I’ve recently had the pleasure working with World Vision Australia. In case you don’t know them, they’re Australia’s largest charity and they focus on child and community well-being across the world. You might have sponsored a child through World Vision.
A few weeks ago I caught up with their CEO, Tim Costello, and I was struck by his warmth and charm and immediately recognised his superb storytelling skills. I’m often asked, “Who are the storytelling CEOs?” And I would definitely add Tim to that list.
Tim was adept at a type of story I don’t hear that often, the analogy story. Here are a couple of examples Tim shared with me which should give you a pretty good idea of what I mean.
Tim often gets the question, “So, what percentage of the money donated goes to running World Vision?” I can hear the exasperation in Tim’s voice as a tells me this.
Here’s the story he told (in my words) to help me understand his frustration.
“Imagine you’ve just been diagnosed with cancer and your only hope rests with undergoing a complicated and risky surgery. You research each surgeon on your short-list and you ask each one, “So, what percentage of your income goes to running your business?”
“Of course this is ridiculous. You would ask about their success rate, how often they’ve done the surgery and what other complications might happen. But we rarely get asked how successful our programs are by the general public. And they are extremely successful.”
The other analogy story Tim told me was this.
“Ten years ago, or more,” he said, “the only way you could get to the countries and communities who needed help was through organisations like ours. But these days people can just jump on a plane and land on the doorstep of any stricken community wanting to help.”
“It’s a bit like someone in Ethiopia reading online about Australia’s problems reforming our education system, then hopping on a plane, catching a cab out to a local Primary School and fronting up to the principal offering to help.
The principal might ask, “Do you understand how our education system works in Australia?”
“No, I don’t. But I’m here to help,” replies our Good Samaritan.
“How’s your English then?” asks the principal.
“Not very good. But I’m here to help,” says the Good Samaritan.”
Look our for analogies from everyday life, something that everyone can relate to, and think about how that situation relates to what you are trying to achieve at work, to the obstacles and misconceptions. Then jot them down and look for places to tell ’em.
About Shawn Callahan
Shawn, author of Putting Stories to Work, is one the world's leading business storytelling consultants. He helps executive teams find and tell the story of their strategy. When he is not working on strategy communication, Shawn is helping leaders find and tell business stories to engage, to influence and to inspire. Shawn works with Global 1000 companies including Shell, IBM, SAP, Bayer, Microsoft & Danone. Connect with Shawn on: