Byron's Babbles

Creating a Strategy for a Compelling Story

The following is an excerpt from What Are Your Blind Spots?

Creating a Strategy for a Compelling Story

By Jim Haudan and Rich Berens

A few key concepts must be established when creating and delivering an effective story. Each and every time you create an effective story, you must:

• Identify your primary audience.

• Focus on the overall message.

• Outline the core drama.

• Make it personal.

• Practice delivering it.

Let’s explore how to execute each one together.

Identify Your Primary Audience

Before you start crafting your story, you should have clarity on who your primary audience is. What is this group’s mindset and knowledge base on the content? Do you want the people in the group to be excited, curious, fearful, apprehensive, or charged up? How much do they know about your story already? Do they have any preconceived notions? If you don’t have full awareness about your audience, you could craft a compelling story that misses the mark with those you are trying to reach.

Focus on the Overall Message

Just about every great story has an overarching message, moral, or key takeaway. Think of any of your favorite movies. There are many subplots, but they tend to be connected to one larger dominating theme. In Star Wars, the Rebels beat the Empire and destroyed that darn Death Star the enemy kept rebuilding. In E.T., Elliott and helpers made sure to get the poor fellow back home. Think of the story you want to tell your employees.

If being risk averse is a core concern within your organization, you might focus on how taking risks and embracing failure is essential for long-term success as the major guiding thought. If the key concern is speed and adapting to a rapidly changing competitive environment, the ability to collaborate, transcend silos, and work differently might be your guiding thought.

Outline the Core Drama

Any great story has a core drama that shapes its narrative. Whether it’s something that disrupts, creates a new challenge, or forces the key characters to think and act differently, drama is present. Be clear on that drama and make it a critical component of your narrative. This could be a nontraditional competitive threat, the inability to work together within the organization, or a dramatic shift in customer expectations. No matter the situation, you will want to build out that core drama element and channel most energy toward overcoming that issue.

Make It Personal

Every story gains credibility and authenticity when it feels real and personal. So if you think that changes in customer expectations are a real threat to how you can compete, share personal experiences that friends, family, or even you personally experienced when purchasing your product or service. This might create unexpected “aha” moments. We were working with the CEO of a leading building products company that had great products but was struggling with the customer experience it provided. At a leadership meeting, the CEO shared a detailed account of how he remodeled his kitchen and the very frustrating experience he had buying his cabinets and said that he was inclined never to do it again. It made the challenge more vivid and personal, and it moved the topic from an intellectual customer experience problem to a meaningful account of what it is like to interact with the company’s products and channels in real life.

Practice Delivering

It Interestingly, when we ask leaders how often they practice giving a keynote speech or a key presentation to their board, they respond by saying, “Always.” When we then ask how often they practice telling their strategy story to their people, their answer is, “Rarely.” Like most things in life, it takes practice to be great. In boxing, the conventional wisdom is that you have to practice for 30,000 minutes to be good for 3. Comedians run through an incredible amount of reps before they master the timing of their jokes. As leaders, we often share content in real time and don’t practice our delivery. The ability to practice how you tell your story, where to emphasize certain points, where to pause for reflection, and how to really engage with your audience simply takes time and practice.

Putting These Steps into Action

By combining these story creation essentials (primary audience, overarching message, core drama, making it personal, and practice), you will have a storyline that complements your vision headline.

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About Jim Haudan

Jim Haudan is Co-Founder and Chairman of Root Inc. Root Inc., the organizational change expert on helping companies create leadership alignment, execute strategies and change successful, build employee engagement, and transform businesses.  He is a sought-after business presenter who has spoken at TEDx BGSU, Tampa TEDx, and The Conference Board. His latest book, What Are Your Blind Spots?: Conquering the 5 Misconceptions that Hold Leaders Back is co-authored with Rich Berens is CEO and Chief Client Fanatic of Root Inc. The book equips readers with the tools needed for a personal leadership reset. You’ll discover how to increase engagement, productivity, and growth in your own organization.

About Rich Berens

Rich Berens is CEO and Chief Client Fanatic of Root Inc, and has helped align leaders at Global 2000 organizations to drive strategic and cultural change at scale. He is a noted speaker on the issues of, transformation, and how to create lasting change  and has authored articles for numerous publications and blogs. Under Rich’s leadership, Root has been listed among the Great Place to Work® Institute’s top 25 places to work, been named to the Inc. 5000 fastest-growing companies list, and experienced 10 years of consecutive growth. His latest book, What Are Your Blind Spots?: Conquering the 5 Misconceptions that Hold Leaders Back is co-authored with Jim Haudan is Co-Founder and Chairman of Root Inc.

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I’ve Been BitMoji’d, Literally!

IMG_3776So, I was asked to provide a BitMoji for my work to use on a key card. Sounded fun, but honestly, I had no idea what a BitMoji was. I knew what an emoji was, and have even blogged about them. In fact I just checked and I have blogged about emojis seven times. Click here to find my blogs on emojis. You are probably asking yourself, how did he figure out what a BitMoji was? Well, I did what any baby boomer would do, asked a much younger and tech savvy person. I happened to be working in a school at the time asked, so I asked a teacher. She was kind enough to help me find the app, download it, and show we how it worked. I love this reverse-mentoring stuff. What fun!

Well, do you BitMoji? If not, then you are missing out! I found it to be quite fun and even an exercise in reflection. I like the fact that you take a selfie and then your selfie is right there as you are creating the avatar. I found this to be a metaphor for how we reflect on how we are doing as leaders and in our jobs. Sometimes we need that selfie to help us reflect. Here’s my selfie and BitMoji (how did I do?):

What is funny is that at our 3D Leadership gathering this past weekend, the group was kidding me about using the word “literally” a lot. They created a “literally” hashtag: #literally. How cool was it that there literally is a “lit·er·al·ly” BitMoji. This caused me to reflect about the words and language I use,  because we all know language matters.

Building a positive culture in our organizations takes commitment, consistency, and teamwork…and adding a little Bitmoji may just add that extra fun you are looking for. Don’t forget, it can also bring some reflection time into your own personal development and growth. Next time you are looking to represent your organization or school’s culture, just remember, there’s a Bitmoji for that! How will you use Bitmojis to add to your organization’s positive culture?

Tear Down This Wall!

DoYouReallyWantIt

“Mr. Gorbachev, Tear down this wall!” ~ Ronald Reagan

This past week during our South Carolina 3D Leadership gathering I was reminded of those immortal words of the first President I ever voted for, and my favorite President, Ronald Reagan. This past spring I had the opportunity to visit the very spot where he showed audacious leadership and spoke those audacious words. We were discussing change, our willingness to make changes in ourselves, and how change happens within an organization. As always, I had our participants make a graphic representation of their thoughts. As always, they all blew me away, but one really intrigued me. Ms. Linda Russell of Mevers School of Excellence drew a brick wall with a split in it with the word “change” (pictured here). As she explained her drawing and how we need to break down the walls, I was reminded of how this was what President Reagan was doing. As with all change, this involved risk and audacity, but he was clearly communicating to Soviet leadership what he [Reagan] desired.

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Ms. Russell’s Great Graphic Representation

We later got into a discussion of good and bad leadership traits. I blogged about these in Leader Traits From The Palmetto State. Click here to read that post. One of the traits discussed was communication. I was so glad that we are able to have open discussions that actually lead to results and professional growth of participants. Two of our participants were discussing how a lack of communication was causing a wall to be built brick by brick. This barrier be, and was in this case, an unintended wall. Lack of good communication can send mixed messages or aloofness, complacency, and unwillingness that others will become alienated and not bother to interact with those parties. They may even avoid them altogether. It was discovered that the issue was just so much going on that time was not being taken to do easy and quick communiques. Right then and there the bricks began to come down from the wall.

Great leaders know how to overcome these obstacles. They cross the aisle, bridge the gaps that separate factions, and find ways to communicate in effective ways. They know that any walls are drag factors that will slow down progress and possibly sabotage the mission. So the walls must be struck down in order to move forward. How about you? Do you have any walls that you need to tear down?

Why You Should Read “What Are Your Blinds Spots?”

What Are Your Blind Spots? Conquering the 5 Misconceptions That Hold Leaders BackWhat Are Your Blind Spots? Conquering the 5 Misconceptions That Hold Leaders Back by Jim Haudan

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This book dives deeply into five areas that are written and talked about often in the realm of leadership, but does it in a way that is different from all the rest. The areas of purpose, story, engagement, trust, and truth are all leadership dispositions that most would think are very straightforward. Because they are dispositions, however, we become blind to our organizations and our own approach to these, we miss opportunities for improvement or even gross inadequacies. This book is not just all talk; practical applications are given along with activities to identify and inform our blind spots. We all have a leadership style and mantra, and this book gives the reader a chance to take an introspective look at whether that mantra is what we want those on our team to be sharing about us. As a leader, student of leadership development, and leadership development professional, I found the lessons in this book engaging, able to be used immediately, and transferable. I grew professionally from reading this book.

View all my reviews

Leader Traits From The Palmetto State

I was reading some research on leadership development this week and one of pieces that jumped out at me was the statement, “what leaders really want is a personalized experience and the opportunity to learn from…their fellow-leaders.” I was reminded of this last night during the September 3D Leadership gathering of our South Carolina members. One of the things discussed during our plus/delta time at the end was the fact they were able to discuss freely and transparently which made it possible for them to get to know each other and learn from each other. In fact one participant said, “I’m so glad you brought up the issue of communication and that we discussed that. Now we can work on making it better.” Effective leadership development involves time for reflection and learning from those around us.

We did one such learning activity last night where the South Carolina group developed their own top list of good and bad leadership traits. It was a great discussion with being supportive coming out as their number one trait every good leader should have. Here are the rest of their results:

Here’s what we know: Success in today’s world depends on how leaders perform as a team. The unpredictable and rapidly changing landscape, whether it is in government, education, or business, means you need to have people with a variety of skillsets and mindsets who can quickly step in to show leadership in response to a variety of challenges. This is why organizations need to look at all employees as leaders, with “leadership potential,” and start developing leadership potential earlier in careers. That is why we do 3D Leadership – to help our leaders Discover, Develop, and Distribute leadership wherever and whenever it is needed.

North Carolina Leader Traits

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North Carolina 3D Leadership Cohort #1

Last night at our North Carolina cohort of 3D Leadership developed their top five list of good leadership traits and bad leadership traits. To do this we used one of my go to facilitation props (no pun intended), the toy prop gliders. Here is what participants did:

The groups then got back together and listed their top five list. Then the whole cohort voted on the top five good leadership traits and top five bad leadership traits. Here are the results:

Screen Shot 2018-09-21 at 3.04.17 PM

It is always interesting to me that as I do this in many different states and with individuals of different experiences, how different the lists can be. Successful organizations need leaders, someone (or as I believe everyone) who can inspire employees and lead them and the organization toward success. Leaders encourage others to work to their full potential, inspire creativity and aid motivation. During turbulent times, the need for good leaders intensifies. As I always say, “Leading is easy when things are going great, but really hard when it is chaos and earthquakes.” Someone who presents a clear vision for recovery, leads by example and instills confidence in those around them. A good leader has many traits, if you can recognize these within yourself and capitalize on them, then you can become a successful leader in your work environment and on your team.

By consciously making an effort to exhibit the traits highlighted by my North Carolina friends, people will be more likely to follow us. If we exhibit these traits on a regular basis, we will be able to grow our influence to its full potential as a leader. What’s on your top five list of good and bad leadership traits?

Shaking Our American Demons

This past week I started a session of our Noble Education Initiative 3D Leadership Program by playing the song “Do You Really Want It?” by Nothing More. The participants were to listen and graphically reflect on what the song meant to them as leaders. Click here to read another post, “What Do You Really Want?”, I wrote about this song and see a music video of the song. One of the things we discussed during this pat Thursday’s session was a phrase in the song (Do You Really Want It?) that says, “We say ‘give me a sign that proves what I believe in’ So I can shake these American demons.”

This was actually a phrase I discussed with Johnny Hawkins when on the tour bus hanging out with Nothing More a week ago. Our 3D Leadership participants discussed it in much the same way as Johnny did. They talked about how, as Americans, we are so prosperous, but we do not set our future generations up for success.

As I reflect on this great discussion I think about how we, United States Of America, are so different from other countries of the world. For one thing, we were an experiment. Plus, American independence, of course, involved more than humility. It was an act of defiance rooted in an arm-long list of grievances. While pondering all this I went back and studied the Declaration Of Independence. The Declaration was the genius of our founders. I believe it was Abraham Lincoln that posited that the founders did not need much of what is in the Declaration just to declare our independence from Great Britain.

Our Founders, however, had the forethought, according to Lincoln, to add in these words to our Declaration Of Independence: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. — That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, — That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.” As I continue to read these words I believe this is our battle cry to shake our “American Demons.”

I believe it was incredibly visionary that our Founders included these concepts, knowing it would not be until later, when we actually got our government and society created that we would actually be able to begin to govern accordingly, and by these core values and beliefs. I also believe we have gotten away from walking the walk of our values we declared our independence with. What if we checked all our decisions against the fact we should secure our rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness?

To me, the Declaration of Independence proclaims we are all created equal. This means that all human beings, regardless of religion, sex, or skin color, possess the same natural rights. The Founders had to know that different people are unequal in physical and mental capacities. I believe we can shake our “American Demons” by always remembering that however noticeable the differences between people may be, they are never so great as to deprive them of their rights.

Who We Are

After my post yesterday, I really got to thinking about this question of being bigger than something other than ourselves. You can click here to check out All The World’s A Stage. It’s actually pretty simple, however, we are all part of something bigger than ourselves, namely the universe. We often forget this, however, and we stop looking beyond our own body, opinion, experience, well-being, and other self interests. I constantly need to be reminded that, though I am tiny and only temporarily on this earth, I can take action toward outcomes that go beyond my own life, needs, comforts, desires, gains and losses — often through shared work with others, influencing decisions, or helping, coaching, or mentoring others.

Because it was my conversation with Johnny Hawkins, Mark Vollelunga, Daniel Oliver, and Ben Anderson, the band members of Nothing More, that really got me thinking about all this, I am going to point to one of their songs for inspiration. Honestly, I not paid very close attention to the words of their song, Who We Are, until they autographed the poster pictured here in this post, and gave it to me. It has the words to the song in the background. There’s a pretty powerful message in this song that who we are should keep us believing. Click here to watch the video of Who We Are by Nothing More.

“It’s who we are that keeps me believing

There’s something here bigger than ourselves

If I’m wrong then why am I still feeling?

Who we are, keeps me believing

Keeps me believing”

~ Chorus From Who We Are by Nothing More

This is actually very profound. Who we are is much more important than what we do. We need to focus on being bigger on the inside, our character, than we are on the outside, our influence. Think about it, if our character waivers, our influence becomes discounted. We must line our lives up with our values or we will live a life that is out of balance and devoid of the creative energy we need to achieve our true potential.

“For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul? ” ~ Jesus in Mark 8:36

We also need to think about the chorus phrase, “It’s who we are that keeps me believing.” Think about that; it doesn’t say, “who I am” it says, “who we are.” This is profound when we think about leading or being part of our businesses and organizations, our communities, our schools, our country, or the larger aggregate of the world 🌎. Who we are and what we believe in aggregate matters. We need to create organizations, communities, countries, and a world 🌍 where we all matter.

“What we know matters but who we are matters more.” ~ Brené Brown

As it says in Who We Are, I want the “you, that’s in me, [to be] in everything.” Let’s work to create a world where we can “stand together” because of Who We Are!

All The World’s A Stage

Nothing More

My blog post yesterday was inspired by the incredible experience I had of having the honor to spend some time visiting with the members of Nothing More on their tour bus prior to the show at Ruoff Music Center this past Friday. Click here to read Leading Without “Virtue Signaling.” As I stated in that post, Johnny Hawkins, Mark Vollelunga, Daniel Oliver, and Ben Anderson, the band members of Nothing More, are four of the greatest guys you will ever meet. Today’s post was inspired by a chance conversation as we were getting off the tour bus. Standing in the doorway of the bus, I had a side conversation with Johnny Hawkins and Mark Vollelunga about how much their music made me reflect and think. I thanked them for using their talents and taking the risk to be who they are in the music business. They knew I was using their songs to introduce leadership concepts and spur thought and discussions in the leadership development work I do. I wanted them to know, however, how much the words they were creatively arranging into music were more that just that – words or music. For example, if you want to be moved, take a moment and click here and watch Fade In / Fade Out. This song really moves me because of losing my dad early in my adult life and now having a son.

Ruoff Music Center

I believe my comments caused them to reflect for a moment. Both Johnny and Mark became very reflective and appreciative of being reminded what they do is much bigger than them. They commented on sometimes forgetting and needing to be reminded that the music they make and the shows they put on make a difference in people’s lives. Mark said, “we need to remember that and take that seriously.” Johnny said, “we get caught up in doing the next show, looking for inspiration for the next song, writing the next song, or putting the next album together, but everything we do touches others.” Think about what they both were saying – they are doing something bigger than themselves. It isn’t about them, it is about connecting with their fans and influence. And…since leadership is influence, my friends in Nothing More are leaders. They just have a different, and I would argue, more exciting platform to lead from. Always remember, we all have a platform, everyone! It is our responsibility to use it to the fullest. I also believe it is our responsibility to help those whose stage might not reach the masses of Nothing More, reach his or her potential as well.

We’ve almost made the thought of being part of something bigger than ourselves cliche’. But, we all need to think about what stage we have chosen, or what stage we have available. What platform do we have to lead and influence, because we all have one. As William Shakespeare so wisely put it: “All the world’s a stage, And all the men and women merely players; They have their exits and their entrances, And one man in his time plays many parts.” That really says it all. Think about all the lives we enter and exit. Think about all the parts we play in one day. Everyone is a leader from where she or he is, so we need to get up on stage and perform. Are you taking advantage of the platform you have right now to lead and make a difference from where you are?

Leading Without “Virtue Signaling”

Getting Ready To Get On Nothing More’s Tour Bus

Yesterday, I had the rare opportunity to spend time on the tour bus of one of my favorite rock bands before their concert at Ruoff Home Mortgage Music Center. The band was Nothing More. Those that know me know I love rock music and still dream of being a rock star. Hey, if my idol, Gene Simmons can still be rockin’ it at age 69, no reason why I don’t still have time, right? Anyway, back to the subject of this post. I believe we all imagine what goes on in a rock band tour bus, but I’ve got to tell you I was amazed by the deep conversation we had. I gotta tell you the conversation yesterday is going to span several blog posts.

First of all, Johnny Hawkins, Mark Vollelunga, Daniel Oliver, and Ben Anderson, the band members of Nothing More, are four of the greatest guys you will ever meet. They are super friendly and very deep and philosophical thinkers. Need I say more for you to understand my gravitation toward them. So, I asked them if they would tell me a little more about one of their songs, DO YOU REALLY WANT IT?,” that I use to introduce a leadership training session I do. Little did I know the great conversation that was about to begin. As I said earlier, the conversation is going to turn into several blog posts, but this morning’s is going to be about something that Johnny Hawkins talked about that really made me pause and think; think about my own actions, as well as others.

Johnny started talking about “virtue signaling.” If you would have told me we were going to talk “virtue signaling” on Nothing More’s tour bus before yesterday, I would have told you you were nuts. But, I gotta tell you, I really wanted to get back on the bus and ride to the next venue, and have one of those all night philosophical discussions. I loved Johnny’s visual description of “virtue signaling” when he took his fingers and made a circle ⭕️ symbolizing a button and held it to his chest. He talked about how this signaling is a camouflage. It’s noticeable how often virtue signalling consists of saying we hate things. Or, many times by saying we are for something, we are saying how much better we are than others. The emphasis on hate distracts from the fact we are really saying how good we are.

“Virtue signaling” is a habit we now have of indicating that one has virtue merely by expressing disgust or favor for certain political ideas, cultural happenings, or philosophical or religious beliefs. The phrase was coined by the British author, James Bartholomew. When we seize moments to throw a fit about what or who we hate, we many times are not really talking about the real issues or our philosophical differences with another person, we are just showing our vanity and try to signal to others how virtuous we are. As James Bartholomew said, “If you were frank and said, ‘I care about the environment more than most people do’ or ‘I care about the poor more than others’, your vanity and self-aggrandizement would be obvious. . . . Anger and outrage disguise your boastfulness.” In other words we are not talking anything of fact or substance. Johnny pointed out that we really need to take a step back and think about what we can do. This is much tougher than just saying we are going to solve world hunger, eliminate all racism, or make all schools great. Think about it. It is easy to say those things, but a much tougher conversation when we begin to think about what we are personally going to do.

We discussed how we talk about changing the world, but we really need to think about changing the things within the scope of what we can control or affect change. A big part of that is just changing and growing ourselves. That’s why I am so moved by the chorus in the lyrics of the song, DO YOU REALLY WANT IT? where it says, “Everybody wants to change the world, But one thing’s clear, No one ever wants to change themselves.” This is the chorus that I use for a major discussion among up and coming leaders. As you can see, this prompted an inspiring discussion that helped me grow as a person and leader that I have not even begun to scratch the surface on in this post. How about you? Do you really want it? What can you change? Are you willing to change yourself? Or will you “virtue signal” and blame others? Let’s take our “virtue buttons” of our chests and talk about substance and the issues not about the people and personalities.