Tag Archives: leadership

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

Your mission is a work of art.

In yesterday’s post, I talked about a blog entry by Seth Godin — renowned author, public speaker and entrepreneur — how he values imagination and what it can do for organizations moving forward in this age of uncertainty. Recently Seth also had a conversation with Krista Tippett which was recorded on American Public Media for Krista’s program called On Being. In their dialog, Seth pointed out that “rather than merely tolerating change, we are all called now to rise to it. We are invited and stretched in whatever we do to be artists — to create in ways that matter to other people.”

One of the questions that Krista asked Seth was, “Who is today’s artist?” According to Seth, today’s artist solves a problem in an interesting and innovative way — in a way that matters to a specific group of people. The age of trying to appeal to everyone (ultimately to no one) and doing mass marketing is over. Success is now driven by making real positive impact on what Seth calls a tribe — individuals with shared values and beliefs. If you can connect people in a tribe and amplify their values and beliefs so they can make more connections on their own, then you’re on your way to achieving real impact and success with your art.

So what does it take to connect people in a tribe? What do they readily share? What keeps them engaged? Stories encapsulate the tribe’s history and their mission, what led them on that specific path, their vision for change, and the relationships between the members and their emotional ties to what their community stands for. It all begins with something personal, something that awakens the human spirit — a tapestry that unfolds into a shared narrative.

One Chicago nonprofit, A Silver Lining Foundation, is dedicated to the fight against cancer by ensuring that underserved individuals affected by cancer have access to information and treatment options, regardless of their socio-economic situation. The organization was founded by Dr. Sandy Goldberg of NBC Chicago after she was diagnosed with breast cancer. For Dr. Sandy, hers is more than a tribe, it’s a family. Here is Dr. Sandy’s story, in her own words.

Experience live other compelling stories of local nonprofits at WHAT’S YOUR READ, Barkada Circle’s storytelling jam session in March: http://barkadacircle.com/jam-session

Leadership and Designing Change

I recently volunteered at the 2012 BoardSource Leadership Forum where more than 800 nonprofit leaders from across the United States had the opportunity to network, exchange ideas and participate in thought-provoking sessions. The name of the event was Designing Change: Commit. Connect. Collaborate.

My biggest takeaway was that in order to develop true innovation in governance, leaders need to move away from their comfort zones and dare to do something they’ve never done before. From personal experience, I know I’ve made the shift when my heart beats ten times faster, palms sweat and I simply couldn’t wipe the smile off my face. It’s a combined feeling of anxiety and triumph knowing in your gut that something great is about to happen. You just have to stay the course.

We also must not lose sight of the other important part of the equation–having the right partners in your journey. We’ve heard it before and it was repeated many times during the two-day forum: Collaboration is key. Work with individuals and groups who share your mission and can easily align with your efforts. No one organization should go it alone.

During the closing plenary, Linda C. Crompton, President & CEO of BoardSource, highlighted a three-part vision that started with the question “WHAT IF?” Following is an excerpt of Crompton’s remarks.

WHAT IF: We looked at our board recruitment in a whole new way?

Getting the right people, and the right mix of people, is both an art and a science. It means going outside your comfort zone and thinking about new ways to find board members.

The Commitment:

  • Analyze your board’s skill sets and expertise and identify gaps.
  • Be open to board candidates outside of your existing network.
  • Prevent the composition of your board from becoming static by using term limits.

WHAT IF: Every board lived a culture of inclusion?

Living a culture of inclusion means bringing together a diverse group of people, then ensuring that every member’s voice is heard and valued.

The Commitment:

  • Have an honest conversation about whether or not your board is inclusive.
  • Commit to a written plan of action on how your board might need to change.
  • Seek support if training or other resources are needed.

WHAT IF: Collaborative leadership took hold in the boardroom?

In the best boards, members share leadership. Boards that share leadership and responsibility discover new sources of strength and intellect they never knew existed.

The Commitment:

  • Assess and discuss how well your board is sharing leadership.
  • Provide meaningful leadership opportunities for all board members and rotate officer positions.
  • Ensure that your executive committee is not marginalizing the rest of your board.

Crompton’s What IF’s can be summarized in what I believe to be an essential step to advance your cause with real impact: In order for change to happen, you first must change your story.