Tanveer Naseer

Leadership Coach, Speaker, and Writer

3 Storytelling Elements That Successfully Drive Change

3 powerful lessons leaders can learn from storytelling that will help them to effectively drive change in their organization.

Leaders face an ever-growing number of challenges leading their organization in today’s faster-paced, increasingly interconnected world. One of the more common issues a leader has to address is dealing with change.

In most cases, when we talk about change, the focus is often on the process – of what steps we need to implement to ensure we achieve a successful outcome. And yet, what we fail to take into consideration is how using the power of storytelling can help us to ignite effective and sustainable change within our organization.

To illustrate what I mean, allow me to share this story of Mary, a fellow team leader who I worked with a few years ago.

At one of our weekly team leader meetings, Mary talked about a plan she had shared with the organization’s senior leadership about a new change initiative. As Mary described the details of her proposal, she pointed out the various benefits it would create for the organization in the upcoming years.

It was clear to everyone around the table that Mary had not only done her homework in conceptualizing this change initiative, but that she was also very passionate about her proposal.

Now, normally, when someone proposes any kind of change initiative, people tend to fall into one of three groups – one group that almost immediately loves the idea, another group that takes a more guarded wait-and-see stance, and the final group that actively resists it either because they don’t agree or because they’re concerned about what unexpected issues this change will give rise to.

But as I looked around at the various team leaders, I didn’t see supporters, naysayers, or those taking a more neutral, cautious stance. Instead, what I saw was a complete lack of interest in Mary’s proposal, something that became all the more apparent when Mary asked if anyone had any questions and was met with vague shrugs and silence.

On the surface, Mary’s idea wasn’t overtly good or bad, so why did the other leaders around that conference table react to her change proposal with such indifference?

While we might think the issue is tied specifically to the technical aspects of her change initiative, a closer look at how Mary went about presenting her proposal demonstrates a failure to consider three fundamentals to effective storytelling and how these elements can be powerful devices for driving change in your organization.

1. Craft a simple, memorable message of what you’re trying to achieve
As a writer, I enjoy watching movies and TV shows that create complex storylines that slowly unravel and evolve as the story progresses. When it’s done right, it allows for both a deeper look inside a character’s motivations, as well as creating a more rich experience as the viewer delves further into this imaginary world.

Of course, the problem with complex storytelling is Click here to continue reading »”3 Storytelling Elements That Successfully Drive Change”

A Year-End Note Of Inspiration To Keep Pushing Ahead

An end-of-year note to inspire leaders to challenge their outlook for how they will empower the best in those they lead.

With the end of one year and the beginning of a new one now upon us, the typical response for many of us is to reflect on what’s transpired over these past 12 months, while at the same time looking ahead in anticipation of what’s to come in the new year.

In the case of 2016, there seems to be a common consensus that this was a particularly bad year which many are glad to see come to an end. For some, this sentiment is borne from the loss of certain musicians, actors, and artists over the past 12 months, while for others, this feeling stems from the results of various political elections and referendums held around the world.

Of course, what is interesting about these negative impressions regarding this year is that the outcomes that many use to define 2016 as being a particularly ‘bad year’ have yet to be felt. It’s only in the months ahead that we’ll appreciate how there won’t be any new performances or new creative works from the musicians, actors and other creative types who passed away in 2016.

And while the voting process for Brexit and the US presidential election was held this year, the real consequences and impact of those choices won’t be truly felt or understood until well into 2017 and beyond. In other words, the ending of 2016 marks only the beginning for the UK and the US – along with the rest of the world – as to what their choices will give rise to in terms of what the future will hold for their respective countries.

And yet, this hasn’t stopped many from looking at these events in isolation; as a reflection of what this year represents, as opposed to what they might give rise to in the months and years ahead.

This disparity between an event and its long-term repercussions provides an important reminder for leaders everywhere, of the difference between how we might see things in our organization and how our employees experience them.

Consider, for example, when your organization experiences a loss or failure like when your organization loses a key contract to a competitor despite your team’s efforts, or when a new product/service that’s been championed to be your organization’s next great accomplishment fails to deliver on that promise.

In those moments, it’s only natural that the prevailing mood in your organization will be gloomy – that your employees will feel discouraged, possibly even disillusioned because they believed in their potential to succeed.

It’s in these moments where our leadership is needed most – not simply to Click here to continue reading »”A Year-End Note Of Inspiration To Keep Pushing Ahead”

The ”New Normal” For The C-Suite – Learning Agile Leaders

A look at agility and leadership and 4 strategies CEOs can use to create a learning agile C-suite team in their organization.

The following is a guest piece by Peter Thies, Ph.D.

What are CEOs looking for in the next generation of C-Suite leaders? Let’s look at three real-world examples:

1. Growth Leaders – The CEO of a multi-billion dollar industrial products company boldly sets an ambitious growth goal of growing revenue by 40% over a three-year period. He has a Board-approved strategy, a solid operating plan with targets, and a newly developed business unit organization structure to implement it.

But he also knows that this is the easy part. What’s the hard part? It’s building a cadre of leaders who can grow the company at a rapid clip. No one has asked them to do anything like this before. They have good managers, but do they have growth leaders?

2. Champions of the Greater Good – The CEO of a large, global educational services company is reorganizing to increase its impact in the company’s areas of focus. The new organizational model will enable linkages across the company, connecting people from various disciplines together to innovate and drive marketplace success.

The CEO needs to staff several newly defined senior executive roles with leaders who will drive collaboration across former fiefdoms and make decisions that put the company, not their unit, first. Which leaders will have not only domain expertise but also the ability to wear an “Enterprise Hat”?

3. Transformational Leaders – A well-respected publishing company is transforming its brand. It must reach new audiences with ever more impactful content and diversify its traditional sources of revenue. The CEO came on board with a change imperative and is heading into the third year of a multi-year transformation process.

After collaboratively developing a strategy with her Board and engaging all employees in the change process, the time is now to see the changes implemented flawlessly. She needs her leadership team to collaborate across silos, make difficult strategic and operational decisions and lead with a more integrated “One Company” mindset. Who will help her lead this transformation?

The New Normal: Learning Agile Leaders Who Operate At The Enterprise Level
These are real CEOs from real companies across vastly different industries, with different business models and different profit motives. But they share one challenge in common: Click here to continue reading »”The ”New Normal” For The C-Suite – Learning Agile Leaders”

A Timely Reminder Of The Power Of Empathy In Leadership

This week's US election day provides a unique backdrop on which to illustrate the importance of empathy in today's leadership.

No matter where you live, there’s no question that the big story this week is the arrival of the US election and who the American public has decided to serve their country as their next President. For those outside of the US, it’s been both an interesting and troubling journey the US electorate has been put through, especially in its final few months.

Although I’m Canadian, it’s easy to relate to and understand the frustration and dismay many Americans have felt over the course of this election period, along with a good dose of wariness for what lies ahead after the election is over, regardless of who wins.

And yet, this current US election does provide an important lesson for leaders everywhere of just how important empathy is becoming to our ability to lead, as we’ve been given a concrete example of just how quickly things can fall apart when we divide people into groups of “us” versus “them”.

And to be clear, politics is not the only domain where this happens. All of us have had the experience of working with someone we don’t like, and sometimes even someone who we feel – or even know – is working to undermine our authority or credibility in the eyes of our co-workers or those we lead.

And in those circumstances, it becomes very easy for us to delineate those we view to be in “our camp” and those who we look upon with doubt and mistrust because they align themselves with those we dislike.

But what this past US election has shown us is that if we allow those feelings to fester, if we choose to allow others to exploit and drive that wedge that separates people based on what we lack in common with one another, we will end up not only with a more hostile work environment, but we will be permitting conditions to take hold that will make it even more difficult for our employees to get things done.

And this is why emotional intelligence and in particular, empathy, has become so critical to our ability to effectively lead others – empathy allows us to bridge the gap between how we see things and how others experience them [Twitter-logo-smallShare on Twitter].

Through our empathy, we’re able to move beyond the binary attitude of “I’m right/you’re wrong” which can impede any initiative from moving forward, to one that’s driven by the desire to discover that common ground we share with one another so that we can promote collaboration and foster sustainable growth.

It’s a truth that becomes all the more obvious when we remember that the key to your organization’s success and future prosperity is no longer based solely on the processes and technologies found within your company’s walls, but within the talents, insights, and experiences of those you lead. Something that one can tap into only if we create conditions where people feel connected to what they do and to those around them, as well as being a part of the shared purpose that defines your collective efforts.

But how do we know if we’re truly being empathetic in our leadership? How can we tell if we’re creating Click here to continue reading »”A Timely Reminder Of The Power Of Empathy In Leadership”

Do Your Organization’s Values Reflect What It Stands For?

The recent scandal at Wells Fargo provides a unique backdrop to discuss the role organizational values should be playing in today's leadership.

Over the past several months, there has been a growing discussion and even discord in various parts of the world over the issue of reasserting what our values are as a society and country.

From the various debates in European countries about the sociological impact of rising refugee populations, to the polarizing political climate brewing within the current US election period, there’s been a growing unrest in certain countries to ‘protect their country’s values’ in light of changing demographics and the growing interdependence brought on by today’s global economy.

Ironically, in almost every one of these discussions regarding the importance of protecting a society’s or country’s values, there’s a noticeable absence of clarity about which values exactly are in need of protection, or are currently at risk of being washed away by the arrival of immigrants and refugees on their country’s proverbial shores (in most cases, when certain values are pointed out as being at risk, they tend to be those that are already enshrined in a country’s laws or are deeply entrenched in existing cultural norms).

That lack of clarity about what values these countries need to protect reflects a current affliction impacting many of today’s organizations. Specifically, of how the values an organization uses to define who they are and what they’re all about tend to be contradicted by the decisions and choices their leaders make regarding the best way to achieve their short term goals.

Consider, for example, Wells Fargo, the latest US financial organization to get caught up in a major scandal and subsequent public relations disaster. An examination of the text found on their company’s webpage simply titled “Our Values” reveals this telling statement:

“All team members should know our values so well that if our policy manuals didn’t exist, we would still make decisions based on our common understanding of our culture and what we stand for. … If we had to choose, we’d rather have a team member who lives by our values than one who just memorizes them.”

And then further down on this same page, Wells Fargo identifies “ethics” and “what’s right for our customers” as being among those values that they expect all of their employees to recognize and abide by in how they perform their duties within their organization.

Now, considering the recent revelation that this financial institution had created almost 2 million fraudulent bank and credit card accounts in order to increase fees they charged to their existing client base, it’s not surprising that this company has lost the confidence and trust of both their customer base and the public at large. The fact that their actions blatantly contradict the very values they espouse to hold dear only makes the hole in which they’ve dug themselves into even deeper and harder to get out of.

But the larger issue this situation exposes for other organizations is whether Click here to continue reading »”Do Your Organization’s Values Reflect What It Stands For?”

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