Tag Archives: mission

Story Helps Leaders Get Everyone in the Groove

In spring 2017, the Association Forum invited Barkada Circle® to conduct a CEO Exchange about organizational storytelling and its role in leading transformative change.
Participants shared how they engage members to tell their own stories and, on the flip side, what challenges they have in explaining their mission to a new audience.

The discussion revealed the following common questions:

  • How do I tell a story that encapsulates everything
    that the association does for its members?
  • How do I communicate my vision in a way that
    prospective members can understand?
  • How do I navigate change with everyone on the same page?

To meet these objectives, a leader must first connect with people on a personal level. Story is an emergent form of communication that taps into people’s unique experiences and into their emotions which hold the triggers for their actions. Story helps people realize their shared experiences and become open to dialogue.

Satisfy a basic human need for connection.

Harvard Business School published an interview with screenwriting coach Robert McKee in 2003 where he describes how leaders can use a storytelling framework to motivate team members to work toward common goals. Why does it make a world of difference to go
beyond rhetoric and present your case in a story? According to McKee:

“A story expresses how and why life changes. You want
to display the struggle between expectation and reality
in all its nastiness. It demands vivid insight and
storytelling skill to present an idea that packs enough
emotional power to be memorable.”

Whether they are aware of it or not, CEOs, directors and managers tell stories every
day–either to others or to themselves. They talk to staff about values, objectives and
procedures. They create scenarios in their minds to help in decision making.
Their biggest challenge is in leading people from different backgrounds and with
different belief systems toward mutual understanding and cohesive action.

Cultivate shared vulnerability.

Brene Brown–author, scholar and research professor at the University of Houston Graduate College of Social Work–has spent more than ten years studying human connection. During her TED Talk in June 2010 about vulnerability, she concluded by saying:

“Ultimately, by accepting that we don’t always
know and we don’t always have, we start
gaining the courage to take risks and make
truly meaningful connections.”

A great leader tells stories that convey her own personal journey–that she is only one
person, in need of many–to fulfill the mission. Knowing why it matters to one helps
to build understanding for why it matters to many. By embracing vulnerability, a leader
can provide a safe place where story sharing inspires collaboration, builds trust and
empowers individuals to band together and meet the challenge ahead.

Dance with change.

British philosopher Alan Wilson Watts, author of The Wisdom of Insecurity: A Message for an Age of Anxiety, said it best:

“The only way to make sense out of change is to plunge
into it, move with it, and join the dance.”

Treat change like a moving target. Develop the habit of rewriting the organization’s story every now and then. Pooling together the collective imagination of the members, volunteers, staff, board and community partners shapes an environment that allows creativity to thrive and encourages innovation. It’s a culture shift where change seizes to be the enemy and becomes music with a new rhythm. Are you ready to lead everyone in the dance?

The daunting task of telling a compelling organizational story is a common feeling among association CEOs and directors. Let Barkada Circle® help you harness the power of story to lead with courage and compassion. Send us an email or call us at (773) 852-3522.

Leadership and Story: Let emotions be your guide

Value is intrinsic to the culture of an organization, and it is the role of a leader to help its members find meaning in their values. A great leader articulates the organization’s vision in ways that create clarity in carrying out the mission every day.

Story is the best vehicle for illustrating and stewarding this vision so that people can forge deeper meaning in their work by connecting the task to their humanity. Leaders who promote a culture of storytelling help team members form a deeper emotional relationship with the mission and with each other.

What makes a great leader? Listen to three change makers share their stories about how they discovered the true meaning of leadership.

Simon Sinek, Fields Wicker-Miurin, Julian Treasure

Connection, Conversation and Hot Chocolate

Our storytelling theme for this month is on honing and delivering your elevator pitch to
engage a potential donor. The main components for accomplishing these are, essentially,
the same components in effective communication. Be prepared with a personally
compelling message. Be present in the moment. Be interested in what the other person
is saying. Listen.

I invite you to listen to three voices with deep experiences in verbal communication and making connections. One of them even has a way to make your voice feel rich and warm like hot chocolate.

Celeste Headlee, Julian Treasure, Kare Anderson

You can also read my latest blog entry The best elevator pitch is about you.
It forms a good pairing with this podcast. Enjoy!

The best elevator pitch is about you.

The door opens, you both step into the car and she pushes the button for the lobby.
It’s a few floors down so you decide to strike up a conversation about the event that you just attended. She then asks: “What do you do?”

Surely, you’ve had several opportunities to deliver your elevator pitch without having
to actually be inside an elevator. However, knowing a definitive cutoff for the encounter
demands brevity and a stunning ability to leave a lasting impression on the other person. How do you make the best use of this moment?

One can argue that you can never be ready for a chance encounter that could lead to a
potentially large gain for your nonprofit. Granted that each time is unique, you can still have a game plan that will help you to begin from a point of clarity and confidence.

Stick with the basics.
Your pitch must be grounded by answering three questions:

  1. Who is served by your mission?
  2. How do they benefit?
  3. Why does it matter to you?

The first two can be lifted directly from your website. The third should be centered
around YOU.

Come from a genuine place.
A dear friend and mentor once told me, “More important than your message is your
relationship with your message.”
At that particular moment, the person talking to you
is interested in you. Information that reveals who you are will do a better job holding
his attention during the short ride. Therefore, by all means, make it personal.

“Our mission matters so much to me because…”
“Working in this nonprofit gives my life meaning and purpose because…”

Your pitch is not a list.
Too often, I hear nonprofit staff rattle off their programs while the other person’s gaze starts to wander. Once you lose eye contact with the other person, they have a great excuse to disengage. Your audience will remain captive with a conversation, not a set of bullet points.

Be an opportunity maker.
Now that you have her undivided attention, she may want to spend a few more minutes with you even after you’ve both left the elevator. This is your chance to switch the focus and make it about the other person. What can she gain from this brief encounter? Can she learn about recent critical developments in your field? Can he benefit from meeting someone on your board? At this point, be an active listener.

Seth Godin said, “The best elevator pitch is true, stunning, brief and it leaves the listener
eager (no, desperate) to hear the rest of it.” 

Your pitch scales your mission down to a human level for the other person to grasp.
By making it personal and meaningful for yourself, your passion for the cause will easily come across in an authentic manner. This is what resonates with your listeners. It will make them want to continue the conversation and find their own meaning in your mission.

If you’re interested in how Barkada Circle can guide you in honing your elevator pitch, send us an email or call us at (773) 852-3522.

Does Your Mission Have a Compelling Voice?

“I was born in prison. My mother had just been sentenced to 7 years. And by the time I was a freshman in high school, I was already addicted to crystal meth. People would look at me with disgust, my family in particular.” 

“Life was hard for me growing up. I had no dad to look up to. I had no role model. My older brother was in and out of prison. I didn’t know what to do, so I started gang banging.”

What images come to mind about the characters making these statements?

2014-02-21 09.01.11Recently, the Not-For-Profit Network of the Naperville Area Chamber of Commerce hosted a storytelling workshop delivered by Barkada Circle. Does Your Mission Have a Compelling Voice? gave participants the opportunity to delve into the challenges they face in creating stories that engage their audience, especially potential donors. The overarching question was: “How do we determine who should be telling the story of our mission?”

The conversation centered around two videos about one organization’s mission. Fresh Lifelines for Youth is a nonprofit dedicated to breaking the cycle of violence, crime and incarceration of teens. One video was created in 2007 and the second in 2012. Both videos were done professionally. They tell the same story with overlapping characters, but they differ in how the story is told.

The first video begins with putting the teens in a negative light. The statements at the start of this blog entry are direct quotes from this video. Does this draw the audience into the narrative? It then introduces the adult staff describing the programs and their successes.fly1_cast

It’s clear that in this video, the organization is the voice and the hero because they are presented as the one with the ability to make change happen for the youth. “We have the answers and our programs work.” On the other hand, the youth are helpless and have lost all hope. What strikes me the most is that staffers are identified with their names and titles, but the video begins and ends with nameless teens. We are not given the opportunity to get to know them.

In its retelling, the story introduces the teens in a positive light so they appear to a wider audience as relatable characters. Then, in their own voice, they share their personal histories. We see them interacting and having real conversations with staff as they progress through the programs. We hear them contemplating their options and the consequences of their choices. We hear their aspirations. Their collective voice reflects the success of the programs.fly2_cast

In this version of the story, I am struck by the deeper insights shared by staff based on what they’ve learned from interacting with the teens. In my view, the adult staffers are clearly represented as the supportive structure that raises up the youth to be perceived by the audience as, in the words of Christa Gannon, Founder & Executive Director, “strong, resilient, and possess a spark of goodness that the rest of the world needs to see.”

Who is the new voice–the one with the power to move the story forward? Who now embodies the true meaning of the mission and its impact?

For more information about Fresh Lifelines for Youth, go to http://flyprogram.org. To find out more about the programs and upcoming events of the Naperville Area Chamber of Commerce Not-For-Profit Network, please contact Kara Carpenter, Programs Assistant, at (630) 544-3360 or visit the chamber’s website at www.naperville.net.

The purpose of Culture

What stories about your community are being told outside of your physical boundaries? Why is it important for you to be the voice that moves the truth forward?

Your mission is your purpose. It guides how you make decisions, where you spend your resources and what goals to pursue. People will try to connect this with what you allow them to perceive. It becomes the main theme for the story they tell themselves about you.

And then there’s culture. As an organization, what you believe gives meaning to your purpose. What you share with others gives you a strong sense of place. Your story has roots that give you the courage to step outside and reveal your true identity, not to isolate yourself, but rather to invite others to discover who you really are. And to ask them the same question: “Who are you?”

“Let’s shift our collective consciousness and remember that we belong to one another.”
— Matika Wilbur, photographer, project 562

Mission: On The Air

party934I’d like to invite you to be a guest on my radio program and tell the story of your nonprofit’s mission. Barkada Circle broadcasts live every Monday at 10am Central on Party934.com which is a project of the Free Form Radio Initiative, a nonprofit organization whose mission is to provide diverse and innovative online broadcasting that reflects the interests and concerns of the community.

You can tune in on Monday during my next live broadcast or listen to recordings of recently aired programs on http://party934.com/BarkadaCircle. Here’s the podcast of the interview we did in April with local artist Lindsay Obermeyer who tells her story about using her art form and collaborating with nonprofit organizations in a number of cities in the midwest to create a stronger sense of community for the people in these areas. Send an email to pon@barkadacreative.com and we can schedule your story for a future program.

Podcast: Meet our Panelists

Today’s broadcast highlighted a brief snapshot of each of the nonprofits who will share their stories on our social media panel discussion later this week: Who is the Face (and Voice) of Your Mission?

party934Thursday, May 16
5:30 – 8:00 pm
i.c.stars
415 N. Dearborn, Chicago

Listen to my hour podcast with some musical breaks on independent, nontraditional radio Party934.com. Hope it wets your appetite to join the conversation on Thursday. Click to sign up.

See you then!