Episode 27: How Leaders Use Story Telling to Inspire Action
As a leader, you set a vision and develop strategies to achieve goals, drive change, and create a successful organization. But what happens when those well-developed plans fail to come to life due to employee indifference or inaction. Dynamic leaders paint the picture of where the organization is heading, share why it matters, and then allow its members to write themselves into the organization’s success story. During Voltcast: Illuminating Leadership, Joanne M. Loce, Managing Partner of Fortify Leadership Group, will share storytelling techniques that will enable leaders convey strategy in a compelling, memorable way. We will discuss how leaders can tell stories and draw images to drive change, inspire action, and deliver business results. Please join us for this entertaining and thought provoking show.
Joanne M. Loce, President of Loce Consulting, LLC and Managing Partner of Fortify Leadership Group is an executive coach, leader, consultant, and speaker with over 25 years of experience providing bottom-line business results through innovative human resources strategies and practical, people-related solutions. She provides customized services and solutions to organizations and leaders, including: leadership assessment and coaching; business strategy, human resources, talent management, and succession planning consulting; leadership development design and delivery; and coaching and consulting on culture transformation, change management, and storytelling. Her clients include global Fortune 500 companies from diverse industries, private-equity held firms, healthcare providers, and state government. She resides in Mechanicsville, Virginia, with her husband and four children.
Jeff: Welcome to Voltcast: Illuminating Leadership. So glad you can join us this week. Today on the show, I will be introducing Joanne Loce in just a moment but so glad that so many of you are taking time to write to us over the course of the week. Giving us ideas, suggestions. It is a cold day here in Virginia. We had some snow but not nearly as much as our friends up in the Northeast they are going to have. Thinking about our friends up in Philly and New York and Boston. I know, Joanne, you are originally from New York. I am sure some of your family is going to get hammered with some snow here.
Joanne: They certainly are.
Jeff: Yes. I am glad the same and not us. I am ready for spring down here in Virginia. How about you, Joanne?
Joanne: I am as well. We only got some ice, no snow, but just a little bit of ice just enough for us to have a day off from school for the kids.
Jeff: For the kids. Unfortunately for us, we plugged on but I know this is going to be joyful. I want to tell folks if you want to join us today, here is how to do it. You can call us during the show at 1-866-472-5788. If you want to send an e-mail, I will check it a couple times during the show at email@example.com. During the week, if you want to reach out, we are at www.voltageleadership.com. You can like me on Facebook at Voltage Leadership and connect with me on LinkedIn at Jeff Smith, Voltage Leadership Consulting. If you are in that crazy world of Twitter, you can follow me on @jmujeff but mostly you are going to see a few updates about show and more updates about JMU Sports, anything else. If you are JMU sports fan, sign in there and you will get all kind of updates.
I want to introduce the topic today. We are really going to be talking about How Leaders Can Use Storytelling to Inspire Action in the workplace. My friend Joanne Loce is on the show today. Let me tell you a little bit about Joanne. Joanne and I go way back. We first worked together at Capital One. She actually knew and worked with my wife barely before we were probably just in the dating basis. We go way back and Joanne is just a fantastic leader. She is the President of Loce Consulting and Managing Partner at Fortify Leadership Group which we will talk about in a little bit. She is an executive coach, leader, consultant, and speaker with over 25 years of experience. Joanne, I think that means we are getting older, I do not know.
Joanne: We started when we were very young, Jeff.
Jeff: It is amazing when you start with five. You can get 25 years’ experience very quick there, yes?
Jeff: Joanne is a thought leader on things like succession planning, talent development, talent strategy, storytelling, as wells all kind of change management change leadership. Her clients include global Fortune 500 companies from diverse industries, private equity firms, healthcare providers, state government. She previously worked as executives at Capital One and Genworth. She resides in Virginia. She is married to Ben and has four children. Joanne, we got that in common. That long term marriage and four children and we are probably a little crazy, right?
Joanne: Yes, some might say so.
Jeff: Well, Joanne, welcome to the show. So glad you can be here with us today. I am privileged, Joanne, outrageously successful. To watch her career take off and then call our friend, it is just a joy to have you here. Just so you know, this is probably not the only time you will hear it. I am sure in the future we can bring her back to talk some more about talent development, succession planning and all that. But today, we are really talking about storytelling. Joanne, this is probably an area that I have not spent a lot of time in my career really thinking about until you really got me interested. What got you interested in storytelling?
Joanne: That is a great question. I think I have been interested in storytelling since I was a very small child. I did actually do a lot of writing when I was little. I think the whole concept of telling a story and relaying to other people through stories has been something that has been a passion of mine for quite some time. But professionally, what I would say is, I really got into storytelling when through my corporate career I started to see and really hear leaders who told stories that really drew me in to do things that I did not think were possible or to achieve things that I did not think were possible for an organization. Really seeing some storytellers, although they would not call themselves that, but these gifted individuals who could really create a story and draw people in and make them really passionate and energized about doing things. Seeing the success of that is really what got me interested in it professionally.
Jeff: Well, that is really cool. Tell me, maybe in your words, what is storytelling? I think I can understand it when we are maybe reading stories to our children when they are five years old. But in the context of this work world and organizations and things like that, what storytelling mean for Global 500 type customer that you often support?
Joanne: Sure. I mean first of all, storytelling is universal. It transcends every culture and it has been around pretty much since humans related to each other. Storytelling is really fundamental to how we communicate. It is truly how we connect with each other as we share our experiences. I often say to folks, hey, at the end of the day do you go home and do you convey stories to your spouse, significant other, to your cat, whomever you decide to speak with at night. Often, we do not go home and say, 'Hey, what a great spreadsheet I created today,’ or 'look at this PowerPoint.' I mean we go home and we say let me tell you about this story.
What I do is I would say the first piece of storytelling, the reason why it is important in a business, it is how we connect with others. It is how we share our experience, who we met, how our days are going, what we learned and how we are going to translate what we do into future action.
Jeff: Well, that is a lot. Let me back up. My next question was really why storytelling important? What I heard from you is already you have given us a lot of meat to chew on here. It is the ability to connect with others, it is how we connect with others. It is sharing experiences, it is translating kind of what we are seeing into action and the stories that people can really understand and relate to. Why else is storytelling so important?
Joanne: Well, a couple of other things is that there is a sort of a fundamental desire amongst most people. Well, at least I would put forward that there is a fundamental desire of the people that I have worked with over my career is that we want to be part of something bigger than ourselves. Storytelling is just a real unique skill and it is a unique way for us to be able to captivate the imagination, show us how we can be part of that bigger than ourselves issue. Whether it is a struggle, a success, all of that is really important and it is a way for us to really write ourselves into our day to day working environment and the relationships that we are in every day.
Jeff: That is really interesting. What I am curious about is where maybe have you seen this done well? We will keep kind of peeling back the onion on samples and examples and how do we do that. But as you really think about this, where do you see working right and is going well that you are like wow that is a great example of storytelling.
Joanne: Yes, I could point to several experiences in my professional career that I would say I was really gifted to be able to see on these great leaders to convey a strategy but let me point to one that maybe, for the listeners, is something that you can check out after the program. One of the great examples that I point to often is Steve Jobs and his Stanford commencement speech. You have been able to see that, haven't you?
Jeff: Yes, I have seen that a couple of times. It is fantastic. Tell me why it did move me and it connected with me because I do remember.
Joanne: Yes, there is a couple of really key elements that Steve Jobs was able to use. First of all, if you recall that he was very human. He was very relatable. He was not this CEO of a massive organization that has really revolutionized the way that we interact with technology. But really what Steve Jobs did is, the first thing, he created an emotional connection with each of us and we can talk about each of these parts in a bit. But really, the first pieces, we were emotionally connected for anyone who has seen that, you can probably think about one or two of the points that somehow personally touched you or you connected with.
The second is that he created a story line or a plot for us. That plot line was really his success story but he also showed us the struggle that it was not a typical way for him to move from where he started to where he was in terms of his success and the struggles that he faced as he leaned into each challenge. What he learned and how he grew as, for lack of a better word, a character in that story. Because of that, many people point to that as really one of the examples of great storytelling.
Jeff: Maybe we will start that here and then we will finish on the outside the break. What make up a great story or a good story? We do not want to intimidate our folks. At least start with good and then we will work towards great. But in your mind, what makes up a good story?
Joanne: What I do, and I keep it relatively simple, the first thing is that every story or every book needs a title. First and foremost, what is the title of your story? The second is we need a cast of characters. It could be a few characters, it could be a lot of characters. Those characters might, in the case of an organization, be employee or stakeholders but we will talk about that after the break. But really it is about characters. The next piece is going to be what I will call the story line or the plot. Any of us who took an English class in our early school years knows that there is a plot line and that is going to be really important as it relates to a story. Then finally, what I would say, is that you need heroes and villains.
Jeff: Yes, I think it is appropriate as we have Beauty and the Beast re-emerging this week which is going kind of fine. My girls are very excited about it. I worked with youth at my church and I was with 16 and 17 year old boys and I said, 'Hey, fellas. You want to go see the opening night of Beauty and the Beast?' They just rolled their eyes. Like okay, what about a date like maybe. I think that is a classic example of there is the villains and the heroes and there is a plot line, their stories and all that kind of stuff. Yes, this really makes a lot of sense.
One thing I want to talk about before we hit the break is Fortify Leadership. Joanne and I are partnering together. We are creating a company called Fortify Leadership Group. We will be working together for midsize and larger clients to bring in things like storytelling, change management, executive coaching, succession planning. Joanne, I am outrageously excited to work with, what are you excited about as we form Fortify Leadership Group?
Joanne: Yes, right. I think one of the things that is probably most exciting is it gives us the opportunity to really bring kind of our complementary skills together to really think about how can we make an impact in larger organizations and really help change the way that they think about things.
Jeff: Well, I know I am excited. What we will do is we are going to take a break here and when we come back, we will pick up on this, what makes a great story, and continue in two minutes thanks.
Jeff: Welcome back and so glad you could be with us. I have got Joanne Loce, President of Loce Consulting and Managing Partner of Fortify Leadership Group on today. Throughout the program, she will be here with us the whole show today. We are going to be talking about storytelling and what is it and how do you do it and how do you effectively use it in your workplace. Joanne, I think you gave us a great understanding in the first segment about why storytelling, what got you interested. What I am curious about now is how do you make a story that is compelling and memorable? It seems like that is important and all of it. I really do not know where to start. Think about my audience, they are like yes that sounds good but when you started and how do you do this?
Joanne: Yes, first of all, I am just going to encourage everyone that we are all storytellers and this is absolutely a skill that can be developed over time but each of us really has the ability and does, on a regular basis, tells stories, and tells great stories. What I want to do is maybe, what we can do over there remainder of our time, is just talk about what are some of the ways that you can bring out the natural storyteller in yourself and or if you are supporting leaders, how can you work with them to help them be great storytellers.
I guess let us start at the beginning which is often when I work with people around storytelling, it starts basically with look, 'Joanne, I have created this amazing strategy, right? I have a vision, I have a plan, and I have talked about the resources. I have talked and engaged my stakeholders, I thought about how to measure success and now I am ready to talk to my employees.' Often what they have done is stood up and really said, 'Here is a whole bunch of PowerPoint slides and a lot of graphs that mostly people cannot really read or relate to. Hey, are you not excited and energized about all of these really amazingly well put together slides around my strategy?' That is one situation. I am going to guess, Jeff, you have sat through some of those presentations in your career?
Jeff: Clearly, I just was sent from one of my clients, the CEO of a healthcare system, and they did an hour and ten minute employee forum update. Here is the strategy, here is where we are going, and here is the change management. Here is what seventeen and eighteen looks like. It was an hour and twelve minutes that I just watched and I stopped counting at over a hundred slides.
Joanne: Compelling and memorable, maybe not so much, right? Let me just put the other kind of common situation forward and them we will move into kind of how do you really think about connecting with the people that you are working with. Probably many people listening today. You yourself and myself do a lot of work with organizations around change. Change can come in so many different varieties whether it is leadership changes, implementing some new technology, going through some kind of organizational transformation, a merger or acquisition. Well, we could spend the entire time talking about all of the changes that organizations are going through but really when we talk about change, it really kind of invokes a lot of emotion in people because I happy to do something different.
This is another great place for leaders to be able to use storytelling to help people work through or manage through that change. That is where we have seen a lot of really exciting progress when working with clients. Just high level, those are the two types of situations where storytelling can be a really useful tool for people to be able to use with their leaders and with their employees.
Jeff: Yes, I think that makes a lot of sense, Joanne. I think it is around strategy. Getting people to understand it, to buy in ability to drive change. Just give one example as you start to think about how we unroll that a little bit. I am thinking back to my early Capital One days. Joanne and I both worked there together. I can remember a time where we were trying to go for four million customers by 1994 and four billion in outstanding assets. It was four by '94. That was a good theme, like a tagline, but it was really the story about what does it mean to our customers for us to be able to buy this superior support.
We started sharing this amazing customer service stories and change management of that was just brilliant. There was a little bit of a promise on the end. If we were able to do that, we get to go to some casual clothes. We have been traditional bankers. With Monday through Thursday was white shirt, red tie, suit, right? Friday, we are dressed casual as blue shirt and tie and suit, right? If we were able to achieve these goals, we were going to be able to dress business casual just on Fridays. But what was fascinating about this was the story of kind of bringing us along and how we were leaving behind traditional banking. What it means to be sort of a credit card company, like we did not really understand it and had to be taught that in just all the different ways the stories were being told and what I can remember all these years later is when the plane flew over our building in Richmond with the thing behind it.
It says 'Congratulations on making full by '94, dress casual or something like that. I do not remember the exact words within there but that was fascinating. All these years away later, with all the things that we have been able to even our career, I still remember that like it was just yesterday.
Joanne: Yes that is really when I talked about being memorable, do you get any better than that? I mean 1994 was quite a few years ago my friend. Again, we started when we were very young. It is really, it is one of those things. I have got a couple of similar stories and I still recall being able to visualize, visualize, really see what the picture is that is being painted and what does that look like. What is tangibly the outcome for our employees if we paid that story? You remember earlier in the program, you asked me kind of what are those elements of a story?
We talked about having a title and having characters, plot line and I talked about heroes and villains and I will clarify that a little bit because I am not here to suggest that any employee in your organization should be painted as either a hero or a villain but rather the behaviors that individuals exhibit can either be heroic and help you achieve your goals or can be villains and help and really prevent you from achieving those goals. But you can see the connection right between the title and the strategy. What is our vision, where are we going, the connection point is really that title is going to be what is your overall strategy? What is that high level thing that we are trying to accomplish?
Then as we think about those stakeholders, employees, those are really the characters. They are the individuals who can help co-write the story and breathe life into the story. Then again, as we think about kind of those measures and milestones, I call those chapters because all of us know no one picks up a book and it is just four hundred straight pages. Authors are really masterful, a kind of marking if you will, like what needs to happen? What sort of the whole part of the story that takes place within a chapter? We as leaders also have those measurements in place and really can think about how we mark our progress.
As I mentioned, just really then what is that plot line, what is the strategic actions, what is the change that we are trying to implement? There is a real connection point between really a strategy or change effort and those key elements of a story that we talked about earlier.
Jeff: Yes, I think that is great. Title is vision, high level, that key theme or two that you want to make sure that when people walking around at the water cooler, if we still have those anymore, but what are they talking about? The cast care because I love this, the stakeholders, employees, the ones that breathe the life into that really makes a lot of sense to me. That story line, the plot, you measure metrics, milestones, all equaling chapters in a book. Then the strategic actions, I think I can get my arms around that and I see it sort of unfolding. What others heroes and villains that you are talking about now? I am all more curious, you got me kind of waiting with bathed breath here as Shakespeare would say.
Joanne: Yes. Like any great story that has, I think our English teacher has called them antagonist and protagonist. I like heroes and villains a little bit better but when we talk about making a story compelling, we need these competing forces in our organization to help us really accomplish that which we are trying to overcome. Let me just share with you a little bit of things around making a story compelling. One of the really key elements of making a story compelling and some of this that I am going to be talking about is really based on some studies that were conducted by Dr. Paul Zack, the first thing is you need to start with focus. Which is, how do we create tension so that the listener feels a little bit of, I will use the word distress, discomfort or really just not satisfied with the status quo and where you are currently?
The first thing and that is why really being able to identify what behaviors are heroic, that will help us really achieve our goals, and what is going on that is going to prevent us. That is a bit of the tension and the struggle. It is not so much how the individuals, and it should not be, but it really is around what are the things that we are doing that were going to help us and really create that successful future as well as what are those things that are detracting and taking us away from achieving that future.
Jeff: Yes, good stuff, keep going.
Joanne: The really great thing about distress, I am laughing a little bit, is that when that happens our body actually will release cortisol which has a really bad rap but which allows us to really focus. What it is a biological response that allows us to focus on what we think is really important. When that happens, we actually created the biological condition where the listener can be connected. We can really say we want you to be connected to this story in an emotional way. Our challenge is not to scare people or put them so out of distress but to create the right level of distress. It is contrast, a kind of positive, as well as contrasting kind of behavior, is that we create this environment where people are leaning in.
They are really thinking about what is going to happen here and I want to know about our own bodies. Literally, physiologically, we can actually through storytelling get people to be hardwired and listening in a completely different way. What we need to do is to make it very compelling is to really not just make it one struggle because that is sort of a one and done. But we are thinking about the strategy, a long term strategy, a long term change. It is about how do we sustain that tension in a healthy way and talk about those struggles in a productive way and ways that the listener can help create the positive outcome that we are looking for.
Jeff: Yes. It reminds me on this, you are sort of thing, near this stress and all that. There is also discernment. There is this period of like how do we connect and make all this work and if you are providing some emotion, then you are creating that energy for me to really discern this and get going. I love the meaning and the struggle. I want to learn more about cortisol and, just for our listeners, this will I thought back to some of the work we did around change the culture, change the game, where the new behaviors that we need to create a different belief system so that we lead to different actions which leads to different results. I think it really builds on a lot of the work that we have done previously. When we come back in two minutes, we will pick up on this plot line we have been laying out and gives you some more tools in tips and some stories that we have shared from our past. See you in two. Thanks.
Jeff: Welcome back. I am the show today with Joanne Loce. She will be here with us for the whole show today. She is a highly sought after speaker, consultant, coach, extraordinarily gifted at the thing storytelling which is the theme of our day. Joanne, before the break, you kind of ran us through the how to create a plot line, heroes and villains and all that. As I watched this presentation I talked about earlier, it just did not really felt like they captured the heart. They were appealing to the logic maybe of my mind but I do not know that I saw people really engaged in the necessary move to action. How do you go about creating stories that really capture both the heart and the mind?
Joanne: Sure. Yes. Look, before I say there is these really long decks and again what I would say is it is important to have a well thought out strategy. It is important to have a really robust change plan and storytelling is not intended, in any way, to try and say we can just tell stories about this. Storytelling is really to augment a really fabulous strategy or really effectively put together change plan. A well thought out plan. What I would say is, first of all, before we get too far down the road because sometimes I run into a little skepticism around storytelling, I first and foremost make sure that the strategy make sense. It is well thought out, it is robust and sound, same thing with a change plan. Now, that said, once we have those plans in place to your point, we can go through and share the information.
As we were talking right before the break, I talked about how we had to create this bit attention to really create that little bit of distress in terms of where people are. Now, the other piece that we need to do is you need to create that emotional connection. My guess is that from your description, there is no kind of emotional hook for you. Now, what we need to do is really, I guess for lack of better word, is to create empathy which means that we are connecting in an emotional way. We do this by sharing information about characters, who they are, their relationships, their struggles.
We generate a connection between the listener and the characters. In this case, it could be your employees. When we do that we actually, back to our bodies, we release oxytocin internally which emotionally connects us them to the listener. This is a brain function that we actually get positive feelings and we more strongly connect to somebody when we have this connection point and we actually have study show that people when they are with that emotional connection, the listener is more positive and more willing to collaborate. What we have done is we have not only created that tension to draw people in, we connected them so that they are more willing and able to collaborate and feel more positive and connected with the story. It is this really great way that we can actually tap into people's natural instincts on how to really get people to help us to achieve great outcomes.
Jeff: That is deep. We are using our bodies, effective use of how we put our brain the work, align everything together. I can hear maybe the listener is saying. I think you touched a bit about saying we have to have good strategy, we have to have good change plan. Do I have to be very good at the storytelling? Does the storytelling just make up for bad strategy? I think you are taking this down the path but I could see some of our listeners being like, 'So, you are saying I just got to tell a good story and then bam, it happened?'
Joanne: Yes. This is not about creating a yarn that is not true or that is not really grounded in facts. You asked a couple of questions, the one thing I did say is storytelling does not, in any way, replace or make up for a well thought out strategy. If you have not gone through the necessary steps of creating a really solid strategic plan, first I would recommend that listeners do that. Take the time to look around, look at your competitors, do that environmental scan, craft a good strategic plan and come up with some strategic actions and those measures to get you to where you need to do. Thinking about do we have the right resources, is this realistic? All of that really great discipline around strategic thinking. Then layer storytelling on top.
Now, the good news is when leaders are going through the process of strategic planning, we are often talking about a lot of stories that can be, I use the word harvested or curated, out of the process. In those boardrooms and in those senior conversations, there is a lot of going back and forth around of all the reason why we should do this is look at this and their stories were actually creating this. It is really helpful to have someone who is there listening and capturing those stories because that is how leaders are getting emotionally connected to the strategy.
Most leaders stand up and are highly vested in the strategic direction and the reason why they do that, Jeff, is because they have shared so many stories about why this is the right strategy for the organization. Then when they stand up, they so firmly believe in it. But somehow we lose that storytelling component when they go to convey it to their employees. How do we create that linkage between the stories and the richness that create a strategy or a change plan and then like convey that to our employees as well. A great example, can I give you an example of this so maybe everyone can relate to?
If anyone is either part of an organization that has an annual reports that they publish for shareholders or get your hands on an annual report, go to a website for a large company. What you will see are stories. Let us take a large, for example, just randomly a pharmaceutical company. Often, what they do is they talk about their strategy, the direction that they are heading, but a lot of times what do they have in their annual reports, Jeff, that you read about?
Jeff: I am guessing stories.
Joanne: Well, it is usually about patients, right?
Jeff: It is about someone who is trying to create a new drug to counteract a rare disease or an oncology department. What you see are stories of people who have been touched by the product and the services of the organization. That is how we convey the value of the strategy. The reason why we are investing so heavily in a particular pharmaceutical or particular treatment or technology is because, insert the story. Right?
It is both parts, it is telling you where we are going, why we are going there, and connecting it to a very compelling story that often will emotionally connect us and pull us in and really want us to read more and say wow. This is for multiple audiences. This can appeal to diverse audiences, to employees, to investors, to people who might be purchasing your products. Think about all of days those diverse audiences that are really well thought out story can appeal to.
Jeff: Joanne, I just want to park this idea for you. I am going to talk for a second but my next question will really be, how long is a good story? Let us get down to some of the practical tips and tools here on the side then after break but how long is the story? I just relate. We do good bit of work with Goodwill of Alleys. They have a fund raising breakfast that really, as you are telling us, it is the yearly report brought to life. What they do is they bring in donors but they also bring in potential donors and just people from the community. They told four different stories. This is one thing we could have seen in a spreadsheet, just put up there and said we spent X amount of dollars on the young men program. It is about how to help them become leaders. But what they did was they brought in this fifteen year old from really a tough background and showed how successful he have been and they showed his mentor who is finishing his freshman year of college, who had gone all the way through the program.
At the end of that, you are just like there is the mission live breathing and the story that they told. I mean I went out my way. I need to run to a meeting but before I left I went on my way to go up and give him a hug and just say, 'Hey, you really inspired me today.' When I wrote my check, I did not feel like I was being asked. I was like I want to be part of that cause. I think that is a really great example of the end of the year report coming to life. I am just curious. The listener might be like how long is a good story and we talked a little bit about what entails but what are some of the link to time. What I need to be doing to craft a good story. We will start it here and then we will finish on those after break.
Joanne: Sure. I guess a couple things I will say first is that I am not sure that there is an idea length of a story or how long it should be. A couple of pointers I would say is you want to keep your plot line focused. Really understand what the plot line is and I could give you some of those common plot lines after the break and not over complicate the story or, by the way, make it overly positive. Remember what I said, we need to create a little bit of that tension between folks. Often, when we stand up, we want to make it so positive. We want everybody so energized. Let us go, let us rally the troops. Most people are saying wait a minute, this feels a little too positive.
If there is no tension, it is a lower connection in terms of emotional. We want to meet people where they are and kind of take them to where they need to be. Let me give you just a plot line that has generated many memorable stories and this is how short it can be. Here we go, ready? Once upon a time, there was every day, and then one day, and because of that, finally. If you just put little lines where I paused, it is a very familiar plot line that has created many memorable stories.
This is foundationally the Pixar plot line. If you have ever seen any of the Pixar movies of Cars, Finding Nemo, Up, The Incredibles, Toy Story, it really is around once upon a time, there was, every day, then one day, and because of that, until finally. I am not suggesting that that is the plot line for every organization but when you ask how simple, how quick, how long, it can be very focused, very targeted, and from that the details will play out in different ways. But really that target and focus around what is our story is really what is going to link, is really going to connect people. It is going to create that emotional connection. It is going to make it very compelling and make it very memorable.
Jeff: I like this challenge and conflict and all that. I am thinking back from an earlier time when I was working with a guy name Rick Anderson in resources. He brought in like the St. Crispin's Day speech and got us inspired. The challenge for us was we are the up and comer. It was not a guaranteed that we were going to be able to be successful. Chase and City Bank and all those were ahead of us. He was really trying to rally us to say I do not know but I like this band of people that are here with me right now. If we do this, if we do our best, and we work hard and we engage in this, anything is possible. But it was a combination of story and discussion.
We left inspired and ready to sort of take the hill but it was not a given that way to get there and we did not have a full blown path. But we did have strategic milestones, going back to your part, and chapters to plot out so we knew our next couple steps at least. Yes, Joanne, good stuff. It is time, we are up against the clock again. It is time for another break. We will take two minutes here and then we come up with some wrap up and some tools and tips for you to take away on story telling. We will talk to you in two.
Jeff: Welcome back and so glad you could be with us today. I have had Joanne Loce all in today. Joanne and I has been talking about storytelling. We are going to go ahead and wrap up the show here with some ideas and a few suggestions for you as you kind of think about this and start to put this to work. Joanne, what ideas, what do you want to make sure that we know as we start to really explore the storytelling and want to walk away thinking there is some I want to do. What should we be thinking about? What do you us to know?
Joanne: The story you shared just before break around kind of how do you felt. Like hey we are the little guy, we are not necessarily assured that we are going to be successful, that is a plot line. I guess the first thing I would tell folks to do is one, after really making sure that you feel like your strategy is intact and sound or your change plan is intact and sound, is to really think about what is the plot line. I think there are I think fundamentally seven plot lines that if you were to study English I think there are seven of them.
I think I find that there are really four in most common businesses. The first one, and maybe as you are listening to this you can say where is my organization, the first might be hey we have done well. We are facing some challenges and we need to rise to meet the challenge. Maybe that is where your organization is right now. Another plot line is hey, you know what, we have not done very well and we admit it. We have not done things that we needed to do and we need to rebuild. That is a little fundamentally different right than we are having this challenge and we need to rise towards it. A third plot line might be like let us be clear, we have been indifferent. We have not been paying attention and now something is igniting our passion and we are struggling and we have to grow. The fourth common business plot line is we have done well, that we want to head in a different direction, and we are heading on a journey.
Jeff: Okay. We are heading on a journey?
Joanne: On a journey, somewhere that we have not been before. One is hey, we need to kind of honker down, right? We need to kind of think about where we are and re-group. The last one is very different which is hey, we have been really successful but we want to branch out and go somewhere completely different. This is a journey and we need to work together to do so. Then the other is right, give a different feeling and flavor. Really, those are the four common plot lines that I usually work with leaders and say what is your plot line and they will create a different emotional connection with the listener.
Jeff: Yes, that is fantastic. Good stuff there, Joanne. Let us say I want to learn more about this. Obviously, reach out to Joanne Loce, with Fortify Leadership Group, Loce Consulting tap into you. If you look at the bio, there are information there. What else should we be doing? What else could I be doing to learn more about this and get more effective at this?
Joanne: Yes. A couple other things I would say is I have already mentioned Steve Jobs is a great thing to watch. I think it is really important to watch different stories and watched leaders tell different stories. Another great storyteller was Martin Luther King, Jr. His I Have A Dream speech is really a story. Again, this is not like a fictional or made up story, it is a really compelling story that emotionally connects people. Really start looking for natural story tellers in your organization. That would be something that I would tell you to do. There is always somebody who is really good at telling a story and so really look at what that person is doing.
What are some of the ways that they really connect people to the story? I also mentioned some research that was done by Dr. Paul Zach around sort of the brain and the connection to storytelling. I would also just say I have done an awful lot of reading books about how to be a children's author, how to be an author, how to create a great plot line. Clearly, some of the books and resources out there, articles, are great ways for you to also tap into that.
Jeff: Yes, that is fantastic. Really interesting on Dr. King. There is also improvisation. He did not plan on saying 'I have a dream' when he gave that speech. That was not originally there. He had this great story line but the folks behind him felt like he needed to emotionally connect more and they had seen him give that speech at a church earlier in the year. One of his teammates behind him was yelling, 'I have a dream, tell us about the dream. Martin, tells about the dream.' Even in there I think you can have a good plan and go with the flow of the audience and be willing to improvise just a little to really make sure you drive home that connection.
Joanne: Yes, that is a fantastic point. If you ever watched that or have the opportunity to watch it again, I would encourage you to watch with your friends because he read the first half of that speech. It is not that he did not connect, obviously he did, but when he moves into what you call that improv and really just tells the story from his heart, he does not read anything anymore. He is like using his entire person right to connect with the listener.
The thing that is really, I guess that I would say, is really something to point out around that is there may be some listeners who were not alive when that speech was first done yet people can point about when I talk about compelling and memorable and creating an emotional connection that transcends time, that message, that plot line of quality around children, all of those things that really came out in his speech, that is what I mean by compelling and memorable. Now, let me just be very honest. People like Martin Luther King Jr,, John F. Kennedy and out putting a man on the moon, Steve Jobs in his Stanford speech, these are some masterful storytellers. All of us however can build the skills and be more and more like them. To really create those memorable and compelling stories.
Jeff: I do not want to scare the listener away. That is like the pinnacle, Steve Jobs.
Jeff: Martin Luther King. The nice part about YouTube and things like that now is that we have the ability to go and watch Ted Talks, to watch Martin Luther King, to study everything from a good pastor to a good business leader to a coach. Study what is working right. I go back to this backbone that you provided us earlier, a title, a story that is like vision, the cast of characters. Those are the stakeholders, our employees, and the story line in a plot. Those are things like the chapters of a book, measures, metrics, and milestones. Then heroes and villains, that is going to be where are the competing forces? Who are we up against in the market and a competitor, our own resources? That can really bring this to life. Joanne, it has been such an honor and a privilege to have you on the show. I look forward to having you again on the show. We talked about in break, we will definitely have Joanne back. Thanks for being here. Joanne, any closing thought here in the last minute
Joanne: Yes. No, thank you so much. I really, as you can tell, I am so passionate about the topic of storytelling. Here is what I would just say is that every one of you is a great storyteller. What is going to make a difference are some of these skills but fundamentally, at the end of the day, our belief in our story, our ability to role model those behaviors and achieve your goals, that is what is going to make you a really fabulous storyteller. Each of us has it within us and that is why I am just always delighted to work with leaders and people to really tap into this and to really help people get emotionally connected to the story. Thank you, Jeff, for having me on the program.
Jeff: Absolutely, Joanne. Next week, we will have Zack Mecurio on the show. We will be talking about purpose and how does purpose help us to get more engaged in the workplace and make a better workplace. Thanks for joining us this week in Illuminating Leadership. If you want to reach us during the week, call us at 540-798-1963. Shoot me an e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org. Our website is VoltageLeadership.com. You can follow me on Twitter at jmujeff or connect with us on LinkedIn at Jeff Smith, Voltage Leadership Consulting. Each and every week, we appreciate you joining us and sending us notes in between. I hope you have a fantastic week and go learn some new things out there. Take care and we will talk to you next week.