August 16, 2012

News & Opinion: Lead with a Story

By: Sally Haldorson @ 8:11 PM – Filed under: Management & Workplace Culture

Over on KnowledgeBlocks we recently published an exploration on storytelling called Great Leaders Tell Good Stories. The overall message is that good stories aren't the sole property of the marketing or communications department, and anyone can master some basic storytelling techniques that will help leaders earn trust, excite enthusiasm, convey authenticity. While valuable, storytelling can be controversial. What is the line between a story and a tall tale? We also discussed all of these variables during a What is Business Storytelling webinar that is still available to all KnowledgeBlocks memebers. While our KnowledgeBlocks exploration covers a lot of storytelling ground, it isn't comprehensive because the topic is just too big. A new book, Lead with a Story: A Guide to Crafting Business Narratives That Captivate, Convince, and Inspire by Paul Smith, touts the value of story telling as a communication tool for business people. Paul Smith is Director of Consumer & Communications Research at The Procter & Gamble Company in Cincinnati, Ohio. Outside P&G, Paul is a keynote speaker and trainer in leadership and storytelling techniques, and the author of a book about storytelling as a leadership tool titled Lead with a Story: A Guide to Crafting Business Narratives That Captivate, Convince, and Inspire. In addition to corporate clients, he is a lecturer in the MBA programs at Xavier University and the University of Cincinnati. Why tell stories? In the introduction to his book, Smith makes this strong assertion: "Experience is the best teacher. A compelling story is a close second." But acknowledging that not all leaders or business people are natural storytellers, Smith gives readers two ways to read and use the book.
There are two kinds of stories in this book. Some are ready-to-tell stories that can be retold. as they are written, by anyone when the situation calls for it. Others are intended as a springboard to provide inspiration for creating your own similar stories. Many can serve both purposes. All the stories, however, teach critical lessons in leadership worthy of learning. That can be beneficial for your own leadership skills, or for teaching others how to be better leaders.
The majority of the book is dedicated to providing readers with stories to present when faced with 21 leadership challenges (each challenge gets a chapter), such as "Set a Vision for the Future," "Define a Culture," "Build Courage," and Earn Respect on Day One." In addition to these challenge chapters, each section of the book also includes "How-To" chapters, including "The Element of Surprise" and "Recast Your Audience into the Story" that will help you improve your own storytelling skills. All of the chapters close with a summary as well as suggested exercises, as well as any needed footnotes. Smith also includes an Appendix that consists of a Story Structure Template, Story Elements Checklist, and a Story Matrix that gives readers a quick reference to the stories included in the book and how to use them.

About Sally Haldorson

Sally Haldorson's job as 800-CEO-READ’s General Manager is to make 800-CEO-READ a great place to work for our employees, and a consistently high-performing customer service organization for our clients, authors, and our partners in the publishing industry. In addition to her General Manager duties ensuring collaboration, integration, and quality, she reads, writes, reviews, curates, and edits for the company. Helping craft The 100 Best Business Books of All Time used parts of both skill sets. Outside of work, she is most likely to be found hitting a tennis ball around or hanging out with her boys (husband, child, dog) at home.