Anette Simmons - The Story Factor.pdf - Contents...

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Unformatted text preview: Contents Acknowledgments ix 1 The Six Stories You Need to Know How to Tell 2 What Is Story? 1 27 3 What Story Can Do that Facts Can't 49 4 How to Tell a Good Story 83 5 The Psychology of Story's Influence 105 6 Sound Bite or Epic? 133 7 Influencing the Unwilling, Unconcerned, or Unmotivated 8 Storylistening as a Tool of Influence 157 181 9 Storyteller Dos and Don'ts 199 10 The Life of a Storyteller 219 11 Story Thinking as a Skill* 241 vii viii TH E STO RY FACTO R Case Study: Testing the "Six Stories You Need to Tell" in Real Life—Sunrise Stories* 259 Acknowledgments *New to the paperback edition I am deeply indebted to Doug Lipman for teaching me so much about storytelling. For years he has been my coach and mentor. This book would not have been possible if it weren't for Doug Lipman. Thank you, to all the other wonderful people who have contributed to my education: Jenny Armstrong, Cheryl De Ciantis, Cindy Franklin, Stephen Gilligan, Ray Hicks, Kenton Hyatt, Pam McGrath, Jay O'Callahan, Ed Stivender, and so many others. People who have generously shared their stories include Robert Cooper, John Kristoff, Cindy Franklin, David Finch, Dick Mueller, Marti Smye, Steve Wirth, and all of the wonderful participants in the Western Management Development Center's ongoing Management Development Seminars. Thank you to Pam Wilhelms for taking a risk on teaching storytelling as a leadership skill and to Alan Downs, who tenaciously insisted I write this book. I am grateful, too, for the tenderish editing from my longtime friend Sherry Decker. Thank you, Sherry. ix THE STORY FACTOR 1 The Six Stories You Need to Know How to Tell To be a person is to have a story to tell. ISAK DINESEN Skip looked into the sea of suspicious stockholders and wondered what might convince them to follow his leadership. He was thirty-five, looked thirteen, and was thirdgeneration rich. He could tell they assumed he would be an unholy disaster as a leader. He decided to tell them a story. "My first job was drawing the electrical engineering plans for a boat building company. The drawings had to be perfect because if the wires were not accurately placed before the fiberglass form was poured, a mistake might cost a million dollars, easy. At twenty-five, I already had two masters' degrees. I had been on boats all I 2 THE STORY FACTOR my life and frankly, I found drawing these plans a bit ... mindless. One morning I got a call at home from a $6-anhour worker asking me, "are you sure this is right?" I was incensed. Of course I was sure—"just pour the damn thing." When his supervisor called me an hour later and woke me up again and asked, "are you sure this is right?" I had even less patience. "I said I was sure an hour ago and I'm still sure." "It was the phone call from the president of the company that finally got me out of bed and down to the site. If I had to hold these guys by the hand, so be it. I sought out the worker who had called me first. He sat looking at my plans with his head cocked to one side. With exaggerated patience I began to explain the drawing. But after a few words my voice got weaker and my head started to cock to the side as well. It seems that I had (being left-handed) transposed starboard and port so that the drawing was an exact mirror image of what it should have been. Thank God this $6-an-hour worker had caught my mistake before it was too late. The next day I found this box on my desk. The crew bought me a remedial pair of tennis shoes for future reference. Just in case I got mixed up again—a red left shoe for port, and a green right one for starboard. These shoes don't just help me remember port and starboard. They help me remember to listen even when I think I know what's going on." As he held up the shoebox with one red and one green shoe, there were smiles and smirks. The stockholders relaxed a bit. If this young upstart had already learned this lesson about arrogance, then he might have learned a few things about running companies, too. The Six Stories You Need to Know How to Tell 3 Trust Me People don't want more information. They are up to their eyeballs in information. They want faith—faith in you, your goals, your success, in the story you tell. It is faith that moves mountains, not facts. Facts do not give birth to faith. Faith needs a story to sustain it—a meaningful story that inspires belief in you and renews hope that your ideas indeed offer what you promise. Genuine influence goes deeper than getting people to do what you want them to do. It means people pick up where you left off because they believe. Faith can overcome any obstacle, achieve any goal. Money, power, authority, political advantage, and brute force have all, at one time or another, been overcome by faith. Story is your path to creating faith. Telling a meaningful story means inspiring your listeners—coworkers, leaders, subordinates, family, or a bunch of strangers—to reach the same conclusions you have reached and decide for themselves to believe what you say and do what you want them to do. People value their own conclusions more highly than yours. They will only have faith in a story that has become real for them personally. Once people make your story, their story, you have tapped into the powerful force of faith. Future influence will require very little follow-up energy from you and may even expand as people recall and retell your story to others. Whether your story is told through your lifestyle or in words, the first criterion people require before they allow themselves be influenced by your story is, Can they trust you? The story above demonstrates that even a zillionaire can have trouble influencing others. If influence were sim- 4 THE STORY FACTOR ply a function of power or money, Skip would have it made. He has power and money. But there are times when being rich and powerful is actually a disadvantage. Is his story a form of manipulation? Possibly. If it were manipulation it would begin to unravel as soon as Skip stopped talking. When a manipulator isn't present to maintain his web of influence, the web falls apart. Manipulation (getting people to believe a story that isn't quite true) demands constant energy to maintain the desired outcome, and the ethics are bothersome. Frankly, manipulation is an inferior method of influence. There is a much more powerful source of influence available to anyone with experience as a human being—telling an authentically persuasive story. There are six types of stories that will serve you well in your efforts to influence others. 1. "Who I Am" Stories 2. "Why I Am Here" Stories 3. "The Vision" Story 4. "Teaching" Stories 5. "Values-in-Action" Stories 6. "I Know What You Are Thinking" Stories Those you wish to influence begin with two major questions: Who are you? and Why are you here? Until these questions are answered they don't trust what you say. The stockholders Skip wanted to influence wanted to know who the hell he was before they were willing to listen. Most of them had already decided he was just a rich kid playing at being a businessman. Skip had to replace the "we can't trust him" stories that his listeners were already telling themselves with a new story that inspired faith in him and his ideas. T be Six Stories You Need to Know How to Tell 5 Skip could have said, "Yes, I'm rich, young, and I just bought controlling interest in your company, but don't worry ... I'm not a know-it-all. I can be trusted." Technically, those words send the same message as the story he told. Yet ... the difference between the impact of his story and the impact of assuring them that "I can be trusted" is vast. If a picture is worth a thousand words, then a story is worth a thousand assurances. Before you attempt to influence anyone, you need to establish enough trust to successfully deliver your message. Their trust in "who you are" becomes the connection that serves as a conduit for your message. Announcing that "I'm a good person (smart, moral, ethical, well connected, well informed, savvy, successful—whatever they trust) . . . and therefore trustworthy" is more likely to activate suspicion than trust. People want to decide these things for themselves. Since you usually don't have time to build trust based on personal experience, the best you can do is tell them a story that simulates an experience of your trustworthiness. Hearing your story is as close as they can get to firsthand experience of watching you "walk the walk" as opposed to "talk the talk." A story lets them decide for themselves—one of the great secrets of true influence. Other methods of influence—persuasion, bribery, or charismatic appeals—are push strategies. Story is a pull strategy. If your story is good enough, people—of their own free will—come to the conclusion they can trust you and the message you bring. So ... What's Your Story? Before anyone allows you to influence them, they want to know, "Who are you and why are you here?" If you don't 6 THE STORY FACTOR take the time to give a positive answer to that question, they will make up their own answers—usually negative. It is human nature to expect that anyone out to influence others has something to gain. Most people subconsciously assume your gain will mean their loss. This is human nature. We instinctually erect barriers and suspicions to protect ourselves. You need to tell a story that demonstrates you are the kind of person people can trust. This will be different in different situations. On one extreme, I can imagine that a bunch of gang members might begin to trust a new kid if he told a convincing story about stealing (or worse). But I am reasonably sure you aren't a gang member and the only stories that will work for you will be the kind of stories that demonstrate your moral and ethical character, or in business situations, your ability to turn a profit. Whatever simultaneously connects to something relevant and meaningful to your listeners and gives them a taste of who you are, works. Think about your own experience with anyone who ever wanted to influence you—boss, coworker, salesperson, volunteer, preacher, consultant. Think of one person who succeeded and one who failed. How connected did you feel to each? Did you "feel connected" because this person influenced you or did they influence you because you felt connected to this person? What made you trust one and not the other? Chances are that it was important for you to know what kind of person they were and what they stood to gain from your cooperation. Sure, your potential gain counts, but your judgments about their believability heavily influenced how much you trusted their assurances about your potential gain. No matter what people say about "what's in it for you," potential self-interest, reasons why, or logical justifications, we filter every The Six Stories You Need to Know How to Tell 7 word through a believability index based on our judgments about who they are and why they are here. A consultant "selling" an idea will often waste time extolling the benefits or the logic of a process if he or she has not first established a connection. If a group believes most consultants are more interested in billable days than client success, they don't hear a thing until they decide for themselves that "this" consultant is different. The chairman of a volunteer committee need not address one agenda item until the board members see her as more than just another "dogooder" or politically motivated social climber. A minister who is not seen as a compassionate man cannot successfully deliver a message of love and forgiveness. And a quality manager's impassioned appeal to employees to improve customer service is lost if the employees believe that "this guy doesn't live in the real world." A New York Times/CBS News poll from July 1999 revealed that 63 percent of people interviewed believe that in dealing with "most people" you "can't be too careful" and 37 percent believed that "most people would try to take advantage of you if they got a chance." If you assume that this is representative of the people you wish to influence, your first job is to let people see that you can be trusted. How? The same study gives us a hint. Respondents also revealed that of the people that they "know personally," they would expect 85 percent of them to "try to be fair." Hmmmmm. Could it be that simple? Let people see who you are, help them to feel like they know you personally, and your trust ratio automatically triples? Think about our language: "he's okay, I know him" or "it's not that I don't trust her, I just don't know her." How can we expect people to trust us, to be influenced by us, when we don't let them know who we are? When 8 THE STORY FACTOR we separate our attempts to influence from who we are personally, we neglect the most important criteria most people use to decide whether to listen to us or not. We spend too much time talking to a person's rational brain and we neglect their emotional brain. Emotional brains are very touchy about being neglected. Without proof, the emotional brain would rather be safe than sorry, and will tend to conclude that you bear watching. "Who I Am" Stories The first question people ask themselves the minute they realize you want to influence them is "who is this person?" A story helps them see what you want them to see about you. Public speakers who start with a genuinely funny joke answer an easily anticipated question: "Is this guy boring?" Once you make me laugh I conclude for myself that at the very least you aren't boring, so I relax and listen. However, if you began by bluntly asserting "I'm a very interesting person," I start scoping out the exits. If you demonstrate who you are, rather than tell me who you are, it is much more believable. A story lets you demonstrate who you are. Public speakers face a challenge every time they stand before a crowd. I recently had the privilege of listening to Robert Cooper, author of Executive EQ, address an auditorium of 900 people. The audience greeted him like just another consultant who had written a book. Crossed arms and cynical looks indicated suspicious opinions about emotional intelligence being "a bunch of touchy-feely stuff" or that he might be yet another consultant jumping on the latest bandwagon. However, the story he told in the first ten minutes of his speech answered the unspoken questions, demonstrated his authenticity, and told these The Six Stories You Need to Know How to Tell 9 900 people at a very deep level who he was, what he be- lieved, and why. He chose to tell us "who he was" by telling a story about his grandfather, who died when Robert was sixteen years old. His father's father had four major coronaries before he succumbed to the fifth. During that time, he had taken great care to assist in Robert's development as a young man. He invested long talks and personal time with him. We could see the love Robert felt for his grandfather when he used words to help us see this man as he saw him back then. He said, "If you could measure intelligence in the quality of intensity in a man's eyes, he surely must have been a genius." He described the decline in his grandfather's health and how after each major heart attack his grandfather would call Robert to his side, burning to share his latest near-death insight. Robert had us leaning forward in our seats, as he recounted his grandfather's words "I've been thinking about what is most important in life, and I've concluded that the most important thing in life is. . . ." We wanted to share this great man's insights. By the fourth time he had us laughing at the old man's revisions and Robert's adolescent fear that he was going to be tested on remembering what the last heart attack's "most important thing in life" was. As we continued to smile, he told us about his grandfather's last revision: "My grandfather said to me, Give the world the best you have and the best will come back to you.' Then his grandfather said, 'I have asked myself— what if every day I had refused to accept yesterday's definition of my best? So much would have come back to me ... to your father . . . to you. But now it won't, because I didn't. It is too late for me. But it's not too late for you." I 10 THE STORY FACTOR held my breath along with everyone there at the somber power of a man's regret at the end of his life. "It is too late for me." Our common humanity means that we, too, will die. Every person in that audience had a flicker of awareness toward our own deaths and potential regrets. He didn't pull any punches with this story, but Robert glows with the intensity of total authenticity and his integrity gave him the right to tell such a powerful story. Only a cynical, bitter person could have heard that story and continued to doubt that Robert Cooper is a man you can trust. Personal stories let others see "who" we are better than any other form of communication. Ultimately people trust your judgment and your words based on subjective evidence. Objective data doesn't go deep enough to engender trust. Personal stories allow you to reveal an aspect of yourself that is otherwise invisible. However, there are many ways you can reveal "who" you are to your listeners. You don't have to tell a personal story. Throughout this book are fables, historical stories, stories retold from a friend, current event stories, and parables. Any of these can become a "who I am" story if you tell it in a way that genuinely reveals a part of who you are on a personal level. When a person tells a story about Mother Teresa that reveals that he understands gratitude and the humility of learning from others, we can conclude he is not bound by ego and can be trusted to listen to what we have to say. If the story he chooses to tell reveals that he understands self-sacrifice, we feel he can be trusted to blend compassion with desire for self-gain. When we see through a story that someone has learned to recognize his own flaws and not hide in denial, we assume he can be trusted to deal The Six Stories You Need to Know How to Tell 11 head-on with tough issues rather than pretend things are "just fine." I have seen many leaders use the power of a story of a personal flaw to great effect. The psychologists call it selfdisclosure. One theory about why this works is that if I trust you enough to show you my flaws, you can trust me enough to show me yours. The experience of vulnerabilitywithout-exploitation helps us conclude that we can trust each other in other ways as well. For example, a new manager meeting his staff for the first time might choose to tell about his first management job when he spent all of his time telling people what to do and ended up getting reprimanded for driving them crazy with his controlling ways. It is a bit of a shock to hear your new boss talk about having been reprimanded. At a deep level we know that true strength is found not in perfection, but in understanding our own limitations. A leader who demonstrates this self-knowledge demonstrates strength. A "who I am" story can break through negative opinions by disproving one of them right up front. It begins to merge into the next kind of story you need to tell (not that any story fits into one particular category), the "why I am here" story. Even if your listener decides you are a trustworthy human being, they still wonder what's in it for you to get their cooperation. And until they have a good answer, they will tend to assume that you have more to gain than they do—otherwise, why are you trying to influence them? Can you fake authenticity? You can try, but I don't recommend it. People talk about successful manipulators, but I don't know any that succeed for long. Most of us can pick out a faker a mile off. 12 THE STORY FACTOR "Why I Am Here" Stories People won't cooperate with you if they smell a rat, and most of us sniff for rats and are suspicious of hidden agendas. If you do not ...
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