Tanveer Naseer

Leadership Coach, Speaker, and Writer

What Storytelling Reveals As The Role Leaders Should Play

A revealing look at three stories that help to illustrate how the function of leaders is to serve as mentors for the real heroes of their organization – their employees.

A few weeks ago, I wrote a piece about 3 fundamental storytelling elements leaders should employ to successfully drive change.

Now when it comes to using storytelling to help describe our vision or change initiative, the common tendency is to frame our story within the hero on a quest narrative, given how it’s the decisions and choices we make through our leadership that ultimately impact whether we collectively succeed or fail.

And yet, the truth is that while we may be the source of the vision or change initiative that guides our collective efforts, the actual role we play as leaders in our organization’s story is not that of the hero, but that of the mentor.

To understand why the role of mentor is the proper fit for leaders in terms of the journey your organization needs to take, let’s start off by looking at the three characteristics that define what a mentor does:

1. Mentors act as our teacher and guide
The most common role mentors play is that of a teacher and guide; that they use their own experiences and insights to help others learn about themselves and find the path they are meant to take to achieve a sense of meaning and purpose in their lives.

2. Mentors serve as both our cheerleader and our challenger
Mentors will often cheer us on – inspiring us to keep pushing ahead, and eager to celebrate our successes. But mentors also challenge us to question our assumptions of what we’re capable of and what we can achieve.

3. The mentoring relationship has a fixed end point
There’s a clear end point in the relationship between the mentor and the mentee. Specifically, that once the mentor has provided their mentee with all the help and guidance they can provide, it’s time for the mentee to use their acquired knowledge and insights to continue their journey on their own.

Taken together, these three characteristics illustrate what Christopher Vogler wrote in his book, “The Writer’s Journey”:

“Mentors provide heroes with motivation, inspiration, guidance, training, and gifts for the journey. Every hero is guided by something, and a story without some acknowledgement of this energy is incomplete.”

Interestingly, Vogler’s description of the role mentors play in storytelling mirrors the function of effective leadership. Namely, that it’s a leader’s responsibility to craft a vision that inspires people to commit their best efforts, as well as providing our employees with the support and guidance to help make that vision a reality.

Of course, when it comes to storytelling, it’s easy for us to imagine ourselves being the heroes of our organization’s story thanks to our leadership role. And yet, the simple truth is that as leaders, we serve as the mentor to the real heroes of our organization’s story – our employees [Twitter logoShare on Twitter].

With that in mind, I’d like to share stories from three different movies that help shine a light on how we can serve as mentors through our leadership to bring out the best in those we lead: Click here to continue reading »”What Storytelling Reveals As The Role Leaders Should Play”

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”

Creating A Customer-Centric Culture – The Disney Way

A lesson from the Disney organization on how storytelling can help leaders to build and sustain a customer-centric organizational culture.

The following is a guest piece by Bill Capodagli.

What is corporate culture? One of my clients once defined it as what employees do when everything else is stripped away or what they do when no one is looking. Twenty years ago, corporate or business culture sort of just happened…good, bad or indifferent.

More recently, executives have learned that creating a customer-centric culture can lead to a huge competitive advantage. In 2005, J. Kotter and James L. Heskett published their 10-year research project – “Corporate Culture and Performance” – in which they compared companies that intentionally managed their cultures to similar companies that did not.
Here are some of their findings:

Managed Their Cultures

  • Revenue growth of 682 percent.
  • Stock price increases of 901 percent.
  • Net income growth of 756 percent.
  • Job growth of 282 percent.

Did Not Manage Their Cultures

  • Revenue growth of 166 percent.
  • Stock price increase of 74 percent.
  • Net income growth of 1 percent.
  • Job growth of 36 percent.

Culture is now a common word in the lexicon of American business. In 2014, after a massive amount of searches on Merriam Webster’s on-line dictionary site, “culture” was proclaimed the “word of the year. “ In 2016, 87 percent of respondents of Deloitte University Press’ Global Human Capital Trends identified “culture” as important to their organizations.

None of these findings surprise me in the least. In “The Disney Way 3rd edition”, we feature highly successful organizations that have realized great success with Click here to continue reading »”Creating A Customer-Centric Culture – The Disney Way”

Why Storytelling Matters In Today’s Leadership

Power-of-storytelling-leadership

With this latest piece on my leadership blog, I’m delighted to announce a new partnership with The Economist Executive Education Navigator. The opportunity to collaborate with such a respected and renowned publication is both an exciting opportunity and a great honour.

Through this new partnership, I will be contributing articles to The Economist Executive Education Navigator and in addition, I will be featuring articles originally published on The Economist Executive Education Navigator website. So to kickstart this new partnership, I decided to reprint the article below on the importance of storytelling skills for today’s leaders. But before I do, allow me to first share my own thoughts on this topic.

Of the many skills and traits that today’s leaders are expected to have in order to help their organization succeed and thrive, effective communication is without question one of critical foundation stones for successful leadership in today’s interconnected, digital world.

Of course, when it comes to discussions on how leaders can do a better job communicating their idea or vision to those under their care, there is naturally a focus on how leaders can employ storytelling to not only articulate their vision, but how this communication tool can help motivate employees to commit their native talents, creativity, and insights to making that shared purpose a reality.

Granted, in this digital age of text messages, emails, video conferencing, and social media, storytelling as a communication tool can seem a bit quaint, harkening more the image of people sitting around a campfire sharing stories than around a conference table trying to figure out the next steps of a new initiative or how to resolve a current issue.

But the fact remains that storytelling is a powerful and effective vehicle for leaders to better inform, inspire, and educate those they lead of not only the journey before them, but of the challenges that stand in their way.

The simple truth is that no one Click here to continue reading »”Why Storytelling Matters In Today’s Leadership”

How Are You Helping Your Employees To Be Your Organization’s Heroes?

When it comes to movies, TV shows, and novels, it’s usually pretty obvious who the hero of the story is. But what about in your organization’s story? Do you recognize who plays the role of the hero for your organization? That was the focus of my previous piece, which I’m grateful to see received a lot of attention and enthusiasm from the readers of this blog.

As I read the comments and responses to this piece, I began to wonder about something. If we understand that our employees are the heroes of our organization’s story, why then do so many employees feel disengaged at work? Why is there a persisting lack of meaning or purpose connected to the efforts and contributions made by those we lead?

Of course, the easy answer to such a question is to simply cast blame on an aloof or uncaring leadership; of organizations being run simply to cater to the whims and self-interests of those on top at the expense of those on the lower rungs. Certainly, the public revelations made about how Goldman Sachs has devolved from a focus of serving their clients to a more self-serving one would seem to support this.

And yet, a more realistic view of today’s organizations reveals that such leadership and cultural attitudes tend to be more the exception than the norm. When it comes to demonstrating that your employees are the heroes in your organization’s story, the disconnect we’re seeing here Click here to continue reading »”How Are You Helping Your Employees To Be Your Organization’s Heroes?”

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