‘…THE ART OF STORYTELLING FOR BUSINESS SUCCESS’ part five
by Esther K Choy
Published by Amacom
eBook ISBN: 9780814438022
Copyright (c) 2017 by Esther K Choy
“Meet “Elliot,” a hardworking accountant who was living the American Dream in the early 1980s. Unfortunately, he developed a brain tumor in his orbitofrontal cortex, requiring surgery. The procedure seemed to have gone well, as Elliot retained what appeared to be all of his physical, linguistic, and intellectual capacities. But soon it was clear that he’d lost something post-surgery: his ability to make decisions, even about the simplest things. Merely choosing between a black or blue pen to sign a document could take him over thirty minutes. The underlying reason was that Elliot had lost the ability to connect emotion with decision-making; the surgery had cut him off from his “emotional mind,” making him “pathologically indecisive.”
Emotions are critical to our ability to decide in many situations. As Alan Weiss noted in his book Million Dollar Consulting, “Logic makes people think, emotion makes them act.” This can be especially true when we’re faced with many similar-seeming options. “Go with your gut” is valid advice in such cases, as long as your emotion is well-informed by some set of facts or experience. That’s true in business, as well.
Di Fan Liu is an onshore private banker based in Beijing. He and his firm serve ultra-rich Chinese entrepreneurs, mostly founders of publicly traded China-based companies. Widely admired, these first-generation trailblazers overcame highly restrictive economic policies in past decades to succeed, and many retain active control of their businesses. Yet most of them struggle with the issue of how best to pass their wealth on to their family’s next generations. That’s where Mr. Liu and his bank come into the picture.
In speaking with these high-value prospects, Liu and his colleagues rarely talk about what the bank has to offer, at first (I’ll explain this strategy in the last story). Instead, they tell stories. Specifically, they relate narratives about how other multi-generation family businesses worldwide have dealt successfully with ownership succession, whether in the US, EU, Latin America, or elsewhere—such as a US-based real estate family that has passed wealth down to three generations using a set of complex but fair trusts. Then they ask their prospective clients to think of a fellow Chinese entrepreneur who’d successfully passed on wealth to the next generation. The vast majority can’t think of even one. Next, Liu shares an important observation: since an economic downturn happens every seven to eight years on average, in any given century a person could lose their wealth as many as fourteen times. Finally, he asks them: “What are you doing to protect your wealth and legacy?”
You can imagine how Liu’s prospects may feel after the conversation: grateful for the new knowledge, but also vulnerable and a bit frustrated, knowing that other leaders like them have succeeded where they are struggling, and the risks are quite high. The emotions make them receptive to hearing how Liu and his bank can help them, and that’s exactly what Liu tells them now.
The idea is that your story, no matter how well told, can’t achieve its full intended effect until you embed within it an emotional quality aligned with your purpose. Remember: logic makes you think; emotion makes you act. How can you build the right emotional quality into your story to create the desired impact?
In the next section, we will explore how to better understand the emotions of our audiences.
KNOW YOUR AUDIENCE INSIDE AND OUT
In an ideal world, you the storyteller can take your time and convey everything you want to in whatever amount of time you need—just as the museum curator in our opening example wished. In reality, what we say, how we say it, and when we say it are constrained by a big factor: our audience’s needs and reactions.
When most people are preparing to tell their stories, they tend to think only about what they will tell and how they will tell it. Too often they neglect to think about how their audience will react to the stories, as influenced by their own needs and preferences. Remember: large ambition, hard work, and even impressive credentials are not sufficient to succeed in most business contexts today. A hallmark of an effective leader is whether she can convince others—her audiences—to follow her as related to vision, strategy, tactics, or any other area. That means leaders have to understand their audiences’ needs and constraints, to decide how to communicate with them most effectively.
In chapter 3, we will explore in depth how to connect with an audience. The framework below, however, is a start that will help you understand your audience better by breaking down what happens to them during any presentation or interaction into two levels: internal and external. This “inside and out” approach will help you prepare much more effective presentations.
What happens to your audience internally, or inside, involves what they feel and what they know.
FEEL. The famed American writer and activist Maya Angelou once said, “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” Often overlooked in business contexts, not only does emotion have a high “sticky” factor, but it also plays a critical and necessary role in decision-making. Whether we intend it or not, our audiences will experience a specific emotion—intrigued, bored, happy, unsettled, excited, apathetic, surprised, confused, or some combination—after listening to us. But note that they may not be able to articulate their feelings even if you press them to share. Still, they are definitely feeling something! This emotion can affect how long, if at all, they will remember what you’ve just told them, and what, if anything, they are willing to do about it. So wiser communicators always try to predict how their message would make audiences feel, and alter messages that may not result in the hoped-for emotion.
* Use the Guide for Story Clubs with your group to help hone your storytelling skills.”
This excerpt ends on page 9 of the hardcover edition.
It sounds so simple: Incorporate a story and people will remember your message. But when you get down to crafting one, there’s nothing easy about it.
Material for stories surrounds us. Yet few people are skilled at sharing personal anecdotes and even fewer know how to link them to professional goals. Whether you want to stand out in the interview process, add punch to a presentation, or make a compelling case for a new initiative, Let the Story Do the Work shows you how to mine your experience for simple narratives that convey who you are, what you want to achieve, and why others should care.
Packed with enlightening examples, the book explains how to find the perfect hook, structure your story–and deliver it at the right time in the right way. You’ll discover how to use stories to:
Engage your audience
Bring facts and data to life
Clarify challenging concepts
Never underestimate the power of a great story. Learn to leverage the elements of storytelling–and turn everyday communications into opportunities to connect, gain buy-in, and build lasting relationships.
Esther K. Choy is founder and president of Leadership Story Lab, where she coaches managers in storytelling techniques. She is currently teaching in the executive education programs at Northwestern Universitys Kellogg School of Management.
This week’s selection ‘LET THE STORY DO THE WORK: THE ART OF STORYTELLING FOR BUSINESS SUCCESS’ by Esther K Choy appears Monday thru Friday and comes to you courtesy of dearreader.com and BurlingtonPublicLibrary.ca Business Online Book Club.