Summary of Content by Chapter
PART I: LEADERSHIP CHALLENGES
PART II: HOW-TO
- Why Tell StoriesWhy Tell Stories
The Top 10 reasons why storytelling is a better way.
- Set A Vision for the FutureSet a vision for the future
See how a fake Financial Times article helped Bristol-Myers Squibb executives change the course of the company, and how a story about Nokia Communications helped a multi-billion dollar toilet paper company define their future. This chapter offers creative examples of stories that help 1) communicate a vision in a way your audience will understand and embrace, 2) get the audience to sit up and pay attention, 3) help your audience believe your vision is actually achievable, 4) motivate them to want to achieve the vision as much as you do!
- Set Goals and Build CommitmentSet Goals and Build Commitments
Goals are most effective when they are clear and unambiguous (like a political election), and the milestones are specific and measureable. See how a political campaign manager learned to define daily success measures anyone can reapply, how a veteran financial advisor at Merrill-Lynch used a competition to get better performance from of the up-and-comers, and how the CEO of Procter & Gamble used the lessons he learned as a cadet at West Point to get his six-year-old to clean her room and senior executives to deliver their business goals.
- Lead ChangeLead Change
The first step to change is getting people to admit change is needed. Learn how Jack Welch got the executives at GE’s nuclear reactor unit to face reality and make a change. Second, recognize people aren’t afraid of change. They’re afraid of not being prepared for it. Hear how an executive learned that lesson from his twin six-year-old boys, and how you can use his story to get your organization to embrace change. Third, learn the secrets of how printer codes and safety buttons create an environment that makes it hard for people not to change. Then reapply those lessons to your change challenge. Lastly, barriers to change will pop up. See how a marketing executive at Bounty paper towels turned a scathing Business Week article into an agent of change.
- Make Recommendations StickMake Recommendations Stick
People are naturally more committed to their ideas than your ideas. Turn your idea into their idea by taking your audience on a Discovery Journey through story so they can discover it for themselves. Learn how the CEO of Alltel convinced the Board to sell the company to Verizon for $2.4 billion by using a simple analogy of a yellow taxicab. See how a leader at Nielsen-BASES got his client to accept a controversial recommendation by exposing a very wrong assumption they held. Finally, read how a comedian’s joke can help someone in your organization understand and embrace a recommendation they don’t want to give.
- Define Customer Service Success and FailureDefine Customer Service Success and Failure
Stories of exceptionally good (and bad) customer service show employees how they should or should not treat the customer far more effectively than a customer service manual. Read how a touching story at Pizza Hut went to waste, while a tale of over-the-top service at National Car Rental has been creating exemplary employees and loyal customers for twenty years. Finally, see what the story of a 10-year-old boy playing video games can teach your IT manager about designing systems that foster better customer service.
- Define the Culture Define the Culture
Whoever tells the stories in an organization defines the culture. This chapter shares inspiring stories from several organizations that helped establish a culture to attract and retain the best employees. Read stories of an employee trapped in Egypt during the 2011 revolution; the difference in how the CEOs of IBM, Revlon, and Morgan Stanley follow their own rules; and how not understanding the local culture in Japan lost an executive his job after the Kobe earthquake in 1995.
- Establish ValuesEstablish Values
Values are only words on a piece of paper until they’re tested. See what values Sam Walton taught his competitor just by selling an ironing board cover; and find out what NBA legend, Larry Bird, taught his agent about integrity just by hiring him. Read uplifting and heartfelt stories that explain what a company values, or illustrate why a certain value is worth having if you want to change those values. Other stories deliver even hard-to-embrace values (like hard work and passion for winning). A final example shows how you can find many values hidden in the stories already circulating at your company.
- Encourage Collaboration and Build RelationshipsEncourage Collaboration and Build Relationships
We don’t tell our personal stories at the office because we work with strangers. They remain strangers because we don’t tell our personal stories. You have to break the cycle. Challenge people to tell their stories, and you’ll never work with strangers again. Stories humanize even the most unapproachable boss or standoffish peer or subordinate. Read how at one global consulting giant, stories can even make the company more money.
- Value Diversity and InclusionValue Diversity and Inclusion
What do a sharecropper’s daughter, a West-African traveler, and a junior high school field trip have in common? Answer: their stories can help you create a work force that values and leverages its differences. One of the modern challenges of leadership is how to get the most out of an organization by leveraging the diversity of backgrounds, cultures, experiences, and thought in the room. What makes it uniquely difficult is the sensitive nature of the topic. This chapter leverages a variety of stories, from folktales to brutally poignant biographies, to help navigate these sometime uncomfortable waters.
- Set Policy without RulesSet Policy without Rules
How do you get employees to follow the rules when most of them have never read the rule book? Employees have always relied on stories of how other people behave to know what they should do. At some companies, they stopped fighting that fact and embraced it. Now they write stories, not rules. This chapter shows you how you can, too.
- Inspire and MotivateInspire and Motivate
Great leaders know inspiration comes from a great story, not a great PowerPoint presentation. Unfortunately, most leaders can’t think of a single inspiring story when they need one. This chapter has several you can use today to help your employees face a tough challenge, take a risk on something important, or just work hard and finish what they started. Stories include an injured Olympic marathon runner, an old West pioneer, a high school basketball team that never got that second chance at the title, and an organization that tripled it’s revenue even after it’s business was declared unconstitutional by the California 9th Circuit Court.
- Build CourageBuild Courage
Fear of confrontation, failure, ridicule, or just of the unknown can paralyze individuals or an entire organization. The stories in this chapter help your audience overcome that fear, and move on with work and life. Includes stories of an imaginary giant, a real U.S. President, one of America’s favorite brand of chips, and a Nobel prize-winning physicist that can give organizations the confidence to persevere through the toughest times.
- Help Others Find Passion for their WorkHelp Others Find Passion for their Work
Ever heard the advice, “You really need to love your job!” Does it work? Of course not. You can’t order people to love their job. Far better to help them find the passion for their work, which you can do with some well-chosen stories. The stories in this chapter can help your employees (and you) love what you do.
- Teach LessonsTeach Lessons
Learn how a 19th century Danish physicist taught a P&G researcher the difference between good and great, and how a thirty-cent cup of coffee damaged one manager’s reputation beyond repair. Teaching lessons is perhaps the most common leadership task, but just as difficult every time. This chapter shows how stories of success—and especially of failure—are the best teaching vehicles.
- Provide Coaching and FeedbackProvide Coaching and Feedback
Feedback is one of the few gifts often unwelcomed by the recipient. The stories in this chapter give several options to provide feedback in a way that leaves the audience feeling valued, cared for, and wiser. Read stories of King David’s promiscuity in the Bible, and of a New York advertising executive firing herself that can help you and your team learn these lessons permanently.
- Demonstrate Problem SolvingDemonstrate Problem Solving
You can’t just tell people to “think outside the box.” You have to draw them a bigger box. Stories do that. See what your grandmother’s strategy for untangling a mangled ball of yarn, an Arkansas pediatrician’s patient strategy, and a smashed delivery crate can teach your team about solving just about any messy problem.
- Help Everyone Understand the CustomerHelp Everyone Understand the Customer
According to researchers at Microsoft and Kimberly-Clark, storytelling has removed the language barrier between market researchers and business leaders. Learn how a 90-minute interview with one mom in India taught P&G more about the tampon consumer than months of traditional research, and how a bond salesman lost a year’s pay because he didn’t know the first thing about his biggest customer . . . including his name.
- Delegate Authority and Give PermissionDelegate Authority and Give Permission
Often good managers know the right thing to do for the business, but lack the authority or trust in their own judgment to execute it. Stories in this chapter help in delegating that authority and giving people permission to follow their instincts.
- Encourage Innovation and CreativityEncourage Innovation and Creativity
See how some of the most creative people on the planet use stories that start with the words, “What if…” to kick-start the creative process. Plus, learn how one of the inventors that heralded in the Industrial Revolution was almost squelched by a stifling environment, and how one very innovative organization requires its employees to moonlight in order to build their creativity.
- Sales Is Everyone’s JobSales Is Everyone’s Job
If your sales presentation is in the trashcan, you’d better have a good story. And sales presentations have a way of ending up in the trashcan. Learn a sales technique from Merrill-Lynch that could dramatically improve your top line, and discover the best place for your sales force to get training, and it’s in your office right now.
- Earn Respect on Day OneEarn Respect on Day One
People are going to tell stories about you whether you want them to or not. Choose which ones they tell by telling your own story first. Stories that help your boss, peers, and subordinates know who you are and why you’re there can give you a six-month head start on the road to success. This chapter contains a guide to finding your own personal “who” and “why” stories.
- Getting StartedGetting Started
Addresses the biggest barriers executives face in using stories: 1) they don’t know where to find them, 2) can’t remember or pick the right one when the time comes, 3) don’t know where to tell them, and 4) are afraid to use them in a written email or memo. You’ll also learn how to know you’ve successfully started leading with a story.
- Structure of a Story How-To: Structure of a Story
A well-told business story isn’t the same as a romance novel or a Hollywood movie. It has a simpler structure. But it does have one. And this is it: Context, Action, Result. Learn the key components of that structure through STORY (Subject, Treasure, Obstacle, Right lesson, and why you told it in the first place).
Context is most often skipped or under-developed. It provides all the necessary background, grabs the audience’s attention, convinces them your story is relevant to them, and generates interest and excitement to listen to the rest of the story. It must answer these questions: 1) where and when did the story happen, 2) who is the hero (Subject), 3) what do they want (Treasure), 4) who or what is getting in the way (Obstacle).
The Action is where the hero does battle with the villain.
The Result should explain three things: 1) how the story ends, 2) the Right lesson the listener should have learned, and 3) link back to the reason why you told the story in the first place.
- Keep It RealHow-To: Keep It Real
Concrete ideas are far more memorable than abstract ones. They’re also much easier for your audience to apply to their situation. This chapter shows imaginative ways to keep the elements of your story concrete, relevant, and real. Read example stories from one of the country’s biggest retailers, one of the most famous law firms, and an internet success story from London you’ve never heard of.
- Stylistic ElementsHow-To: Stylistic Elements
Nothing will make an audience of business leaders roll their eyes and disengage faster than overly descriptive language that sounds like Walt Whitman prose: “It was August in Dubai, and the sweltering mid-day heat dripped off the rooftops like hot wax down a candle…” Oh, puh-lease! What engages them at work is different than what might engage them for pleasure reading. This chapter describes the use of surprise, dialogue, repetition, and writing style appropriate for telling business stories.
- Appeal to EmotionHow-To: Appeal to Emotion
“It is useless to attempt to reason a man out of what he was never reasoned into.” (Jonathan Swift) Humans make emotional decisions. So you need emotional stories to impact those decisions. Touching stories about a Special Olympics volunteer, a U.S. fashion model finding a baby sister in Paris, and an executive’s visit to a Venezuelan toy store with her 5-year-old son illustrate appropriate use of emotion in a business environment.
- The Element of SurpriseHow-To: The Element of Suprise
Not just helpful in battle, the element of surprise triggers the release of adrenaline that tells the brain, “Whatever just happened is really important. Remember it!” This chapter contains several clever examples of using surprise to make stories more effective and memorable: singing flight attendants at Southwest Airlines, the unexpected candor of an executive asking his client to fire him, and a high school history teacher that made a lifelong impression on his students by getting mugged on the first day of school.
- Metaphors and AnalogiesHow-To: Metaphors and Analogies
People don’t really want to buy a quarter-inch drill bit. What they want is a quarter-inch hole in the wall. This observation in 1960 by a Harvard Business Review editor is a classic example of the power of metaphor in business. It got marketing executives all over the country to stop talking to consumers about their products, and start talking about the end result the consumer was after. Analogies and metaphors pack the power of a full story into a few words or phrases. That’s because they already have complete stories associated with them embedded in the mind of the audience. This chapter offers several relevant examples of how to use metaphors to tell your story, as well as a method to generate metaphors on any topic.
- Recast Your Audience into the StoryHow-To: Recast Your Audience into the Story
“Tell me, I’ll forget. Show me, I’ll remember. Involve me, I’ll understand.” This ancient Chinese proverb is still right. This chapter shows you how to take your storytelling to the next level by actually putting your audience into the plot, rather than simply tell them about it. Examples include how a manufacturing plant manager got his leadership team to live under the rules they set for the production workers, and how a kindergartener’s gold star stickers got a retail executive to change his thinking about which brands to advertise.