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I just returned from Japan doing a training session for the Sales Engineers of a global network equipment corporation.  The focus for the training was to help Sales Engineers shift away from being too technical in their presentations, and instead "tell stories" about how their solutions will deliver business results for customers.


Coincidentically, "story telling" is also a technique that can be used in rallying your team to overcome challenges, and change for the better.


Rather than making your people sit through endless, boring PPT presentations, "story telling" would be a way to engage and inspire your team.  Rather than shoving down cold hard facts down the throats of your audience, enlighten them to what are the implications of those facts and figures, and what they need to do to create a better and brighter future.


Hence, this month's topics:

  1. Using Storytelling to Rally Your Team to Overcome Tough Challenges; and

  2. Dealing with the Domineering and Unreasonable Boss

This issue's main article is on "Using Storytelling to Rally Your Team to Overcome Tough Challenges", and we explore how you can use story telling as an effective tool to lead and inspire your team.


In brief:

    • Instead of presenting too much on technical and financial details, use stories to resonate with your team so that they are committed to take the necessary actions;

    • While everyone can tell stories, one would need substantial amount of skills, preparation and training to tell stories that will resonate and are meaningful to the audience

    • While many companies and executives have many opportunities to engage and inspire their people with the many presentations they made, but because they don't have a story to resonate with their audience, such opportunities are wasted.   Read on... ...

    To read the rest of this newsletter, pls. click here (


    Using Storytelling to Rally Your Team to Overcome Tough Challenges


    by Larry Schuster


    Imagine this. A top executive says: “Storytelling?  We have no time for that right now.  We’re going through a very difficult change.  It is not pretty.  Battles are breaking out everywhere.”

    Well, in 1997 the global creative firm Saatchi and Saatchi was bruised and almost demoralized when the founding brothers left the company.  New CEO Kevin Roberts gathered 200 top leaders about what to do. None of that three-hour session was about numbers.

    “It was all about ourselves … what we had to do,” Roberts said.  It was about storytelling.  It was about recalling heroic stories Roberts shared, based on his 25 years as a customer of the company.  It was successful.  It shown a light forward for a company that had lost its way.

    But that was not the end.  In that period of recovery, there were more visits, talking, listening.  No budget meetings.  No restructuring plans.  No  PPTs.

    The focus was on imagination.  Inspiration.  Intuition.  Story sharing and story listening.  Sharing stories so people can identify with the story, “a good way to make relationships work,” without telling people what to do.

    “Stories need to connect the past, present and future and link to a shared dream. Storytelling is about creating dreams, giving people what they never dreamt possible,” Roberts says, as told in “Wake Me Up When the Data is Over: How Organizations use Stories to Drive Results.”

    From that adventure in story sharing and listening, the company rediscovered its spirit, and its many achievements.  It was a company of 40 years of “Nothing is Impossible.”

    The motto aided the company’s turnaround.

    The company was transformed from a traditional advertising agency to an ideas company.  As Roberts said, “Ideas are the currency of the future.”

    Storytelling captured those ideas for Roberts’ team of more than 6,000 employees at Saatchi and Saatchi.


    Why Storytelling


    Storytelling is a highly effective, precise tool to energize teams, refocus and revitalize demoralized companies, envision the future and create winning environments.  It also gives life to abstract values and mission statements, and helps business speakers engage their audiences and more clearly frame their presentations.

    And it has helped some companies deal with very challenging change, including mergers.

    But like any tool, the question is how to use it, under what circumstances to solve what problem or challenge or further enhance the efforts of a great team.


    In 1981, in his first year as CEO of General Electric, on a field visit to GE’s nuclear reactor business in San Jose, Jack Welch faced leaders of that business unit who resisted change.

    The leadership of the business projected a bright outlook for reactor sales based on healthy sales for the 1970s.  The leaders projected sales of three new reactors per year, as told in Welch’s book “Jack: Straight from the Gut,” and retold in “Lead with a Story”.


    Looking back to the 1970s, the projections seemed reasonable, Welch recalled.  That business unit had sold three or four reactors each year in that period.   But two years prior to his visit, the US experienced a major disaster at a nuclear power plant in Three Mile Island, Pennsylvania.  The public’s already cautious appetite for more nuclear power plants vanished.  The company had not sold a single nuclear power plant in the two years since the accident.

    After listening politely, he shocked the leadership.

    “Guys, you are not going to get three orders a year. In my opinion, you’ll never get another order for a nuclear reactor in the US. Instead, he said they should focus their business on selling nuclear fuel and services to the 72 active reactors they already built

    The leaders argued if they removed orders from the plan it would kill morale, and they’d never be able to mobilize the business again when orders come back.

    Welch was unfazed.  GE re-staffed the business to focus on the service model he proposed.  Earnings grew from US$14 million to US$116 million in just two years.  And by the time he retired 20 years later, the company still had not received even one more order for a nuclear reactor.

    In his career at GE, Welch retold this story numerous times when he needed to get his leaders to face reality. Getting people to accept change is the first obstacle to change.

    In your organizations, when your team faces change, you may consider retelling this story to prepare your audience before delivering your own reality check on the need for change.

    “GE never did get another order for a nuclear reactor. And the reality for us is, we cannot face another year of uncertain government support (or whatever is your situation).

    Increasingly, storytelling in organizations is attracting serious attention in books, blogs and social media, demonstrating its value.  Still, not everybody is convinced.

    “We work, we don’t tell stories”


    “When we come to the office, we work and then we leave.  We don’t tell stories,” one senior manager at a multinational told me when I announced what I do.  A department head at another multinational bluntly told me “that won’t work here.”

    Why the disconnect?

    What people fail to understand is that storytelling usually requires guidance or training and practice in discovering, creating and delivering stories at a time, place and situation to achieve specific objectives.

    Lead with a Story: Guide to Crafting Business Narratives” describes five broad categories of storytelling with more than 20 specific scenarios, such as creating an environment for winning, envisioning success and energizing the team.  The author was head of consumer research for a $6 billion global business at The Procter & Gamble Company.

    The Leader's Guide to Storytelling: Mastering the Art and Discipline of Business Narrative,” lists eight narrative patterns, with purposes such as building trust, overcoming resistance to new ideas, instilling organizational values.  The author was inspired to write this based on his years of work at the very conservative, report and PPT-fueled World Bank.

    In addition, there are the obvious storytelling applications related to branding, sales and business presentations


    "But everybody tells stories, right?"

    You may say, “What’s the big deal?”  Everybody has told and heard stories since childhood.

    True, but that just means that everybody has great potential to deliver a meaningful story in organizations.

    But it takes focused effort to craft a story that can achieve a specific purpose or at least that can deliver a clear message.

    Most commonly, the story has way too much detail or misses essential elements, and lacks a clear message and clear purpose and meaning for the audience.  Or it’s just the wrong story told in the wrong way at the wrong time.  It would be like that shiny hi-tech wrench that’s missing key parts.

    "Ok, who will tell the stories and when and where?"

    Probably, your first idea about this would be a top executive speaking at an industry event or delivering a keynote speech for an annual company meeting or to potential students of a global executive MBA program.

    Even in such a situation, I heard the head of one of the best-known global financial companies launch into his PPT of financials, one chart after another.  Without a story.

    What a missed opportunity to engage his audience and frame his message from the first few lines.

    But when applied to organizational development, including team building and change management, storytellers can represent all levels and roles and geographic areas of the company.

    The stories may occur in special workshop sessions in the company or during retreats, to get a deep understanding of what adjustments may benefit the company, and to gain more rapid buy-in for any changes.  In such a circumstance, your storytelling consultant may facilitate the session and provide coaching in advance.

    Or it may be that head of engineering must explain to corporate decision makers why their proposed innovation concept is a big deal.  A clear story may help a technology leader sell a concept to a non-technical audience.

    If the wrench has all its parts.  A few rounds of focused coaching or small group training and practice may get this wrench to sing as it does its job.

    Need help in rallying your team to overcome tough challenges? Simply e-mail or call +86-21-6219 0021 or Skype: cydj001 and arrange to buy me a mocha. All information shall be kept in confidence.

    Power Breakfast Hour:  18 Sep 2014

    Using Storytelling to Rally Your Team to Overcome Tough Challenges

    • How you can use stories to resonate with your team so that they are committed to take the necessary actions;

    • What kinds of skills, preparation and training you need, so that you tell stories that will resonate and are meaningful to the audience

    • How to capitalise on the many opportunities to use stories to engage and inspire your team... ...


    VENUE: Crowne Plaza Shanghai • 400 Panyu Road (near Fahuazhen Road) • 上海银星皇冠酒店 • 番禺路 400 号 (靠法华镇路)


    DATE: Thursday, 18 Sep 2014


    TIME: 08:00 a.m. - 10:00 a.m.


    PRICE: RMB 200 ONLY!



    To make this a more conducive discussion, we are expecting a small group of about 15 people only. The room can only take in 18, so please register early to avoid disappointments. Please e-mail your registrations too


    Pls. check out our web sites and for more inspiration.

    Tips for Sales People:
    Dealing with the Domineering and Unreasonable Boss

    by c.j. Ng


    A couple of weeks ago I was asked to conduct a sales training for a company in the building materials industry.  Amongst the needs they have, they mentioned they would like to also make sure that their sales people could manage their time, and could hit an average of 20 customer visits per week.

    When it's time to submit my training materials draft for review, their Asia-Pacific boss (who happen to sit thousands of miles away in Singapore when their sales force is in China) said that there were no clear instructions that the sales people MUST achieve those 20 meetings, and hence did not meet training requirements.

    I patiently explained that we have activities to help sales people optimise their time so that they could make the visit numbers, and that we have a lot of skills training on how sales people could overcome those difficulties (which were gathered after making a number of phone interviews with the sales team) they face, so they can deliver as expected.

    He wouldn't have any of those "general skills" for the sales people.  He wanted to make sure the trainer (me) orders the sales people to make 20 visits a week (something that their National Sales Manager and tried but could not get the targeted number of customer visits from the sales people), and that the sales call reports need to reflect the number of meetings per week, but he did not know that many sales people are feeding the system with garbage reports. 


    He didn't know that the job of the external trainer is to provide the skills, with which his sales people could use to execute the orders of their National Managers.  And that if I don't put the strict orders to make the number of visits a week, he will cancel the sales training (despite his team in China had committed everybody to fly to the training venue on the scheduled date.

    The good news was that at the end of it all, I managed to pulled in off, with the sales people writing in their action plans how they can achieve 20 customer meetings a week, and that they will also provide meaningful sales reports on top of that.  And I did so in the way that the boss did NOT envision, and even his sales people will be doing them in different ways than what he had envisioned too, but delivering the expected results.  Of course, he knows nothing of these.  All he will see, are the number of customer visits increasing, and the quality of the sales call reports improving


    Here's an excerpt of what their HR sent to me after the training:


    "Thank you for your efforts to support our sales training. We were really impressed by your sharing on below topics:

    • making good customer visits plans

    • Optimise time and manage an average of 15-20 effective calls every week with step by step approach

    • Map out the decision making structures and influence key stakeholders in projects (决策者,挑毛病者,挡门者,使用者,引路者).

    • increase project pipeline and make pipeline flow


    Our participants were actively responsive during the training.  Thanks a lot!"

    My point in telling this story of this domineering, micro-managing and a**hole of a boss is not so much about how I had dealt with him.  In retrospect, I would like to share some of the insights with people who are unfortunate/ fortunate enough to work under a domineering and unreasonable boss. 


    The boss that was mentioned here, although micro-managing for how certain things need to be done in his way, without flexibility of any kind, seems not to care how it was done.  He just want to see numbers and didn't care how it will be achieved (bad for setting strategic goals in the first place), and why it needs to be achieved.  He was not clear about the end objectives of achieving such goals.


    Here are 3 things that will happen to such bosses:

    1. Subordinates will fake the numbers, or provide meaningless numbers (such as sending the company brochure to a prospect who will have no chance of buying), since the boss has got no idea nor interest to find out how things are done.  This boss is simple asking to be hoodwinked;

    2. Responsible managers working under such bosses will identify what are the end objectives of this boss and deliver those objectives, WHILE trying to fake the numbers if they believe those interim numbers are unachievable or meaningless (or both).  After all, such bosses are unlikely to forgive his managers even IF his orders are followed BUT the end objectives are not achieved;

    3. Irresponsible managers will then try to be "yes-man" and play up the office politics by following orders to the "T", and make reports about those whom are not "following orders", just to curry favour from the big-bad-boss.

    Hence, on the one hand it's not an easy task working under such bosses, and it really will be a test of courage, will and wisdom when working under such bosses.  On the other hand, such bosses are rather easy to hoodwink, especially when he's not working next to you.


    More importantly, such bosses usually are not able to retain the best people, and are most likely to result in employees to be disengaged at work, even if one has hired the most engaged employees for him.

    In some ways, working with such bosses can be stressful and make you feel very unappreciated.  On the bright side though, it will give one plenty of learning opportunities, be it in solving unsolvable problems and challenges or in harnessing your reality distortion field.

    Need help in dealing with nasty bosses, you can e-mail or call +86-136 7190 2505 or Skype: cydj001

    Directions Management Consulting


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