Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Philanthropic Initiative - Bringing Opera & Stories to Schools with the Occhiata Foundation


Great stories are timeless. Do you think kids would find the story of Carmen interesting? Without a doubt!

When my father passed away three years ago my family and I vowed to establish a foundation to bring opera to kids and support the production of American composer's operas. Our dream has come true and we are off the ground running.

We named the 501 (3) (c) foundation Occhiata. As an opera and symphony conductor and composer my father had a wonderful way o working with artist. His baton, hands, and eyes were his primary forms of communication. He had a signature warm wink and emphatic, "OK" sign he would give artists during rehearsals and performance. In the stillness of the moment of a finished piece; that liminal space of of silence you could feel the magnetic love rush out of my father's body to thank and appreciate the team of artists who had just collaborated together. It was their real moment of mutual gratitude. Gratitude for the music, gratitude for the talent and opportunity to play it, gratitude for working together, gratitude for the composer, gratitude for my father's leadership, gratitude for the audience listening. The applause was an aside. It was an intimate pregnant moment between my father and the creative space that had been created to bring the music to life. Such is the passion and love of my father which I feel is very much present today as it was when he was here with me.

How grateful I am for our many collaborations and for his wonderful example of tackling with patience, humor, humility, passion and always love the good, difficult, horrible and joyous exigencies of life. The Occhiata Foundation is here to perpetuate and share the creative energy he cultivated during his life. It is this intangible spirit we wish to cultivate and share with others as they give shape, form, and expression to their unique ways of experiencing this wondrous creative power that rests in the depths of each and every one of us.







Last Friday we began our kickoff pilot with North County Middle School in (Castroville, California). We are working with The Met: HD Live in Schools program.




This was one of my father's favorite operas and the first one he conducted on tour. I know he was thrilled we were bringing this action pact story alive for students.

Six hundred students were treated to a special interactive presentation. Starting at 7:45 we gave six presentations to groups of 100 kids. I fired questions a mile a minute at them and when I wasn't doing that I was hoping on tables, dancing around like Gypsy smuggler, prancing like a Torreador, leading a regiment of students through the auditorium as we simulated the children chorus playing our pretend trumpets, or having a student pretending to be Carmen throw a flower at me.

Utilizing a bonanza of digital storytelling vehicles I brought the story of Carmen alive in some interesting ways. Check out this video I produced for near the front of the presentation to show students some of the places Carmen has showed up in popular culture. This is sure to surprise many of you.





I was delighted by the students universal response to seeing other kids. Of all the clips in the video (you did watch the video now didn't you?) the children's chorus got the biggest response.

Opera is far from stuffy. Put the emotion of music and the punch of a good story together and you have a potent art sure never to disappoint. I was thrilled to see how the kids became enamored with the characters and stories. They made great observations and asked super questions. Almost none of them had ever been exposed to opera.

We also stepped back and examined the arts. I gave the students some bad news: "there are more questions in life than answers," than I gave them some good news: "the arts give us an incredible outlet for projecting our questions onto a canvas we can live with our questions in deeply satisfying ways. In the space of art we can live with contradictions, ambiguities, and paradoxes. I dare say we thrive in this space. We are empowered to inhale the sacred that fills our being with the light of possibilities and connect us to a wider audience of others embarking on similar journeys.

After going through the story I left them with this movie style trailer...





Occhiata Foundation has purchased a block of tickets for the students. In January we will be taking a bus load of students to a local movie theater to see the Metropolitan Opera's HD live broadcast of Carmen. Following the presentation I will go back and meet with groups of students to hear their thoughts and reactions to the opera.

Would you like to get involved?

Contact Franca Gargiulo - 415-564-2600, franca.gargiulo@att.net for more information to learn how you can help us expand our pilot program for next year.

The arts are dying in our school we owe this to our kids. We have a lot of unanswerable questions...

Monday, November 30, 2009

Managing Cross Generation Meetings...


FROM MAKINGSTORIES.net ARCHIVES

I continue to go through the MAKINGSTORIES.net archives and find one gem after another. I don't stop long enough to real give any of these things I create enough time to get out there. I'm too busy being creating the next thing - a gift and a blessing indeed!

Last year I did a webinar with Robert Wendover from the Center for Generational Studies. We wrote back in 2005 a super cool book for AMACOM titled,
On Cloud Nine:Weathering Many Generations in the Workplace. I wrote a very amusing and all humility aside - sparkling little gems of fable.

In the webinar Bob and I give you a taste for the fable and dive into a discussion of how to manage inter-generational meetings. Here's the marketing blurb about the webinar...

Learn five powerful solutions for boosting meeting productivity in 40 minutes flat!

We’ve all been there – the weekly staff meeting – the Boomers are sharing what they did over the weekend – the Xers are anxious to get it over ASAP – the Millennials are texting their friends, updating Twitter, and shopping on-line. There’s got to be a better way – and there is!

Join Terrence Gargiulo and Robert Wendover, co-authors of On Cloud Nine: Weathering the Challenge of Many Generations in the Workplace, as they reveal the secrets for navigating the meeting needs and expectations of those ages 17 to 70. With the increasing pressures on time and money, you can’t afford this time-wise webinar. We all know the problems, this is about the solutions. Come away with the tricks you need to manage meeting times in a productive and efficient way.
Here's an archived video of the presentation...

Managing Cross Generational Meetings from Terrence Gargiulo on Vimeo.


SUMMARY OF FOUR STRATEGIES DISCUSSED

Managing Cross-Generational Meetings
Robert W. Wendover
The Center for Generational Studies


It happens all the time. We sit in a meeting. The topic needs to be addressed but isn’t all that interesting. The person presenting or facilitating the discussion struggles to keep everyone engaged. We look around the room. A few people are offering ideas and discussing the issue. Others are doing non-related paperwork. Still others are surfing the Web on their handhelds or even texting each other under the table about how boring the meeting is.

With the pressure to do more with less these days, few people have the tolerance to sit through a meeting that they perceive as wasting their time. This is especially true of emerging professionals who are so conscious of their time to begin with. So how can we find a way to manage meetings effectively, particularly across the generations? Here are some ideas:

Commit “Meetingus vanishus.” Many people have concluded that as a society, we meet too much. Ask people about all the different meetings to which they are committed to each week and you’ll get a list of five or more. Ask those same people how many are really necessary and they will roll their eyes. Dare to ask those attending regular meetings if the meeting is really necessary. Press for the truth and you’ll probably get a good feel for which meetings can be eliminated.

But information does have to be disseminated. The obvious answer is technology. Decide what can be distributed electronically and then develop a means for do so. Several years ago, banking giant Capital One purchased 3000 iPods, for instance, and distributed them to managers and other professionals across the organization. “Feel free to use the iPod to your hearts content,” these people were told. All we ask is that when the company sends you podcasts on topics ranging from training issues to financial updates that you listen to the information.” This practice has consequently saved thousands hours of time and added millions of dollars to the bottom line.

Cross generate the meeting. The person in charge tends to be the person running the meeting. Who says that’s the best way to get things done? Try appointing individuals from different generations to the role of meeting leader. This can accomplish several goals: 1) It will re-engage those who have disengaged from the meeting’s purpose. 2) It will foster the creativity of those in the room. 3) It will demonstrate the different approaches to getting the meeting objective accomplished. 4) It will help those in charge to identify the leadership attributes within the team.

Establish upright meetings. Who says meetings have to take place in a reclining position? More than one manager has discovered that simply gathering people together on the factory floor or office break room is an effective way to get a quick decision. Why not take more advantage of this strategy? If some privacy is needed, remove the chairs from the room ahead of time. Sure there may be a few comments, but the result with be a quicker and more effective meeting. Don’t believe me? Just try it a couple of times.

Meet virtually. Even if everyone attending is in the same facility, it can be more efficient to meet via a telephone bridge or conferencing software. Since most people comfortable multi-taking their way through the day, this practice will enable them to improve their efficiency and still participate in a meaningful way.

Robert W. Wendover is director of The Center for Generational Studies and author The Sandwich Manager: Simple Solutions for Supervising Those Seventeen to Seventy. Contact him at wendover@gentrends.com.


Check out
more information on the book


So how are you managing these dynamics? Tell us your story.


Sunday, November 15, 2009

In the Land Of Difficult People

Lots of content resting in MAKINGSTORIES.net rich archives. Below is a video of the webinar, tool, and TV appearances for an AMACOM book.

I had a grand time collecting stories from around the world for a book on difficult people. In the Land of Difficult People: 24 Timeless Tales Reveal How to tame Beasts at work was loads of fun.

I offered a webinar earlier on the year on topic. Here are the questions we looked at:


Are people’s job performances in your organization plagued by difficult behaviors?

Do projects suffer when people are unable to work effectively with each other?

Are you leveraging people’s differences and the tensions created by these to achieve results?

There are no difficult people, well at least not many, but there are lots of difficult behaviors and each and every one of us is guilty of engaging in them.

Based on the book, In the Land of Difficult People: 24 Timeless Tales Reveal How to Tame Beasts at work, this webinar uses a fun and interactive strategy to tackle destructive behaviors that are getting in the way of your organization achieving its results.

Difficult People from Terrence Gargiulo on Vimeo.


Here's a summary of the key points and a follow-up job aid I sent participants...

SUMMARY OF KEY POINTS

• There are very few truly difficult people. Just lots of difficult behaviors.

• We are all guilty of behaviors that cause difficulty for others and we are usually not aware of it.

• People drive organizational performance.

• Future competitive advantage will be directly correlated with the quality, effectiveness and depth of relationships in organizations.

• Meaningful conversations nurture relationships.

• Stories are a natural and essential part of meaningful conversations.

• “The shortest distance between people is a story.” – Terrence Gargiulo

• Seek to understand others first.

JOB AID – PLANNING COMMUNICATIONS








Situational
Constraints


What’s In It for Them


Assumptions




What do I care about?
What’s important to me?
Do I have any communication allies?




Directions:

Whenever you can, planning for a communication with someone who is exhibiting difficult behavior that is impacting your performance or just causing you consternation can lead to better results.

Try imaging the world from their vantage point. Start by considering any situational constraints. These are any things that might interfere or effect the way you can interact with this person.

We tend to simplify people’s behavior into simplistic causal explanations. These are often wrong or just a fraction of the picture.

Reflect on they why’s of their behavior by asking what’s important to them. Do so with an open mind.

Examine your assumptions. What filters, values, beliefs, information, ideas, opinions, etc… are coloring your view?

Be sure to consider what’s important to you. What do you need and what do you care about? Consider anyone you might enlist as a communication ally. These are people who might support, clarify or advocate.

Five to ten minutes of quality reflecting can lead to a world of difference.



Here are some video clip of TV interviews I did for the book...









INTERESTED IN LEARNING MORE ABOUT THE BOOK

I'd love to hear some of your real-life stories of difficult people.



Friday, November 13, 2009

Story Matters Episode 5

I promise to get back to our Stories and Leadership series. I just realized I had a lot of content I haven't had a chance to share. As I am preparing for a special holiday episode of Story Matters Productions (episode 7) I discovered I have only posted one of the episodes (episode 6) on my blog. Shame on me!

For those of you new to the unique format, here's what Story Matters is all about...


StoryMatters is a format for maximizing learning from experience and applying it in the workplace. Stories are used to spark deeper conversations creating multiple layers of meaning that have relevance to team members. The StoryMatters process promotes a culture of continuous learning within an organization by modeling the skills of advocacy and inquiry. In this way, StoryMatters can become an invaluable tool for any learning organization.


StoryMatters: The Process

I. Read or tell three 99 word stories – these stories act as triggers to spark listeners' imaginations
II. Listeners recapitulate the stories to find index words that capture the essence of the stories
III. Listeners leverage the index words to find personal stories along the same theme
IV. Those stories are shared and people hearing them share their reactions
V. Conclude with a dialog and conversation of themes and relationships between stories

Without any further ado (drum roll please)...here's Episode #5.

Story Matters Episode #5 from Terrence Gargiulo on Vimeo.

Okay so what did our stories stir up for you? Its all about the dialogue so please do not be bashful share your thoughts!

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

The Art of Persuasion with Stories: Dialog With Bob Dickman

Today I had the pleasure of dialoguing with Bob Dickman of First Voice. Bob has a wonderful book he co-authored with Richard Maxwell titled The Elements of Persuasion: Using Storytelling to Pich Better, Sell Faster, and Win More Business.

We spent 45 minutes with a great group of folks comparing notes of our organizational story work and our experiences of coaching people to be more effective.

One of the key themes that emerged was the power of story in helping us to imagine the viewpoint of others and find effective ways of sharing our own. We explored Bob's simple, elegant, and profoundly nuanced five elements of persuasion.

Here are a few of the questions we explored...

Have you ever wondered how to expand your influence without having to sell?

Have you tapped into your natural “storyability” to transport people to see the world through your eyes?

Would you like to put one or two new techniques into practice to expand your influence through story?


Here's a recording of our dialogue.

The Art of Persuasion with Stories: Dialog Between Terrence Gargiulo & Bob Dickman from Terrence Gargiulo on Vimeo.



I'd love to hear your successes and challenges with working with stories during an influence process...




Thursday, October 29, 2009

Happy Halloween - Mark Twain Ghost Story


HAPPY HALLOWEEN...

What a blog about story be without sharing a good ghost story. This one I must borrow from one of my heroes, Mark Twain.

The story is not long (4 pages) but I decided to provide a nicely formatted .pdf file link so you can share with kids, family, and friends. First let me acknowledge my sources for the story:

This version originally published in 2005 by Infomotions, Inc. This particular text was derived from the Internet Wiretap Edition of A Ghost Story by Mark Twain from "Sketches New and Old", copyright 1903, Samuel Clemens. It was placed in the Public Domain (May 1993). This document is distributed under the GNU Public License. I found this story on Ann Zeis’s website… http://homeschooling.gomilpitas.com/index.htm
And now with no further introduction...ladies and gentlemen...Mark Twain


Please do not stand on the sidelines. Can you share with us one of your favorite scary, spooky, ghostly stories...Oh please :)!!!




Sunday, October 25, 2009

Three Questions We Usually Get from Leaders About Storytelling

Back in August Shawn Callahan of Anecdote and I collaborated on a leadership and storytelling webinar.

It was a rich experience for us and the participants. During our interactive dialog we explored the Triple Threat of storytelling leaders.

Are your leaders...

Storylisteners (that's not a typo - watch the video and find out why)
Story Elicitors (trigger storytelling of others)
Storytellers

We'd love to hear your experiences with developing the story capacity of leaders in your organization. Share your thoughts below...



ADDITIONAL RESOURCES

Story-based Communication Assessment: Click Here...


I also have a book of self-development exercises to work on these skills with yourself or others. All of these exercises that map to the nine skills of the competency model


Book of Self-Development Exercises: Click Here...


I also recommend, Once Upon a Time: Using Story-Based Activities to Develop Breakthrough Communication Skills. It contains a collection of group process activities aligned with these story-based communication skills.

Friday, October 16, 2009

TRIBUTE TO MAMA OCEAN FOR BLOG ACTION DAY


I was sorry to miss out on Blog Action Day yesterday but it's never too late to share our hopes, dreams, and concerns for a sustainable planet.

Here is a piece I wrote awhile back reflecting on the glorious gift I like to refer to as, "Mama Ocean."

White, frothing foam spews from her mouth. Her formless hands wrap around the ankles of an unsuspecting child. He is busy savoring his bliss on the sandy shore. Joy and disaster duel. Mother Sea bides her directives, but she will not be governed. She is content with the struggle. Her maternal instinct directs a drama that teeters on a precarious precipice between diametrically opposed outcomes. There is a tumble. Balance gives way to terror, and abandonment dominates the scene. In rushes the hero. She whisks the child from Mother Sea’s loving arms. An instant passes, impinging a memory forever. It is business as usual. Ebbs and flows, nothing more.

That was my first encounter with the Pacific Ocean. Years pass, and boyhood fears give way to insatiable curiosities.

Now I am kneeling on the bottom, fully equipped with my arsenal of life-sustaining paraphernalia. Maybe it is some unconscious longing to return to the weightless fetus of my beginnings. Somehow it is right. My bubbles rise to the surface, expanding throughout their journey, and arrive as shouts of joy. I am a guest.

Today my hostess gives me a special treat. A forest of kelp weaves canopies over me. The sun aims its beams through any opening it can find. As it is above, so it is below. I am trans-fixed.

The clatter of daily life disappears and the cold water baptizes me anew. I am adrift in a watery reverie mesmerized by the balladic ease of my fluid movements. A fish docked alongside the kelp catches my eye. My arms flow toward it, and, as they make their way through the viscous medium, I swear I can feel its pulsing gills vibrating through the water. It is as if I am tethered to the fish. Its gill and my finger are joined in some magnetic union. I am struck by the obvious. This fish does not know it is in water. The water is air to the fish. Yet I experience the water as some sort of cosmic glue tying me, and everything around me in a synergistic partnership. The fish knows none of this.

The arrow of time moves forward, and the scene changes again. This time I am cutting through the water in pursuit of adventure. The hunter-gatherer instinct inside me stirs and my eye is caught by the scintillating glimmer of an abalone shell tucked in a tight crib of rocks. Priding myself on my acrobatic agility, I position myself just right to reach in and take Mother Sea’s treasure.

Disorientation ensues, and a mouthful of water assaults me. Several efforts of gear and dive buddy offer no remedy to my situation. I must make the climb to the surface without air. Perhaps this is the freedom I have longed for with Mother Sea all along.I am caught between worlds—one of land and one of water. To which of the two do I belong? Each is a part of my nature, yet neither fully meets my needs. I need them both, and they need me.

We are made mostly of water. Toss in a few atoms of carbon and other trace minerals, let evolution work a trick or two, and we emerge. There must be some sort of galactic museum. “Planet Earth exhibit this way,” the sign reads. The centerpiece of the exhibit is a stuffed Homosapiens. Maybe the caption reads, “big on brains, short on awareness—a highly differentiated life form with a lack of integration between itself and its environment.”

Could we be a natural wonder of the universe? Maybe it is we who should invoke the celestial muses and tune ourselves to the frequency of wonder.

There is more water than land. We can reach higher into the heavens than we can into the belly of our home. We fear the deep. Is it the thought of a colossal squid or is it an avoidance of our nature?

Nature is in flux. A fire is constructive. Fertilizer is destructive. All natural ingredients include synthesized chemicals as part of the standard du jour menu. Call in the relativists. They will save us. Nurture not nature is to blame. Social constructs are the root of all evils. I forgot, could you tell me who built the constructs? Or maybe it’s all predetermined in our genes. Just fill out
this form and the human genome is yours for analysis. I can see street-corner hawkers vying for our attention, “Hear ye, hear ye, get your DVD today, and read all about your genetic makeup.”

I put up the mirror and spin around. Give me somewhere to point my finger. There must be a cause to hang my hat on today. Resources are not finite; only our understanding of how to manage and control them is lacking, is it not?

The fish turns to me. Its beady stare shifts my attention. I reach out to touch it but I realize the fish is inside me. It is a part of my memory—a vital epiphany guiding me. It slips through my fingers, and the momentary gift is lost. I am back to the ranting ramblings of my mind. The equilibrium is gone. I throw off the cover of the hot tub and subject the water to my tests. If I have read my instruments correctly, I can bring this water back to a happy, safe balance. The water will succumb to my elixir. I do not need to banish my ideal. I am master of the water.

A mother holds her child’s hand as she leads him to the great expanse of the sea for the first time. Eyes filled with awe, he lets go of her hand. He takes all of it in and only some of it registers. Mother Sea will take hold of his imagination in ways beyond his present capacity of comprehension, even if she must pull him toward her bosom.

Our event horizon must stretch further than our puny minds allow us. Nature goes about its business. One thing is obliterated and replaced by another. A phoenix rises out of the ashes to take flight once again. What about those mighty dinosaurs or species of plants and insects off our radar screens that are candles blown out in the dark before anyone benefits from their illuminating secrets? Nature has not gone astray; it is simply in motion.

I examine my hand. I am appalled to realize that every seven years almost all the cells in my body are replaced. Those poor cells remind me of pelagic carcasses unknowingly committed to insane asylums of our shores. Have I lost my nature or am I along for the ride? Maybe I should just catch a wave and sit on top of the world.

I hold the treasure in my hand. The pearly allure of the abalone’s shell is intoxicating my thoughts. I am without air but I am free. Whatever happened to my umbilical cord? I will break to the surface and rejoin the atmosphere. The fabric of water will be punctuated with my staccato gasps for air underscored by my drive to be unique and in control. I want to bring the fish to the surface. Will it feel the air as joining the two of us in a new dance, or will the harsh reality of a foreign environment take hold of it before it is enlightened?

The world marches to its own nature. Developing nations are eager to karaoke tunes they have heard before, and scarce resources attempt counterpoint melodies against the beat of progress. Mother Sea beckons, a child is initiated, and an underwater explorer struggles against his nature to hold on to his battling prizes of material gain and insight. There is a faint glimmer of guidance. Mother Sea scans the shore and finds another child eager for tutelage. Perhaps her passion to incite wonder might take hold and pique a new imagination.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Leadership & Storytelling Part 14 of Many...

PROCESS RING – REFLECTING COMPETENCY

“The salvation of this human world lies nowhere else
than in the human power to reflect.”
Vaclav Havel

We all could do with a little more thinking. Introspection is under valued and unpracticed. It is another one of those seemingly fuzzy things left outside of the walls of business yet nothing could be more important to the success of an organization and the well being of its members. Our ability to reflect is a defining characteristic of being human. So why do most of us prefer our bliss of oblivious autopilot in lieu of a more mindful orientation to the world around us? It takes time, discipline, and commitment. Given the finite nature of these assets we do not part with them easily. Socially, as evidenced by our educational system, we do not make reflection a priority. In many instances we go out of our way to discourage it.

Reflection requires focusing our attention in a single direction with circumspection. The image of an hourglass is useful in understanding the state of mind we need to achieve in order to benefit from our efforts. Individual grains of sand pass through a narrow point before they drop into a large collection area. When we concentrate it is akin to the narrow point of an hourglass. When we review an experience and it yields a wealth of insights it is akin to the large open collection area that the grains of sand fall into. From that narrow point of concentration a new vista of perception becomes possible. Our minds open up to new possibilities. We are able to look at our experiences in a totally new way. A reflective mind discovers insights in otherwise meaningless experiences.

The insights we gain from reflection are transformed into knowledge, which become raw chunks of reusable information. Herein lays the greatest challenge. How do we use these chunks? Knowledge provides us with a construct to manage and manipulate abstractions mined from our experiences but we have to find a way of applying them to new situations. When we look for applicability of our knowledge by being attentive to the moment we discover points of intersection. A new experience has some correspondence to a previous one. We leverage the pattern capabilities of our minds and move knowledge into the present. This pattern match guides our behavior. Some benefits include avoiding mistakes we have made in the past, exhibiting a greater capacity for empathy, demonstrating new understanding, or acting with greater confidence. When it comes to interpersonal or intrapersonal dynamics, knowledge applied in the present is wisdom. Arguably, the greatest personal power that we can pursue is wisdom. While information by itself is useless and knowledge brings with it a certain degree of influence, wisdom deepens us. The bottom line is that we cannot be effective without reflection. The feedback gained from flexing our internal powers of observation is invaluable and cannot be procured through any other means.

Now that we have established the importance of reflecting, how do we do it? Reflection can be broken down into four parts:

1. Visualizing
2. Sitting
3. Inviting
4. Sifting

Part I. of Reflecting: Visualizing

Reflection is made possible through the use of visualization. The word visualizing can be misleading. We need to use all of our senses when we visualize. The more senses we can invoke the richer our visualizations will be. Saint Ignatius of Loyola wrote a guide for monks called The Spiritual Exercises. He like others before him had an intuitive grasp of how our minds work without the benefits of psychological research we have today. The spiritual exercises are a collection of guided visualizations on Jesus Christ’s life. Loyola instructs priest to begin imagining a scene from Jesus’ life by walking through the sights, sounds, smells, tastes, and feelings of it. The result is a vivid and personal re-experiencing of a story. Athletes offer another perspective on the power of visualization. Mental rehearsals have been shown to result in muscular activity that can be measured. These mental rehearsals enable athletes to practice, learn, and improve motor skills. They can also be used to strengthen cognitive and psycho-emotional skills such as concentration, focus, and stress management. Visualizations are effective because they are not just mental phenomena they engage our whole being.

In order to reflect on our experiences we must relive them. Visualization offers us this ability. We re-enter our past experiences as an observer. Our imaginations fuel our archival inquiry and engage us as active observers. Like the spiritual exercises, we can also reflect on stories outside of our personal experiences. Whatever we visualize is projected into a space where we can begin to manipulate it. In this way reflection has the potential to be more than an analytical rehashing of an experience. Visualization creates a story while analysis by itself creates a collection of linearly associated data points. If we are to win any insights from our experiences or effectively find connections between our experiences we will need to work with them as stories.



Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Leadership & Storytelling Part 13 of Many...


The Process Ring deals with how we work with information in our minds and store it. The Process Ring is composed of three competencies Indexing, Synthesizing, and Reflecting. All three competencies taken together capture the interplay of internal processes that result in learning. Stories are used as a way of codifying experiences. For example, the Indexing competency stresses the importance of consciously developing a robust array of descriptors for our experiences so that they can be easily reused in various settings. The bigger our indexing scheme the more we have learned from our experiences. A good index increases our capacity to learn in new situations by drawing upon past ones and integrating the news ones into a fabric of knowledge. Our capacity to communicate with others is also improved. Once our experiences have been transformed into easily retrievable stories that have been well indexed, and cross-indexed then we can be sensitive to other people’s experiences and converse with a greater range of nuances and understanding.


INDEXING COMPETENCY


Indexing is how we classify our experiences. The better the index the easier it is find information. The problem with an index is deciding what descriptors to use to classify our experiences. Indexes are further complicated by the fact everyone will chose different “key words,” or descriptors to classify their experiences. If we cannot access our experiences due to an inadequate index or one that does not match someone else’s, our experiences become dormant. They are left in the proverbial warehouse of our mind available to our unconscious but collecting dust. Effective communicators and learners naturally develop extensive indexing schemes. They draw upon lots of different experiences and can recall these experiences in the form of stories.

Triggers activate indexes. Triggers are any kind of stimuli that results in a search of our experiences and in a recounting of it. An item in our index can be stimulated by a variety of triggers. Therefore we need to be vigilant in creating a vast index and become more aware of potential triggers. If we think in advance about what kinds of themes, ideas, perceptions, learning, or emotions, are contained in our experience we will be able to leverage this awareness by becoming sensitive to a multitude of triggers. For example, take a conversation. Thoughts and ideas are expressed one after another. Given the flow of a conversation we can be swept along without ever consciously drawing upon our experiences. We are using them in the background in order to understand what is being communicated but we are not bringing them to the forefront of our minds. This in turn limits our ability to infuse the conversation with greater depth and energy. Our experiences left running in the background by our minds generates a base level of understanding but will cause us to miss vital opportunities to increase our learning and communicate with greater depth. From our previous discussions we have established the complex nature of our experiences stored and recounted to others in the form of stories.

In order to be an effective communicator and learner you need to have a wealth of stories. You are mistaken if you think you do not know or have a lot of stories. Our lives are rich with experiences. The trick is we need to make ourselves aware of these experiences by focusing our attention on them. The Personal History exercise is a sample of how you can recapture dusty memories and shake them off.
Let’s step back for a moment and realize that this process of experiences becoming stored as stories, indexed for retrieval, and our use of them in conversations and learning settings happens all the time. Why not invoke this mental process? We can strengthen this natural phenomenon by increasing its frequency on a conscious level. To do this we must have a solid foundation built. A big well-organized toolbox of personal stories will get the job done.


The first step in building an index and developing an awareness of triggers is to reconstruct as many of our experiences. This will result in an active collection of stories, which we can then index and associate with some potential triggers. The next exercise presents a method for building a collection of stories, identifying some major themes, and anticipating potential triggers.

Exercise: Indexing – Personal History

In this exercise you will create a timeline of your life. One end of the timeline should be marked with “birth,” and the other should be marked as “present.” Think back upon the years of your life and start scanning them for memories that stick out. As you create your timeline use the following list of seven historical triggers to help you jog your memory.


1. Major Event
Were there any significant things that happened?

2. Influence
What things had a formative effect in shaping your ideas, beliefs, values, or attitudes?

3. Decision
Did you make any decisions that had an impact on your life or the lives of others?

4. Change
What changes occurred?

5. Success
What were your major accomplishments?

6. Failures
Did you make any big mistakes or experience any failures?

7. Disappointments
Were there any

8. Significant People
How did certain key people affect you?

Be sure you find the stories behind each of these triggers. If your memory surfaces more as a fact, then spend a moment with the memory and try to reconstitute all of the details surrounding it. This will transform your memory into a story. The richness of a story is what lends itself to indexing. Facts get lost.

Some people find it useful to do this year by year while others will start randomly filling in their timeline with memories as they occur.

Once you have your timeline filled in with stories develop a two columned list for each story that includes story triggers and themes. Your triggers will be any situation or time where you believe your story could have applicability. At the same time, examine your stories for themes. These are in essence things that you have learned and insights you have gained from your experiences. If you are aware of what themes can be found in your experiences it will help you index them based upon potential triggers.


All of these skills can be measured with the only assessment in the world that measured story-based communication skills (recognized in 2008 with an HR Leadership Award from the Asia Pacific HRM Congress).

Story-based Communication Assessment: Click Here...


I also have a book of self-development exercises to work on these skills with yourself or others. All of these exercises that map to the nine skills of the competency model


Book of Self-Development Exercises: Click Here...


I also recommend my book, Once Upon a Time: Using Story-Based Activities to Develop Breakthrough Communication Skills. It contains a collection of group process activities aligned with these story-based communication skills.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Leadership & Storytelling Part 12b of Many...

PART II: MODELING COMPETENCY OF THE INTERACTION RING


Let’s move to the second aspect of modeling. Explaining an idea with words can take a fair amount of time. Each piece of the idea has to be carefully laid out and all of the pieces have to be put in order. I am always amazed at how much time it takes me to present an idea when I lecture. The same idea can almost always be quickly grasped with a simple illustration that takes a fraction of the time compared to more didactic modes of communicating. That of course leaves us lecturers without much to say and our recipients with more retention. The problem lies in the effort it takes to come up with a compelling illustration.

I was teaching a technical writing course. In one of the exercises I had the group write a technical explanation for some engineering principles that could be understood by a twelve year old and that used an analogy to help explain the principle. They were forced to use constructs that an average twelve year old would know. It proved to be tough to come up with analogies but when they did they were amazed at how simple the principles really were and how easily they could be explained. There is a natural fear that if you over simplify an idea people will miss out. That is an incorrect assumption. Once a construct is in place it is far easier to refine it. Much of what we assume to be important turns out to be unnecessary detail that cannot nor need not be retained by most people.

We can model with words by coming up with analogies, similes, anecdotes, or metaphors to illustrate our ideas. This is a form of synthesis. We are using a known entity to explain a new one. A new entity can be explored by establishing a baseline with a known one. In essence we are creating word pictures. Through words we are painting vivid pictures. The assumption is that these pictures have a correspondence with our listeners’ experiences. We are invoking their imaginations. Our models as word pictures serve as tantalizers, which summon rich associations. Without some form of association our ideas will fizzle before they ever come to life. This next exercise explores the key questions you need to answer in order to effectively model with words.


Exercise: Modeling Competency – Answering the Key Questions


Here is a mental checklist of questions to run through when you are interested in using verbal models:

1. What do I want to communicate?
2. What constructs are known to this person or group?
3. How does the new construct relate to what is already known and understood by them?
4. Are there gaps between the two constructs being related to one another?
5. If there is a gap, can we work within the proposed model to explicate the differences?

Pick an occasion when you will need to explain something to an individual or group. Walk through the questions above and come up with some potential models. Try them out and evaluate the impact. How did you close the gap between the model you used and the full construct you were trying to communicate? Did you notice any difference in the recipient’s level of engagement? How did they respond?


It is not important for our model to be perfect. Inevitably it will fall short. However, once we have a fertile learning space we can expand our model and allow the recipient to refine it to successfully complete the transfer of information. Stories are tools for thinking. When we use word pictures and facilitate a discovery process to close the gap between the model and the desired construct being transferred we are engaged in using stories as tools for thinking.


Organizational Practices for the Interaction Ring

Communications can be so stiff in organizations. Efficiency rules and stories are deemed as inappropriate. We do not make the time to work with stories. I’ve already argued that stories are the most efficient way of storing, retrieving, and conveying information. Since story hearing requires active participation on the part of the listener, stories are the most profoundly social form of communication.

In one of my workshops I had a Director of Engineering. He was an extraordinarily bright individual, fair minded and even in his approach to all things. However, he struggled with how to invest time in the people around him. When a project called for it he would gladly work with whoever needed his guidance but as a general rule he preferred the solitary peace of his unperturbed work environment. Throughout the workshop I kept pushing him to see the value and long-term speed of a sinuous path between two points. In other words I was challenging him to discover that sometimes engaging in inefficient behaviors such as mutual storytelling sows seeds for future benefits. He could see my point intellectually but I could tell he was struggling with its application. So I gave him a homework assignment. I instructed him to come in the next day with three or more stories that he was instructed to weave together into a story collage. The next morning he came in very excited. He shared with me how he came up with three stories while he was running. Upon examination he was surprised to realize that the stories were not personal. In fact, he further realized that he had a habit of never using personal stories. Next he sat down and started thinking about some key personal stories and before long he had a string of them. The class was amazed when he sat in front of the group and began his web of stories with an explanation of the instructions I had given him the day before and the series of events leading up to his discovery of his personal stories. That was just the tip of the iceberg. His series of stories was rich, engaging, and full of insights. When he was done he sat back and smiled. Nodding his head he said, “Now I understand what you mean by a sinuous path being the shortest distance between two points.” He experienced the value of selecting and telling stories and realized they would not get in the way of him being more efficient. I also set him up to experience the model and I have the added pleasure of sharing his actions with you to reinforce my assertions.

Leaders need to promote telling stories, modeling behaviors to generate stories, and verbal models by practicing these competencies. We are not talking about the use of these competencies during only all-hands-on meetings or other large events. These competencies need to be seen all the time in every type of interaction. For less verbally oriented employees, written communications provide just as much of an opportunity to leverage the competencies of the Interaction Ring as any other. Individuals do not need to carry the burden of coming up with effective stories or models all on their own. This means these stories can be discovered in a collaborative process. People can work with one another to turn an idea into a compelling story or model. Until it becomes second nature, story facilitators can be used to help organizations develop repeatable processes for leveraging the competencies in the Interaction Ring. These processes should be woven into a wide range of organizational activities. As a facilitator I might prompt someone to support the introduction of a new idea by telling a story or providing a model. Clear command of an idea is demonstrated by the use of either one of these.

Selecting stories is a central part of an organization’s’ knowledge management efforts. What stories are chosen to become a part of the formal institutional memory? Contrary to what many assume, these stories are better selected by employees rather than its leaders. Certain stories will naturally rise to the surface. Stories like how the organization started, what some of the early days were like, etc… The stories with the greatest impact will come from the memories of individuals both inside and outside of the organization. These are all the hidden gems. If leaders encourage people to remember stories and carry them forward there will be less pressure on them to broadcast the perfect story. In this sense, organizations can support the development of all the competencies in the Interaction Ring by providing employees with ample opportunities to share stories.


SUMMARY OF THE INTERACTION RING

The competencies in the Interaction Ring are the most visible but the least important. The Process Ring and Core are the foundation. Selecting stories depends upon a rich index of stories that can only be gained through reflection, synthesis, and all of the listening competencies in the Core. We looked at some ideas on how to determine what kind of story to select. Telling stories was shown to be less concerned with execution and more concerned with being sensitive to expanding and collapsing the amount of detail in a story, eliciting stories from others, and telling stories in an interactive manner. We concluded our tour of the Interaction Ring by looking at the different ways we can use models.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Stories & Manipulation


Before continuing with our story-based communication skills and leadership series I thought I would take a moment to share a recent question I got from an attendee of a recent webinar Shawn Callahan from Anecdote and I did on leadership.

The question deals with manipulation and truthfulness of stories. Here is David's question in his own words and the resposne I emailed. I'd love to hear people's thoughts on the questions. It is a rich and very important question - lots of room here for deep reflection - so please add your voice...

I found myself later thinking of what was said about plausibility in stories. Perhaps it was a casual comment, somewhat unrelated to the main topic, but I believe that it's important to deepen into the issue of "manipulating" through storytelling. When I talk to people about how to improve communication and training skills at work, and explain how storytelling works, I sometimes get asked whether that's not plainly deceiving, as, in a way, it creates a parallel reality where facts match the storyteller's beliefs, values and messages. Just as in political propaganda, as they point out. This is a question I have some trouble answering, as I tend to appeal to personal ethics but some people find this argument too weak.

Stories can function as weapons. There are countless examples of how people abuse the power of tapping into the emotions and imaginations of others to coercively manipulate their constructs of reality. Clear violations such as con artists are easy to classify. However, the question is not a black or white one – thus why I quoted Mark Twain, “sometimes you have to lie a little bit to tell the truth.” At the end of this message I’ll share with you a traditional tale that was one of my mentor’s signature stories.

By their nature stories are fluid. Stories overlap memories with the context of the moment. I find stories in collages and clusters to be more truthful than pinning the entirety of a message in a single story. All the greatest stories are vast little universes with an orbit of small story fragments. The depth and veracity of stories is more easily perceived when scanning the pattern and intention of stories in proximity with one another. I am naturally distrustful of single isolated large perfect stories with clean beginning, middles, and ends and unmistakable story arcs. In many instances these stories have already been warped around the gravity of a pre-digested message. Stories are creative acts and furthermore I view them as co-creative stages on which themes, drama, and meaning emerge in a process of co-creation. The story is only one small part of the key. The decoding and collaborative sense making space generated by telling a story to trigger the stories of others is sacred. My experience has been that when this space opens up, storytelling and listening is authentic, deep, and responsive to the needs of the moment. The space falls apart when listening ceases and any one person returns to advancing a monocular agenda.

Stories told in the moment will adapt themselves to the language, vocabulary, and experience of listeners. It is a mark of an integrated storyteller to share stories in a way fitting to the audience. If that means elaborating upon an aspect of the story or coloring it with a nuance of detail previously untold or which stretches the factuality then I do not view this as either coercive or manipulative.

I feel your instincts of asking people to become aware of their intentions are a marvelous starting point. Stories allow us to imagine paradoxes and contradictions. So I feel that if we become wrapped up in equating honesty and integrity with authenticity we miss the richness of what stories have to offer us.

I hope my response is of some help to you.


Story of Lady Truth...

Thomas had done it all. At the age of 50 he had become CEO of a Fortune 100 company; he had a beautiful family and all of the material things he could ever want. However, there was a gnawing question in Thomas’s mind. He remembered as a young boy listening to a gospel story about Jesus. In the story, Jesus is asked, “What is Truth?” Thomas had always wondered why Jesus never replied. So one day, Thomas turned to his wife and said, “Honey, I am so happy. Our life is wonderful. But I need to go on a quest for Truth.”



“Well, honey,” she replied, “if it is important to you, I think you should go. I’ll pack you a nice lunch, and you can give me power of attorney, and then you can head out tomorrow morning.”



The next morning, Thomas took his lunch and hit the road. He left his BMW in the garage; somehow he thought he should conduct his pilgrimage on foot. So Thomas walked and walked. He stopped at his company’s manufacturing plant. He had heard that workers hold the keys to Truth but he found no Truth there.



Next he went to the White House. He found a lot of hot air but no Truth. Then he stopped at the Vatican to speak with the Pope, but again he found no Truth. On and on he wandered, until he found himself in a very remote part of the world. At long last he saw a sign with an arrow pointing up a hill. The sign read, “Truth This Way.”



Thomas stumbled up the hill and came to a little shack with a blinking marquee, “The Truth Lives Here.” He nervously knocked on the door. A moment later the door began to creak open. Thomas craned his neck around the corner to get his first glimpse of Truth. What he saw made him jump back five feet. Standing before him was the oldest, most hideous creature he had ever seen. It was all hunched over. In a high-pitched, cackling voice, it said, “Yes, dear?”



“Oh, I am terribly sorry, I think I have the wrong house. I was looking for Truth.”


The creature smiled and said, “Well, you’ve found me. Please come inside.” So Thomas went inside and began to learn about Truth. For years Thomas stayed by the creature’s side, absorbing all of the intricacies of Truth. He was amazed at the things he learned. Then one day he turned to it and said, “Truth, I have learned so much from you, but now I must go home and share my wisdom and knowledge with others. I do not know where to begin. What should I tell people?”


The hideous old creature leaned forward and said, “Well, dear, tell them I am young and beautiful.”


In the words of Mark Twain, “Sometimes you have to lie a little bit to tell the truth.”

Friday, August 28, 2009

Leadership & Storytelling Part 12a of Many...


In this entry we pick up with the third competency of modeling of the Interaction Ring of the Story-Based Communication Skills model. In previous entries we explored the tow other skills of being able to select a story and tell a story. There are two aspects of the model skills. Here's the first of two discussion on the story-based communication skill of modeling.


MODELING COMPETENCY


There are two aspects to the modeling competency. The first aspect can be summed up in a cliché, “actions speak louder than words.” Our behavior has the potential to speak volumes. Our actions can create memorable experiences for others that are retold as stories. We should strive to enact our intentions instead of announcing them. Be mindful of how your actions can create stories. The modeling competency also describes how we use language and visual aids to explain complex ideas. Analogies, similes, metaphors, and anecdotes are just a few examples of using language to generate models.

While interviewing an executive at Dreyer’s Ice Cream I heard a wonderful story that is a perfect example of how stories are created by actions. This story takes places towards the beginning of the company’s history. It was a day or two before Christmas Eve and the receptionist working the phones was not busy. There had been almost no calls for the day. When the President walked by her desk the receptionist asked him if she could leave early. The President thought to himself, “I have one of three possible responses. I can tell her what she wants to hear and instruct her to forward the phones into voice mail and to go home early and have a wonderful holiday. I can tell her that every call is important and that by greeting each customer personally she helps the company succeed. Or I can tell her to make the decision herself.” The President decided to let the receptionist make her own decision. To this day he’s not sure what she decided nor does he care. She was the best person to make the decision and he trusted her to make it. This story is retold at every employee orientation. The President enacted the values of the culture he espoused and it left an indelible mark in the minds of his employees.

We don’t realize how significant our actions can be. Ad hoc water cooler conversations are riddled with stories of people’s behavior. Imagine your actions in terms of what stories they might generate. There is no need to be paranoid. Every person will not perceive our actions no matter how noble our intentions may be positively but we need to be more purposeful in how we go about them. A good modeler lives by example.


Exercise: Modeling Competency – Creating Stories through Actions

Identify a key message you want to communicate. Perhaps it’s a message you have tried communicating several times but it has failed to stick or maybe it’s a new idea you have been trying to advance. Consider what actions you could take to model it. One of my favorite examples comes from a client who was having difficulty with their quality control department. The CEO of the company held a luncheon and had everyone’s lunches purposely mixed up. Sometimes these actions will be single acts that have a big dramatic effect as in the quality control example however; sometimes you may need to try a series of actions. Think of what actions you can take to model your message. Will anyone else be involved in the actions you need to take? Why do you think these actions will be effective?

There are times when you cannot directly reach your target audience. In these instances you need to mold the actions of others. You need to act as a coach by helping others determine what actions they can take that have the potential to create stories. Guide them to look for opportunities that are a natural part of the organization’s activities. These are great places to look because when we introduce variation in otherwise stable behaviors they are likely to be noticed. When you are coaching someone have them consider the impact of their actions and how others might respond. Help them prepare for the possibility that their actions may not create a positive story. How will they handle any negative ramifications? Ask them to imagine how any of these can be transformed into positive ones?


All of these skills can be measured with the only assessment in the world that measured story-based communication skills (recognized in 2008 with an HR Leadership Award from the Asia Pacific HRM Congress).

Story-based Communication Assessment: Click Here...


I also have a book of self-development exercises to work on these skills with yourself or others. All of these exercises that map to the nine skills of the competency model


Book of Self-Development Exercises: Click Here...


I also recommend my book, Once Upon a Time: Using Story-Based Activities to Develop Breakthrough Communication Skills. It contains a collection of group process activities aligned with these story-based communication skills.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Leadership & Storytelling Part 11 of Many...

We continue with our examination of the Interaction Ring and the second competency of Telling Stories. This is what most people think of when they talk about storytelling skills. Over the next blogs we will venture into some areas that may be less known to you.

TELLING COMPETENCY


Relaying information with authenticity. Paint a vivid, engaging picture for listeners.

Some behaviors include…

* I use anecdotes when I communicate.

* I vary the tone and volume of my voice when I communicate.

*I allow others to interject their own thoughts and experiences during a conversation.

*I invite my listeners to interact with me by adding details, anticipating the direction of the conversation, and contributing comments.

Maybe you are shy or self-conscious. I am not concerned with turning you into an award-winning orator. There are great resources out there that have a lot to offer in that arena. The ability to dramatize a story for purposes of entertaining is an art form but does not concern us here. If you find it natural to spin a yarn or be the center of attention there are other subtleties to be an effective communicator through stories that you will want to master.

You must believe your stories are interesting. This is the first hurdle. People love to hear stories. Without stories our conversations are dull. Worse yet very little can be communicated without them. Transmission is encapsulated in language understanding is transferred through stories. Isolated islands of abstractions leave us wanting. We listen awkwardly waiting for some way to connect to the speaker. As soon as an illustration enters the conversation we breathe a sigh of relief. Finally there is something we can grab unto. Stories are fundamental to how we communicate. Therefore we must become adept at using them.

When telling a story expand and collapse the amount of detail you include. There is a time and place for stories to be told in long, rich detail however most organizational settings require us to be concise. From our discussions earlier in the book we know that stories can be as short as a single sentence. While you may parse down the number of details you use be sure to include ones that will enrich the story for the audience it is being told to. In the next exercise you will practice truncating details without sacrificing a story.


Tell a story by reliving it. Overcome any self-consciousness by connecting to your story. If you watch a story as it unfolds in your mind it becomes more real for you and the people you are sharing it with. Telling a story is another opportunity to learn from it in one or more ways. As you relive the story you may discover new insights, and secondly people’s reactions to your stories may offer you a new perspective. These things are only possible if you engage your imagination.

Recognize that there is no right way to tell a story. Find your own voice. Each person has a unique way of internalizing the world and expressing themselves. Admire what you like in other people’s communication style but do not emulate characteristics that are not in keeping with your own. People respond to authenticity not to gimmicks. Have you ever been in a group when someone’s story grabs your attention? It’s not always the story delivered with award winning aplomb.

The most important facet of telling stories is frequency. The more you tell the more comfortable you will become. Make stories a natural part of your conversations. Stories are not just for speeches, presentations, or pre-meditated occasions. Telling stories is an integral part of any conversation. In this next exercise you will identify how stories are occurring in your conversations and work on incorporating more of them into your own.

We tell stories to invoke rich responses in others. The best response is another story. Sometime this story is shared and other times it is not. When you tell a story try to involve the listener. Let them participate in the story. Try inserting questions as you tell you story. These act as triggers for others to search their memory for similar experiences. If you do this you will need to be prepared for interruptions. I am always reminded of reading a book to an inquisitive child. As the reader it is easy to become wrapped up in the story and brush aside a child’s interruptions. These interruptions are more central to the story than the story itself. As adult tellers of stories I think the same principle holds true. In fact, if the story becomes derailed and goes an alternative direction we may have to abandon the original story altogether. If we are interested in making a connection we need to give up a certain degree of control. When the setting does not lend itself to interruptions such as a large group or a brief time period, use rhetorical questions and slight pauses to encourage listeners to be involved in the story you are telling. To do this well it requires us to be less focused on ourselves, and more focused on the listener. It is a shame that much of our storytelling in informal conversations has a tendency to be self-absorbed in nature. At first this will demand a concerted effort on your part. The rewards are worth the disorientation.

All of these skills can be measured with the only assessment in the world that measured story-based communication skills (recognized in 2008 with an HR Leadership Award from the Asia Pacific HRM Congress).

Story-based Communication Assessment: Click Here...


I also have a book of self-development exercises to work on these skills with yourself or others. All of these exercises that map to the nine skills of the competency model


Book of Self-Development Exercises: Click Here...


I also recommend my book, Once Upon a Time: Using Story-Based Activities to Develop Breakthrough Communication Skills. It contains a collection of group process activities aligned with these story-based communication skills.




Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Leadership & Storytelling Part 10 of Many...


We start our detailed look at story-based communication model for leaders by looking at the Interaction Ring.

The Interaction Ring with its three skills describes how we use stories to connect with others and communicate. The three skills are:

1. Selecting
2. Telling
3. Modeling

This is the tip of the iceberg. When people think of storytelling skills these are the ones that come rushing to mind.


The Interaction Ring contains the competencies that are most noticeable by outside observers. Selecting, Telling and Modeling describe how we use stories to communicate. In actuality, these are the least important competencies. They demonstrate mastery of the competencies found in the Core and Process Ring without which the competencies in the Interaction Ring amount too little more than showmanship. The Interaction Ring is the icing on the cake. All the other competencies have to be working in concert in order for us to be effective communicators and learners regardless of how clever we are in selecting stories, how theatrically we tell them, what behaviors we model or analogies we leverage to explain ourselves.


SELECTING COMPETENCY

One of the questions I get asked the most is, “how do you know what story to tell?” It’s an excellent question. Of course the setting of where a story is to be told has a lot to do with it. Stepping back to do an audience analysis will be instrumental in guiding you. For example, it is more straightforward when you are giving a presentation at a conference in front of a large audience than if you are attempting to select a story on the fly in an informal conversation. When you have advance information about who the people are, why they are coming, and a sense of what you think they want to get out of your talk than it is easy to use your preparation time to scan a wide assortment of story options. However, when we do not have the luxury of planning, selecting a story becomes more challenging. In these extemporaneous settings you must rely on the “listening” competencies of the Core, and the Indexing competency from the Process Ring. How to select a story is a function of our index.

Here's a complimentary copy of a tool I developed to help leaders select stories.

Complimentary Tool for Selecting Stories: Click Here...


We'll be continuing our exploration of the Interaction Ring and the two other skills in the next two blog entries.


All of these skills can be measured with the only assessment in the world that measured story-based communication skills (recognized in 2008 with an HR Leadership Award from the Asia Pacific HRM Congress).

Story-based Communication Assessment: Click Here...


I also have a book of self-development exercises to work on these skills with yourself or others. All of these exercises that map to the nine skills of the competency model


Book of Self-Development Exercises: Click Here...


I also recommend my book, Once Upon a Time: Using Story-Based Activities to Develop Breakthrough Communication Skills. It contains a collection of group process activities aligned with these story-based communication skills.