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Thursday, December 17, 2015

Storytelling & Leadership - Part II

“Tell us another one, Howard”

Storytelling can often have a great impact on getting a single point across or maybe when providing guidance on workplace cultural development. I have used storytelling as a method of providing information, guidance and even problem solving techniques throughout my career. It works well when a leader has the right story to fit the right set of circumstances.

All of the stories I used during mostly problem solving situations came from adventures that took place during real life situations over the tenure of my career. Many of them were told over and over again as there was fitting examples within each that made them applicable to multiple situations.

Excerpt from “There’s a Moose in the Guard Shack”

A great many of the adventures took place while I was in the military. These are not war stories mind you, but the stories of regular, everyday people involved in regular, every day activities.”

“Most of the people I came into contact with in the manufacturing arena had little if any military experience, but they all could relate to the characters and the predicaments I recounted from my time in the armed services. The people lessons that I took away from these situations helped to make me—and those around me—better understand what we could do to improve our lot within our organization. People, their actions and the results of those actions are the major time consumers that fill the majority of most management and supervision days; both good and bad people are the real players in the continuing story of our daily adventures.”

The adventures within “There’s a Moose…” are all true. “I was there when they took place and often was the one to whom they took place. Usually, they had fairly reasonable endings—some more reasonable than others. The troubles, as Mark Twain would have called them, taught me more than I would have ever learned in a management or supervision class tucked away somewhere on a college or university campus, or in a two-day seminar taught by the elite presenters of such material.”

As I’ve said before, “There’s a Moose” is exactly that—stuff happens and stuff gets solved—a common sense approach from my experiences over a career in leadership.

“Every time I had the occasion to tell this particular story when making a point, the first comment out of one particular listener’s mouths was, “So, that’s why?” I would simply respond, “Yes, that’s why I always back into a parking space - combat parking!” The young man (Warren Sanford) was pretty quick to catch on to concepts and I hired him twice as a matter of fact.”

When you start off with: “Guys, let me tell you a story,” you have to be wary and insure the story is appropriate, factual and meets the current need. Watch out and don’t be sucked into telling stories just to captivate your audience. That same young man I mentioned above would, when he saw the end of a staff meeting looming just around the corner, murmur from his seat at the table: “Howard, tell us a Moose Story!” I figured out just as quick as he had figured out that I used storytelling as a way of making a point that this would delay the inevitable onset of his work requirements resuming. Be sure that you’re not drug into the alluring aspect of storytelling just for the entertainment factor.

Here’s more from another source on this subject from Suzanne Bates @CEOCoachBates. Give it a look also.

“Managers go to classes, read books and try to learn from other manager’s success, all in an effort to be a good leader.  They try to mold employees into what they perceive to be the perfect successful worker.  What they don’t realize is that by persuading and telling people how to behave, they are actually alienating everyone.  Instead of telling people how to behave, you can show them how by telling a story.

“You can use storytelling regularly as a technique to motivate and inspire people with stories about others who’ve done a good job. This recognition or appreciation will allow your audience to relate to the “characters” in your story, and they will want to be the hero or subject of the next story.”

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Storytelling & Leadership

Weaving a tale that interests others is as good a way to get a point across as one might find. The importance of making an interesting point and backing it up with factual references always worked for me throughout my career. I had the great opportunity to have worked with, for and alongside the quirkiest of characters that anyone could imagine. They always lived up to the challenge of providing me with cannon fodder to use as teaching and motivational points later in my career.

"They say I tell a great many stories; I reckon I do, but I have found in the course of a long experience that common people -- common people -- take them as they run, are more easily influenced and informed through the medium of a broad illustration than in any other way, and what the hypercritical few may think, I don't care."

The above quote comes from a conversation between Abraham Lincoln as told to the Hon. Chauncey M. Depew, President of the New York Central Railroad. The excerpt is originally from “Reminiscences of Abraham Lincoln by distinguished men of his time”, written by Allen Thorndike Rice and published by North American Publishing Company, 1886 - 668 pages, Chapter XXIV, pgs: 427 – 428. It’s one of my favorites, so much so that I included it in my recently published book: “There’s a Moose in the Guard Shack”, Oct 2015, Infinity Publishing.

I had (and took) many opportunities to tell stories from my past when specifically challenged by a situation that made them extremely relevant. This always seemed to be the case. When appropriate, I would say: “Guys, let me tell you a story.” After doing so, I would open up the conversation of the salient points, often directing them toward the like points in the trouble or problem currently tying up our situation. The managers and supervisors (and sometimes my peers and top management) would find solutions that had up-to-that-point escaped them.

Excerpt from “There’s a Moose in the Guard Shack”:

“Didja ever hear ‘bout…, or ya ain’t gonna believe this s*#t, but…
I searched for years for guidance that represented a better approach to solving the day-to-day problems consuming a leader’s time. Eventually, I realized I possessed the answer.
During a staff meeting the light came on; I had experienced situations like the one being discussed—plus many we had previously encountered. I began to use my experience to solve new, but similar problems. Throughout my career in the military and manufacturing, when presented with a troublesome situation, I gathered my staff and direct reports and said: “Guys let me tell you a story.” I would then relate the facts, details and circumstances from one of my experiences. Then we, as a group, would discuss it and our approach to solving our problem.
“There’s a Moose” is exactly that—stuff happens and stuff gets solved—a common sense approach from my experiences over a career in leadership.
The adventures inside are all true. I know because I was there when they took place and often was the one to whom they took place.
These are just some of those stories, what I learned and what I took away from them.”

The next appropriate opportunity that presents itself, give Storytelling a try. It just might be the answer you’ve been looking for also.

Here’s another source on this subject from John Baldoni @JohnBaldoni. Give it a look also.
“Effective storytelling can serve anyone in leadership who seeks to persuade others to his or her point of view… a careful blending of rhetoric and facts, woven into the right story, can change minds.”