We humans have told stories to one another since the dawn of language and civilization. Now business gurus are calling storytelling the most powerful strategic tool for anyone who wants to influence and persuade. We agree!
But what draws people to a particular story? Keith Quesenberry, a lecturer at the Center for Leadership Education at Johns Hopkins, dissected two years’ worth of Super Bowl commercials using Freytag’s Pyramid, named after a German novelist who saw common patterns in the plots of novels: Act 1, scene setting; Act 2, rising action; Act 3, turning point; Act 4, falling action; Act 5, resolution/release.
Quesenberry’s team coded Superbowl commercials for their number of acts and predicted the Budweiser commercial “Puppy Love” would win the ratings. It was the viewers’ top pick in a USA Today poll, and the beer’s sales rose.
When stories don’t work, Linderman says, it’s because we judge, analyze and explain an experience, rather than tell it. In our Persuasion and Influence course we consistently emphasize that a great story includes characters – with their voices -- and a compelling plot.
We want to hear. What has been your experience with stories – both as a teller and a listener? Join the conversation and click "comments" on our Community of Practice Forum.
Credit: Het Nieuwe Instituut
There’s lots of yelling at football games, but for the Oregon Ducks, that yelling is relegated to the stands. The old stereotype of coaches shouting in the faces of players to “motivate” them has given way to a kinder, gentler approach.
“It’s not about who can scream the loudest,” Mark Helfrich, the Ducks’ second-year coach told the Wall Street Journal (http://on.wsj.com/1IOCVE3). “We have excellent specialists in their field, great leaders of young men…There’s hopefully a lot more talking than yelling.”
“When you put your arm around a guy and say, ‘This is how it could be done better,’ they understand you care about them and you just want what’s best for the team,” said Marcus Mariota, Oregon’s Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback. “Those guys already understand that they did wrong.”
The Ducks, who have embraced a more soft-spoken philosophy since implementing a “horizontal leadership structure” in 2009, are not alone in substituting constructive communication for a drill-sergeant approach. More organizations are doing likewise as their workforces are increasingly populated by Millennials, who are more comfortable being approached as collaborators.
While we are unabashed Ducks fans, that is not our only reason for endorsing the team’s use of constructive communication as a motivator. It is part of the growing wave of organizations that understand the benefits of viewing each of their members as leaders in their own way.
We want to hear: Is there a place for quieter talking and less yelling in sports? Have you known people – on or off the field -- motivated by yelling, or do you think there is always a better alternative? Join the conversation and click "comments" on our Community of Practice Forum.
We all resolve to build new habits, but many of us lose steam before long. Writing in Entrepreneur, behavioral scientist James Clear offers three tips to stick with it.
1. Start with a really easy habit. Our example: Suppose you want to have more engagement with the people you work with. Making it a habit to say “good morning” to your team members is a simple starting point.
2. Figure out what’s holding you back. Clear says it’s our judgments about ourselves and others that get in our way. Our example: “I am too introverted to be more interactive with co-workers.” Or: “If I become more interactive they might think I’m being insincere.” Of course these are not sound rationales. Everyone is more nuanced than that!
3. Develop a failure fallback. No one changes a habit without setbacks. When (not if!) it happens to you, get back on track as soon as possible.
We want to hear! Are you building any new good habits so far this year? What techniques are you using for making them permanent? Join the conversation and click "comments" on our Community of Practice Forum.
One morning in Bangalore, India, tech startup founder Archana Patchirajan, told her entire staff she had to let them go because the venture had run out of funds. Amazingly, her high-caliber engineers, who had their pick of jobs, said they would rather work for half their pay than leave her. They worked so hard that a few years later the company, Hubbl, sold for $14 million. Now Archana continues to work on startups from the US and her staff, thousands of miles away, continues to work for her.
When asked why they are so loyal, the staff mentioned their boss’s ability to be honest with them, give them time to analyze mistakes, and even share her own doubts and vulnerabilities. In short, she was authentic. http://bit.ly/1uZG5y0
Some leaders try to project an image of perfection and certainty at all times in order to be respected by others, but pretense often backfires. Our brains are wired to read cues so subtle that even when we don’t consciously register those cues, our bodies react. For example, according to research by James Gross at Stanford University, when someone is angry but hides their feelings we may not realize consciously they are angry (they don’t look angry); nevertheless, our own blood pressure will rise. On the other hand, when we are around someone who is authentic and vulnerable we perceive them as trustworthy—and that trustworthiness inspires engagement and loyalty.
We want to hear: Are you ever aware that someone is trying to project a false image, and how do you react? Are there leaders who inspire you with their willingness to appear vulnerable? Join the conversation and click "comments" on our Community of Practice Forum.
Image Credit: Enrique Burgos
If you’re familiar with bifocal eyeglasses, you know they allow you to view the same scenario from different perspectives. Anthony Kronman of Yale Law School uses “bifocalism” as a thought-provoking analogy. As he put it: “Anyone who has worn bifocal lenses knows that it takes time to learn to shift smoothly between perspectives and to combine them in a single field of vision. The same is true of deliberation. It is difficult to be compassionate, and often just as difficult to be detached, but what is most difficult of all is to be both at once.”
Seeing a situation from another’s perspective is key to any successful negotiation, compromise, or conflict resolution. Recently writing in The New York Times, David Brooks posited that we get better at this skill as we age (http://bit.ly/bifocialism ) But why wait?
We can aid detachment by asking ourselves, “How would an outsider view the situation?”, or “How would I view this if I set my emotions aside?” As for compassion, it is essential to remember that all of us have our own perspective, because everyone is unique. As Anais Nin said, “We don’t see things as they are, we see things as we are.” We view situations, through the prism of our own experiences, values, and culture. We may never fully be able to step into another person’s world, but we can set a goal to regard our own perspectives as just one way of understanding, among many other ways.
We want to hear. Do you find it easier to view situations with detachment and compassion as you mature? If so, why do think that is? Join the conversation and click "comments" on our Community of Practice Forum.
Image Credit: Thomas Hawk https://www.flickr.com/photos/thomashawk/
This New Year, consider making a resolution to practice 12 months of healthy communication. Most people navigate through important moments of communication on automatic pilot, reacting from emotion rather than intention. But we can transform our relationships by getting off autopilot and being proactive with positive communication.
As communication researchers and partners in work and marriage for over 40 years, we’ve experienced both the joy and challenge of personal and business communication and have found some simple steps to resolve conflict and build trust in relationships:
*Listen when your impulse is to argue.
*Edit accusations that might make someone feel put down, and instead describe your feelings.
*If you have a grievance, pinpoint details and specific examples.
*Acknowledge your role in any problem.
*Reach explicit, collaborative solutions that specify what each person will do differently in the future.
Confronting issues is never an easy matter, but avoidance can be hazardous not just to our relationships but also to our own health.
Here’s wishing you a happy, healthy, communicative 2015!
We want to hear. Do you have a New Year’s resolution that could lead to stronger communication? Join the conversation and click "comments" on our Community of Practice Forum.
Image Credit: Joan M. Mas https://www.flickr.com/photos/dailypic/
Whenever we ask people to share stories about stressful family encounters at the holidays, we are amazed at the outpouring of fraught memories. But reliving the conflicts of holidays past won’t help us deal with the present. This season, try something new. When Uncle Joe or Aunt Blanche blurts out an unwelcome opinion, resist the temptation to engage in point/counterpoint. This quickly devolves into a situation where everyone feels the only way to “win” is to get louder and LOUDER!
Instead, ask for more information about your relative’s point of view—and actually listen to that information. (Do this even if the point of view they are sharing is a direct criticism of you.) Only true listening can provide you the information you need to have influence. And it is only when your “opponent” feels heard that they will even begin to consider another point of view.
*avoid conversation killers like “You always…” and “You never…”;
*tell the other person you understand how they came to feel the way they do;
*own your part of the situation and acknowledge how you may be contributing to it.
Be realistic: You are not going to achieve perfect harmony with everyone at the dinner table. But with a little resolve you can certainly improve your batting average. Happy holidays!
We want to hear: How did this advice work for you this holiday season? Join the conversation and click "comments" on our Community of Practice Forum.
Image Credit: Michael Porter https://www.flickr.com/photos/libraryman
For years we heard about Google’s infamous job interview brainteasers (“How many times a day do a clock’s hands overlap?”), but the company has declared them useless in hiring (http://bit.ly/nobrainteasers)
According to Laszlo Bock, that company’s head of people operations, pedigrees from elite colleges and even high GPAs are also not strong predictors of job performance.
Bock told The New York Times (http://bit.ly/morehumility) that Google looks instead for “the ability to step back and embrace other people’s ideas when they’re better.” This “intellectual humility,” as Bock calls it, is fundamental to learning. It is expressed as an ability to process information on the fly and to absorb the lessons of failure. Google interviewers screen for it by asking how applicants handled tough situations.
Being intellectually humble does not mean being wishy-washy. As Bock describes it, employees who possess this quality will “fight like hell” for their position. But if a new fact is introduced, they are unafraid to say, “That changes things. You are right.”
We have long talked about the value of genuinely listening to the ideas of others. Successful teamwork and emergent leadership depend on this sort of open-mindedness and on the strength of character to trade certainty for curiosity.
We want to hear: Can you describe a circumstance where a willingness to embrace another point of view led to success? Does your organization have a way of screening for this quality in prospective employees? Join the conversation and click "comments" on our Community of Practice Forum.
Image Credit: Alain Bachellier https://www.flickr.com/photos/alainbachellier/
Gallup’s State of the Global Workplace finds that only 13% of people around the world feel engaged at work. Silicon Valley high-flyers may lure and retain talent with perks like free massages and gourmet buffets. But according to a recent SHRM survey “the opportunity to use skills and abilities” is now the top driver of satisfaction,
Researcher Liz Wiseman, author of Rookie Smarts, Why Leaning Beats Knowing in the New Game of Work takes this finding one step further, saying, “Employees don’t just want their skills used; they want them stretched.”(http://bit.ly/workchallenge)
When Wiseman’s organization asked 1,000 people across industries to indicate their current level of on-the-job challenge and their current level of satisfaction, they found a near-linear correlation. In other words, “As challenge level goes up, so does satisfaction.” Further investigation revealed that people who received a challenging assignment, in general, mastered it within three months and were ready for the next one.
The lesson for managers? While pausing to appreciate success is important, employees are not happy resting for long. If employees seem restless, allow them to apply their skills to a new problem and invite them to collaborate with co-workers to increase their expertise.
We want to hear: Are you more engaged and satisfied at work when your abilities are being stretched? Can you give us an example? Join the conversation and click "comments" on our Community of Practice Forum.
Image Credit: David Kracht https://www.flickr.com/photos/dave_kr8/
Can you work well on teams, solve problems, and communicate well with people inside and outside your organization? If so, you possess the top three skills employers are seeking in today’s job market.
We were delighted to see the “big three” when The National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE), a non-profit group that links college career placement offices with employers, surveyed hiring managers from large companies like Chevron, IBM, and Seagate Technology about what skills they will prioritize when recruiting from the class of 2015 (http://bit.ly/topjobskills). But we were certainly not surprised! We have devoted our entire research and consulting careers to developing programs that teach these very skills because we believe they are key to organizational performance and culture.
So grads—and all job-seekers—take note: Employers emphasize universal skills that are applicable across all disciplines and industries. No matter what you studied in school, no matter what your field, it is crucial to demonstrate to employers that you can collaborate creatively and communicate effectively. Stress accomplishments that show these abilities on your resume, in your cover letters, and during your interviews. These initial points of contact are opportunities to show prospective employers just how well you communicate.
We want to hear! If you are hiring, how do you screen applicants for these skills? If you are job-seeking, how are you demonstrating these skills? Join the conversation and click "comments" on our Community of Practice Forum.
A massive Gallup employee engagement survey found that there is no more important job satisfaction predictor than whether an employee has recently had a conversation about how they’re doing on the job. Yet a large percentage of employees at all levels crave more feedback from their managers than they receive. This is what Anna Carroll, author of The Feedback Imperative, found when she interviewed 2100 individuals in the workplace. (http://bit.ly/morefeedback)
Feedback is information, and all of us--especially Millennials--are used to processing massive amounts of it daily. So why are employees kept in the dark about their own performance? Carroll says many reasons are emotional: Fear, avoidance, and fight-or-flight stress on the part of managers prevent them from delivering feedback--sometimes outsourcing the process completely and promoting “an anonymous feedback culture.”
One excuse managers give is that feedback will cause unhappiness and lead to turnover. But exactly the opposite is true. We believe the dissatisfaction caused by lack of feedback dissipates when managers are properly trained in the art of giving feedback, including our Raising Delicate Issues model.
We want to hear. Are you getting enough feedback from your manager? How would you improve the feedback process in your organization? Join the conversation and click "comments" on our Community of Practice Forum
Image Credit: Het Nieuwe Instituut https://www.flickr.com/photos/thenewinstitute/
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/
Are you getting enough acknowledgment for your hard work and commitment? If not, it could be because you are reluctant to take credit. A study in the Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin suggests the “Imposter Syndrome” might be at play. That’s when high-achieving people don't feel they deserve the success that they have earned and so they divert the credit onto others.
Sure it’s great to be a team player, but a little self-promotion can also be important. A recent article by Cornell psychology professor Peggy Drexler (http://bit.ly/brag3) suggests three ways to highlight your accomplishments: 1) acknowledge your achievements internally; 2) inform your boss directly of exactly what you did even while acknowledging your team; 3) enlist a “co-bragger” to call out your successes while you do the same in return.
We have long pointed out the many benefits of acknowledging co-workers, but failing to acknowledge yourself is needless self-handicapping. Owning your success need not undermine your team, and it isn’t boastful if it’s true.
We want to hear: Are you ever reluctant to point out your own accomplishments—and, if so, why? Have you seen others being successful at self-promotion while still being team players? What might you do to promote yourself going forward? Join the conversation and click "comments" below.
Image Credit: Dan Meineck
Does your boss regularly email you a high-priority assignment or question at midnight? If so, your productivity may be negatively affected.
Jennifer Deal, a senior research scientist at the Center for Creative Leadership, surveyed white-collar workers and found most were tied to email13.5 hours a day, well into the evening -- some not even taking a break during dinner. What haunts such workers is the expectation that they are supposed to reply immediately, no matter the hour, or face dire consequences. This endless, reflexive checking comes from dread—not true engagement.
This research (http://nyti.ms/1puscUX) discovered that continual emailing often masks poor management practices. When employees face endless questions and “cc’s” to every team member about each niggling detail, they often don’t feel empowered to make decisions. In contrast, when employees are actually empowered, they make more judgment calls and start using phone and face-to-face conversations to resolve issues quickly.
Limiting workplace email is actually a trend in high-productivity Germany, where Volkswagen and Deutsche Telekom have adopted policies that limit work-related email during evenings and weekends. Can it happen in the U.S.? Only if it comes from the top. We believe that leaders should assess their use of email and make sure they are not inadvertently using it as an enabler of timidity and procrastination.
We want to hear! Are you tethered to email 24/7? What changes in email policy, if any, would you like to see in your organization? Join the conversation and click "comments" below.
Image Credit: Theen Moy https://www.flickr.com/photos/theenmoy/