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Learn to Make the Business Case for Storytelling

Storytelling Audio-1

Four Ways Storytelling Improves Communication in a Corporate Setting

guest post by Christopher Kogler, President, Narrative Intelligence

The best corporate presenters are individuals who have learned how to convey their corporate messages to their stakeholders via a story. When done effectively, storytelling’s power resonates on a wide variety of levels. So what are some of the benefits that an individual can expect when using stories to convey initiatives like a firm’s change management plan or its new direction?

The ability to share and elicit stories helps us to build rapport and a connection with our audience.When we first meet someone we naturally look for a way to relate to and connect with them. Whether talking to potential clients or new employees, stories that build rapport provide that opportunity. By telling a Connection Story that shares something about your character and reveals something about what drives you, you are establishing a link with that other person. And, once a person feels a connection with you and they understand something about your character, they are much more likely to listen to what you have to say.

photo by DavidLawler / CC BY

photo by DavidLawler / CC BY

Stories provide communication that is clearer, more memorable and inspiring than a list of facts or a PowerPoint presentation. There’s a reason for this. Stories that are engaging and contain emotion affect more areas of the brain than a straightforward, rational explanation. When more areas of one’s brain are stimulated, understanding increases and the comprehension of information increases significantly. Weaving facts into your story is much more effective in conveying information than simply providing the facts alone.

Stories have the unique ability to influence others without the benefit of authority. If you’re trying to change someone’s mind, it’s always better to share a story on the topic that makes your point before launching into your formal argument. Stories encourage the listener to be less judgmental while listening to your viewpoint.

Stories provide the tools we need to effectively explain things in ways that connect with different audiences. Different stakeholders have different points of view and bring different biases to the table. And, as a result, their reaction to the information you’re providing may be very different depending on their perspective. For instance, selling a division of the company may be applauded by the Board but be considered a huge loss in that division. To be able to construct an Influence Story in a way that is appropriate to your audience gives you significantly more flexibility in conveying difficult information or getting someone to think differently, rather than simply presenting them with the facts.

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

Storytelling for Leaders – Las Vegas

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.

Story + Strategy Workshop in Cleveland on June 24

CS-TAMS_invite_final_TAMS (2)

The Picture Tells the Story of the Story

Over on Anecdote’s blog, I shared the story of one of my meetings with Bono from U2. I’m told that the picture that accompanies the story “speaks a thousand words,” so rather than say anything else, head over there and see for yourself.

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.


Have I Got a Story to Tell You…

Actually, that’s the worst way to start a story. The first rule of storytelling is: never say the “s word”.

As a communicator who has operated in many buttoned-up business settings, I’ve often been tasked with creating inspirational messaging that resonates with key stakeholders.  Intuitively I knew the best way to connect with the audience, and thus change their minds, motivate their actions, and influence their decisions, was by touching their hearts with a poignant story. Yet I struggled to draw stories out of many leaders.

Try as I might, executives and managers resisted my efforts. Perhaps it was fear of appearing vulnerable or unprofessional, or perhaps it was performance anxiety, but storytelling was not on the table. Many times, the best I could get out of them was a generalized example, or perhaps an analogy. Neither of those are stories, and neither of them pack the emotional punch I sought (nor the full results they intended).

Earlier this year I was having a quick pub dinner with my husband when he received a work call. I used the interruption to open Twitter and there I found a retweet that caught my eye:

Anecdote Shawn tweet

I had no idea what expertise Shawn had, but I’m always open to networking opportunities. A quick click of Shawn’s Twitter bio and Anecdote’s website, followed by a Twitter conversation, which turned into an email conversation, and led to a meeting in New York City, then two week later, I was in Los Angeles to experience Storytelling for Leaders myself. I was immediately hooked by the idea that it was possible to incorporate pointed, strategic stories into any business environment.

This isn’t acting lessons – no Shakespeare or fables here. This is storytelling for leaders. A leader is anyone who needs to influence, engage and inspire people. That’s pretty much all of us.

Now I’m thrilled to announce that I am Anecdote’s first partner in the U.S. who will be certified to deliver Storytelling for Leaders program. If you want to learn more about bringing this program to your company, contact me.

The program itself is much more than a one-day workshop. Not only do participants learn how to spot, tell, and trigger stories, they also practice their story telling technique through a deliberate practice program that encourages behavior change and reinforces learning by engaging the workshop participants for six months after the workshop. The results are that minds will be opened, patterns will be broken, and change will occur. It can’t be helped. That’s the power of story.

Storytelling for Leaders

Influence without relying on authority.

Build fast rapport.

Change minds and inspire action.

Anecdote’s Storytelling for Leaders program will teach you the techniques you need to better influence, engage and inspire others – just as hundreds of leaders already have, from Melbourne to New York, London to Singapore.

Organizations are changing quickly. Structures are flatter and reporting lines more complex. Staff and customers are spread around the world. And everyone is deafened by the ‘noise’ of information inundation. Yet the modern leader still needs to be able to influence and persuade in this constantly fluid environment.

The sharing of stories orally is a powerful way of cutting through. When we tell stories, people ‘get’ what we are saying – and they remember it. This is the case whether we are communicating informally (which is what we do most of the time) or in a more formal environment such as a presentation.

“Other presentations were dry and heavy, but the Yammer presentations really stood out because we were telling stories versus merely sharing data.” A Storytelling for Leaders participant describes the way storytelling changed her presentations. Click here to hear more.

More than just storytelling

Storytelling for Leaders will teach you a systematic method for becoming a better, more confident storyteller. However, the program goes further. You will also learn how to use the magic of stories to get more from others:

  • Story-triggering involves a leader doing something remarkable enough that it inspires people in the organization to recount what happened. We show you how you can do this successfully.
  • Story-listening is the art of getting others to share stories. You’ll learn how to elicit stories from others, building stronger connections and gaining a better understanding of what’s really happening.

More than a workshop

Storytelling for Leaders is not a one-off workshop but a complete six-month program. It includes:

  • A full one-day workshop. The workshop is highly interactive as we strongly believe in the power of practical activities to foster learning. Throughout the day you will engage in hands-on activities designed to build your storytelling skills and confidence. See the workshop in action here.
  • Our unique Deliberate Practice Program (DPP). This workplace-based program includes six modules, spread over six months, which will embed and enhance what was learned in the workshop. Most of the learning you do will occur during in the workplace, during the DPP, rather than in the workshop.

The Deliberate Practice Program includes online support, with the opportunity to ask questions and share your experiences at any time.

“The workshop covered a lot of territory in a way that combined analytical rigor with a clear and informal delivery. I recommend it without reservation.”

Who should attend?

Storytelling for Leaders is beneficial to anyone whose role requires them to influence, engage and inspire others. Previous participants have included senior leaders, project managers, salespeople, consultants and trainers.

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?

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