Saturday, July 25, 2009

Leadership & Storytelling Part 1 of Many

August and September are going to be exciting months for our complimentary webinar series. We'll be focusing on leadership and storytelling. First up will be Shawn Callahan of Anecdote who will be joining me and all of you for an engaging interactive discussion. He and his colleagues at Anecdote have one of the best narrative practices in the world. More info about the complimentary webinar (dates, times, etc...) can be found at the end of this posting).

In preparation I thought I would spend the next fifteen or so blog posts talking about leadership and storytelling. Before getting into the storytelling side of things I want to share with you eight behaviors of leadership. Following each behavior I will outline some ideas of how these behaviors can be practiced and cultivated.

1. Cultivate Trust

An organization is bankrupt without trust. In order to leverage all forms of capital (monetary and social) leaders must cultivate trust. People need to believe in one another and be willing to engage in intricate and intimate exchanges of knowledge, idea generation, and team effort. Likewise, people need to believe in their leader. Maintaining a positive reputation and exhibiting integrity are core parts of any leader’s work, as is accepting responsibility for people. All of this ensures the organization’s success along with the ongoing personal growth of its members and their satisfaction, resulting in a perpetual loop of renewable, sustainable energy and innovation.

Model trust and it will be reciprocated. Our ability to be agile depends upon it. In an environment besieged with rapid changes, maintaining tight reins of managerial control, whether hierarchical or lateral, interferes with our ability to be responsive. People need to know we trust them to act, even if they make a mistake.

It’s the only way to maximize the intelligence and experience of our team. In a supportive environment full of trust, any mistakes made by members of our team accelerate learning and seldom become stumbling blocks. When people know it’s OK to fail, because they are trusted, they are likely to perform better.

The trust we show each other will also send a signal to our partners. How can we expect our partners to trust us if they see we do not trust members of our own team? People pick up on negative dynamics very quickly. We will not be able to hide any dysfunction in our team from outside observers, therefore we cannot afford to undermine each other. Breaches of trust are inevitable, but they are not an excuse for us to withhold trust. Even when the culture of the organization at large is tainted by a degree of distrust, we can create a corner of the organization where trust reigns supreme. Our work succeeds or fails on the basis of relationships; and no relationship can thrive without trust.


• List the people you interact with in your organization. On a scale of 1 to 7, where 1 = little trust and 7 =lots of trust, rank the level of trust you perceive you have with each person.

• For any person with a rating of 4 or less, write down two to three things you believe you could do to begin to improve that level of trust.

• Identify any people on your list with whom it is unlikely you will cultivate greater trust (hint: look at anyone with a rating of 5 or higher). It’s simply not possible to have the same degree of trust with everyone we work with. Some people may not be interested in or capable of high levels of trust, or we may have knowingly or unknowingly done something in the past to severely restrict a relationship.

• Before beginning a new relationship with anyone in your organization think about specific things you can do with this person to begin cultivating trust.

• The next time you have an opportunity to negotiate deliverables and a timeline for a project be realistic but modest in what you commit to doing—then surprise the recipient by giving more than he or she asked for and before the agreed-on deadline.

Here's a little teaser about our upcoming webinar with registration links:

Three Questions We Usually Get from Leaders About Storytelling: Reflections, Discussion & Tools

Are your leaders great storytellers?

The word “storytelling” itself is misleading - more on that during the webinar. After fits and starts and with over forty years of combined experience, two of the world’s leading narrative consultants divulge some of what they have learned. Join Shawn Callahan of Anecdote and Terrence Gargiulo of for a rousing interactive discussion rich with examples and practical tools.

I wonder…

Will you be as surprised as we were when we discovered the “Triple Threat,” of storytelling for leaders?

Find out the answers to the three questions we get asked the most. Prior to the event we'll share a white paper on leadership and storytelling. Following the webinar we'll send you a job aid that we use in our work. So give us the pleasure of your company and interact with your peers to take a nuanced but deep dive into the art and science of leadership through narrative.

Registration Times (Click on Link to Register for Comp. Webinar)...

Wednesday, August 12, 2009 9:00 AM - 9:45 AM GMT (Greenich Mean Time)

Wednesday, August 19, 2009 12:30 PM - 1:15 PM PDT (Pacific Stanrard Time)

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