Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Organizational Light

Can you envision your organization shedding light into the world?

We’re precious in how we do what we do…nothing needs to be without the simple clean intention to be and give the most we can. Even in our worst moments of glorious failure we can sail through our darkness to brighter shores…

Might we see our organizations as oil lamps to be lit by our shameless individual and communal efforts?

Chopin's music and a story about one of his famous poloniase's work as back drop in this video conversation starter:
I'd love to hear your voice. How do you and your organization cast light into the world? What's the intersection between the idealism of generating light and the reality of organizational life? Do you have any success stories to share? What have been your challenges and struggles?

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Nancy Duarte's New Book Resonate

Think about what happens when you strike a pitch fork and then bring another one close to it. The second dormant fork picks up the vibrations of the other. The two forks begin sharing the same frequency.

This is exactly what happens with stories. Neuroscientists can show us now with real data how a listener and speaker become harmonized in a shared space of story. As I share a story with an intention of care and a genuine drive to connect with myself and others, my brainwaves and the brainwaves of my listeners will become coordinated. Sense making replaces chaos. A temporary structure of meaning becomes a suspended moment where the flurry of sight, sounds, and sensations becomes the quiet eye of the storm around us.

Learning and insight can occur here. Time slows down. It's a state of mindfulness and engagement. We hunger to step into the geometry of this archeticture. We are more deeply ourselves...more deeply connected...more deeply human.

Nancy Duarte's book is brilliant. She has taken the lessons of one story form - the hero's journey and mapped "sparklines." These sparklines are guided by the archetypal structure of the hero's journey and shows how presentations and communications can be molded around this scaffolding to create powerful communications.

I am proud to have worked with Nancy on her latest book. Be sure to check out page 106 to find out what Nancy's grandmother, cookies, and stories all can teach us about how we all have an opportunity to change the world.

Congratulations Nancy! You've brought a level of insight and innovation to the field of communications!

Speech Write extraordinaire Ian Griffin interviewed me at Nancy's book party last week. Here's a link from his blog to what five of us leaders in the field had to say...


Wanna Buy the Book?

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Organizational Engagement


I just returned from a wonderful conference in Singapore on Business Narrative. During one of the many rich dialogs with peers I stumbled upon a word I hadn't used in a long time. The word is "confer." Simple word but in the context of thinking about the nature of employee engagement and collaboration it brought to mind some new nuances. As an aside it's probably no coincidence that at a "confer-ence" I became more sensitized to the word "confer"

On the long plane ride back to California I captured the essence of the conversation in this stream of consciousness piece. I turned it into one of my short video conversation starters. Here it is:
Are clowns and other corporate amusements in your line up of employee engagement activities? Maybe we opt for more serious stuff like corporate score cards and employee surveys to produce the data our organizations thrive on.

Let’s be honest: what are our real intentions for doing these things?

Are we trying to placate employees or can we find an effective way of inviting our employees to mix together their energies, talents and visions

Are we committed to conferring with our employees? Do we understand when collaboration makes sense and when it’s possible? Can we stay engaged with our employees?

It turns out putting the multifaceted natural capacity of stories to work leads to a whole host of new organizational engagement strategies and tactics you may have overlooked.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Learnings from Webinar with Shawn Callahan & Participants

Flexing Your Business Storytelling Muscles with Deliberate Practices

Collaborating with other story practitioners is a special treat. When Shawn Callahan and I of Anecdote regroup to share our latest ideas it's always stimulating. Wish it was easier to reveal all the behind the scenes conversations and work that go into pulling together a session.

Business storytelling is really more than a trend. People are hungry for connections whether it be in the workplace or even in their personal relationship. "The shortest distance between two people is a story" (you can quote me on that one :). While we're all natural storytellers there still needs to be purposeful attention and effort made to tap into "the natural power of story" (you can quote Shawn on that one :).

There's some good news. Since we're involved in various degrees of storytelling/storylistening/story triggering all the time we don't need to start from scratch and put in the 10,000+ hours of practice Malcom Gladwell suggests we need for mastery.

I've developed some specific practices, tools, and techniques to help people gain better access to their innate capabilities. Among other things, I have research/evidence based model that identifies nine story-based communication skills, an assessment instrument, book of self-development exercises, group process activities, and organizational interventions I use with clients.

If you haven't had a chance to checkout Anecdote's website with its new face lift be sure to pour through the rich coffers of their blog and wonderful collection of ready to go stories for business in their Story Finder Tool.

I digress let me share with you what we did during our August complimentary webinar...

Have you wondered why you are not making better progress at becoming a storyteller at work? Are you finding it difficult to find good stories to tell? Are your stories relevant to your colleagues or do they look at you blankly wondering what planet you're on?

Spend an hour with master business story practitioners Shawn Callahan of Anecdote and Terrence Gargiulo of as they share deliberate practices you can employ today to be a better storyteller.

This session was conducted as conversation with participants. So there are lots of wonderful ideas and experiences shared by all. Be sure to add your voice by chiming in with your ideas, experiences, and of course stories below.
Here's a recording of the webinar...

WEBINAR: It's a Marathon Not Magic: Deliberate Practice Approach to Developing Business Storytelling Skills from Terrence Gargiulo on Vimeo.

Now it's your turn, please take a moment and add your voice to the conversation...

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

How to Make a Corporate Roast Work

I got a lot of great emails and questions from folks about a group process I use with companies. In my last video, I shared a story about an intervention I sometimes using involving leaders standing in as a symbol of the company and allow the group to roast the company. Unbelievable things happen.

Here's a link to the the video to hear the story - it's the story I tell at the end of the two and half minute video.

The roast is a challenging but powerful vehicle. Of course its a bit risky. One caveat. Be honest with yourself. If you are a confident and skilled facilitator and you are willing to stir the pot and navigate the dynamics than you will find this process rewarding. If not you might not want to try this - or let someone shadow it with you the first time to lend a helping hand in case the dynamics go awry.

Here are a few things I've learned...

1. Finding the right executive is key

2. Develop strong relationship and trust with the group

3. Lead the group in a process of deciding what it feels are ground rules for the process (I'll sometimes have folks even talk about what they think is funny, other roasts they have been in or seen) - let the group self elect one or more people to act as "keepers of the rules" - empower them to remind others when anyone strays off course

4. Have folks speak of the business as "it" never let it become directed at the individuals (the executive) he or she is only an anthropomorphic sit in/representation of the business

5. Before you conclude have a symbolic object to place in the chair and ask the executive get up and join the group (if at all possible I like using circles or U shape configurations when possible - then let the executive take a shot or two at roasting the company

6. You lead a debrief with the whole group including the executive sitting with the participants

7. I know it may sound touchy/feely but do give first the executive and the participants a chance to talk about the emotions, feelings, observations etc... that came up during the process

8. Depending on the context - I move the group to look at tangible action items that can be taken

9. Keep self-effacing humor and fun at the heart of the process - don;t let people get bogged down in pure venting

Hope that helps -. If you do the roast please let me know how it goes. Also please feel free to grab me on my cell if you want to discuss further - 415-948-8087

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Exploring the Boundaries of Stories & Organizational Respect

How Can We Engender Respect & Attention With Our Stories?

I’ve always been fascinated with how stories connect with one another. For most of us who are not natural performers or orators telling a single big story in a compelling way seems daunting. I’ve noticed that most stories are more like snippets; small bits and pieces. Even when they’re not the flow of conversation between people or the impromptu opportunities that present themselves for sharing stories requires us to condense our stories.

Here are some questions I’ve been thinking about:

How do stories change when we need to collapse them?
How much can we condense or abbreviated a story before it loses its impact?
When we link several stories together (two or more in a rapid string)? How does that impact us as a teller? And what effect does it have on listeners? Can they follow us? Will it trigger stories for them?
I’ve been releasing short two minute video blog pieces where I have been experimenting with story richness. I’ve been playing with story forms (anecdotes, metaphors, visual metaphors, clich├ęs, alluding to other personal stories without going into them, and references to well known stories or movies, etc…).

How do these “story forms,” enrich conversations and presentations and when do they detract? Are they still stories? Are these story skills more easily practiced by others because they might mimic natural forms of communication better? Can we be more mindful and aware of these forms of stories and by doing so become more effective at connecting with each other?
In my latest video I gave myself a hard challenge. I wanted to tell three stories in less than a minute and half and still have it be cogent, effective, evocative for others, and well connected to the front part of the video. I then further challenged myself by giving myself one take only. I turned the camera on and away I went. I had a mental schema in my mind and I had identified the stories but I had never tried telling them all together and I had never tried to tell them all in less than a minute and half.

Here’s the result. I’d love to hear people’s experiences and thought about the questions. Here's the short video to jumnpstart your reflections and our conversation...

Friday, July 30, 2010

Something Funny Happened on my Way to the Apple Store...

I opened my email this morning and had a funny email from Apple. It's a great example of how the right idea executed poorly can do more harm than good. In my case no harm has been done. I am sharing it as an example of the opportunity and responsibility HR professionals have to step up their game.

Two parts to the post:

1. The recruiting email from Apple
2. The email response I sent to their team


Subject: You’re_Invited_-_Apple_Retail_Hiring_Seminar_-_San_Francisco_
Date: 07/30/2010
Time: 3:40 AM EDT

Dear Terrence Gargiulo,

Congratulations! You have been selected to participate in our invitation-only recruiting seminar for our San Francisco Bay Area Stores. We want you to explore starting a career with Apple Retail - we are currently seeking full-time and part-time Specialists, Experts, and Inventory Specialists.. We are also looking for candidates that desire training that will lead them to Genius, Creative and Management roles within Apple Retail. This will not be a typical
Seminar but rather an interactive experience. Please join us!

Monday, August 9th

Time: 10am, 1pm, 4pm, 7pm


Date: Tuesday,
August 10th

Time: 10am, 1pm, 4pm, 7pm

(please plan on being with us
for about 2 hours)

*Please include in your reply your top 2 preferred
dates and times to attend this event.

Place: Galleria Park Hotel
191 Sutter Street

San Francisco, CA 94104

(415) 781-3060
What to
wear: We are Apple! Business casual attire is perfectly fine, no suits

What to bring: A copy of your updated resume

How: Please confirm your attendance by sending an email to by
August 6th, 2010. Please don't forget to give us your 2 preferred days/times.

I look forward to hearing back from you soon!

To learn more about the positions we have to offer, please visit and click Apple Store.

We look forward to meeting you.


Please take this as constructive feedback...

I feel insulted. This is a recruiting by numbers strategy. I appreciate the need to ramp up your operations and to leverage the names of people who have applied to the company. However, it reveals (whether true or not) that little to no care or attention was put into who to send this opportunity to.

I'm not responding from a place of ego - I am responding from the care and attention HR and recruiting need to have for Apple's incredible brand - and from my passion for your company.

One glance at my resume - even a quick keyword search by meta tag cralwer would quickly indicate I should have never been sent this offer.

I'm disappointed. Its an example of how I feel the HR profession continues to lose opportunities to bring real value to companies.

Thank you for being open to my feedback - please share my note with the appropriate people. I am more than happy to share my perceptions - 415-948-8087.

Good luck with the recruiting event (the event and idea is an excellent one). And thank you for being an awesome company!

Warm regards,
cell: 415-948-8087

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

It's a Marathon - Not Magic - New Webinar

Last year Shawn Callahan and I delivered a webinar in the triple threat of storytelling. It was really popular and we had a great time doing it.

Well we're back for another webinar, this time we're exploring how to become a better storyteller by applying some specific and deliberate practices.

Here is our little marketing blurb. Sign up details are at the bottom of this post.

Have you wondered why you are not making better progress at becoming a storyteller at work? Are you finding it difficult to find good stories to tell? Are your stories relevant to your colleagues or do they look at you blankly wondering what planet you're on?

Spend 45 minutes with master business story practitioners Shawn Callahan of Anecdote and Terrence Gargiulo of as they share deliberate practices you can employ today to be a better storyteller.

We will conduct the session as a conversation involving everyone. Yippee!

We expect you'll walk away with three things from this session:

  • Three practices to deepen your storytelling skills
  • Ideas from other attendees of how they improve their skills or what works for them...what works in their organization
  • Some specific resources for finding good stories

We're doing this webinar twice, one timed for Asia Pacific and the other for the Americas. Just click on the link of the webinar you want to attend and fill in your details.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010 1:00 PM - 2:00 PM USA PDT

Looking forward to chatting with you on the call.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Organizational Responsibility

Is it possible to adopt a new paradigm? Who's to blame? Things go wrong and someone’s got to take the hit right?

Inspired by recent events with BP and other corporate calamities I put together this two minute video conversation starter...

How would innovation change in an organization if we became more responsible for each other? What would that organization look like? How would you feel? And how would you perform?

Please add your voice to this conversation starter...

Sunday, June 20, 2010


In Loving Memory of Dr. Milton Bank

Some of you know I spent over 25 years as a competitive fencer (and with a fair amount of success). My first fencing coach Dr. Bank passed away two weeks ago. On father's day as I think of all the influential people in my life I wish to share this tribute and memory...

Dr. Bank…he will always be Dr. Bank to me.

I’m still the fragile nine year old who showed up one day at the Monterey YMCA with nothing more than a medal won by my father in fencing eons ago and the romantic images of swashbuckling. Dr. Bank would not disappoint. I had brought my whole family in tow to learn the ways of the sword. My youthful determination caught the imagination of Dr. Bank’s huge heart.

He grabbed my awkward, mixed up physical body and went to work quickly on transforming my curiosity into something sustainable. His laugh, positive energy, and ever present teasing, fun banter were all ingredients he used to introduce me to a path.

One of the first memories of fencing lessons with Dr. Bank was learning to be a pin cushion. With gentle, direct wisdom he taught me to how to be hit before I ever knew how to make a hit. That was the sort of wisdom he had a knack for imparting while we were busied in the details of acquiring new skills. He knew I would never be able to score touches if I did not know how to accept being hit. He was showing me how to conquer not just any possibility of physical fear of getting hurt but the mental, spiritual hurt that was to become an inevitable part of my fencing journey. Could I sustain the vulnerability of being touched? Could I allow myself to be touched?

Dr. Bank touched me…he was tireless in encouraging me, nurturing me, and sharing his passion.

I had in Dr. Bank the perfect example of making learning a priority before being consumed by goals. Excellence did not exclude humility. Hard work did not eliminate fun. And drive was not to compete with an unquenchable love for the sport. Dr. Bank delighted in each small step I made. Perfected advances, a solved riddle of disengaging around a trick parry combination, or the joy of discovering a new facet of fencing, were met with the same indefatigable enthusiasm.

I couldn’t wait to go fencing on Tuesday evenings and Sunday afternoons. My weeks were defined by my special time with Dr. Bank. I was never disappointed. A huge smile greeted me and I never knew what the day’s adventure in learning would be. Dr. Bank’s generosity extended to my whole family. I still remember the joy I felt when Dr. Bank gave me my first foil.

Dr. Bank was more than just a coach to me, he was a role model. Fencing was serious business. Not the sport but rather the door the sport opened for me to finding and experiencing myself. Discipline never felt onerous; it was just part and parcel of participating. Dr. Bank’s bigger purpose was never far from the surface. If you weren’t paying attention it could have been easy to miss his deeper mission given his light hearted zeal but only if you did not engage with him. To cross blades with him you quickly realized he was living his faith, questions, and love for life with each parry and thrust.

I really never knew failure with Dr. Bank. His patience for learning outstripped any counter-productive expectations. He handed me keys to probably the most formative influence in my life. He showed me how to make sense of my mind, body, and spirit.

Dr. Bank was one of those rare teachers that taught me how to learn. He exemplified a love for learning. I remember while Dr. Bank was on summer vacation one year I went rummaging in the stacks of the Monterey library looking for information on fencing. I stumbled upon a book with flip book style photos of fencing actions. My days were consumed with studying the intricate new moves. I was overflowing with new questions and ideas when he returned. This is what he encouraged. This quality persists in me today. He had a way of bringing it out in others.

Life changes and I cultivated the seeds Dr. Bank planted in me. I was thrilled to bring him details of my latest conquests. Each little package of success was a new gift I couldn’t wait to bring back to him. In the best possible ways he was indifferent to the trappings of success. He was interested in the affects of my experiences but he always wanted me to divulge the details of the process. What a perfect form of validation. Good or bad the results were secondary.

In fact my first medal in fencing was for sportsmanship. No surprise here. Anything less was not possible in Dr. Bank’s club. It’s just the way things were. Part of the unspoken code of how he taught and he lived.

It’s so hard to imagine him gone. I have not done a good job of staying in touch. Maybe it’s because a part of me has this never ending dialogue with an angel that walked among us and brought me so many blessings.

My prayers of comfort fly out to you and the family. I look forward to the day when I can join my coach in heaven. For now he’s winking at us and showering us with joy.

With loving memories and prayers,

Monday, June 14, 2010

Organizational Clarity

Are you enamored with black and white approximations of life? Don’t our lives in organizations depend on these holy grails of homeostasis? Is your sense of equilibrium and equality governed by stable platforms of immutable laws?

I’m suggesting we sit in the rich space of story. When we agitate the potential cacophony of stories we invite a chorus of perspectives. Stories are sacred because by their nature they’re non dualistic.

Stories are like atoms and high energy particles smashing into one another forever fusing and forming into ever new bits of raw sense making material. So clarity emerges from uncertainty.

The more we can sit with our contradictions, paradoxes and tensions the more we are graced to be an agent of change.

Watch my last two minute conversation starter video and add your voice to the dialog...

Monday, June 7, 2010

Radio Interview with Coach Judy Nelson

A Truly Kindred Spirit...

Saturday, June 7th I had the pleasure of being a guest on Coach Judy Nelson BlogRadio show. I became connected with Judy through a mutual friend, Carol Biddle who is the Executive Director of the Kinship Center.

Carol is an amazing leader who with her partner in leadership Carol Bishop have created an agency making a huge difference in the areas of adoption, foster care, advocacy, open adoption, family therapy, and a host of other children and families issues largely neglected.

I wrote a case study in two of my books on the Kinship Center...

The Strategic Use of Stories in Organizational Communication and Learning

Stories at Work: Using Stories to Improve Communications and Build Relationships

For more info on these or any of my other books click the image below:

I was most appreciative of the care and attention Judy took in preparing for our conversation. Like a gifted coach, she took the time to step into my shoes with a keen curuiosity and openess to discovering my gifts. Forty-five minutes was not enough and I look forward to our next conversation.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Organizational Renewal

Do you ever feel like your organizational environment needs to be vitalized? In the face of fatigue and deterioration what does renewal look like?

Are we cursed by our propensity for forgetting or are we just slaves to our sense making needs? Whatever the case may be remembering seems to play a central role in the act of renewal.

I’d like to suggest a template for renewal. I feel active reflection must be at the heart of it. Of course to quote a famous Greek guy, “An unexamined story is not worth having.” Active reflection begins by remembering our experiences, looking for connections between the past and the present and imagining new futures…

Spend two minutes with me...then share with me and others how you approach organizational renewal.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Organizational Discombobulation

Are things falling apart all around you? Have you been hit with discombobulation? This fast paced video turns our prevalent notions of sense making on its head. It’s always bothered me that when we talk about story we usually talk about stories requiring Beginnings, Middles, and Ends. I don’t disagree. I’ve finally been able to put my finger on what I felt compelled to articulate…

Watch and see what discombobulation, stories, and a new way of thinking about stories adds to your current way of thinking about them. Then be sure to add your voice to the conversation, after all stories beg us to co-create with each other.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Opera Wows Kids!!

Our pilot project in partnership with the Metropolitan Opera HD Live in Schools was a rewarding and rich event. I've pulled together a short four minute documentary that tells the story of our work and is a marketing piece we are using to drum up support for the expansion of next year's program:

For more information on the Occhiata Foundation...


We are actively seeking sponsors and support. In other news on the community and philanthropy front, I have been volunteering as a coach for the John Steinbeck young writers program. The student I have been coaching has won. I am so proud of her!!

Thanks for stopping by. What have you been up to? How have you engaged with your community? I'd love to hear your stories.


Monday, April 19, 2010


What role do you think imagination plays in our organizations?

My family’s recent trip to Disneyland tickled my imagination

It’s a small world is stilling vivid for me. So many beautiful countries, customs, symbols, joined in a chorus of diverse kinship

All of this made me pause to think about the role imagination plays in our lives and what place does imagination have in our organizations? Can such a child like capacity have any relationship to bottom line imperatives?


Imagination in Organizations from Terrence Gargiulo on Vimeo.

There are the obvious ways that imagination can be put to work in our organizations by driving problem solving, stimulating innovation and guiding creativity but these are not enough for me… I want to see how imagination touches our capacity for awe and wonder and how these deeply human expressions are operating even within the walls of our organizations

I am enamored with patterns – must be why I am such an afficiando of stories and narrative. I gaze at these animations of fractals and I begin to intuit a fascinating connection between how we are mini pattern generating contributors in a large ecosystem propped up by some structure

Could it be that imagination allows me to extend myself into a set of repeating possibilities? If I cannot directly apprehend or manipulate all the bytes of sensory and cognitive stimulus shaping my world maybe I can use my imagination to propel myself into a wider orbit …there I can be guided by the gravitational potential of bodies…ways of being and experiencing the world that are different than my own

Imagining who and how we are is vital to sense making and it never stops – whether we are in the private space of our own reverie or influencing organizational decision makers. Our capacity to encounter others…and to imagine frames of references other than our cherished set of values and beliefs is a creative act of monumental importance. The future speed of business is unlikely to accommodate anything less. What can you do to rev up your capabilities. Our performance depends upon it.

I'd love to hear your thoughts...

Friday, April 2, 2010

Awakening People's Story Capacity

Look around, there’s tons of talk about stories and storytelling. Most people are convinced of the important role story plays in effective communication but…

How can we help people experience their natural story skills that go beyond telling a good yarn?

What does it feeling like when people are engaged in story-listening?

How can all this touchy-feely story stuff be tied to concrete behaviors that generate measurable performance results?
Spend 45 minutes with me in an interactive session answering these questions and more. I’ll share a tool I developed from research and an active learning activity.

Here is a link to the recording of my March complimentary webinar on the topic:


During the video I shared the case study of Len as an example of active learning story-based communication skills exercise - The Magic Three (link below to a facilitator guide for the exercise - quoted here is just the case study):

I was facilitating a workshop on personal effectiveness in business. Len was a nononsense technology project manager for a nuclear research company. Len possessed exceptional communication skills. He was clear, precise, succinct, and very articulate. However, despite his technical prowess as a communicator, Len observed
that he often failed to connect with people on an emotional level.

I gave Len two assignments. The first assignment was to take a complex newspaper article on a controversial topic and in thirty seconds or less provide a summary of the article’s information and make a recommendation. Len’s second assignment was the Magic Three.

Len performed the newspaper activity with the prowess of a polished politician. He was absolutely brilliant. I wanted him to serve as an example of how to deliver an effective executive sound bite. There are many times when we have thirty seconds or less to make an elevator pitch.

After appropriate accolades, I asked Len to share his three stories with us. In a matter of a few seconds, Len’s body language began to transform in front of our very eyes. His erect, formal stature was replaced with a more relaxed posture. As he began to share his stories with the group, he moved to the edge of a table to sit down. Here is a recapitulation of his stories as I remember them:

I’ve always been a fairly private person so joining groups was never high on my list of things to do. About seven years ago I decided to get more involved with my local Catholic church group. I was surprised at how quickly I began forming a core group of friends who became a central part of my life.Weekends were filled with fishing trips, barbecues with our wives and families, and general fraternizing with my new cohorts. It had been a long time since I had experienced this kind of camaraderie and I was relishing every minute of it. As a group,we kept growing closer and closer. Even my family was caught off guard by the quality and depth of relationships I developed with a bunch of total strangers.This continued for several years.

After a horrible car accident, I found myself in the hospital recovering from a life-threatening back surgery and long days of excruciating pain blunted by the constant dripping of numbing morphine. Everything was a haze. I was in a complete fog of pain, depression, and despair. During these horrific weeks, there were two pins of light that got me through these dark times,my family and my friends. Family you kind of expect to be there for you, but I was amazed at the dedication and energy my friends gave to me when I needed them the most.To this day I believe my friends were a special gift granted to me to ensure I pulled through a very trying experience.

A couple of years later my buddies wanted to go on a weekend retreat with the church. I resisted, but after a lot of cajoling I agreed to go.We had a fantastic time, and the retreat was filled with lots of soulful opportunities to recharge our batteries and put the challenges of life into perspective. My friends made the retreat a special experience and I returned home with fresh vigor and zest. A day after my return,my father died unexpectedly. I believe my friends and the retreat were granted to me as a form of preparation for my father’s death. I was able to be a source of comfort and strength for my family. I had more emotional energy to give to them.To this day, I am eternally grateful for friendship and all of the richness it has given me in life.
Unfortunately, my retelling is pale in comparison to Len’s original account. It’s missing all of the other subtle forms of communication that accompanied it, such as body language, eye contact, and tone of voice. When Len finished, there was silence in the room. People needed a moment to exit their imaginations and reenter the workshop’s frame of reference. Ken confessed he had never told these stories to anyone else before; and prior to the workshop he never would have dreamed of sharing them in a work environment. He reflected on the powerful connection of friendship he discovered in the three stories. Then Ken made an amazing leap of insight. He concluded that he needed to be selectively more vulnerable with people at work in order to improve his personal effectiveness. Ken committed to spending more time cultivating relationships in his organization. Stories, he discovered,are one of the best tools for building effective, meaningful relationships.


1. Facilitator Guide to Magic Three (begins on page 21 of the file)

2. Journal Article Describing the Story-based communication skills

3. eBook of Self-Development Exercises

4. Assessment for Measuring Story-based Communication Skills

I'd love to hear from folks. If you are thinking about how these skills and principles relate to your organization and people's performance call me (415-948-8087) - let's roll up our sleeves together to understand the dynamics in play and how to transform the "natural power of story" (that's a wonderful expression used by my friends Shawn Callahaun and Mark Shenk at Anecdote to describe their strategic narrative work).

Monday, March 29, 2010

Organizational Needs....

Maslow’s hierarchy of needs has taught us a lot about the basic things we require. There are the necessities like bread…water but what about less tangible needs and how do these needs express themselves in our organizations?

My wife is a child and family therapist working with families affected by adoption. Like bread and water children subsist on the connections they form; without these their development becomes threatened. In her field they term this waltz of intimacy attachment. We know it when we see it…imagine a child on a beach with an approaching rough wave – and a mother’s securing hand is ready for the taking without a child searching or asking for it. This attachment…this bond becomes a sort of unconscious part of our DNA driving the fruition and articulation of relationships.

Maybe it boils down this…are we available and responsive to one another?

Watch this 2 minute video as a conversation starter...

Organizational Needs from Terrence Gargiulo on Vimeo.

So do you know what resources your organization needs to survive and thrive? And what really sustains people in organizations?

Are you interested in learning more about these story-based communication skills? Here are some additional resources:

1. Journal Article - "Strategic Use of Stories"

2. eBook of Self-development Exercises (for individuals & groups)

3. Award winning Assessment Instrument for measuring story-based communication skills

4. Sample Chapter from Once Upon a Time: Using Story-based Activities to Develop Breakthrough Communication Skills - book of group process/experiential learning activities mapped to the nine story-based communication skills

Now please sure to leave your thoughts, ideas and reactions to enrich this virtual campfire for others!

Friday, March 12, 2010

Organizational Duels

Whoever said the pen is mightier than a sword?

In a former life I spent a lot of time behind the mesh of a fencing mask.

In this week's video blog I reflect on my experiences as a competitive fencer and think how these experiences might be applied in an organizational setting.

Here are a few of the questions this two minute video tackles...

Do you see your struggles to be heard, influential and effective in your organization as duels? How often do you cross blades with opponents in your organization? Are you playing to win or have you written your own unpublished special set of rules to govern your interactions?

Over time something curious struck me…when I lifted my mask the struggles ceased

Get en garde and watch the video and then weigh in with your ideas:

A special thanks goes out to Serge Timacheff at for graciously sharing the photos in the video. Be sure to check out his amazing galleries.

Last week was my son Gabriel's 7th birthday. He insisted on a fencing party. What a blast 25 kids ready to take on the world. Folks often ask me for video of my fencing. Unfortunately I really have none. Here's a little clip of Tom Lutton and I doing a fencing demo for the kids at the party. I pickup a weapon maybe once a year but for me it's like riding a bicycle. After so many years of living and breathing fencing it comes back quickly.

Here's a clip of me fencing. I'm on the right of the screen. TOUCHE!

I'll have to post later a small clip of the kids engaged in war with foam sword (aka whackers) pure delightful mayhem.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Do More Great Work - New Book - By An Awesome Guy!

My buddy Michael Bungay Stainer has brought his energy, creativity and love for helping people to bear in this new opus extraordinaire.

Michael has a knack for simplifying complex things and offering engaging, fun ways to tackle tough stuff.

Check out this video to get a feel for yourself:

Start the work that matters

In Michael Bungay Stanier's new book Do More Great Work: stop the busywork and start the work that matters he offers up fifteen practical ways you can finally do more of the work that engages and stretches you, that has a real impact, that plays to your strengths - and that matters. The exercises are "maps", simple and powerful visual tools that help you find, start and sustain your Great Work. Amongst other things you'll:

  • Find clues to your own Great Work - they're all around you
  • Generate new ideas and possibilities quickly and powerfully
  • Locate and expand the sweet spot between what you want to do and what your organization wants you to do
  • Best manage the overwhelm
  • Tap into your inner courage
  • Double the likelihood you'll do what you want to do
As well as the maps, the book has various coaching tips scattered throughout, as well as original guest contributions from some big names such as Seth Godin, Michael Port, Zen Habits' Leo Babauta and others.

Start your Great Work now

Life is short. If you're looking to do more of the work that matters, the time to start is now. And Do More Great Work may be just the resource you need to get (and keep) going.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Organizational Awareness

What can we learn about organizations from a 25,000 year old cave carving? The Venus of Lausells is a backdrop for this week's video blog reflection.

What is the intersection of all the little events popping like hot kernels of corn around us and the large macro forces in play in our organizations?

I'm advocating for better organizational awareness. Let my two minute video be a conversation starter...

Here are a couple of thoughts on how we can put stories to work to help us develop greater organizational awareness of the small and large things:

  1. We use stories to explain other people's behavior and develop strategies for how to interact with them.

  2. We are also capable of considering alternative behaviors that go against our ingrained ones by being aware of what stories describe our nature and by imagining alternative ones.

  3. Stories are the templates upon which new behaviors can be projected onto and actualized. We use stories to gain an understanding of who we are. Collectively our stories paint an accurate picture of who we are. If we can access this information, we give ourselves freedom. In other words we can break out of an old story and temporarily adopt a new one.
What can you add to this list?

Be sure to check out my awarding winning assessment tool. Story-based observational skills are at the heart of the model.

There are also a book of self-development exercises you can use to strengthen these skills in your self and others.

And for the final shameless product plug for a guy who loves to share but also does need to make a living I have a wonderful book of group process activities that can be used to help people experience these critical skills.


Monday, February 22, 2010

Meaningful Conversations Drive Meetings

What makes one conversation rich and satisfying and another one merely transactional? And what kind of communications do you believe produce the best results in organizational meetings?

Think back on a meeting that had both satisfying conversations and results…

Do you see any connection between the nature of the conversations and the results? Was the meeting completely staged or was it fueled by the dynamics and energies of the people involved?

Join me for two minutes of reflection and then share your epxeriences with me.

Meaningful Conversations Drive Meetings from Terrence Gargiulo on Vimeo.

Now your turn...

How do meaningful conversations and meetings work in your organization? What techniques have you used to strike a balance between the critical structured tools of agendas and protocols with the informal dynamics of conversations.

Thanks in advance for your thoughts!

Friday, February 12, 2010

Organizational Relationships

I find myself drawn to the words of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow...
"Ships that pass in the night,
and speak each other in passing,
Only a signal shown, and a distant voice in the darkness.
So on the ocean of life we pass and speak one another.
Only a look and a voice;
then darkness again and a silence."
How do relationships in organizations stack up with Longfellow’s observation? Has technology accelerated our relationships or hindered them? Is there any way to gratify those human needs that infiltrate our workplaces in the oddest ways…our needs to be accepted, respected, and valued by others?

Like a blooming flower relationships take time. In the ethos of our organizations we are called to cultivate and nurture the people around us. Sunlight, water, time, and a host of other hard to traces forces work their complex magic…

There may be no short cuts to forming relationships but the shortest distance between two people is a story.

Draw the stories of people around corporate imperatives and watch how people are drawn to each other and become more engaged performers.

Spend 2 minutes with me reflecting by watching in this video and the share your thoughts...

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Power of Virtual Collaboration in Project Management


Collaboration and partnership are not a choice. They are business imperatives. Interaction is king. Today our organizations and the projects we do in support of their missions have too many working parts and too many integration points to be achieved in solitude.

We would never expect an entire network to rely on one node, so why would we assume that projects need to be centrally managed and controlled by a project team? The days of throwing the requirements over the walls and letting the brainiacs figure out what we really need or want are figure out what we really need or want are over. It’s time to roll up your sleeves and prepare to meet your stakeholders up close and personal. Trust me, it’s not as bad as it might sound.

Your business partners don’t have to be part of the problem if you make them part of the solution. Granted, not every business partner is going to roll out the red carpet and invite you to the executive table. However, just as you are hopefully realizing that technical prowess is not enough,your business partners are beginning to realize that viewing you as a service provider ready to cater to their every whim will not benefit them or the organization.

Projects must produce value. Projects are endlessly balancing risk with value. When risk outweighs the potential value of a project, or if something changes in the environment whereby the realization of the value is no longer possible, then a project needs to be killed. How would you like success to be measured – by jointly deciding with your business partners that a project should be killed? Say goodbye to the days of marching to Napoleonic Waterloos.

HTML clipboard
The proliferation of virtual collaboration tools has ushered in a new age of projects. Living and breathing the tactical moves and grooves of collaboration and partnership has gotten easier. Forget about socializing the soft and fuzzy tenets of your newfound convictions. Work flows, business processes and the tools of engagement have made it easier for you to start walking the talk. Once you start walking others will follow – and they won’t even know you are enlightening them at the same time.


This eBook will show you how to implement virtual
collaboration tools throughout the life cycle of a project to leverage
all of the benefits of partnership and collaboration.


Citrix UK sponsored a recent webinar of my discussion of the topic.

What have been your experiences? How have you used virtual collaboration technologies/ What are some of the things you have learned along the way? Are there any pit falls to be aware of?

Friday, February 5, 2010

Organizational Change Management

The Greek philosopher Heraclitus said…

“Everything flows and nothing stays fixed.”
In other words you can’t step twice into the same river. Habits are the ingrained patterns of behaviors and thoughts that we habituate. Change takes us outside our familiar zone of comfort.

There's a paradox here. Change is as natural to us as is habituation. Think about your body. Within seven years almost every cell in your body is replaced. There’s nothing permanent or stable about life. However, our perceptual system is designed to perceive the world as stable. If it weren't, we would have an awfully hard navigating the world.

For me change management is not about creating stability in the face of chaos; rather, it’s about giving people tools to imagine new possibilities.

What does a Greek philosopher, a raging river and the game of Fluxx have in common. Watch this two minute and see:

Create organizational and communication processes that are structured but flexible. Then let the possibilities emerge and the game begin.

How have you managed organizational communication and learning in your organization to support change/ How have stories been a part of that process? Have you considered how you might work with story-based communication processes to stimulate engaging, healthy responses to the raging change we find in our organizations?


Thursday, January 28, 2010

Facilitation Techniques with Stories

Yesterday I led a complimentary webinar on Facilitation Techniques with Stories. Here's a brief description of the session:

Guiding groups through sense making is challenging yet rewarding. Our job is to help people work with their stories to generate new meanings, learning, and insights. This is not as simple as it may appear. Stories operate on lots of different levels. Unless we become sensitized to the various ways people make sense of their stories, we will miss precious opportunities to help them find meaning that can guide their behaviors in new directions. This 45 minute interactive webinar examines dynamics that surface when groups share their stories and experiences with one another.

Here's the recording...


Nine Ground Rules for Working with Stories in Groups

Facilitator Guide: Helping Others Make Sense of Stories

1. What have been your experiences of working with stories in a group?

2. Have you gone beyond telling a pre-selected story?

3. How have you worked with stories when managing group decision making, strategic planning, negotiating, innovating, etc...?

4. Have you found effective ways of eliciting stories from groups?

Please use this space to share...

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Strategic Communications & Chess

What might chess teach us about the nature of strategic communications in an organization? And what's the connection with stories?

Join me for another 2 minute video as I explore these questions and offer two, "P's" of strategic communications.
These two ideas are hardly the beginning of a conversation. Can't say it all in two minutes and neither can one person.

Take a moment and reflect on the game of chess and then share your thoughts of the other ways chess informs our ideas of strategic organizational communication. And for crying out loud...if you've got a story about chess start divulging!

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Waves & Organizational Stories

"We are connected through meaning. Stories manifest our being. Fluctuating variations pierce placid surfaces of possibilities."

The waves of the Asilomar Coastline in Monterey, California act as a backdrop for some thoughts about the nature of stories in organizations.

How are you working with stories in your organization? What metaphors best describe your work and expectations?

Thursday, January 14, 2010


Today, January 14th I am celebrating my 9th wedding anniversary with my beloved bride Cindy. I look back and the time has passed in a flash. Nine years later, two beautiful children, plenty of ups and downs but a relationship deepened and blessed by the "throes of outrageous fortunes."

Life is truly sweet. For whatever bitterness and pain and confusion there are gems in the offing waiting to find there way to our hearts. On this happy day and memory, I pause to send forth the joy I am feeling in my heart to the people of Haiti who have just suffered a horrible tragedy. May aid to them in all forms be swift and thorough, And may from the rubles there be a Phoenix of good, hope, prosperity, and joy be found for everyone tied to this story. We all are tied to the story whether we feel or it not.

I want to share a song I wrote and sang for Cindy at our wedding. There is also a video below. The words so perfectly describe Cindy and what have proven to be the most precious gifts in our relationship...

Her gentle spirit deep & true
Fills me with wonder anew

Her bright warm heart, tender and sweet
Opens with kindness each time we meet

Her shy and pretty face attentive and fair
Beams with goodness when I'm in her care

Her sharp quick mind, sensitive and clear
Listens with patience when I am share my fears

And now we face, a joyous new life,
with dreams and hopes as husband and wife...

May God's blessings guide my joy and my pride,
Forever and ever...
Cindy my Bride

In a flurry of typical creative tornado my father and I wrote the song days before the wedding, rehearsed it twice with piano and of course never rehearsed it with the band. At the wedding my father and mother were still teaching me the song and coaching me. There are great photos of me trying to eat, conferring with my parental musical mentors, and keep it a surprise from Cindy. Furtive dry rehearsals for the few moments she stepped away from the table.

Cindy and I were so taken and moved by the song. It haunted us in the most beautiful way during our honeymoon. Washing over us in waves. To this day the song brings both of us great peace.

Thank you for indulging my stories and memories. Weddings shower us with a renewal of love. The rite of love is mysterious and it cannot escape our attention regardless of creed, belief, race or cultural. Each of us with our own love songs and coffer brimming with stories and questions that sweeten our journey. If you are so inclined, share a piece of your journey with others in this space. I hope what I have shared triggers much richness for you.