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

 

 

 

 





How Good Is Your Company at Problem Solving ?

11 12 2017

If you only have a hammer, you tend to see every problem as a nail.       Abraham Maslow

When challenged with new problems, we often tend to figure out what the problems are instead of actually solving them. It seems that we get stuck and confused in such challenging situations.

From this interesting article; “Are You Solving the Right Problems ?“, Thomas Wedell-Wedellsborg, has through his research on corporate innovation together with his colleague Paddy Miller, spent close to 10 years working with and studying reframing, first of all in the context of organisational change.

Wedell-Wedellsborg; “It has been 40 years since Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi and Jacob Gretzels empirically demonstrated the central role of problem framing in creativity. Thinkers from Albert Einstein to Peter Drucker have emphasised the importance of properly diagnosing your problems. So why do organisations still struggle to get it right ?

The author explains us that people often finds themselves digging deeper into the problems they’re already defined, instead of arriving at another diagnosis which of course may be helpful, but creative solutions is very often coming from an alternative way and definitions of your problem. Author; ” Note that the initial framing of the problem is not necessarily wrong. Installing a new lift would probably work. The point of refraiming is not to find the ‘real problem’ but rather to see if there is a better one to solve”.

The solution to this problem is according Wedellsborg, a new approach, where he includes the form of seven practices where you successfully can reframe the problems as well as finding creative solutions. Author; “The practise I outline here can be used in one of two ways, depending on how much control you have over the situation. One way is to methodically apply all seven to the problem. That can be done in about 30 minutes, and it has the benefit of familiarising everyone with the method”.

The other way is when you don’t control the situation, it all depends on how much time is available. For example if you meet a colleague in the hall-way and you only have limited time for him/her to help rethink a problem, then you choose the most appropriate and suitable of the one or two practices. Author; ” Five minutes may sound like too little time to even describe a problem, much less reframe it. But surprisingly, I have found that such short interventions often are  sufficient to kick-start new thinking – and once in a while they can trigger an aha moment and radically shift your view of a problem”.

Proximity to your own problems can easily mislead you to get lost in the weeds. Feeling unwell or sick is often seen as a problem. We then visit the doctor to figure out what’s wrong. To do this, the doctor investigates to find a solution or treatment to the problem. On the other hand, if you choose to stay home, you can complain and wonder why you’re sick, but it will not change the fact that you’re still sick.

Author; “Proximity to your own problems can make it easy to get lost in the weeds, endlessly ruminating about why a colleague, a spouse, or your children won’t listen. Sometimes all you need is someone to suggest, well, could the trouble be that you are bad at listening to them ?

Here the author outlines seven practices for effective reframing: 1. Establish legitimacy, 2. Bring outsiders into the discussion, 3. Get people’s definitions in writing, 4. Ask what’s missing, 5. Consider multiple categories, 6. Analyse positive exceptions, 7. Question the objective.

Establish legitimacy. The author tells us to establish legitimacy within the group and here you are creating the space needed for conversations.

Bring outsiders into the discussion. Bringing outsiders view and perspective can in this situation be instrumental in the rethinking process of a problem. In this process you look for boundary, then you choose someone who will speak freely, and the last one; expect input, not solutions.

Get people’s definitions in writing. Author; “For instance, a management team may agree that the company’s problem is a lack of innovation. But if you ask each member to describe what’s wrong in a sentence or two you will quickly see how framings differ.

Ask what’s missing. In this situation, people tend to delve on the details of what is the case as well as paying less attention to what the description may be leaving out. Author; To rectify this, make sure to ask explicitly what has not been captured or mentioned”.

Consider multiple categories. In this case the author refers to people’s perception of a problem. Author; “One way to trigger this kind of paradigm shift is to invite people to identify specifically what category of problem they think the group is facing. Is it an incentive problem ? An expectations problem ? Then try to suggest other categories”.

Analyze positive exceptions. In this situation you are looking for positive outcomes instead of focusing on the problems.

Question the objective. Here the author are focusing on people with different needs. Author; “The underlying goals of the two turns out to differ: One person wants fresh air, while the other wants to avoid a draft. Only when these hidden objectives are brought to light through the question of a third person is the problem resolved – by opening a window in the next room”.

Reframing problems are hard and difficult, but according the author a very effective method. The most important goal is to find a solution for your companys problems.

Author; “The next time you face a problem, start by reframing it – but don’t wait too long before getting out of the building to observe your customers and prototype your ideas. It is neither thinking nor testing alone, but a marriage of the two, that holds the key to radically better results”.

It’s so much easier to suggest solutions when you don’t know too much about the problem.       Malcolm Forbes

Author; Inger Lise E Greger, Master of Science in Change Management

 





Tough Decisions.

11 11 2017

When your values are clear to you, making decisions become easier.          Roy E. Disney

Life can be challenging and we all have to make choices. Some choices may be more challenging than others and can put you in really tough situations. Still, you have to make a choice for your decision.

From this interesting article; How to Tackle Your Toughest Decisions, by Joseph L. Badaracco, who is is the John Shad Professor of Business Ethics at Harvard School gives us insights in how to handle tough decisions in organisations as well as in life in general.

Badaracco; “Good judgement relies on two things: One is the best possible understanding and analysis of the situation. The other involves the values, ideals, vulnerabilities, and experiences of whoever will be making the decision.”

When you have chosen your decision and committed to it and act on it, you have to take the consequences of your choice say Badaracco. Author; “After considering outcomes, duties, practicalities and values, you must decide what matters most and what matters less. This has always been the challenge of taking on any serious responsibilities at work and in life.”

In daily life you are faced with challenging situations and adversity. The question is how you take it and analyse the difficulties you are faced with. Managers has to take difficult decisions almost everyday in organizations.

From another article; How to Bounce Back from Adversity, Joshua D. Margolis and Paul Stoltz, is talking about how to handle our instinctive reactions to crisis. Authors; “We believe that managers can build high levels of resilience in themselves and their teams by taking charge of how they think about adversity. Resilient managers move quickly from analysis, to a plan of action (and reaction). After the onset of adversity, they shift from cause-oriented thinking to response-oriented thinking, and their focus is strictly forward.”

Through their work with leaders from different companies and industries, the authors have identified four lenses through which managers can view adverse events on how to make this shift effectively. These four lenses are: Control, impact, breadht and duration. 

Here a short description of the four lenses; Control. Here a crisis occurs. “Do you look for what you can improve now rather than trying to identify all the factors – even those beyond your control – that caused it in the first place ? Impact. Instead of focusing on the origins of the problem in yourself and others, you focus on your positive effects your actions might have ? Breadht. “Do you assume that the underlying cause of the crisis is specific and can be contained, or do you worry that it might cast a long shadow over all aspects of your life ?” Duration. “How long do you believe that the crisis and it’s repercussions will last ?

The two first lenses; control and impact is characterising an individuals personal reaction to adversity.

Breadht and duration captures his or her impressions of adversity’s magnitude.

Authors; “Managers should consider all four to fully understand their instinctive responses to personal and professional challenges, or failures”.

When adversity strikes us, both in organizations and in the private zone of life, we can easily get in to negative emotions. The authors say that people commonly fall into one of two emotional traps. And one of them is deflation. Here is what the authors say; “Someone who has marched steadily through a string of success can easily come to feel like a hero, able to fix any problem single-handedly. A traumatic event can snap that person back to reality. Even for the less heroic among us, adversity can touch off intense bursts of negative emotion-as if a dark cloud had settled behind our eyes, as one manager described it”.

We can feel disappointments in ourselves and others, mistreated and dispirited as well as even besieged.

In the other article; How to tackle your toughest decisions, Badaracco say; “The phrase ‘the world as it is’ points toward Niccolo´Machiavelli’s thinking-a perspective that might seem surprising in an article about making responsible decisions. But his view is important because it acknowledges that we don’t live in a predictable, calm environment populated with virtuous people. The world Machiavelli described is unpredictable, difficult, and shaped by self-interest”.

The author say that we can have sound plans and they can end badly, as well as bad plans can turn out good. What happens is simply beyond our control. Leaders are in a position where they rarely have unlimited freedom and resources, and they often have to make painful and difficult choices. “And a great many individuals and groups will pursue their own agendas, skilfully or clumsily, if not persuaded to do otherwise”.

Badaracco are talking about five practical questions in his writing  which can improve your odds in making sound judgements in challenging situations, even when your data is unclear or incomplete, opinions are divided and the answers are far from obvious.

-1 What are the net, net consequences of all my options ?

-2 What are my core obligations ?

-3 What will work in the world as it is ?

-4 Who are we ?

-5 What can I live with ?

These five questions are guidelines for helping to solve challenging and difficult problems in tough situations. All the questions must be answered according the author, to help come to a sound decision when dealing with a hard problem.

Looking back at the other article; How to bounce back from adversity, the authors are using the four lenses (control, impact, breadht and duration) in challenging situations for solving problems. However, in addition to these four lenses the authors are using what they call a resilience regimen. This is a reflexive approach to dealing with adversity. Here they explain; “By asking a series of pointed questions, managers can grasp their own and their direct reports’ habits of thought and help reframe negative events in productive ways. With the four lenses as a guide, they can learn to stop feeling paralyzed by crisis, respond with strength and creativity, and help their direct reports do the same.”

The resilience regimen, sketches their questions with a focus on specifying, visualizing and collaborating which clarifies each one of the four aspects of resilient thinking. Authors; ” Use these questions to replace negative responses with creative , resourceful ones, and get things done whatever the real or perceived obstacles”.

From; How to tackle your toughest decisions, Badaracco makes us aware of the heavy responsibility leadership is. When you are in the grey areas, your job as a leader isn’t finding solutions, you have to create them and relying on your judgement. Author; “As an executive I greatly respect once told me, We really want someone or some rule to tell us what to do. But sometimes there isn’t one, and you have to decide what the most relevant rules or principles are in this particular case”.

Let us take responsibilities and search for solutions in challenging situations.

Hope you find this reading interesting and useful.

Author, Inger Lise E Greger, Master of Science in Change Management

 

 

 

 

 

 

 








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