Blog

050 – Risky flight to the city of angels

Posted by  Anecdote International —November 27, 2019
Filed in Business storytelling, Podcast

On January 18, 2018, Shawn Callahan and Mark Schenk recorded the first episode of Anecdotally Speaking. For this episode, our 50th episode, we’re celebrating with a special edition!

Anecdote team

To celebrate, we’ve brought five members of the Anecdote team together: Shawn Callahan, Mark Schenk, Paul Honeywell, Mike Adams, and Paul Ichilcik.

We’ve just returned from Sydney, where we held the 2019 Anecdote Partner Conference and launched two new products: Story-Powered Sales (a new and improved version of Storytelling for Sales) and Story-Powered Strategy. In this episode, we reflect on a huge week. Our Chairman, Paul Honeywell, shares a story that stood out among many at the Conference, and which illustrates the importance of recognising and seizing opportunities.

All of our guests have featured on the podcast before. If you haven’t heard their episodes, you’ll find them here: 009 – Jackie Stewart in the pits048 – Healthcare PhDs road test strategy risk049 – Second best thing to having the actual experience

You can listen to our first episode again here.

For your storybank

Tags: action, intuition, opportunity

Some years ago, Paul was spending a lot of time in Las Vegas. He was based in London but was working on a big project for Steve Wynn of Wynn Resorts.

The project had been very successful. Paul and his team were using storytelling to inspire 15,000 employees to deliver a guest experience beyond that offered anywhere else in the world.

While the project was still underway, Paul was back in London and received an unexpected phone call.

“Hello, Paul. It’s Russell Goldsmith. I’m the CEO of City National Bank, a large regional bank based in California. I’ve heard about you from Steve Wynn. He’s been talking about the power of storytelling and the difference it’s making in his business. I would like to know more about what you’re doing. We could benefit from it. Can you send me some information?”

Paul saw an opportunity.

“Russell, did you say you are based in Los Angeles?” He asked.

“Yeah. Beverly Hills to be precise.”

“Well, it’s a coincidence, but I’m travelling there next week. Would you have time for us to meet?”

“Yeah! How about Wednesday afternoon?”

“Sure. Name your time.”

“2:30 pm?”

“Okay, I’ll be there.”

Paul hadn’t been planning on being in Los Angeles, but he saw the opportunity and couldn’t risk losing it by just sending some information. So, he got off the phone and purchased a plane ticket.

The following week, Paul and Russell met as they had planned. Russell became an important client, and Paul and his team made a significant impact at City National Bank.

Later that year, Paul received a Christmas card from Russel. In it, Russell had written, “Paul, thank you for everything. This is making a difference.”

Podcast transcript

Shawn:

Welcome to Anecdotally Speaking- a podcast to help you build your business story repertoire. So, it’s a special episode this time around; we have our 50th episode and with me are 4 great colleagues. Of course, Mark and I have been doing this from episode number 1. Do you remember that one?

Mark:

18th January 2018, ‘a visitor from Mars’, a story about Victoria Mars.

Shawn:

We’ve also got with us Mike Adams—he’s been on the podcast so, welcome, Mike.

Mike:

Thanks very much, Shawn.

Shawn:

Paul Ichilcik who has also been on our podcast. He runs our Sydney office.

Paul I:

Good to see everyone.

Shawn:

And we have our chairman from the U.K, Paul Honeywell. Welcome, Paul.

Paul H:

Pleased to be back in Melbourne especially when it’s winter in England.

Shawn:

We thought in this episode it would be great to talk about some of the interesting things that have happened in recent weeks. But also talk about a story that Paul is going to share with us that came out of our conference last week. We had our global partner conference last week with people from all around the world. I’d like to hear from you guys what were some of the things that really stood out for you from the conference.

Mike:

It wasn’t just a partner conference because we had our first workshop for Story-powered Sales, which has been my baby with Anecdote since August this year. And we had a tremendous audience for that. We had some thought leader gurus from the Australian business scene.

We had representatives from some of the world’s largest companies and out international partners. It was great to see how they accepted the new course; it was very exciting for me and getting to meet those partners again through the conference.

Shawn:

It was awesome. Mark, did you sit in on that?

Mark:

Yes, that was a fantastic day; a very full room. One of the things that struck me was the venue. We were in Sydney, in the HC Coombs Centre and Shawn might share his story about his relationship with ‘Nugget’ Coombs after which that building is named.

But the Coombs Centre is in a suburb called Kirribilli and we look straight across the harbour to the Opera House and just slightly to the right the Bridge so it was a fantastic venue for a really important launch event of Story-powered Sales. That was last Thursday.

Shawn:

I can’t believe it; it’s gone so fast. Mr Ichilcik, what did you take out of it? What was it like for you?

Paul I:

Well, it was great to see everyone from around the world and to see how relevant storytelling is to every corner of the world because we had anecdotes from all the different partners. Sydney being my hometown (I’ve been on the harbour 100s of times)—we did a harbour cruise and suddenly the skipper starting telling a few stories about this building site and this indigenous area and the city starting coming alive in a way I hadn’t recognised for a while. It was just another reminder of how a story can amp up even something I’ve seen a 100 times.

Shawn:

Even better after a few beers.

Paul I:

That helped.

Shawn:

And Paul, you came such a long way to this event—anything that jumped out for you?

Paul H:

Absolutely. The first thing that strikes me is the word ‘pride’. I came a long way but I came into a conference of passionate people from all kinds of different backgrounds, cultures, markets and also very proud of the work that you guys have been doing here in terms of product development.

I think the 3 products we have look absolutely excellent. I’m proud to be associated with them. Not only the visual look and quality feel of them but the content itself meets that expectation as well so I’m very proud to be chairman of this company. And it was terrific to be there.

Mark:

And I guess another pride is it was also the launch event of Story-powered Strategy and you had a major role in the architecture of that, Paul, as a number of us did. I think it’s important that we acknowledge the work that everybody has done in bringing these products to life.

It was such a huge event, the culmination of 8 months of work. A lot of people put in a lot of work to make that happen.

Shawn:

Absolutely. Now we did have a bit of a milestone for one of our partners. What happened there, Mark?

Mark:

One of our very first partners back in 2013, Indranil Chakraborty. He lives in Mumbai, India and in the early days he made use of our availability. In fact, one of the things he commented on was that he kind of had Shawn and me to himself (we didn’t have many partners).

It was a struggle early on to try and sell premium products like Storytelling for Leaders and Story-powered Sales in India but IC is not the sort of guy who gives up. About 18 months after he started he sent a list of 100s of C-Suite people that he had visited to pitch the products to.

Very soon after his sales and delivery increased so on Sunday we presented him with a very nice bottle of Australian wine in recognition of his 100th Storytelling for Leadership programme—an amazing milestone.

Shawn:

It’s tremendous. Now, we’ve spent a couple of days working our way forward; it’s exciting in terms of what we can do. But what stories stood out for us out of that partner conference? Remember this podcast is all about sharing a story with you the listener that you can retell.

Paul Honeywell shared a story at the conference which I think would be a good one for everyone to hear and we’ll throw in our comments. So over to you, Paul.

Paul H:

Thank you, Shawn. I was spending a lot of time in Los Vegas, a place I got to know very well. I was doing a big programme with Steve Wynn and his hotel resorts and had a lot of success with the use of storytelling to really empower, enthuse and inspire the 15,000 employees to deliver a guest experience that is beyond anywhere else in that area and indeed the world.

Part way through this I was back in London and I got a call out of the blue. The guy on the other end of the phone introduced himself as Russell Goldsmith, an American, (I’d never heard of him) saying, ‘I’ve heard about you from Steve Wynn. I’m on his board and he’s been talking about the power of storytelling and the difference it’s making in his business.

I’m the chief executive of City National Bank, a large regional bank based in California, and I would love to know more about what you’re doing because it’s a thing we could really benefit from. Could you send me some information?’

My immediate reaction was ‘hang on a second, this is a real opportunity’. So I said ‘Russell, did you say you were based in Los Angeles?’ ‘Yeah, Beverly Hills to be precise’. ‘I’m travelling to Los Angeles next week and if you have time we could meet face to face’.

He said, ‘wow, that’s terrific, how about Wednesday afternoon, 2.30?’ ‘Sure, I’ll be there.’ Of course, I wasn’t planning to be in Los Angeles at all but I could see an opportunity with a large organisation that I couldn’t possibly give up. So, why risk it sending some information across with a lengthy follow-up?

So, I got on a plane and went to Los Angeles, met with Russell and Russell became a very important client of our business and more importantly we made a really big impact at City National Bank. I received a Christmas card from him that year saying, ‘Paul, thank you so much for everything you’ve done. This really is making a difference to us’.

Shawn:

Fantastic. Well guys, what makes that a good story? Mike, I can tell you’ve got a thought there.

Mike:

Yeah, I work with sales teams and one of the things I’m very careful about is coaching salespeople to find true stories. And the interesting thing about your story is that it was only true at the instant you decided it was going to be true and you were going to go.

So, it’s a true story but I would really counsel against making up stories; that’s really deep well you can get yourself into. So, I love the story and I think it’s fantastic and such a lesson for people to be proactive and grab something when they see there is an opportunity because it doesn’t necessarily hang around long.

Mark:

I’m now reminded of the Steve Wynard album from the late 70’s, ‘Arc of a Diver’, and his song ‘when you see a chance, take it’. That was certainly an example of doing that.

Shawn:

There’s lots of great detail in that story; names, locations, all that detail just adds to credibility. These are senior people with a network of connections and you are clearly part of that. That just comes out as an inference in the story.

Mike:

We can infer quite a bit about Paul’s character from that story.

Shawn: What do you reckon Itchy?

Paul I:

The surprise element; listeners being taken down a certain path and everything seems normal and then there’s that flip, he wasn’t planning to go, it really makes it memorable and re-tellable. Plus the way you finished off with the impact it had. Sometimes our stories tend to just fade out and you’ve got the surprise—great but no you’ve got the Christmas letter. That reinforces it was worth taking the risk.

Shawn:

It’s a very visual thing, a Christmas card isn’t it? I was imagining the scrawl of writing—so you get this strong image.

Mark:

So, one of the strengths of that story is the surprise, the bit where you weren’t planning to be in Los Angeles next week. All of us, even though we’ve heard it before, laughed. I also remember the impact that story had when Paul told it to the partners and how people were referring back to that example he’d given numerous times during the workshop.

So for me, the highlights; short story/high impact, re-tellable, people talking about it—it’s had an impact on me in terms of how they run their businesses.

Shawn:

O.k. what about the flip side? What could we suggest to make that story even better?

Mark:

In terms of duration I always look at duration as one of the determinants of a good story. It was right on the money for duration; it was spot on—60 to 75 seconds.

Shawn:

The only thing I would say is at that point of revealing the surprise (this is really small stuff) there is a pause to be had there. You want to have the people hanging a little bit on what happened. I’d set the time; 2.30… and then I bought my ticket.’

Paul H:

The power of silence.

Shawn:

Make it really clear you didn’t have a ticket bought before that. That was terrific. Great work guys.

Mark:

I think that story deserves a short conversation about how you might use it. For our listeners’ benefit; when we were talking about the content for this episode. Talking about the highlight, Shawn immediately went to Paul’s story but then he said but it’s not really a story people could use.

We had a brief conversation and numerous applications dropped out of it. I highlight that because sometimes we might be really quick to push a story to the side without really examining its potential.

Shawn:

I have this philosophy which is ‘have strong opinions weakly held’. I change my mind very quickly.

Mark:

Yeah, it’s not like it was an argument.

Shawn:

When do you find yourself telling that story?

Paul H:

I don’t tell it that often to be honest. The one thing I would say about it is I remember back to when it happened and I had to make an instant decision. I was on the telephone; I had to make a decision right there. And I knew I had things in my diary, commitments at home. I knew going to Los Angeles from London was not a cheap thing to do but I knew in that moment, something triggered right there, that this was something that really could not wait and had to take precedence over everything else.

In a nanosecond I had to make that decision so I think it’s very important to be attuned to opportunity and you know that is a fleeting thing and if you don’t go for it, it an easily evaporate.

Mark:

There’s a business application around really being attuned to identifying opportunity.

Paul H:

Yes.

Mike:

And maybe more than that, if I think about what holds salespeople back its’ the willingness to take action, to do that thing that will make something happen. And it’s a great story for giving people permission, ‘I could do that’.

Mark:

Yeah, so don’t be overly reliant on process.

Mike:

Take action and get in and do it.

Paul H:

You’ve got to take a risk. Then risk was that I went and nothing happened. You have to balance off risk against reward. Put yourself at risk of getting the deal. If you don’t do it you’ve got no chance.

Shawn:

I was thinking of my experience at IBM and I was just imagining a sales guy sitting on the phone going ‘yeah, it’s an opportunity, I’m going to Los Angeles’ and then trying to get that expense approved.

Mark:

That reminds me of a Monty Python sketch—I spent 4 months in Brazil on a hunch.

Paul I:

I think another thing is in terms of constraints; the words ‘it’s not possible’—that comes up in a lot of contexts whether it’s sales or leadership. That proves that with a little bit of creativity and willingness to do it you can broaden what’s possible.

And even for people with a little bit of critical thinking; I’d personally be sitting on the plane thinking what if he changes the time or can’t make it but no problem you were coming anyway.

Paul H:

Of course, that’s the risk.

Paul I:

But it’s what is possible.

Shawn:

So true and if you did it the other way and said to the person ‘I haven’t got it planned but I’ll just book a ticket and come and see you’. They might say ‘oh no I don’t want to put you out’ and you’d be taken out so you’ve got to be a bit more inventive.

So a story rating. Mike, what do you reckon in terms of tell ability, impact?

Mike:

I’m going to use this story; I’ll give it an 8 out of 10.

Shawn:

Excellent.

Mark:

I will regularly use this story talking to our partners and I’m going to give it an 8 out of 10.

Paul:

Similarly, I’m going to give it an extra half so 8.5.

Shawn:

I was thinking 3 out of 10 but no I had 8 in my mind as well. It’s a great story; really usable, one to put in your kitbag. You might not actually tell it exactly like that; you might find your own version of it. If you could do that that would be great wouldn’t it?

Well is there anything else we need to cover for this our 50th episode?

Mark:

Maybe highlighting our branding. We’ve changed our branding and we’re now thinking story-powered communication; Anecdote Story-powered Communication. So you’ll be seeing that in addition to our new products look out for the messaging around Story-powered Communication.

Shawn:

Check out our website (when it’s updated). Well, thanks again for listening to Anecdotally Speaking. It’s been great to have you along on this ride for our 50th episode. There is one thing I wanted to say; we’re going to get our partners to be part of our podcast.

At our partner conference we had people from Korea, Malaysia, India, Israel, Indonesia, this phenomenal network in 24 or 25 countries so there are a lot of interesting perspectives and types of stories and we’ll get them on our podcast with stories that you’ll be able to retell.

You’ll learn so much from it we’re really looking forward to it. Thanks for listening to Anecdotally Speaking and tune in next time; you’ll hear more stories for you to put stories to work. See you soon.

About  Anecdote International

Anecdote International is a global training and consulting company, specialising in utilising storytelling to bring humanity back to the workforce. Anecdote is now unique in having a global network of over 60 partners in 28 countries, with their learning programs translated into 11 languages, and customers who incorporate these programs into their leadership and sales enablement activities.

Comments

  1. Paul Stuart says:

    Hi All,

    Great story and thanks for sharing – I will definitely be using this one. I agree with Shawn that adding a slight pause / change of words to keep the suspense would make it even more powerful. Kind regards, Paul

Comments are closed.