Story Telling

Last week I posted about mastering small talk, so it seems appropriate that an article from Inc. entitled 5 Common Elements of Good Story Telling crossed my Twitter feed (perhaps even more appropriate with all the buzz about the “worst Jeopardy intro story” circulating last week).  While small talk is an essential skill for networking and relationship building, story telling is important for presentations, teaching, training, or even just making a point.  Here are the commonalities that author Paul Jarvis has found among the best stories he has heard:

  1. Keep it simple, easy to understand and vernacular.
  2. Convey emotion, whether it’s humor or pain.
  3. Keep it believable and genuine.
  4. First hand accounts are best (because then the emotion and believability are easier to convey).
  5. Keep it universal. The best stories work for any audience.

Do you know someone who is a great storyteller?  What is it about their stories that makes them so memorable?



It’s Not You, It’s Me

Recently, I read an op/ed in the New York Times that has given me a lot of food for thought.   Camille Sweeney and Josh Gosfield, authors of the book on  “Superachievers,” write about the importance of looking inward when it comes to making personal and professional improvements.   It’s easy to fall into the trap of blaming external forces when things don’t go as we want them to–something Harvard’s Chris Argyris calls “single loop learning.”  Most organizations use this tactic when they look to improve.  Argyris advocates that “double loop learning,”–honestly questioning every aspect of an approach–is a more effective process.

This type of self-awareness is difficult to practice, but once an individual or organization gets comfortable with it, the results can be truly transformative.  As a coach, I help clients take a holistic approach in examining what might be keeping them from their true potential. Recently, a client of mine, Emily, was struggling at work because she felt her reports weren’t pulling their weight.  Initially, Emily was unable to see the role her own work ethic played in the dynamic.  Not only were her standards for her reports too high, her standards for herself–something that had always been considered an asset–were beginning to cause stress.  By adopting the mantra, “Rome wasn’t build in a day,” she was able to stop focusing on what wasn’t working and begin to build a department based on more reasonable expectations.  Her reports responded, and the department started pulling in the same direction.

Who doesn’t want themselves, or their organization, to enjoy increased success?  Introspection can be scary territory at first, and a coach can be an important support as you begin to fully investigate how to reach your full potential.