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...