Story at Work. Why would we abandon story at work when we know how potent it is to convey a message in all other walks of our lives? When we see a film, TV show, or read a book that makes us feel big emotions, that motivates and inspires us or changes how we think, why would we not tell story at work for the same result? Story at Work is why and how to employ story as compelling communication.
Story telling and writing as arresting communication for business is mostly accepted marketing lore now. And yet . . . perhaps not so readily accepted is that story telling is a craft, a discipline, and reliant on all the ‘P’s.
If your story telling doesn’t emanate from a clear PURPOSE—why you do what you do—it’ll lack authenticity.
Without PRINCIPLES—the operating framework that delivers on your purpose—your stories cannot describe what differentiates how you do what you do.
If there is not a deep affinity with the PEOPLE your purpose serves, the stories will skim their surface not burrow into their heads.
When your PRODUCT is a manifestation of these ‘P’s, then every aspect of it is a relevant story, not an endless lists of benefits, features and guarantees.
When you know what you’re POSITIONING— yourself as the expert, your business brand or your industry niche— the right stories emerge to support and build the right PROFILE.
Drifting from these PILLARS, as in the temptation to be all things to all people, and your stories scatter, lost to your listener.
Get and keep clear on these five ‘P’s, and your story telling is more than mere marketing messages. It is a conduit to curiosity and truth seeking, elevating your leadership and cementing your domain expertise.
Interested in exploring the five ‘P’s of story telling with me? Let’s chat.
The ripple effect of story snippets
When I need to be out of my head, radio fills a void in the car. Time restricted story snippets, they intrigue and frustrate. Often midway into a story, I’m guessing the start while willing it to the end before the trip is over. For days, I construct what was missed.
Years ago, I caught a bit from the Science Show. Robin Williams is a commensurate storyteller. It was about a device as small as a plug that could be placed in the corner of a body of water. Whirring away to create a ripple effect, it would build the momentum to keep the water moving and free of algae.
The little device took up residence in my head. Whenever we pass such a pond, I imagine this tiny gadget sitting in the corner doing its thing. Whether it’s there or not.
Another time, part of a story about a man who made aware, was appalled at how angry his words were when he spoke to himself. He said, ‘I’d never talk like that to anyone else’. Now, I sometimes catch my voice and am transfixed by it. Have I been that disparaging all my life?
The ripple effects of story snippets can have the same impact on us as a lengthy tale, such is the power of narrative working in conjunction with our imagination. They can’t be discounted as a means to make a difference.
Story snippets are the micro stories we can tell when we present, talk or share our expertise. If you want to know how to use them wisely and to engage, enhance and enliven your communication, let’s have a chat.
Stories work. They work to impact on the quality of your working relationships, but why does that humanize the workplace?
That’s a big question but worthy of a little consideration.
First, story is proven to be the means of communication we’ve always used to create a sense of belonging. And we humans need to feel we belong. Today more than ever in the workplace.
Many studies show why this is the case. The research makes it clear that when we hear and listen to contextualized stories—in other words, they’re relevant to you— our brains release neuro chemicals that focus our attention, make us feel a sense of trust and a willingness to co-operate.
On it’s own, that’s enough to explain why stories work to humanize our workplaces. They engage and connect. They make us feel we belong.
Second, we’re often in a situation at work, and for work, in which we need to communicate well for others to grasp complexity. Or shift a narrative to place a team on the same page. Or motivate action.
We don’t always use the right communication approach to achieve this. As a leader, here are few examples:
- Coercion — do it or there’ll be consequences
- Excluding —I know it, they know it, why don’t you?
- Dismissive —get on with it, I have other more important things to do
As a business owner trying to communicate your offer:
- Grandstanding — best offer, best benefits, most features
- Showcasing—lists, and lists, and lists of your treasured knowledge
- Opacity—lack of clarity, multiple directions, offers and ideas
What story does when it is contextualized —on purpose, to the right people for the right intention, and demonstrating value that serves—is eliminate these communication problems.
Story doesn’t coerce, it persuades; it doesn’t exclude because it’s inclusive. When its focus is you it can’t be dismissive.
It doesn’t grand-stand, it’s more often vulnerable, empathetic and insightful. Story doesn’t showcase, but demonstrates your capability, competency and authenticity when you tell it in context.
A good story told for the right reasons is clear, succinct and relevant.
Third, story embeds. We talk purpose and business culture but few know how to embed it as part of an organization’s DNA. Stories do that job. That’s why they’re so powerful to support invested interest, (not always for the right reasons), religion (also not always for the right reasons), but also in our own personal culture.
If we were able to tell stories about our purpose with the same passion and verve as are told about our favorite sporting team, imagine how that narrative would embed a culture!
Please come and join us. We’d love to see you. You can book in the links below. On Thursday July 25 at General Assembly and on Monday 5 August at Docklands. We look forward to your company at Why Stories Work to Humanise the workplace and the ensuring conversation.
A friend, a Volkswagen enthusiast and restorer, held us captive at dinner one night on the joy of a car parts swap meeting. Who would have thought? His story about ferreting out the exact match for a missing windscreen wiper was completely captivating.
He was communicating his passion for renewing style and beauty, his delight in his successful search, and retelling his amusing observations about his fellow enthusiasts.
Had we taped his story telling at the time, it would have amused and delighted you all.
Imagine he owned a VW parts business and we’d ask him to commit his stories to writing online about Volkswagen spare parts. Most likely his tone would change as he felt compelled to report it all as a series of facts. The spark extinguished.
But, what if he became the spare part storyteller.
VW enthusiasts would love his stories, as we did. They’d share them on social media. He’d became the ‘go-to’ person to speak to on any VW spare part issue.
It’s one thing to list the facts or attributes of a spare part, and quite another to tell a story about it. The former disconnects, the latter engages and boosts recall.
What’s your VW spare part? Can you tell stories about them? If not, it’s a craft and can be learned.
If you would like to find out how to tell your stories, I’d be delighted to have a chat.
Decades ago, two people ran a services business. Work was plentiful and based on a need for their expertise. They worked hard and were successful. Back then, clients were clients. You serviced their requirements and sent them the invoice. If you did a good job they came back. If they didn’t, there were others. That’s […]
Are our brains evolving to cope with our hyper-connectivity?
A Microsoft study from 2015 is quoted as saying, ‘The brain’s cognitive functioning shifts in response to regular, intensive use of technology resulting in development of new cognitive talents that better suit a more digital lifestyle.’
The idea that our brains are developing neural pathways to better process our constant use of technology and the incoming stream of information is comforting. Far preferable to the concerns of many, that it is harmful to our brains.
The questions might be then, can we learn to adapt and process better? And, how do we communicate effectively so that others’ newly developing, digital cognitive talents are attracted by what we have to say.
Research shows us that ‘watching the world go by’ doesn’t much alter our brain activity. Whereas character-driven and emotionally charged story not only alters our brain activity, but introduces elevated neuro-chemicals that focus attention and increase empathy.
What better way than story then to gain our attention as we deal with the digital deluge, and as our evolving brains develop the cognition to match our digital lifestyle?
Telling contextualized story is a craft. You can find out how stories support our evolving brains through PowerPacked Pitch and Presentation communication training.
Dealing with a discourteous world
My brain went AWOL for eight days early one New Year and it wasn’t pleasant. Nor was the virus I had rampaging around the rest of my body.
On the eighth night at 10pm, it returned. It had a lot to tell me. It spoke in urgent tones for four hours. There was no shutting it up and the message was clear.
Life is precious. My brain said, ‘You must not in anyway deal any longer with dross’.
The baggage of regret unearthed by ingrates and their discourtesy is ‘inertia.’
Time to take up the cudgels against discourtesy in business, because I believe that no one should have to do business with another who doesn’t want to know, or worse chooses not to see an exchange of value.
Such behaviour is mischievous, driven by the need to pay little, less or even nothing.
Old fashioned as it might seem, courtesy remains the lynch pin of decent business behavior and transactions. It was once a normal way to conduct any value transaction.
The pace of our digital world – emails, mobiles, SMSs, an over supply of self promoting consultant specialists in every field, and a plethora of grudge purchases, —yes, I know I must have a website, safety review, exit strategy, marketing campaign and the rest— may have all contributed to its demise.
In its wake, what’s left is much more pervasive than a dose of the dreaded scarcity virus. It’s the equivalent of business Ebola. People languish in anxiety, depression and despair in its path and if they recover, the effects are long lasting and destructive.
Six steps to survive and prosper in a discourteous world
To survive and prosper you must immunise yourself against the virus. It’s not enough to inoculate yourself with your talent, experience and expertise.
Nothing you do will work to elevate you beyond the dross if you’re not super clear about why you do what you do and for whom.
Without that clarity, no matter how good you are at what you do, discourtesy will envelop and unpick you at the seams, because it speaks of a much greater problem. You are not where you should be, doing the work you should be doing.
Lose the delusion
‘If I ‘m honest, work hard and bring my talents and expertise to bear, the client will value me and pay me accordingly’.
No. They won’t. That is a delusion.
Without complete clarity around what you deliver in what timeframe and for what cost, they will come to distrust you and your offer.
Even if you’re creative and work in a field that is as hard to pin down as a forest full of feral cats, you must be an absolute stickler at defining the exact value and cost of the work you are going to do. Then review and update your progress consistently and without ambivalence.
When there is scope creep as there usually is in any complex project, make sure you communicate it directly.
Don’t do what you are bad at
Herein lies the rub for most solo-preneurs. It’s the Peter Principle. Good at what ever it is that you offer, that doesn’t necessarily make you a whizz at admin or rigorous with attention to detail. Chances are that if you’re creative, you’ll suck at the latter.
Find your yin. Find the person who relishes what you don’t and do this business together. Or employ them. Don’t spend your life trying to do what ever it is you’re bad at.
The client will end up spilling bile, even if what you’ve delivered is fabulous. They will stick on the typo, or the extras or that you didn’t reply within the same day. No point railing about it. It just is. Don’t do it.
Every business development person, every business blogger, every workshop on how to run your business rolls this mantra out until your eyes swivel and disappear down the back of your throat with I KNOW, I goddam KNOW.
I KNOW, I must say NO.
But sure enough, along comes a client. Along comes the instinct that says, this doesn’t feel right; they’re not right, my product is not the right fit, they don’t have the budget. Running in tandem comes the desire to make the money, because you have bills to pay, retirement to plan for, a life you want to live.
So you don’t say no, and they’re always right. If you don’t say no when your gut tells you, you’ll lose money and worse, you’ll be scarred by the discourtesy.
Your life is precious. It’s not worth the dollars. It’s not worth the scarring. It’s not worth a single cell of your energy.
Partner, don’t supply
You’re not a supplier. You’re not a service provider. You’re a collaborator in helping others achieve what they need to succeed. Real partners are not discourteous. They’re respectful and caring.
How many clients who would love and value you, and want to have you as a partner to their success, do you need to earn what you need?
You best work then is to find these people.
Then offer them a brilliant solution for exactly the problems you know they have to become their trusted and desired business partner.
Tell your stories
If you’re clear on why you do what you do, you should also be clear on your principles for delivering it and the stories that support your value.
When you know why you’re telling your stories to whom, and for what intention, your listeners will engage, connect, listen and recall your key messages.
A good storyteller rarely invites discourtesy.
If you would like some clarity counselling about any how to deal with a discourteous world, please contact me email@example.com
Very often I’m fortunate to be in a position to ask for, and listen to story.
Recently, I met a man dedicated to ridding the world of polystyrene packaging for perishable goods.
After seven years in the game, he’s invented an organic, temperature-stable, recyclable, packaging product, which has trialed effectively to transport fresh fish and temperature-sensitive cancer drugs. Now, he’s just short of a million dollars toward eliminating one of the most toxic waste products on our planet.
Then there’s the organization that’s developed a bulk process to manufacture a critical component of a substance one atom thick. It’s been shown to create a membrane so fine it can filter seawater directly into potable water. The road to a global market is full of jaw-dropping opportunity, but which way ensures nine billion people will always have drinking water?
These are the stories that fill you with awe at the brilliance and tenacity of people to fulfill a powerful purpose.
Why you should ask for, and listen to story
Asking for and listening to a story is a skill. But if by doing so, you can make the right connections, provide the right service, plug the hole, or stop the pain, then you too have played a part in changing our world for the better.
PowerPitch & Presentation communication training helps academics, professionals and entrepreneurs to present the impact of their work based on purpose-driven contextualized storytelling. It is also about why and how to ask for, and listen to story.
The training starts with understanding the context for telling your stories, why, to whom, your intention and your value.
The same goes for when you ask and listen to stories. You have to have a context for doing so, and be in a genuine position to assist, for it to work to engage others, to build trust and recall of your key messages in return.
If you would like to know more about how the training can work for you, please contact me at Sandy@SandyMcdonald.com