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Video: From Vision to Decision: The Stories that Move Teams Along

From Vision to Decision: The Stories that Move Teams Along

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Show of hands, how many people here, as a part of your working life, either attend, or have to run status update meetings?

Whoa, so that’s like every single person in the house.

Might you describe those experiences of running, or sitting through those status update meetings, as perhaps tedious, maybe a little bit boring, right?


We’re going to talk about that today, how you can make them be a little more engaging, a little more efficient.

I also know that unfortunately, this year your employee engagement scores didn’t come back as high as you were hoping they would be. And that your employees are really hungering for their managers to connect with them in new and different ways. We’re going to tackle that this idea of storytelling might be a new solution to that particular problem.

How many people here currently have, or have had, children young enough to read bedtime stories to them?

Oh okay, that’s maybe 60% of the group. For those that didn’t raise your hands, maybe your kids have grown up, or you might not have kids yet, when you were a kid did your parents read bedtime stories to you?

That’s everybody.

Me too. My favorite bedtime story was this, The Little Engine that Could. Who is familiar with this? Almost everybody.

For those of you who are not familiar with this book, the story enclosed in these pages is this. The little engine that we see on the cover is tasked with bringing candy, and treats, and some healthy snacks, over this great big mountain to children who are living on the other side of the village.

All of the other trains in town have said, “oh no, that mountain is too big, I don’t think that I can do it.” This engine, this is such an important task to bring kids all this joy and all these toys, he can do it, and he can do it because he says to himself, “I think I can, I think I can, I think I can, I think I can…”

He takes himself up and over the mountain. This was my all time favorite book, I made my parents read this to me until I’m sure they were ready to shred and burn this book.

Fast forward.

It’s now the summer between third and fourth grade. I’m sitting in my avocado green kitchen, eating the traditional American middle class dinner of meat, potato, two veg.

My dad pushes himself away from the table, he’s really full and turns to me and he says: “Today is the day. Today is the day we are going to get you to ride your bicycle—without the training wheels!”

My brother is so excited about this idea. Sheldon leans forward and says: “you’re going to ride like the wind!”

I’m not so sure, but the next thing I know we’re all tramping out to the back yard. I get out my bike from the garage. It’s this pink Schwinn with a banana seat and the flowers all over it, with white tassels hanging down. My dad takes off the training wheels and I get on the bike.

He’s running up and down the driveway with me. Getting me to practice, riding the bike. About 2 hours later he says: “Carol, you’re ready.”

We come down the driveway. We come out in the street. I get on the bike. He gets next to me. He’s running next to me. I’m pedaling like mad, and the next thing you know he lets go—and I’m riding the bike! A little unsteady, but I’m actually riding the bike.

Then I hear my brother from way in the back yell, “Watch out for the pricker bush!”

The next thing you know I’ve gone headlong into the barberry hedge at the corner of my street.

I was okay. I didn’t break any bones or anything, but I was a little scratched up. Mostly, you know, kids get angry and surprised and upset all at once, and that kind of crying where the snot is rolling down their face? It was that kind of crying, like, “I can’t do this, I hate my bike, I can’t do this!”

I went storming back to the house.

My poor Dad spent every day for the next few weeks, trying to get me back on that bicycle. He did everything that a good management consultant is supposed to do. He used incentives. He used pressures.

An incentive was: “you know, we could ride bicycle to Baskin and Robbins, get you an ice cream cone?” I was like “No. I don’t want an ice cream today.”

A pressure was: “you know, if we’re just going to keep this bicycle sitting in the garage collecting dust we might as well give it to Lori Crystal across the street, she doesn’t have a bike.”

I said, “fine, give it away, I don’t care.”

Then he tried full on shame. “You know, you’re going to be the only kid in 4th grade who doesn’t know how to ride a bicycle.”

“I don’t care”.

My mom is watching this go on, night after night, day after day, for two weeks.

At the end of two weeks, she comes in, to tuck me in, just before I go to sleep, and she brings with her this book (The Little Engine that Could) and she says to me: “you know Carol, I always thought you were the kind of girl who could do anything you thought you could do.”

She leaves the book open to this page on my lap. Usually she turns off the light when she goes, but this night she kept the lights on, because she knew I was going to be reading this story in this book.

The next morning, I got up before anyone else was up. I didn’t want anyone to know what I was up to. I sneak into my driveway. I get on my bike and start practicing up and down the driveway. And at the end of that week, I could ride my bike all the way down past the barberry hedge.

THAT is the power of Story.

I said earlier that my Dad did everything a good management consultant is supposed to do. He laid out a very clear plan in terms of managing this transformation project. “Today’s the day, you’re going to learn to ride your bike without the training wheels.”

He didn’t just leave me with the project plan. It was very specific. It was measurable. It was actionable. It was timely. It was realistic. It was a S.M.A.R.T plan and with smart goals and all of that—but he didn’t just leave me with it, oh no! He was shoulder to shoulder with me, in the trenches. He was running next to me. He was sweating as much as I was sweating. He was coaching me right along.

He used incentives. He used pressures. But. He didn’t know how to handle my resistance.

This is the problem during times of change. People get resistant. They don’t want to do the things they’ve never done before. They certainly don’t want to do the thing that they’ve never done before and already failed at.

My mother understood that the way to overcome this kind of resistance is that you have to make an emotional connection.

She used a story to make an emotional connection. She understood that a story could paint a picture of a future where it was possible for me to do something that I’d never done before. I could see my way into it. I could see myself doing it. She understood that I needed some encouragement to feel like I was strong enough to be able to tackle it.

Well, what encouragement is, is actually injecting another human being with courage.

You as a manager, you as a leader of this organization, that is an ongoing part of your job! You have to inject bravery into people to get them to try to do things that they’ve never done before.

Part of what I understand you pride yourself on is your ability to innovate and problem solve. Well, innovation by definition is doing something that you’ve never done before.

Stories can be a way for you to connect more authentically with people that you lead. To get them to feel that they’ve got that kind of bravery. That you’re encouraging them to move into that next step.

Today, what we are going to do is, we are going to unpack the secrets that Hollywood screenwriters use to craft a compelling narrative.

We’re going to apply them directly to the way you can craft a PowerPoint presentation. Because all a PowerPoint presentation is, is a series of slides that make up a storyboard, which can have—if you’re crafty about it—a narrative arc that is very compelling.

We’re going to apply that directly to your work.

We’re going to leave here today with a template that you’re going to be able to follow for every PowerPoint that you write from hereon after.

You’re going to leave here today with an actual PowerPoint finished, we’re going to look at that five step process and have you work on it together with an upcoming presentation. You’re going to work with some partners as we go through the day, so you’re going to do some networking and meet some people and hear some stories of some folks across the organization.

And we’re going to talk about ways that you can use personal stories to show who you are and what you stand for, for your team.

So let’s start – what is a story?