Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Storytelling - the Baruch Symposium

What a great pleasure it was to meet the folks at the Baruch Symposium. From the facilitation dinner through to the final drink(s) on Friday night, I anticipate the inspirations and aha! moments will carry many of us through till we meet again next year. As I promised those at the event, I’m broadly sharing the concepts from Table 8.
For those of you who were at my table, thank you for being so generous with your ideas and stories.
Themes & Actions from Table 8
Stories are:
·         Drivers & motivators
·         Reflective of role models & mentors
·         A means for teachers to teach themselves
·         As we explore our own learning in stories, we can teach each other
·         Includes the dialectics of learning and teaching
·         Form community – e.g. bilingualism; new alliances; deepening existing relationships
·         Confirmation of memory
·         As a child learns to talk = memory is created
·         Stories bind experiences into a life
·         Story is recognition of self and others
·         Provide a sense of history, perspective, broad context – all lacking in today’s education
·         Stories help us get through the ‘noise’
·         It is the nature of narrative to present the human need – not as the only form of explanation/presentation but to show development; if nothing happens there is no story.
·         Stories make up our personal mythologies
·         Story is about self & what I know and how I hope it relates to you
·         Story can be fodder for ethnography studies

Things we can do to enhance storytelling and its effects:
1.    Read stories to groups (in educational settings)
2.    Choose a story of a historical figure and add your personal story and talk through how the two stories relate to each other
3.    Expand Digital Storytelling to be common tool
4.    Ask what the student/ listener’s role/presence  is /could be in the narrative – position the listener as the narrator
5.    Acknowledge competency
6.    Share the stories of others – pass them on deliberately
7.    Create shared narratives with multiple narrators & perspectives
8.    Don’t limit storytelling or change to 9-5pm or Kindergarten to B.A. – make learning a lifelong expectation
9.    Start storytelling in the smallest unit possible: 2 employees or 2 students
10.  Offer training for listening and decoding stories
11.  Students are not deficient if they don’t accept our stories – accept this “otherness”
12.  Capture the “aha!”s of the day /week /month in story archives
13.  Use wordle for story visuals
14.  Develop therapy around story

I also include the notes from my colleagues who were in attendance at other tables. You can see the similar themes:
  • Storytelling helps you connect with people as individuals and professionals
  • Storytelling helps you to be credible and trusted…through your effective use of communication
  • Repeating someone else’s story has merit because you hear/remember different aspects of the story;
  • People begin to intently listen/be actively engaged when the story has humor, danger, emotion, etc.
  • Repeating stories helps listeners remember the important “morale of the story”
  • Be as transparent as possible when answering questions…prepare for possible questions that might open the door too wide to information for the listener.  There is a way to answer the question, so that the person feels heard without giving away the “missile launch codes.”
·         Simplicity and brevity; the more complex the story the less respect it gets
·         Tell the story to guide the listener; storytelling can also help the listener be a better listener
·         Manage engagement with the listener; responses / reactions may vary i.e. intellectual / emotional

Monday, June 24, 2013

What to talk about?

A statement I hear often is: "I hate small talk!"  - usually because it's considered boring, forced, banal or just too hard to think of something interesting to ask someone to whom we've just been introduced.

At some point, we've all made small talk. It is how we progressed beyond acquaintance to friend with those in our intimate circles. The best thing anyone ever explained to me about small talk was - get the other person talking; it's not you who needs to be fascinating - help them tell their story.

So in that spirit, here's a few general questions to play with to help someone else be fascinating. Some of these questions work in any circumstance, some at events and some are just for fun!
  • What's your proudest moment (this week/ year etc.)?
  • What do you wish you had more time for?
  • When was the last time you laughed out loud?
  • What's your favourite moment of every day?
  • What's your perfect work day?
  • What is the highlight of your LinkedIn profile?
  • What's the most important skill needed for your job?
  • Do  you believe in continuous self-development & learning?
  • What's your best networking tip?
  • What piece of advice would you give yourself 10 or 15 years ago if you could?
  • What's your favourite website?
  • What's the one thing you do every weekend?
  • What did you think you'd grow up to be when you were 6?
  • What's your favourite guilty pleasure for food?
  • What superpower do you wish you had?
  • What 3 books are by your bed?
  • What's the best presentation you've heard this year?

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Not perfect

Would you rather be right 100% for 50% of the time? Or right 75% for 75% of the time?

The longer someone hesitates over the question, the more you know they're trying to get their answer "right," regardless of the math logic.

We put a lot of churn into trying to get things perfect / right /100%. It's just not possible. It makes more sense to put that extra energy into things we can control /influence /fix / perfect.

Which is better?
  • Getting my kid to eat broccoli or just finding ways to have him enjoy more vegetables in general?
  • Ensuring I run to every grocery store to find the lowest prices on all my shopping or one store with the best general prices?
  • Having my team do everything with my clearance or just picking the biggest risk items (yes, they're all risky...)?
Not every powerpoint hits the mark. Not every guess is correct. Not every evaluation can accurately predict the future state. Not every new person you meet is a friend or sale. Let go a little. Coach your mentoree to let go a little. It's ok to not be perfect

Monday, June 17, 2013

Some days nothing works

I met a woman the other day whose day had not gone well. She was attempting to be brave (or stoic) - perhaps to avoid the platitudes one is offered when the world doesn't have the time to listen or maybe just to carve herself a little space away from the emotions.

She just seemed so alone, wrapped in solitude, far from being able to connect, shielded by hurt/disappointment/ was hard to tell. She was vulnerable and doing her best to pretend otherwise.

We have all been her. We have all had our smiles falter and our veneers crack. We have hoped not many noticed and fewer pressed us for interaction.

A network feels of little use those days; the things that need fixing are bigger than an hour of someone's time and too demanding in scale/scope. A mentor can't help much either; these days are not about the big picture but the here and now.

That's ok. A network, mentors, sponsors... are not the panacea for all ills. Sometimes we just need a friend, a hug, or silence or time. Some days nothing will work right. Luckily that's not all days.

Monday, June 10, 2013

Storytelling - part 3

Last week at a dinner, someone said "While telling a story is not the only form of explanation we have - stories reflect development; if nothing happens, there is no story."

Before the next time someone asks you what you've been up to... or what you've been doing in your job... ask yourself if offering a grocery list of facts is showcasing you the way you hope to be showcased.

For example:
"How did your week go?"

"I did some jogging, had time with the kids, finished a project at work - the usual."

Could become:

"How did your week go?"

"It was a week with great momentsstory opener
There was a lot going on and I managed to get time in on all fronts: family; work and myself.    key message
The best part was getting out to jog/ spending time with the kids / finishing the project at work.   high point
You must have had a great moment yourself?   inviting the listener into the story

Stories don't have to be long or important. They don't have to have the teller as the hero/heroine. Stories simply build a better bridge for conversation and can reflect the storyteller as thoughtful and reflective.

The next time you network, open the door with a story vs. boxing yourself with a list.

Monday, June 3, 2013

Storytelling - part 2

Tell a story. Sounds simple? We do it all the time. Suddenly, call it a story and all sorts of associations may arise and stop our voice. Will we be seen as emotional? Fanciful? Boring? Bombastic? Clueless?

Examples of stories:
  • our personal introductions
  • how we got a job
  • what our kid has done lately (said with an eye roll)
  • advice given with personal anecdotes for support
The list above isn't exhaustive. These stories roll off our tongues at a moment's notice. Suddenly calling a story out as a story should not make us stumble, though it often does.

It's best to be thoughtful about key stories, to prepare them to achieve what you hope they can. The heart of a story is often found in:
  • What do I most need you to know?
  • How do I hope you feel about it?
  • What might you do with this information?
Facts are often only focused on the first or last question - either dumping facts or ordering results. Telling a story helps us walk through the possibilities together. The formula applies equally to emails, phone messages, anecdotes and introductions. Telling a story can make the interview or deepen a relationship.

Tell a story - embed the answers to the questions - see if the results emerge.