A few months ago, in my car on the way to see a client, I heard an interview on the radio. There was this lady who had been nominated for the title ‘Cleaning Lady of the Year’.
The woman told the journalist about her work in a way that completely surprised me. She was so enthusiastic, so full of passion and energy. This woman loved cleaning.
Her career began when her house was so spic and span that there was simply nothing to do anymore, and her husband begged her to find a job as a cleaning lady. So she took a job at a primary school, cleaning the classrooms.
Stories can change something normal into something special
The arrangement was that the schoolkids would do some tidying before going home and the woman would take care of the rest.
To encourage the children in their cleaning, the woman would write a few compliments on the blackboard along with her name, and perhaps a little drawing.
For the kids, it became a sport to clean up their room as much as possible. In the morning, they couldn’t wait to enter the classroom to see what had been written on the blackboard this time.
What struck me the most about the woman’s story was the reaction of the journalist. At the beginning of the interview, he asked her some critical questions, as journalists do.
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Imagine you’re in a meeting and one of your colleagues makes the bold statement, ‘We need a big initiative here. It’s really the only way to have an impact’.
Now, you know that small initiatives can also spark big changes, but just disagreeing with your colleague is unlikely to change their mind, or anyone else’s. What you need to do is share a story about when a small thing made a difference. But to do that you need to remember a business story.
Over the years, we’ve developed a simple approach to remembering stories to retell on occasions such as this. It has two parts: the organic process and the story bank.
The organic process
This is all about filling your brain with stories that you will remember when you need them. It has three simple steps. Read the rest of this entry »
Filed in Business storytelling, Changing behaviour, Story collection
Two years ago Mark and I flew to New Delhi to run a public Storytelling for Leaders program. This public program was an extended version because we combined a day on business storytelling with a day of what we call story-listening, that is, collecting stories in an organisation and using them to instigate culture change.
One of the participants was Baliji V who is the human resources director of Mahindra Holidays and Resorts India. Mahindra Resorts has 43 properties in India and is the leading brand in this industry in India.
We didn’t know it at the time but Baliji had a problem. Customer satisfaction was low, staff morale was dipping and it was, as you can imagine, affecting business. Baliji was feeling a bit stressed.
We’ve all read and heard the word sustainability but how many of us can articulate what it means? When I started working in the sustainability space several years ago, I was frankly baffled that so many people knew the word, but so few could really explain its meaning. I still regularly ask people for their understanding of the concept and aside from sustainability officers and their troops, I continue to get a wide range of answers.
Sustainability directly involves economics, ecology, politics and culture. It encompasses wide areas of expertise and includes numerous business sectors. I like to say it encompasses the worlds of earth, air, wind and fire! Herein lays the conundrum. There is no easy way to explain sustainability; sustainability is truly Complex.
A sleep inducing definition
In 1987 the UN’s Brundtland Commission coined the definition most often quoted for the term, Sustainable Development: “Development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.”
This is an important concept; perhaps one of the most important concepts of the latter 20th and early 21st centuries. But it puts me to sleep! It’s instantly forgettable (read it again, how much can you remember?!?)…in one ear and out the other… why should I care when I can’t even remember?
Why is one of the most profound and important ideas of our present era so unmemorable?
On 19 and 20 June I was in London to run the accreditation program for a few of our new Storytelling for Leaders (TM) Partners. We had a fun time together and its always a pleasure working with great people. Working with experienced and professional facilitators and storytellers meant I learned lots as well. Many thanks to Stuart for helping me focus the Connection Stories activity on ‘moments’.
If you are in the UK or Europe (apparently there is a difference) and want to learn more about Storytelling for Leaders, give one of them a call.
New Storytelling for Leaders partners
Business stories don’t need to be fancy. They should be told just like you would tell it if you were catching up with a colleague informally. I would tell this one when chatting to senior leaders about how they can model the behaviour they want–in fact they must. Or it would be good as an example of bringing a organisational value to life with a story.
If you follow my Soundcloud account you will get to hear these types of business stories a week ahead of it arriving on our blog. Love to hear your feedback. When would you tell this story? What would be your point?
Sometimes it’s a good idea to finish a story so that the audience has to put some pieces together to get what the story is about. When someone puts some work in understanding a story they own it and it’s more meaningful for them.
As an example, my 21-year-old daughter told me this story the other day.
A friend of hers has a dog which just loves to dig. Whenever it gets a chance to dig up plants or dig up bones it couldn’t be happier. It’s a Staffordshire Terrier and is a real rough and tumble sort of dog.
Their next door neighbour’s dog is the exact opposite. They have a beautifully groomed poodle. A white, fluffy one which they like to put a bow around its neck.
One day after work my daughter’s friend came home to find their neighbour’s poodle dead on the back lawn. Their staffie had dug under the fence and killed the poodle and dragged it into their backyard. The poodle’s white coat was filthy and the bow torn right off.
She didn’t know what to do so in a panic her and her boyfriend decided they would clean up the poodle and put it back in their neighbour’s backyard as if it had died of natural causes.
They washed the poodle in their bath and blowed dried its coat. They even cleaned up and put back the bow around its neck. They curled the poodle up in a sleeping position on their neighbour’s back porch.
Apparently the neighbours nearly had a heart attack when they found their poodle on the porch that night because it had died a few days earlier and they’d buried it in their garden.
By Amanda Marko, an Anecdote Partner based in the USA
One way to think of a good business story is as a roadmap that points listeners toward an intended emotion or insight. But even with the best of intentions, a story can get off track or lose its way.
When it comes to driving, the best advice I can give is: go the opposite way I suggest. As a young driver without a good sense of direction and before GPS was available, I tried to go from one side of my hometown of Cincinnati, Ohio, to the other. A beltway loops around the city and the surrounding area, crossing into three states: Ohio, Indiana and Kentucky. After passing too many exits that looked unfamiliar, a sinking feeling that something wasn’t right crept into my stomach, so I called my dad for assistance. He pulled out a paper map on the kitchen table and was desperately trying to locate where I was. Helpless to help me, he asked, “What’s the next sign you see?” The next sign that caught my eye was “Welcome to Kentucky”. I was so terribly lost that I had accidently crossed state lines!
3 tips to keep your stories on track
Clearly it would be a bad idea to take my driving advice, but when it comes to storytelling, I’ve identified these detours and traps that every good storyteller should avoid.
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Anjali Sharma is the Managing Director of Narrative: The Business of Stories and an Anecdote Partner for the Storytelling for Leaders Program in Singapore and Malaysia.
Adam works as a corporate communications head in a hospital. He is just about to announce a new initiative to the entire hospital: the formation of a Pediatric Rapid Response Team.
In the usual hospital setting, the provision of escalating care for a deteriorating young patient is mostly a hierarchical procedure. Nurses inform the ward doctors who review the patient, then a more senior doctor may make an assessment, and finally the patient may, if necessary, be transferred to intensive care. This all takes time, which is a critical factor when a child’s health is failing. The Pediatric Rapid Response initiative is a process whereupon noticing the first signs of deterioration in a sick child, any hospital staff member or particularly a parent (who may know that something is wrong, even if they don’t know exactly what) is able to immediately inform a specialist team of doctors and nurses, who will promptly arrive at the ward and give the patient instant attention.
Adam’s desired outcome of the presentation is that everyone approves of the initiative and works towards making it successful. But Adam probably won’t get the support he is looking for if he simply announces the change. That’s because he is asking people to stop doing something they know how to do and which they trust, and start doing something new and untested. Their worries might include:
‘Why change something that’s working OK?’
‘The Rapid Response Team will take over my patient and I will lose control over their care.’
‘Parents and other relatives will be able to circumvent my authority. They may misuse the ability to call in another team.’
I suggest that Adam takes the following three steps to successfully introduce the change. Read the rest of this entry »
By Christopher Kogler, an Anecdote partner based in the USA.
I recently had the pleasure of interviewing a senior sales manager for a big box retail operation on the West Coast of the US and asked her to share a few of her secrets for success with me. Danielle shared the 3 principal keys she uses to inspire her sales team on a daily basis and how these simple actions make a huge difference in her team’s sales performance.
Key 1 – The Daily Huddle
At the beginning and end of each day she gathers her staff together for what they call The Daily Huddle. Huddles have as few as 10 people and as many as 50 depending on the team’s work schedule. But, each employee is required to attend at least once a day. A Huddle lasts no more than thirty minutes and is usually led by the senior sales manager. Once a week, department heads from different areas of the company are invited to lead the Huddle. One week it might be the Director of Training, the next week it might be the Director of Inventory Services.
Each department head speaks to their area of expertise and engages the sales team in a discussion about how both groups can support each other. These weekly “cross pollination” sessions keep the lines of communication open between the different departments and help employees have a deeper understanding of what’s going on throughout the company. Team members also gain an appreciation of how their sales efforts fit into the bigger picture and the importance of their sales efforts in growing the company.
Key 2 – Daily Inspiration through Stories