Straightening the straitened

Straightening the straitened

Straightening the straitened

Opportunities to straighten the straitened present themselves in the most unlikely places.

Reviewing the barricades to the grandchildren’s cubby house in our garden including a ‘paddock’ of stinging nettles, the scale of the problem felt overwhelming.

The nettles covered a magnitude of other garden sins —a topsy-turvy mixture of covered brick pathways, dumped soil, fallen tree branches and tangled vines.  As a gardener, I felt stricken for having so neglected it.  This was no easy solution for it, certainly not one we could prioritise.

For weeks, it sat like a dead weight in my mind.  Then one dawn, without any real deliberation, I donned my gloves, picked up a saw and cut off the fallen branch that would give clearer access to the mess.

Early every morning for months, I pulled out the nettles and weeds and raked the ground flat as I went.

Metre by metre, I straightened what had been straitened.  Repurposing timber and bricks, the subsequent landscaping—turf, veggie garden, and paving is, well shall we say, rustic rather than professional.

But it’s given back something of far more depth than the result.

It’s brought together a profound desire to do more work on straightening what is straitened in our business and personal lives, while contributing to doing the same for our compromised planet.

This is a far greater task than it sounds.

Do you think that Straightening the Straitened would be a good title for a book?

It would tell the stories of how people achieve the unachievable, beat the odds, take the harder decisions, develop grit, tenacity, and purpose; and as a result end up leading a fuller life, giving back more to others, while contributing toward solving the problems of our ailing planet.

If you have a story about what you’ve have worked hard on, with persistence, consistency and grit to put right in your lives, or for others, or the environment, would you consider sharing it with me?  Contact me here.
building business relationship

Business relationships

building business relationship

Building business relationships

You’ve entered a courtship with someone in business.  How you communicate in these early business relationships quickly informs its development or failure.

Bombard your would be partner with sales patter and it will falter as rapidly as  if you’ve made an inappropriate demand on a first date.

Business love

As in any relationship, we want to know first — how quickly will you understand and get my value?  Do you have what it takes to support me?  How can I trust you?  We need to seek these answers long before we’re asked to leap into business relationships with a price tag?

Even in business, we want a bit of seduction, to feel special in someone else’s world.  We’re seduced by confident expertise that doesn’t over-reach or grandstand.

Then when you serve so well you eliminate pain, you’ll be loved for it.  When we love, we respond enthusiastically to help, advice and new knowledge and we talk about it.

Serving, not selling, is key to building business relationships.

And of course, story

And, we never tire of a good story, especially one that puts us in the picture — when we can say:

‘That’s me!; that’s where I’m at; that’s what matters to me; so that’s why that happened; that’s what I need to do.’

Science shows how such stories release oxytocin in our brains, making us feel trust and a willingness to co-operate.

Are you telling the right stories to build your business relationships? Or are you just speaking your expertise? —my world; my process; my knowledge? There’s nothing quite like an endless list of features and benefits to dampen the ardour.

Try telling purpose-driven contextualised stories, and watch how quickly the romance blooms.

If you would like to craft a little romance into your business relationships by telling stories, give me a call, I’d love to help.  You can contact me here.
great stories evoke compassion

Great storytelling evokes compassion

great stories evoke compassionHow not to present

A while back I heard about a seminar for pregnant women on how an unborn foetus might be affected by a women’s mental wellness. I was keen to learn about this to help a pregnant friend going through a tough time.

The expectation in the room suggested a high level of interest in this emerging and valuable topic. We seem more aware, but not necessarily more knowledgeable, of how much can affect growing babies from conception to birth.

Two keynote speakers took the stage; one an eminent professor of paediatrics from a leading maternity hospital, the other credentialed too, but as we were to discover, driven more by passion than academic rigour.

Death by PowerPoint

The professor who spoke first, put up her PowerPoint display. It came up in tiny type, with her whole address, page, after page, after page.

For most of her presentation she stood with her back to the audience and read it. Delivered from that position, her speech was mostly incoherent for her audience.

We were a room of amateurs, not aspiring pediatricians, so we couldn’t understand the jargon, acronyms, and other slide-borne presentation mysteries.

She had misread her audience.  It was a missed opportunity, as she did not elicit any emotional response in her audience, either for the unborn or its mother.

Stories build trust and empathy

The second speaker took the stage. For 40 minutes he held us captivated. He enrolled us in story after story about pregnancy, unborns, mothers, depression, and anxiety, which evoked in his audience concern for the foetus and compassion for its mothers.

He demonstrated the science behind his stories, tying everything back to the central topic of the mother’s mental wellness during pregnancy. This was good communication and it was riveting.  

In today’s fast and information-overloaded spaces, purpose driven storytelling is a vital skill, we’d all benefit from, both as presenter and audience.

Here are some simple keys to turn a sleep-inducing, dull, and possibly, insulting presentation (you can read blog or proposal here) into one that leaves your audience leaning in, wanting to know more.

5 simple keys to powerful communication

Know your purpose, your audience and your intention. What is your purpose? How is your presentation delivering on it?  Who is in the room. Your words are much more likely to land if your message is addressed to their problems, issues, or interests. What do you want them to think act or do as a result of your presentation?

One topic, three key messages. You have a wealth of information and value to impart.  To often, presenters make the mistake of including everything, cramming it all in, at speed, or in minute type on a slide presentation. Your audiences will catch nothing, not even the one vital point you are so qualified to make.

Become a story teller. Stories that are emotionally charged and character-driven engage and reduce the gap between you and your audience, creating intimacy and trust. We are all designed to learn from them. The science proves that key messages will fall on receptive ears when carried by a tale.

Think about cadence.The rhythm of language and its delivery can move people to think entirely differently about what they’ve heard. It’s no surprise that Shakespeare continues to influence people with his poetic prose centuries after it was written.

Become a critic.You’ll enhance your communications if you learn to listen carefully to others. What moves you, what doesn’t? Why does one speaker engage you and another not? Why do you remember a lot about one presentation and recall little or nothing from another? When do people tell stories and how does it work for you?

Becoming a great storyteller so a better communicator, whose words matter to make a difference requires clarity of purpose and intention, self-awareness, empathy, and a desire to serve others rather than to grandstand, sell or promote. You’ll never regret the shift, or the work to do it.

How to tell stories professionally

Should I tell stories professionally?

How to tell stories professionally


Lizards are usually meek creatures. They use bluff and deception to persuade adversaries they’re bigger and fiercer than they really are to scare them off.  Our Lizard brain reacts just the same way, when it’s uncertain or nervous and especially when you want to tell stories professionally.

I can instantly spot the Lizard at work.  It’s there the moment someone says: ‘I couldn’t tell this as a story’, having just described something they’ve done that has changed someone else’s world.

The second they claim, ‘I really don’t have any stories to tell.’ And I point out they’ve been active in their field for decades and are sitting on a mountain of value.

The instant they wonder: ‘I’m not sure people would take me seriously if I were to share something personal.

And I ask: ‘Why is it okay for so called successful people to tell their stories and have their listeners lean in wanting to hear more, but it’s not okay for you?’

This is the work of the Lizard protecting your safety and putting up just as formidable a response as it would to a predator!

It’s the process of an exploration of purpose, principles and your value that persuades it you know what you’re talking about, and that it is not only safe, but productive to tell your stories.

To put your Lizard in its box and tell stories professionally contact me to find out the details of the next intimate Why Your Stories Matter workshop at

We’re all waiting to be told a story

‘As a business or an organisation, if you take a hard look at your online presence you might note that you’re neither found by those you want to find you, or particularly interesting to those that do.’

Extracted from a blog I wrote in 2010, this was when my business was called Why You Must Blog, which taught people how to blog effectively to find and engage their best clients.

Much since then has changed about how we deliver content, not so much has changed about how well we do it.

It seems to me that folk either shout louder, longer and more often than others (like the Internet Marketers of last decade) or they’re scrabbling about trying to find a way to stand out, which is likely to be transient.

Is there another way to be online, delivering quality content, being read, heard and engaged with?

I believe our content can be more like a warm breeze on a balmy evening, then a torrent, or parade.

It can be persuasive while being gentle, courteous and mindful. It can still be power-packed without being abrasive, divisive or grandstanding.

And it should include story.   Why?  Because story works and always has.  It’s why reading to a child is such a time-honored delight.  At heart, we’re all waiting to be told a story.  That much has not changed.

Don’t wait to be told a story any longer.  Learn to tell them yourself as one of the most powerful components of your communication toolkit.  Join me in a Why Your Stories Matter Workshop.  To find out more details email me at


What if you are having a bad hair day?

Do you feel it too? The capriciousness of an ever-changing business landscape debunking ‘must do’s’ at the speed of a bullet train?

Changing algorithms. Meaningful interactions. Categorised content.

Our ever-decreasing attention span is apparently relegating long form posts like this to the museum of once cherished, business practices in favour of talking head videos. Oh no! Really?

We are constantly confronted by the urgency of the latest best practice, because when it takes hold, the babble about it is pervasive.

This doesn’t always equate to rigorous debate of how appropriate whatever ‘it’ is as a necessary tactic for business. Still, it does seem that as soon as ‘it’ arrives, there’s a flurry of early adopters, leaving many of us to wearily accept that ‘it’ must be pursued.

What to do with bad hair days then?

What if you’re happy to don your professional garb, lippy up and manipulate your crowning glory into something that can be seen in public on the days you actively engage out there, coaching, training, speaking?

What if for the rest of the time, you happily live the solopreneur dream, slopping around in track pants with a bird’s nest on your head?

Until a blink of an eye ago, this may well have been when you were at your most creative, writing, posting, and engaging, protected by your sometimes, several years’ old avatar.

Now, to conform to these changing algorithms, the need for meaningful interactions and to bridge the gap created by a decreasing attention span, we must front up, and be seen and heard, not just read.

Stories to the rescue

We know that attention is scarce. Most of us also know that reading stories transports our minds to new places.

Paul Zak, renowned for his work on the science of narrative, says this transportation is a remarkable neural feat. We read a story we know to be fictional, but ‘the evolutionary old parts of our brain simulate the emotions we intuit the characters are feeling and we feel those emotions too’.

The question then is how can we effectively use story to keep our audience entranced, engaged and emotionally involved, so that our content is categorized as high value, signals meaningful interaction, and satisfies the changed algorithms? And still have bad hair days!

Four story telling principles

You start with principles that make stories so compelling they transport your reader.

Purpose and principles – stories told from clarity of purpose and principles – spark a passion that can literally change the world. (Tell your story. Save a life).

Context – for what purpose do you tell stories, to whom and for what intention? What is the significant value you bring to your stories that can make a difference?

Unearth your value – within your bodies of knowledge sits your unique value. This value shared intelligently with others through stories, enlightens your listeners and can change their lives.

Empathy and recall – tell stories that are character-driven and emotional-charged, and you affect the brain activity of your reader, creating empathy, a sense of safety, belonging, inclusion, trust and a willingness to co-operate.

Idea worth sharing

Yes, you can do all of this in a video. Most people aren’t. They are imparting advice, not telling stories. Therein lies a huge opportunity for you, bad hair or not.

A story told is worth a thousand speeches wasted

a coutnry festival

An hour later it was heaving!

Recently, we attended a country festival. It was a perfectly still, sunny day. We sat in the cool shade of an enormous oak tree, listened to some excellent folk music, and watched the local folk buzz with excitement as they worked and celebrated their district’s biggest day of the year.

The festival showcased the pride of local wineries, cheese makers, olive and honey farmers. The careful work of the regional crafters glowed in their stalls.

We tasted some delicious wine including a spectacular sparkling Shiraz and a buttery Chardonnay, while listening to the wine maker’s stories.

Life on the land

As city folk, we’re intrigued by the serendipity of life on the land – the vagaries of the weather, willy willies tearing up newly laid bird netting, the perversity of cockatoos who’ll strip a vineyard of its grapes for the hell of it, and not eat a single grape.

Later I amused myself drawing analogies between these tales and running a business. I’ve experienced a few willy willy and cockatoo-like clients over the decades.

Where were the stories?

At the appointed time, a regional dignitary came to the stage to open the festival and thank everyone involved.

There was no doubting her pride in, and enthusiasm for the event. But still the words rolled on – the hard work, the unification of the community, the importance of the day to the town and the region . . . until my attention wandered.  Attention is after all, a scarce commodity in our brains today.

Hard work is hard work. We all do hard work. In that hard work would have been dozens of personal stories, about the people who had ideas and implemented them, hardship and hurdles overcome, arguments patched up, real collaboration, even life changes.

We all belong to communities, but what was it about this festival day that really bound the locals together? What were the stories that spoke of their humanity, courage, adversity and joy?

It’s in telling these tales that she and others had the opportunity to stamp and solidify the energy of the day into the identity of the region, in both the local, and the visitors’ minds.

We recall character-driven stories invested in emotion months even years later. There was no reason for anyone to remember what was said beyond the moment. We don’t want to hear, nor do we remember political platitudes.

How many million such speeches stifle us everyday. How many speakers miss the opportunity to tell the stories that could impact on people’s attention, perception, and actions for years to come?

If you are a dignitary and you’d like some help, before you make your next speech, to unearth your stories as the most powerful tool in your communication arsenal, let’s talk.