepts and ideas you’re sharing with them via your stories.

Presenting orally, drawing from your personal experiences and engaging your audience and stakeholders emotionally are three of the most important elements you need to create powerful and compelling business stories.


Increase your influence by becoming skilled in the three dimensions of story-work during the interactive Storytelling for Leaders training presented by Connected Strategy Group and Narrative Intelligence. Register for a workshop or inquire about bringing the program to your organization.


Learn to Make the Business Case for Storytelling

Storytelling Audio-1

Strategic Leaders Wake-Up Call: Pricing Workshop in Cleveland

Invite_The Price is Right 9_19_14

Make the Case for Storytelling

tumblr_n0hq0nxdQd1st5lhmo1_1280 You don’t need to tell a communicator: storytelling works. The best communicators know that true emotional connection can only be made through stories.

But try persuading a stubborn executive, a reluctant leader, a timid manager, an overwhelmed salesperson, or an analytical accountant, and you will have a hard time making them budge.

In this free 30-minute audio training, learn to make the business case for storytelling to even the most skeptical audiences.

When communications becomes a responsibility shared by the communications department and executives alike, you’ll find that change is smoother, employees are more engaged, strategy is understood, and the pace is quickened.

This audio training will help you create an organization full of story-vangelists.




Workshop for Communicators in Cleveland on June 24


On Tuesday, June 24 I will be the lunchtime guest of IABC Cleveland to discuss storytelling’s role in assisting with change management and cultural transformations, as well as reducing complexity.

Details and registration are available on the chapter’s website.

Strategy Dies in the Forgotten Middle Layer of Management


photo by Kumar Appaiah / CC BY

Middle management is where well-intentioned business strategy goes to die.

Harvard Business Review took a thoughtful look at the strong connection between communicating management intent and achieving business success. It seems the why often gets lost in communications. It makes no sense, until you consider that mid-level managers play an important (yet under-appreciated role) translating corporate strategy, goals, and policies into specific tasks for their teams.

Remember that these people weren’t in the board room when the decisions were made and the strategy was set, but they are ultimately responsible for making or breaking a corporate initiative. They will either take the big idea and make it reality, or the grand plans will wither and die a slow death at their hands.

Their power lies in their position as the translator of concrete ideas to actionable tasks. Dictating from above doesn’t work because employees respond to and have a deeper connection with the person to whom they directly report.

When I was with SAP in Europe, Middle East and Africa, we asked a sample of the 11,000 employees how they received most of their information. They said: their manager. We asked how they preferred to get corporate information. They said: their manager. We asked how they wanted to receive information in the future. They said: their manager.

The direct manager of every employee is the preferred communications method. Fancy intranets, newsletters, or bulletin boards will never replace this human interaction with the single person who holds the key to determining an employee’s level of job satisfaction, performance and accomplishment, and level of compensation and career advancement.

Managers are wise to acknowledge this and determine how to leverage their influence. Too many managers remove emotion from their interactions with employees, which dulls their ability to be influential. Instead of thinking of business strategy as a fact-driven directive, managers have the power to bring it to life by creating an emotional connection to the future state the strategy will reveal.

Only robots perform tasks without comprehending why they’re necessary, what came before, and what will come next in the process. Employees are not robots and they are unable to operationalize a strategy unless they are armed with a fundamental understanding of their role in its execution.

Good managers know exactly what speaks louder than words. Observed actions are not only modeled by the team, but they also trigger stories that move rapidly through the organization. Whether the story is a retelling of bad or good behavior, the decision-making and actions of  employees will be influenced.

Stories are sort of like implanting a programmable chip in employees’ minds. Annette Simmons noted, “Story is like mental software that [managers] supply so that [employees] can run it later using new input specific to the situation…..Once installed, a good story replays itself and continues to process new experience through a filter, channeling future experiences toward the perceptions and choices you desire.” Stories turn employees into independent thinkers and eliminate the need to micromanage.

Managers who step up to their role in strategy execution will likely find themselves elevated to a position where they are in the room next time big decisions are made. So forget implanting a microchip in employees’ heads or replacing them with robots. Instead, tell a story or do something remarkable that triggers a story and watch an abstract strategy come to life before your eyes.


Step Away from the Email: Putting an End to Email Abuse

How email became the communication everyone hates to love

Ask any cubicle dweller, telecommuter, or white collar worker, and they will tell you they hate email. But ask them how they want to receive large-distribution pieces of information – give them every option from a phone call, to a community message board, to social media – and they will pick:  email.

The hate-to-love-it mentality is frustrating for us communicators, until you consider that so many senders of email use it incorrectly.

But how can you do something wrong that you do every day? After all, just about every breathing person who spends a portion of their day in front of a computer both consumes email and produces it.

Email has become the lazy manager’s preferred communication.

It’s a push that requires no pull. It’s a way to check something off your to-do list without verifying that the message was received or the follow-up action completed. As a result, too many middle and upper level managers have become over reliant on email as a means – sometimes the only means – of communication with their employees.

The result is a lot of messages being sent, but very few messages being read, understood, and acted upon.

Disconnect to reconnect: a fundamental change to employee communications

Picture1We helped a global enterprise software leader capture employees’ attention by pulling the plug on the most popular electronic channel. That’s right: we shut down bulk email messages from executives to employee for a while.

The over-reliance on email messages was causing the executives’ messages to get ignored. An email from an executive to employees should receive heightened attention. It should be disruptive. The employee should have a strong desire to read the email. The “from” name alone should create a sense of urgency: “something is happening that I need to know”. This wasn’t the case because employees had become accustomed to receiving operational and mundane announcements from the same people who should have been strictly communicating strategic and high-priority information.

The first phase of our plan created radio silence by shutting off email between executives and large groups of employees. It was intended to dramatically capture some attention. It did that. At the same time, the temporary policy forced a shift in the executives’ – and employees’ – views of email. Executives were educated about the availability and effectiveness of other communications channels. During this period, employees were also trained to gather information from sources other than their email inboxes.

Next came a carefully orchestrated return to “the new normal,” which served to re-calibrate the tone, tenor, and tempo of communications. We recaptured the aura around executive communications, ensuring they would again be as effective as possible at conveying important messages that needed eyeballs and action.

Shutting off email for a time was just the beginning. We also opened up opportunities for dialog, trained mid-level managers, and gave our communications channels a face lift. The rest of the program and its impressive results were detailed in an article by Melcrum.

What would happen in your organization if leadership could no longer send mass emails to employees?

The Dotted Line: Culture and Motivation

45961826a926d3589c843c08_306x220The February 2014 issue of The Dotted Line features news + resources for creating a culture that motivates. A full version is available online. Subscribe to receive future issues in your inbox.

A Culture that Motivates
Corporate culture drives your organization’s performance, so neglecting it – or sending mixed messages – are not options.
The formula is:
1. Values create the culture.
2. Culture drives organizational performance.
3. Improved performance leads to increased employee motivation and satisfaction.
This thoughtful and thorough piece in strategy+business dissects the components of a truly effective culture. The only thing that matters: whether or not the culture you create drives performance.
Netflix’s now-famous company culture deck reveals that excellence is the goal. “We keep improving our culture as we grow. We try to get better at seeking excellence.”
Science of Motivation
In this TED talk, learn what science has proven are the top motivators for employees. (hint: it’s not money)

Then consider whether the culture you have motivates or demoralizes.

Start with Stories
Defining the culture starts with identifying your organization’s values.

Rent the Runway used a storytelling exercise described in the Wall Street Journal to pinpoint its values. Then, it started living them. The subsequent culture shift has dramatically improved employee engagement and retention.

Make the Connection
A Connected Strategy links values to culture, ties culture to performance, and aligns performance to motivation.

A Connect the DOTs Review will jumpstart the process. Inquire today.

The Dotted Line: Organizational Narrative

3c8ecc7f049746d8c70bbd42_306x306The January 2014 issue of The Dotted Line features news + resources for creating your organization’s narrative. A full version is available online. Subscribe to receive future issues in your inbox.

A Story to Tell
Stories spread fast. At lunch tables and cocktail parties, your organizational narrative is being told. Ideally, it’s comprised of inspiring and heartwarming tales of teamwork and innovation that demonstrate how your company is contributing to the greater good of humanity. But if the stories your stakeholders tell are gripe sessions full of vivid examples of redtape and poor leadership, it shouldn’t be a surprise that sales, recruiting and change initiatives are a challenge.

The benefits of creating an organizational narrative extends beyond merely defining your company’s culture (which is very important on its own). The stories also convey the corporate strategy (and make it stick).

Narrative is so powerful that it doesn’t just reflect an organization’s success, it actually dictates it. To revamp your culture or rewrite your destiny, your stories must change.

On the external side, consider replacing spin with a cohesive narrative. Then, watch as audience engagement, brand identity, knowledge sharing and leadership trust skyrocket.

Tips from the Makers of Toy Story
Inject fun and purpose into your stories by following Pixar’s 22 rules of storytelling, complete with familiar images from their most beloved films.

Creating “Liquid Content”
Coca-Cola has set out to make its corporate story fluid and linked so that it flows together to create a comprehensive narrative. Their illustrated strategy shows (and tells) how the company will capture and disseminate the stories that touch lives and propel their brands.

Make the Connection
With the right combination of narrative, messaging and engagement, you can have a Connected Strategy.

A Connect the DOTs Review will jumpstart the process. Inquire today.

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