The story network

I watched The Social Network the other day again while in Whakatane. It’s a story of the founding and growth of Facebook. It’s got a lot of stuff in it – seizing the moment, innovation, right time right place and, not to forget, an idea that connects people. I connect with family and friends on Facebook and see photographs and snippets from those not close by and those close by that I wouldn’t necessarily see easily.

Being too busy right now, a quick look at Facebook can keep me in the loop and provide light relief at times. In facilitation of any sort I’ve noticed it’s sometimes expected that there is level of content delivered, I mean stuff that you can physically hold and take back to the office. In my ideal world we wouldn’t need any of that stuff, we would talk, gather insights, grown and practice with each other to take back to work and home. We’re getting there, Powerpoint is pretty insignificant in my faciliation now, so that’s a start.

While in Whakatane last week we worked with the local iwi. Stories are an intregal component of building relationships in Maori culture and as part of our welcome we shared stories about who we were and why we were present. It was identical in form and content to the ’rounds’ we use in our leadership work.

This week at Waitakere Estate with a leadership team we’ve built the basis of a shared vision, learned about our working preferences, played outside all of which has inevitably led to story-telling.

What I’ve started noticing since facilitating Story telling workshops is that as leaders, we can turn so much of our work into story-telling coaching opportunities. We’ve all got a story and if we can all build those in our team to develop their stories, we can create The Story Network.  And when we do that we’ll grow our organisational culture, engage those in our teams and have some fun!

Go for it!

Stephen

Facilitation for leaders

At the end of a breakfast session recently where I facilitated a session on personal values I was presented with a lovely gift book on facilitation. I joked that I took the hint! I enjoy facilitation, in fact it gives me the kind of happiness that we should all try and get to at work.

Facilitating a team or workgroup is an important part of leadership. Drawing out the blocks that stop us being mindful and in the present, ensuring we’re all heard, using appreciative inquiry to help others deeply understand their issues to grow all  those present, are some of the hallmarks of great facilitation leadership.

Get ready set go!

As you do more you start to notice who’s talking about the topic and who’s talking in the topic. I’ve noticed this a lot in storytelling. Some people tell stories from the heart, others share what the story is about. There’s quite a difference and it can be that those talking about the story aren’t ready for that deep sharing that comes with authentic leadership.

But there can be another reason. So many people are in a rush – give me the bottom line, what’s the key point, we’re all busy so need to move on – you know the signals that espouse efficiency and signal impatience with real meaning.

So if someone in your team is not opening up, try time. Set aside some facilitated time, time to properly hear, be patient, ensure everyone knows not to speak until it’s their turn and you’ll be amazed what comes up. The leadership gems are available for the sake of an hour or so of time.  You’ll need to role-model the listening discipline, watch you don’t watch the watch and actively listen.

Not really that complicated, but a rare gift in our busy lives.

Stephen

Stories we didn’t hear

We never heard their last moments and we didn’t even find their bodies, but the families and friends of nine people who perished in the Christchurch earthquake had their day in the coroner’s court last week. The chief coroner decided that they all died from multiple traumatic injuries and I guess some closure was brought to the families and others close to those that perished.

I just liked this photo that I took today!

They didn’t do anything special – they were just in the wrong place at the wrong time when the earth moved as it regularly does, especially in Christchurch at the moment.  Luck can be a good thing, but also a devastating thing and my thoughts are often with those that lost loved ones  in the 22 February earthquake.

Facilitating a day of storytelling workshops last week we heard some fantastic stories, from the heart. Disclosures of events long ago were made, as the group worked with each other and shared, and in the process grew. Storytelling has a practical application in developing and enhancing leadership. There is nothing more rewarding than hearing a story from years past, and the meaning that it now brings to the leader. Or so I thought. When I thought I’d uncovered all the depth that could be to discover from one participant, I asked (intending to work with how the same stories are told differently in different contexts) “So you’ve told this story before”. Answer “No, that was the first time”. Given the story, that was big and I reckon we had a very special session for all those present.

Luck can decide all sorts of things. Share your stories now. You’ll be giving a gift to everyone, including yourself. Luck put us on the planet. Don’t wait I say.

Stephen

What’s your story?

We have a story telling session this week which has kind of grabbed my attention in unexpected ways. Part of me thinks there’s lot to give out, and part of me thinks, it’s well, just what we do.

When I was out running this evening we talked about the Life in a Day movie project released at the Sundance Film Festival last month. One of our group wants to photograph some

Where does your story start?

of the hills we run on in the Waitakeres: “tell her about your video with Frosty on Scenic Drive” and so the brief story of a foggy but mild Saturday run last July where I filmed part of my contribution to Life in a Day began. and kept us going for a part of our run.

If you’re a regular reader here (remember to subscribe for free to this blog by next Tuesday 1 March and go into the draw to win a book of my choosing!), and even if you’re not, you’ll know that some of the important things we notice in our leaders are authenticity, telling the truth, being vulnerable, mindfulness, being present and vision.

I’ve been doing some reading about story telling (is that one word or two?) and I initially thought that we could use story telling as a valuable part of the leader’s toolbox. But then as I kept reading, deeper insights developed.

Filmmaker Peter Guber (Rain Man, Batman, The Color Purple, Midnight Express) describes four truths of the Story teller:

  • Truth to the teller – authenticity and vulnerablity of the story teller is a critical component of the story.
  • Truth to the audience – once aroused, the audience’s expectations must be fulfilled.
  • Truth to the moment – no story is told the same, the storyteller responds to the context at that moment.
  • Truth to the mission – the story teller is committed to a vision beyond themselves.

So is it a good idea to learn some story telling techniques as a leader? Maybe it is. But I reckon we’ll find out at our story telling session that we’ll go deeper than learning about story telling. We’ll start with our own autheniticity and vulnerability to grow to yet another level. And those around us will say we’re great leaders. They’ll notice we are authentic and vulnerable and have a vision – they’ll hear it in the story.  And no wonder I love the movies. We all have a story. What’s yours?

Stephen