The art of storytelling in business has been getting quite the buzz lately. For decades we have introduced this skill in our Persuasion and Influence course. But as storytelling consultant Shawn Callahan, who works with Global 1000 companies including Shell, IBM, and Microsoft, says, “We see lots of people talking about stories but very few telling them.”
Callahan says understanding the simple framework of a story will help.
How do you know if you’ve got a viable story?
*A story begins with a time or place marker (when/where did it happen?).
*It recounts an event, with feeling.
*It includes dialogue (“And then he said…”).
*It has a business point (the reason for telling the story is…).
People pay attention when you tell a story – and stories are remembered. So mining your experience for stories is time well spent. We want to hear! Have you told or heard a good story recently? What was its impact? Join the conversation and click "comments" on our Community of Practice Forum.
Image Credit: AZ https://www.flickr.com/photos/azrasta/
If you say, “Let’s go around the room” in a meeting, you've failed, according to Seth Godin, author of the books Linchpin and Purple Cow. Says Godin, “You've abdicated responsibility and just multiplied the time wasted by the number of people in the room.” (http://bit.ly/bestmeetings)
We agree that this approach to meetings can be counterproductive, because many of us stop listening. We become completely caught up in our own heads, rehearsing what we are going to say in order to sound impressive--or drifting away to something more entertaining.
As we’ve long said, meeting facilitators should find ways to invite quieter people into the conversation, but a better way to do this is to give each person 45 seconds to offer a PRES (Point, Reason, Example, Summary) statement (check out our 7/29/2014 Capsule). Also encourage active listening and interaction. If you find yourself in a “go around the room” scenario, you can make the best of it by paying attention, asking open-ended questions, and paraphrasing. Resist the temptation to tune out or plan your “moment in the sun.” Deeply listening to what others are saying and staying plugged in allows you to be an emergent leader.
We want to hear. What ideas do you have for getting group members connected and updated without the boredom and wasted time of long “go around the room” scenarios? Join the conversation and click "comments" on our Community of Practice Forum.
Image Credit: Acumen https://www.flickr.com/photos/acumenfund/
We have previously blogged about expansive body language as an expression of power and confidence. But what should your body convey when you want to encourage engagement and inspire and express confidence in your team? In Forbes (http://onforb.es/1peKVES) Carol Kinsey Goman, Ph.D. discusses the link between body language and leadership.
To encourage collaboration, she says, it’s critical to pay attention when others are speaking. Leaders should adopt open body postures (no crossed arms or legs), lean forward, align their bodies with and mirror the stance of the person with whom they are speaking. She also acknowledges the importance of nodding—noting that research shows people will talk three to four times more than usual when the listener nods in clusters of three.
We endorse these suggestions—and contend that they will also make you more persuasive. Be especially mindful to pay attention. Giving in to the temptation to sneak a peek at your phone (or let your mind drift away from the conversation) will result in broken eye contact and broken rapport.
What body language cues do you look for to tell whether someone values and respects what you say? What body language tip would you give your boss if you could? Join the conversation: click "comments" below.
Image Credit: Kevin Dooley https://www.flickr.com/photos/pagedooley/
In our last Communication Capsule, we mentioned the benefits of kicking off brainstorming sessions with two minutes of silent writing before sharing ideas with the group, round-robin style, with no evaluation. This can lead to fresher, more creative ideas—but that won’t help your group if you or your colleagues tend to have a knee-jerk negative reaction to the new.
As Judith Glaser, who studies “conversational intelligence” notes—and as history has shown repeatedly—truly original ideas are often met with spontaneous rejection, precisely because they are alien to our current culture. (The founder of FedEx got a “C” for an academic paper outlining his idea for an overnight delivery service.) And rejection may mean that the idea’s creator feels rejected, and unlikely to contribute another new idea soon.
Step 3 of our brainstorming protocol is key: Instead of attacking and rejecting, all team members (again, silently and in writing) prioritize their top three actions— those they believe are most significant and doable. When each team member advocates for their top choices in round robin, input is shared by all—not just the first and the loudest. And the group focus remains on selecting the most positive solution—not rejecting the weirdest.
Please share your experience. Have you ever had an idea rejected because it was “too original?” How do you encourage colleagues to be more creative? Join the conversation and click "comments" on our Community of Practice Forum
Brainstorming meetings are a widespread practice, but brainstorming may actually be counterproductive when it turns into a blurt-fest, with early—and often least creative ideas—given an inordinate amount of attention.
"Early ideas tend to have disproportionate influence over the rest of the conversation," says Loran Nordgren, a professor at the Kellogg School of Management, in a recent Fast Company article. Her studies show that groups in which individuals write first and share ideas in an organized manner afterward generate 20 percent more ideas than “shout it out” forums.
We are not surprised! For years we have taught a collaborative protocol for brainstorming in which the first step is silence. For two minutes, team participants reflect on the question in writing, unconstrained by convention. Phase 2 involves round robin input where each group member shares one idea at a time until all ideas are recorded in the group memory (on flip chart paper). The key in this step: No evaluation! Initiating brainstorming with these two phases eliminates disproportionate influence of early ideas—and brings the quietest voices into the meeting.
We want to hear: What have been your brainstorming experiences? Were the meetings more or less productive when speaking or writing came first? Please share your responses here.
Are team-building exercises fun, or something many employees feel “subjected to?” A recent NPR story chronicled some true—and truly disastrous—“weekend warrior” tales reminiscent of scenes from the classic NBC sitcom, The Office. Employees recounted everything from paintballing mishaps (don’t splatter your supervisor in a “sensitive area”) to being pelted with ricocheting Sacagawea gold dollar coins flying out of a demolished donkey piñata.
What interested us as much as the story were the 100-plus comments posted in response, the majority of which seemed to be by listeners who could certainly relate. Some cited corporate “narcissism” as underlying such debacles, and many lamented the large amount of money spent on the Rambo-esque functions.
We believe that real team-building should be a result of learning and using creative, cooperative ways to solve problems and make decisions. Then the team is able to build its “teamness” by doing great work—no safety goggles or helmets required.
Share your experience. Have you engaged in team-building exercises? How did it go? How do you think teams come to do great work? Join the conversation and click "comments" on our Community of Practice Forum.
Employee engagement (i.e. enthusiastic involvement) correlates highly with increased individual and organizational productivity. Yet only 30 percent of Americans feel engaged at work, according to a 2013 Gallup report.
To understand what influences engagement, consultant Tony Schwarz and Georgetown business professor Christine Porath partnered with the Harvard Business Review to survey over 20,000 employees across a range of industries. The result: Engagement rises when four core needs are met: physical (via opportunities to renew and recharge at work); emotional, (by feeling valued and appreciated); mental (being enabled to focus on their most important tasks); and spiritual (by feeling connected to a higher purpose at work).
Here’s our thought on one way to immediately raise that low 30% engagement metric: Everyone within an organization—whether or not in a formal leadership role—can have an impact on corporate culture by communicating appreciation to those around them. It only takes a moment to sincerely let others know they are valued, and the rewards will be immense, not just on a company-wide level but also on a personal one.
We want to hear. Are you in the habit of letting co-workers know they are appreciated and valued? What happens when you do this? What has been your experience when someone at work directly recognizes something you have done? Join the conversation and click "comments" on our Community of Practice Forum.
Writing in the Harvard Business Review, Kathryn Heath, Jill Flynn, and Mary Davis Holt, partners at a consulting firm focused on women’s leadership development and authors of Break Your Own Rules offer evidence that female executives, “report feeling alone, unsupported, outside their comfort zones, and unable to advocate forcefully for their perspectives in many high-level meetings.” This is particularly troubling in light of research offered by social psychologist and Stanford professor Deborah Gruenfeld that the more one speaks in a group the more status one is perceived to have.
Of course, not all women feel disenfranchised in meetings and many men can feel that way too. We contend it’s easier for anyone to speak up when they have a game plan for doing so. That’s why we suggest P.R.E.S.:
· Begin your statement with your main POINT.
· Substantiate the point with a REASON.
· Offer an EXAMPLE.
· Now SUMMARIZE.
Keep our P.R.E.S. model in mind as a way to contribute articulately and persuasively at meetings.
We want to hear: Do you ever feel reluctant to speak up in meetings, and if so, why? How does our PRES model work for you? Join the conversation and click "comments" on our Community of Practice Forum.
In his TED talk, Jason Fried, software executive and author of Rework, lambasts meetings as “toxic, terrible, poisonous things” that stifle productivity. He recommends finding ways to eliminate meetings, including more instant messaging and emailing.
Our take: Yes: Too many meetings are dysfunctional time bandits. But rather than abolishing meetings, make meetings great! Meetings should become places where differences of opinion yield better decisions and where the end product is far richer than any single contributor could have conceived.
Some keys to facilitating better meetings: Make the goals of the meeting clear. Tap the synergy of a group through rituals that invite quieter people into the conversation. Listen actively to whomever is speaking, including asking clarifying questions and paraphrasing before disagreeing. When you hear a good idea, acknowledge it. When group members realize they are influencing each other, energy, momentum and morale soar.
Please share your experience: What do you do to make meetings productive, inclusive and energized? Join the conversation and click "comments" on our Community of Practice Forum.
We hope this week’s Communication Capsule gives you a boost. Your feedback on our Forum is welcomed and valued.
Here’s looking at you! When someone makes eye contact, they are perceived as more connected, as well as more trustworthy and likeable. We’ve long discussed the value of eye contact, and now it turns out that this basic mode of communication is so powerful it even has an impact on our relationship with “brand mascots.”
In a study published last month in the journal Environment and Behavior, researchers at Cornell manipulated the gaze of the cartoon rabbit on Trix cereal boxes and found that adults were more likely to choose Trix over competing brands if the rabbit was looking at them rather than away. Researchers also found that the eyes of characters on boxes of cereal marketed to kids were directed downward—to meet the upturned gaze of little tykes in grocery aisles.
If marketers know how to invoke the power of eye contact, we should all be conscious of its impact. Eye contact activates the parts of the brain that help us to more acutely and accurately process another person’s feelings and intentions. It gives us, as The New York Times put it, “a cognitive jump start.”
So, look up from those mobile devices and connect! You will not only be perceived as more aware and empathic—you actually will be.
Please share your experience: When you consciously make an effort to increase eye contact, what do you notice about the outcome? Join the conversation and click "comments" on our Community of Practice Forum.