Use the 3 Elements of a Good Story to Lead With Power

The Power of Story

When I was growing up, I spent many weekends camping with my Boy Scout Troop in pursuit of my Eagle Scout badge. One thing I remember about those trips was the campfires and the stories we told. From the scary to the hilarious, those stories created an environment as we entertained each other. No devices, no distractions, just stories.

We may live in a different time, but the power of story remains an important part of memory, of persuasion, and of leadership.

A few months ago, we spotlighted Procter & Gamble executive Paul Smith, who is now a speaker and trainer on storytelling techniques. His latest book, Sell with a Story: How to Capture Attention, Build Trust, and Close the Sale is a powerful reminder of the power of story.

After our written interview, I met with him in person to continue our conversation.

 

“There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you.” –Maya Angelou

 

We discuss the 3 elements of a great story:

How to Win the Innovation Race

Change A Culture to Change the Game 

 

Why do some companies win at innovation while others fail?

How important is innovation to your growth?

 

From individual entrepreneurs to large global organizations, it seems everyone is chasing innovation. And it’s no wonder: Economists estimate that 80% of business growth comes from innovation.

So how do you develop an innovation culture powerful enough to consistently produce?

Gaia Grant and Andrew Grant are the authors of The Innovation Race: How to Change a Culture to Change the Game. They are the Directors of Tirian International Consultancy and help create innovative cultures for a range of businesses.

I recently spoke with them about global innovation.

 

The top 25% of innovative companies grow 2x as fast.

 

The Pace of Change

How is the accelerating pace of technological innovation impacting strategy and innovation?

Andrew Grant: Most people would be aware of how the pace of technological innovation has been accelerating, but conducting the research for our book The Innovation Race has really highlighted this issue and made us think about the potential impact of this manic race. We have discovered that the pace of change is now so rapid that we are in an unprecedented position. It’s like there’s an automatic speed-up setting on the treadmill that can’t be changed, and if we’re not careful the pace will just become too much to handle. Since the rate of technological innovation in particular has become exponential, a whole new leadership strategy and approach will be required. Small incremental innovations will not be enough to keep up. It will also be necessary to look ahead and anticipate the next new trends. By constantly looking for breakthrough new ideas and being ready to implement them faster, it can be possible to stay ahead of the curve. Agile new systems and structures will need to be built that can respond rapidly and effectively.

What is sustainable innovative action?

Gaia Grant: There’s no point innovating for the quick sale and short-term success. Innovation also needs to be able to be sustained over the long term. And, at a deeper level, it should be socially and environmentally responsible for the good of all people and the planet. Sustainable innovative action requires a balance of focusing on both short-term survival and long-term strategy: On the one hand the organization needs to be flexible enough to adapt to new needs and trends, but it also needs to be stable enough to be able to ride out the stormy times with a firm foundation. This will be both the greatest challenge and the greatest opportunity for success.

 

Authentic Connections Foster Innovation

How is empathy related to innovation?

andrew and gaia grantGaia Grant: Many people will innovate from their own perspective. That is, they will decide what they think the end user wants or what will sell the best and innovate based on this viewpoint. But being able to see from another person’s perspective is essential for innovation that connects with real needs, innovation that can make a difference in people’s lives and in the world – or purpose-driven innovation – and this requires empathy. To really embody empathy, you need to be able to see what someone else sees and, more than that, to be able to feel what someone else feels. This ensures the innovation process is human-centric and user-focused rather than innovator-centric. What’s essential to remember here is that the empathy process should not be a shallow marketing tactic but rather an authentic connection that enables the innovator to address real issues and meet real needs.

 

“Purposeful proximity in clever collaborative spaces can create hothouses for innovation.”

 

How to Create a Culture of Innovation

How do corporate leaders foster and encourage a sustainable innovation culture?

Andrew Grant: Most people assume that innovation is all about openness and freedom, but this is only part of the equation. Sustainable innovation needs to focus on balancing both openness and freedom – as well as the antithesis of these. That is, while there certainly needs to be openness and freedom, there will also need to be some focus and discipline to effectively guide the innovation process. Maintaining this delicate balancing act is at the crux of a sustainable innovation culture. The strategic leader will constantly be adjusting the balance to fit the market changes along with the organization’s current needs and future goals. It needs to be an ongoing constant strategic action, not a set-and-forget approach. It’s situational leadership.

 

4 Paradoxical Challenges to Innovation

How to Bring Out the Remarkable Leader Within

Grace Meets Grit

Recently, I asked a few people to share words that come immediately to mind when I ask about men and women in leadership positions:

  • Salary inequity
  • Unequal representation
  • Misunderstanding
  • Testosterone
  • Powerful when the best of both are valued
  • Need for a level playing field
  • Minefield
  • Different
  • Mars and Venus
  • Unfair

There are many misunderstandings when we talk about men and women in leadership.

 

Only 8% of executive positions are held by women.

 

Daina Middleton takes on the topic in her new book, Grace Meets Grit: How to Bring Out the Remarkable, Courageous Leader Within. In her book, she demonstrates the inherent value of both feminine and masculine leadership styles and how all of us can benefit from an understanding of the value of the different strengths of the sexes. Daina’s experience includes over three decades of business leadership experience in a male-dominated industry. She shares her firsthand observations and stories to help everyone become more effective at leading others. Daina is also an advocate for a more inclusive and practical approach to working together.

I had the opportunity to ask her more about her work.

 

Women CEOs lag men CEOs in terms of tenure by 2 years.

 

Why Gender Bias Training Falls Short

What’s wrong or missing from the ongoing discussion of gender in the workplace? Why is current gender bias training falling short?

The good news is the gender equality conversation is actually happening.  In fact, Google Trends indicates gender equality has actually increased over the past decade.  And the equality discussion certainly must continue because the pay parity gap remains large despite the focus on equality. However, a focus on equality is insufficient because equal literally means the same. While their contributions are equally valuable, men and women bring different behaviors to leadership and this is a very good thing. Women are often measured against male leadership behaviors – mostly because men are still largely in charge.  The result is unfortunate because there are many benefits to both the male “Grit” style of leadership as well as the more relationship “Grace” approach.  Obviously, I am over generalizing to make a point.  Most of us have both male and female qualities, and the best leaders strive to cultivate both within themselves as well as within their organizations.

 

“Inspiring leaders know that trust is vital to inspiration.” -Daina Middleton

 

We All Have Grace and Grit Within Us

Grace and grit. Would you give us a little background on each and how they fit into your model? Do you find that naming grace and grit causes a backlash at all in terms of stereotyping?

A person’s leadership style is based on his or her communications style.  Women tend to use communications to establish intimacy and build and maintain relationships. This is what I refer to as the Grace style of leadership. Men (the Grit style), on the other hand, tend to use communications to drive immediate, tangible outcomes, preserve status, and avoid failure.

The male leadership style is an exclusive club, even though it’s often not intentionally exclusive. And, while both women and men bring equal value to the workplace, equal does not mean they are the same. Many times, these differences cause misunderstandings in the workplace at best. At worst, I have actually seen a great leader lose her job because her boss, who was a man, thought she didn’t know how to make decisions because the way she approached decision-making was different from his own.  This is what first sent me down the path to beginning a new gender dialogue that allows us to have meaningful conversations about how women lead differently than men. Only then will we understand the value both bring to the workplace.

As I mentioned above, calling Grace the more relationship-focused female style and Grit the status-conscious, immediate action male style of leadership provides us with a non-confrontational approach to talk about our differences. Bias training is largely focused on helping men understand what it’s like to be a woman. Do you think men will remember this in the heat of a challenging business situation? Probably not. And in fact, all the research shows bias training has largely been ineffective in changing behaviors in the workplace for exactly this reason.  We all have both Grace and Grit within us.  I, for instance, have a more Grit style approach, which at times can be abrasive.  My team recently reminded me of this by asking if I had left Grace at home that day.  Their question prompted me to think about my behaviors and adapt them for the situation.  All great leaders have good awareness of their own style and the needs of others and have the ability to have productive dialogue around them.

 

ILM Survey: 1/2 of women doubted their job performance compared to less than 1/3 of men.

 

What’s the traditional leadership style in the workplace? How is this changing?

How to Develop Leadership Skills in Your Children

This is a guest post by Jane Thompson. Jane is a writer and content manager for Uphours, an online resource with information about businesses. She loves running and reading history books, especially about World War II and the Middle Ages.

 

Leadership Skills for Kids

We live in a world where powerful leaders are capable of accomplishing great things. No one is born a leader – it’s something that people of worthy character grow to be through their experiences. Everyone deserves to be equipped with the leadership skills they need to make a positive impact in the world. Your children are never too young to learn the foundations of what leadership means.

Here are six ways to develop leadership skills in your children:

 

1. Increase Access to Information

Many parents feel the need to shelter their children, or censor them from a lot of things. Rather than cutting off access to that information, try to explain it in an age-appropriate way. If there’s a troubling issue happening in the world, allowing your child to see that and understand why an issue is troubling may inspire innovative thinking. Children are the heroes of the future, and you can’t lead the world without that kind of brainpower.

“Today a reader, tomorrow a leader.” -Margaret Fuller

 

2. Allow Your Authority to Be Questioned

This may feel counterintuitive, but it may be the best thing for your household. Rather than relying on the failsafe “because I said so” response, explain why. Allow your child to ask further questions and barter. Their bartering points won’t always work, but allow them to win these debates when there isn’t much at stake. This will teach your child to negotiate, which is a crucial skill for a leader.

 

“Judge a man by his questions rather than his answers.”-Voltaire

 

3. Inspire Your Children to Work with Teams

Group activities allow children to understand how a hierarchy works, particularly if roles within these groups shift. Perhaps every child has a turn to choose the activity for team playdates. Children are most likely to select something they feel they’re good at. Everyone will have a chance to learn, and everyone will have a chance to teach. Good leaders need to be willing to learn from others.

 

“No individual can win a game by himself.” -Pele

 

4. Teach Your Children to Accept Losses