The Corporate Storyteller

Expert tips on management communications and the power of storytelling

Wednesday, June 30, 2010


Effective Leaders Value Employees

Most business people realize, and most executives know from experience, that retaining good employees is far less less costly than hiring and training new people. And yet, many companies still make the mistake of not finding out what their best employees want--and giving it to them.

Allyis, a technology consulting company, is a shining example of how to create the kind of workplace people thrive in. The founders have successfully identified the characteristics and benefits that others would like as much as they themselves do, and the company has just been named by Seattle Business magazine as the Best Midsized Company to Work For in the Seattle area. And it's the second time the 13-year-old organization has been named to the "best" list!

What are some of the things Allyis does that keeps nearly 200 employees happy and productive? The founders have retained "the human connection" they wanted through recognition, empowerment, open, two-way communication, transparency, and an intranet that includes blogs, discussion boards, and team sites. Financial results are posted monthly and management is open to questions on any topic. What's more, a few years ago Allyis allocated most of its marketing budget to employee benefits!

What would happen if your employer adopted at least some of these practices? Do you think it would make a difference anywhere?

Monday, June 28, 2010


What's the Story at Toyota?

Toyota's top reputation for quality products has suffered a great deal in recent months, with more news about car recalls again this past week. The company's management communications continues to limp along, too.

Rather than get ahead of the first story by announcing the "stuck acceleration pedal" issue before the news broke and generated a Congressional hearing in the U.S., Toyota executives tried to avoid the problem. When word got out that there was a problem, Toyota at first denied it, then downplayed the seriousness of the issue and the potential harm for the company's customers and their families. And the CEO at first designated other spokesmen to talk with the news media, agreeing to be the spokesman himself only after the public demanded to hear from him.

Well into the Information Age, with 24/7 global news coverage the norm, it's astounding that the leadership of any major organization still believes it's advisable, not to mention possible, to squelch a valid news story. It's also astounding that the leader of a major corporation would try to neglect his primary job of a leader: communications--open, approachable, two-way communications with all the organization's stakeholders, news media included. Open communication with those at the top is not only advisable, it's essential in a world that expects transparency and a public that assumes the right to be heard.

Monday, June 14, 2010


The Zappos Story: Maximizing Profits More Important than Employees and Customers?

"We believe that forming personal, emotional connections with our customers is the best way to provide great service," writes Zappos Co-founder Tony Hsieh in a recent Inc. magazine article. "We'd bet that by being good to our employees...we would be able to offer better service than our competitors. Better service would translate into lots of repeat customers, which would mean low marketing expenses, long-term profits and fast growth."

An excerpt from his upcoming book, Hsieh's article reveals that, despite the company's phenomenal success, investors and board members still just wanted their ROI, which drove the sale of Zappos to Even though  the investors got more than a five-fold return on their money, they thought Hsieh should have focused even more on profits and less on employee and customer happiness.

What do you think? When a company demonstrates that employee- and customer-centric values produce impressive results, should that be celebrated, encouraged and rewarded? Or is business totally about showing as large a bottom-line number as humanly possible?

Tuesday, June 08, 2010


Med Schools Use Stories for "Case Studies"

Video storytelling has proven to be a therapeutic tool for physicians as well as patients, particulary those dealing with life-threatening illnesses--and now stories are being used in medical schools as teaching tools. In today's "Health Journal",  The Wall Street Journal reports that medical schools are using the life stories of fictional characters to teach psychiatric analysis.

The story tool has proven so effective, the topic was a presentation at last month's American Psyciatric Association's conference. "It was much more fun that sitting in a didactic lecture," said a chief resident at the Unversity of South Carolina School of Medicine, which delivered the presentation.

"Students in the mental-health disorder disciplines can sometimes learn as much about what it means to be human from studying popular films and novels as they can from sitting with a patient," says Glen Gabbard, professor of psychiatry and psychoanalysis at Baylor College of Medicine. Dr. Gabbard uses movies in his optional monthly sessions with medical students because movies offer a wide array of conditions to diagnose, and movie characters don't have the privacy concerns that real patients do.

Monday, June 07, 2010


Data Overload Frying Your Brain? Think in Stories!

Data overload is frying our brains, scientists say. While many people believe they're skillful multitaskers, the fact is, according to recent studies, only three percent of the population is able to multitask effectively. The rest of us are finding it more difficult to focus on anything and to filter irrelevant information. One significant result is higher stress and declining short-term memory.

The increasing amount of information people process each day is mind-boggling. The average person two years ago consumed three times as much information as an average person 50 years ago. And we're jumping from one task to another with alarming frequency. According to an article in The New York Times, computer users at work change windows or check e-mail or other programs nearly 37 times an hour!

One way to manage the deluge of information is to create a story around data you need to remember. Stories help us make sense of our world, creating context for what we see and hear. The trick is to focus on the useful data and ignore the rest; discerning the difference is becoming more and more challenging by the day.

Friday, June 04, 2010


New CD: Storytelling for Nonprofits

Nonprofits throughout the country are working hard to win back donors now that the economy appears to have bottomed out and slowly started recovering. Which of the thousands of worthy service agencies will  attract much-needed funds? The ones with a heart-warming, engaging story, of course!

I've interviewed six leaders from top organizations, such as The Community Health Foundation of Western and Central New York, United Way of Kentucky, and  the University of Notre Dame, to learn how they leverage the power of storytelling to reach their audiences, keep traditions alive, and win crucial support. Their insights--a total of 56 minutes with these insightful leaders!--are now available on CD or as an MP3 file from my website.

Listen and learn from top nonprofit executives who are accomplished storytellers. Tune in while driving to and from work, jogging, or waiting for a flight--any time throughout your busy day when you have a few extra minutes. It's just $39.95 plus tax and shipping for the CD and only $29.95 plus tax for MP3. Order your recording now and learn from the leaders:


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