The Art Of Storytelling

13 02 2018

Storytelling is the essential human activity. The harder the situation, the more essential it is.                Tim O´Brien

“The symbol; The New One Minute Manager’s symbol is intended to remind each of us to take a minute out of our day to look into the faces of the people we lead and manage. And to realize that they are our most important resources”.

This book really caught my eye as it is written in such a simple and easily understandable way through storytelling.

Throughout the story the authors reveal three very practical secrets; One Minute Goal, One Minute Praising’s, and One Minute Re-Directs, which they call the new, third secret.

This book will help organizations find new ways to adapt and prosper as well as find meaning in our work by giving us inspiration. It is based on studies on behavioral sciences and medicine which support why these methods are of great success.

Ken Blanchard, one of the two authors of this book, is considered a highly influential leadership expert who has co-authored 60 books, including “Raving Fans” and “Gung Ho!” (With Sheldon Bowles).

The second author, Spencer Johnson, is admired as both a leader and an author, and is maybe best known for writing the bestselling book “Who Moved My Cheese ?” He is also seen as an expert on finding simple, effective solutions to complex subjects and problems.

To make this book interesting, the authors are telling us a story about a bright young man searching for a special kind of manager who could lead and manage in todays rapidly changing world.

The young man wants to find a manager that can both encourage the people and make the organization successful and profitable. He had already spoken to many managers who had tried to deal with this rapidly changing world; executives, government, administrators, entrepreneurs and so on.

He wasn’t always pleased with what he saw according to how people manage people. He had witnessed ‘tough’ managers where the organisations seemed to win at the expense of the people.

Some of the managers thought they were good managers while some thought otherwise. The young man asked brief and interesting questions to the managers in their offices. He wanted to know what kind of managers they thought they were. The answers varied only slightly, when he heard their pride in their voices. Some of the answers would be; “I’m a bottom-line manager. “I keep on top of the situation !”. “Hard-nosed”. “Realistic”. “Profit-minded”.

Authors; “They said they had always managed that way and saw no reason to change. He heard the pride in their voices and their interest in the results”.

On the other hand the young man had heard about managers who had succeeded with their people and lost with their organizations. These kind of managers said; “I’m a participative manager”. “Supportive”. “Considerate”. “Humanistic”. Authors; “They also said they had always managed that way and saw no reason to change. He heard the pride in their voices and their interest in people. But he was disturbed. It was as though most managers in the world were still managing the way they had always done and were primarily interested either in results or in people”.

The young man describes the autocratic manager and the democratic manager. The autocratic is described as result oriented, and the democratic as interested in their people. “The young man thought each of these types-the ‘tough’ autocratic and the ‘nice’ democrat was only partially effective. It’s like being half a manager he thought”.

The story continues with the young man still searching in hope of finding the effective manager, but he almost gave up searching, thinking that he would never find this mythical person. He had however, heard some rumours about a special manager that people liked to work for and that produced great results.

He wanted to check this amazing manager out for himself, and, to make a long story short, he finally met him. During their meeting the young man asked the manager many questions about his managing style, and was impressed by all the interesting answers. The amazing manager described himself as the ‘New One Minute Manager’. He used this nickname because both him and his staff had found new ways to great results in a shorter amount of time. The young man spoke to the rest of the manager’s team and had interesting conversations with them as well. He learned a lot.

Among other things, he learned about the three secrets to One Minute Management; One Minute Goals, One Minute Praising’s and One Minute Re-Directs.

One Minute Goals: “Make it clear what the goals are. Show what good behaviour looks like. Put each goal on one page. Quickly review goals frequently. Encourage people to notice what they’re doing, and see if it matches their goals. If not, urge them to change what they’re doing and win.

One Minute Praising’s: “Praise the behavior. Do it soon, be specific. Say how good you feel about it. Pause to let people feel good too. Encourage them to keep up the good work.”

One Minute Re-Direct: “Re-clarify and agree on goals. Confirm what happened. Describe the mistake soon. Say how concerned you feel. Pause to let people feel their own concern. Tell them they’re better than the mistake, and you value them. When its over, its over.”

Towards the end of the story, the curious young man finds himself becoming a One Minute Manager. He was great at it because he led and managed by example, not because he thought or talked in a certain manner. He managed in simple ways, through the three secrets of one minute management, and by asking brief, but important questions. He was honest, he worked hard, all while laughing and enjoying himself.

The story ends with the young man being contacted by a young woman, who, much like himself many years ago, wants to ask him about his managing style. Just like in real life, this shows the importance of passing on our lessons and knowledge.  (Ref. The New One Minute Manger, by Ken Blanchard and Spencer Johnson)

As shown through this book, a good story engage people and is a great way to learn and share experiences and knowledge.

This book is not the only good example on the importance of storytelling in organizations. Another great storyteller is the guru Robert McKee. He is a highly sought after lecturer, internationally. He has spent the last three decades of his life being an educator and a mentor to everything from screenwriters, to poets, to directors all over the globe. He is called “the Aristotle of our time” because of his insight into the substance, style, structure and principles of the grand art of stories. He says; “Storytelling has to be true”. This short, yet so profound quote explains the simple truth of storytelling, it always has to be true.

McKee; “Good story means something worth telling that the world wants to hear”. He makes us aware that finding a good story is a lonely task. And even though we might love great stories with inspiring characters and a worlds full of passion and bliss, this isn’t enough. The goal has to be a good story well told.

Good stories are important inspirational sources for people, it could for example be implemented in knowledge sharing or you can gain new wisdom from them. People can recognize episodes from stories and they can draw their own pictures from them. (Ref. Storytelling from my blog)

From his article in Harvard Business Review, Joseph Grenny writes about great storytelling. Grenny; “Most storytelling is brief. It involves using concrete examples that reframe a moment by personifying human consequences. People’s feelings about their work are only partly about the work itself. They are equally, if not more so, about how they frame their work. do they see it as empty compliance? Or do they see it as sacred duty? If you change the frame you change the feeling. And nothing changes frames faster than a story.” (Ref. Harvard Business Review, Great Storytelling Connects Employees to Their work, by Joseph Grenny)

Paul J. Zak says in another article from Harvard Business Review, that many business people have discovered the power of storytelling in organizations, and in a practical sense. Author; “Many of us know from Joseph Campbell’s work that enduring stories tend to share a dramatic arc in which a character struggles and eventually finds heretofore unknown abilities and uses these to triumph over adversity; my work shows that the brain is highly attracted to this story style”. (Ref. Harvard Business Review, Why Your Brain Loves Good Storytelling, by Paul J. Zak)

Zak, tells us that storytelling is a great tool to use if you want to motivate, persuade or be remembered. You start with a story of human struggle which eventually end with triumph. Zak; “It will capture peoples hearts-by first attracting their brains”.

To finish this article, I will leave with a quote from the man that says it best, McKee:

Write every day, line by line, page by page, hour by hour. Do this despite fear. For above all else, beyond imagination and skill, what the world asks of you is courage to risk rejection, ridicule and failure. As you follow the quest for stories told with meaning and beauty, study thoughtfully but write boldly. Then, like the hero of the fable, your dance will dazzle the world”.

Author; Inger Lise E Greger, MSc in Change Management





Leader’s Courage To Be Vulnerable

7 08 2015

””We gain strength, and courage, and confidence by each experience in which we really stop to look fear in the face…..we must do that which we think we cannot”  –  Eleanor Roosevelt

There are two main ways in which leaders wear masks. Some conceal their perceived inadequacies and flaws behind the polished facade we have come to expect of ‘great’ leaders, a bit like the Phantom from Andrew Lloyd Webber’s epic musical The Phantom of the Opera. Others take on a new persona at work that they feel is necessary for success, much like Jim Carrey’s character Stanley Ipkiss in the movie The Mask who transforms into a flamboyant green superhero. Both types of mask undermine trust and effectiveness. They also create inner conflict, as leaders struggle to align their work and home lives.(Harvard Business Review, 2013, Leaders, Drop Your Mask’s)

‘Daring Greatly'(Brené Brown, 2012) is an interesting book and a warning about the danger of pursuing certainty and control above all. Dr. Brené Brown, makes us aware of and dispels the cultural myth that vulnerability is weakness and argues that it is, in truth, our most accurate measure of courage. Daring greatly is not about winning or losing. Brown; “It’s about courage. In a world where scarcity and shame dominate and feeling afraid has become second nature, vulnerability is subversive. Uncomfortable. It’s even a little dangerous at times. And without question, putting ourselves out there means there’s a far greater risk of feeling hurt”.

An important management’s task is according the writers of the book; The Drucker Difference, to develop people in a way that make them able to perform in an extraordinary way. “In Concept of the Corporation, Drucker wrote that ‘the most successful and the most durable institutions employ managers who induce  in their members an intellectual and moral growth beyond a man’s original capacities”. This end is embodied in Drucker’s very definition of leadership; “leadership is the lifting of a person’s vision to higher sights, the raising of a person’s performance to a higher standard, and the building of a person’s personality beyond its normal limitations”. (The Drucker Difference, what the World’s Greatest Management Thinker Means to Today’s Business Leaders,2010)

Going back to Brown and Daring Greatly. The author informs us that vulnerability isn’t good or bad, nor a dark emotion, nor is it always a light or positive experience. Brown; “Vulnerability is the core of all emotions and feelings. To feel is to be vulnerable. To believe vulnerability is weakness is to believe that feeling is weakness”.

Brown say that vulnerability is the core , the heart, the centre, of meaningful human experiences. Experiencing vulnerability is not a choice, we can choose how we would like to respond when confronted with uncertainty, risk and emotional exposure.

“When you fail, make sure that you don’t dwell on it. Fail fast, learn everything you can, and move on”. From her book ; The Mountain Within, Herta Von Stiegel has some interesting thoughts and makes us aware that it’s tempting to suffer and get too involved in the mire of failure. Stiegel; “Give failure it’s proper role in your mind, a place to dwell briefly, learn and reflect, and move on”. Uncertainties is always a challenge , either we like it or not. Stiegel; “The future is all about surprises. Expecting them is half the battle. Being ready for the unexpected is the other half. But how can you be ready for something that you don’t or can’t see coming ?” Stiegel shows us the importance of releasing yesterdays or even an hour ago’s attachment. (Berta Von Stiegel, The Mountain Within)( from my Blog)

Back to Brown and where she makes us aware of some very persuasive leadership research which supports the idea of asking for support is critical, as well as that vulnerability and courage are contagious. The author refers to an article (Harvard Business Review, 2011) Authors of this article (Peter Fuda and Richard Badham) is using series of metaphors to explore how leaders spark and sustain change. ” One of the metaphors is the snowball. The snowball starts rolling when a leader is willing to be vulnerable with his or her subordinates. Their research shows that this act of vulnerability is predictably perceived as courageous by team members and inspires others to follow suit”.

Shame is a painful feeling. Brown; “A sense of worthiness inspires us to be vulnerable, share openly, and preserve. Shame keeps us small, resentful, and afraid. In shame-prone cultures, where parents, leaders, and administrators consciously or unconsciously encourage people to connect their self-worth to what they produce, I see disengagement, blame, gossip, stagnation, favouritism, and a total death of creativity and innovation”.

To be open and honest includes among other things; the painful truth and standing up for what’s right, where keeping promises is of huge importance and proves that we can be trusted to uphold commitments and lead as a good example. From their book (Moral Intelligence, Doug Lennic/Fred Kiel)  say; “When leaders betray confidences, they lose more than respect of their work associates. They also dry up valuable sources of information because their employees and colleagues learn to withhold sensitive information from a loose-lipped leader.” (Ingerleg’s blog)

When Brown talks about shame resilience, she explains that it is a strategy for protecting our connection with both ourselves and our connections with the people we care about.

Brown’s four elements of shame resilience:

1) Recognizing Shame and Understanding Its Triggers. Here it is important to physically recognize and feel your way through it when you are in the grips of shame. You can ask yourselves questions like; what is the triggers ? What are my feelings physically ? Are there a way through it ?

2) Practicing Critical Awareness. Here it is important to be aware of the signs that are driving you to shame, and are the messages realistic or attainable ? Are you in pressure of what other people want from you, or is it what you want to be ?

3) Reaching out. Brown;” Are you owning and sharing your story ? We can’t experience empathy if we’re not connecting.”

4) Speaking Shame. Brown; “Are you talking about how you feel and asking for what you need when you feel shame ?”

These four steps can be used in different order and they will always ultimately lead to empathy and healing.

Leaders need to re-humanize education and work in order to reignite creativity, innovation and learning. Brown; “This means understanding how scarcity is affecting the way we lead and work, learning how to engage with vulnerability, and recognizing and combating shame”.

Shame and blame are disruptive in organizations. Showing respect and dignity of individuals should be of the highest values. Brown; “There is no leading by fear”. In an organizational culture where respect is of high value, there is no room for shame and blame and it won’t work as management style. Brown; “We can’t control the behavior of individuals, however, we can cultivate organizational cultures where behaviors are not tolerated and people are held accountable for protecting what matters most: human beings”.

Organizations need creativity and innovation as well as engaged learning to solve complex issues. Brown; “We can’t afford to let our discomfort with the topic of shame get in the way of recognizing and combating it in our schools and workplaces”.

Browns four best strategies for building shame resilient organizations:

1) Leaders who are supportive and willing to arrange honest conversations about shame as well as cultivating shame resilient cultures.

2) Brown; “Facilitating a conscientious effort to see where shame might be functioning in the organization and how it might even be creeping into the way we engage with our co-workers and students”.

3) Normalizing is according to Brown a critical shame resilience strategy where leaders and managers are helping their people to know what to expect. You can ask these questions; What is the common struggles and how to deal with them and what you have experienced ?

4) Brown; “Training all employees on the differences between shame and guilt, and teaching them how to give and receive feedback in a way that fosters growth and engagement”.

Giving feedback is everything, without feedback there can’t be any transformative change. Brown; “A daring greatly culture is a culture of honest, constructive, and engaged feedback”.

“Difficulties mastered are opportunities won.”   – Winston Churchill

Author, Inger Lise E Greger MSc Change Management

Leaders Will To Simplify.

19 02 2015

Simplicity, simplicity ———        Henry David Thoreau

Complexity makes us confused, but simplicity makes us released.

We are all in the same boat and has a need to understand things without complications; a job, a paper, a loan, colleagues, a leader, communication and so on. The question is why we complicate things.

Alan Siegel and Irene Etzkorn has written the book; Simple, and conquering the crisis of complexity.

Authors; “A crisis of complexity has escalated to a critical point where a decision must be made. We either relinquish the power to understand and control what affects us, or we fight for a better, simpler way to conduct our daily affairs and our commercial transactions”.

Simplicity and clarity goes hand-in-hand, and has a clear intent that easily and quickly conveys its purpose of use.  Authors; ” With even greater magnification, you find that it’s about essence – cutting to what matters, delivering substantive content that seems to speak to an audience of one”.

The authors make us aware of the importance of removing barriers, both inside the company as well as removing barriers that separates the company from the outside world. This form of simplification requires breaking down walls inside the company.

A culture of simplicity seems to blossom in open cultures. People are able to communicate openly, both with insiders as well as those outside the company.

Authors; “Something has changed recently, however. People have begun to fight as never before for clarity, transparency, and fairness in their dealings with business and government. More and more are becoming simplicity warriors – without the need for a Nader-like leader. They’re doing it themselves, armed only with social media and a healthy sense of outrage”.

Those of us who has been in situations of receiving too much confusion for too long, are ready for a simplicity movement. Authors; “One of the great misconceptions about the complexity crisis is the belief that the people who made things so complicated – the bureaucrats, the technocrats, the lawyers – are the only ones who can get us out of this mess. But if we wait for help from those who’ve developed and fostered the confusion, we may be waiting a long time”.

Here the authors makes us aware of some important key-elements to use in simplifying:

-we can transform the way we do business

-we can reinvent the everyday practices and process plagued by complexity.

From his book; “On becoming a Leader”, Warren Bennis, has some interesting views on simplicity; “The universe may not be very complex, but it is, nevertheless, complex. And as I mentioned earlier, the social laws are more complex and less certain than the natural ones. But despite the complexity, we cannot stand still. We must continue to swing from tree to tree, although the trees may be ideas, and we may be using axons instead of arms to make the connections. We might want to take Alfred North Whitehead’s advice here; “Seek simplicity, then distrust it”.

Bennis is also saying that our culture is in need of more right-brain qualities like the needs to be more intuitive, conceptual, synthesizing and artistic.

Bennis; “In any corporation, managers serve as the left brain and the research and development staff serves as the right brain, but the CEO must combine both, must have both administrative and imaginative gifts. One of the reasons that so few corporate executives have successfully made the leap from capable manager to successful leader is that the corporate culture, along with society as a whole, recognizes and rewards left brain accomplishments and tends to discount right-brain achievements. Bottom – line thinking is a manifestation of left-brain dominance. Habits are born in the left brain and unmade in the right”.

When we connect with people, we have to speak their languages. Jargons are often used in companies and government where they speak in a language they understand and you don’t.

Siegel and Etzkorn; “This isn’t necessarily intentional, organizations get accustomed to using a kind of insider shorthand to communicate among themselves – no harm there. The problem occurs when internal jargon finds its way into external communication, which it inevitably and increasingly does. When this happens, companies are in effect talking to themselves in public”.

Here the authors makes us aware that the use of jargon is an important example of lack of empathy in cases when you fail to consider the frame of reference in how your message will be received.

Authors; “As a result, important messages can become lost in translation, making it impossible to reach across lines, connect, and collaborate”.

The authors, is questioning if a company is capable of transforming itself so that simplicity becomes part of its DNA. “The mission statement is only the beginning. Companies that embrace simplification must make sure that all of their communications and processes measure up to the highest standards of clarity”.

Here, the authors includes internal communication as well as the importance of external communication.

Back to Bennis; No leader sets out to be a leader. People set out to live their lives, expressing themselves fully. When that expression is of value, they become leaders”.

Bennis, makes us aware of how important it is to become yourself, to use yourself completely including your skills, gifts and energies if you want to make your vision manifest.

“So strike hard, try everything, do everything, render everything, and become the person you are capable of being”.

Hope is a waking dream——–-Aristotle

Written by

Inger Lise E Greger/MSc Change Management

Transparency and Leaders Will to Create a Culture of Candor

23 01 2015

There is no diplomacy like candor.     E.V.Lucas

A culture of transparency and candor is a must for every organisation.

From their vital book; “Transparency” —Warren Bennis, Daniel Goleman and Jim O’Toole addresses us with the vital question whether organizations have the courage to be open, honest and most of all, transparent.

The writers make us aware that claiming to be transparent is not the same as actually being transparent. You may believe in transparency without practicing it.

Warren Bennis gives us this definition of being transparent; “It means, in addition to the literal ‘capable of being seen through’, without guile or concealment; open, frank, candid”.

When companies cover up their mistakes instead of learning from them, they will probably do the same another time. Author’s; “But any time an organization makes a seriously wrong decision, its leader should call for an intensive postmortem. Such learning opportunities are too often overlooked”.

The Ten Golden Rules of Leadership, is a book written by, M.A. Soupios and Panos Mourdoukoutas. The book implements thought-provoking ideas from Aristotle, Heraclitus, Sophocles, Hesiod and others.

I have chosen rule 5; Always Embrace the Truth  —–Antisthenes. Authors; “Wise leaders, the men and women who possess genuine insight about administrative life, understand that honest assessment is an essential requirement of effective leadership. However, there seems to be an inverse correlation between level of authority and level of truth. In other words, the higher up the corporate ladder an executive ascends, the less likely it is that person will receive complete and accurate evaluation”

When climbing the corporate ladder, leaders makes the distance to the subordinates to evaluate them harder. They often have their own agenda and is not always sharing their information with their colleagues. “Encouraging to whatever degree such submissiveness on the part of subordinates jeopardizes the welfare of both the organization and the leader”.

Going back to the book on transparency, and let us see what Bennis, Goleman and O’Toole have to say on this important subject. The author’s are signalizing that wise leaders are engaged and close to the actions. “There’s a compelling reason to become more open to information from people at every level; those close to the action usually know more about what’s actually going on with clients, with production or customer service, than those on the floors. ( There’s truth to the maxim, “None of us is as smart as all of us” )

Leaders who cares about a good culture in their organizations, develop a culture of candor. Author’s; “Before an organization can develop a culture of candor, it must examine the cultural rules that currently govern it. Such cultural rules run deep and they typically resist change”.

Leaders need to take action if they want information to flow freely in the organization and in that case be the one who set good examples. “If leaders regularly demonstrate that they want to hear more than incessant happy talk, and praise those with the courage to articulate unpleasant truths, then the norm will begin to shift toward transparency”.

Lead with Humility, written by Jeffrey Krames, translates the pope’s key ideas and practices into practical tactics that anyone can emulate. Krames, emphasize’s Pope Francis great leadership style as a good example for anyone who wants to connect in a meaningful way with employees, teammates and customers for their organization. “He believes that authentic humility empowers leaders like no other leadership quality. “If we can develop a truly humble attitude, we can change the world”, wrote Bergoglio before becoming pope. And he misses no opportunity to show that a person can never be too humble and that people can learn to be more humble. In doing so, he has altered the standards by which we measure our leaders”.

Here are the Pope’s key ideas;

Remove the walls-literally-between yourself and your employees.

-Enlist your executives to join you each year at the front desk or in the delivery truck.

-Consider all points of view, and make decisions in consultation-not as snap judgements.

-Focus on enhancing people’s strengths, not fixing their weaknesses.

-Break the habit of doing things the same old way, and reinvent ineffective process.

-Communicate with everyone, at every level of the organization.

-Surround yourself with truth-tellers-no matter how painful it is to hear.

-Shake up the status quo and get out of your comfort zone.

 Hope is the only good that is common to all men, those who have nothing else possess hope still  —–Thales


Inger Lise E Greger/MSc Change Management

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