Using Stories to Make Your Point

The following is a guest post from Dave Marr at t2 Managment Training in the UK.  t2 is a specialist management consultancy, established to provide strategic leadership training and development for company directors and management training for their teams.   t2 is one of only a small number of leadership and management development providers to have achieved the prestigious Training Quality Standard.

Using Stories in Order to Make Your Point as a Manager

Prolific leaders and high profile managers have often got a few stories to tell in order to get their point across effectively to their staff.

Why are stories effective?

Stories are processed by a different part of the brain to that which we use to follow instructions. Most people have an aversion to being told what to do, but stories can subdue those feelings by giving us indirect instructions that we don’t mind following. A good story often has a moral or a lesson to be learnt and it is this which drives many people to listen and follow suggestions.

Points and examples work in the same way too. They give people information about how things are supposed to work in addition to what is expected of them. This gives clear focus.

From time to time, you might hear a great story. Try to remember the key points and how it might benefit your staff. Then you can pull it out of the hat when you need to motivate and empower your staff to follow specific instructions or to hit a particular deadline. A good storyteller is always at an advantage, but as long as you remember the main points of the story and the point you are making, you’ll be fine.

You can also find a lot of resources online on how to tell a good story and get your point across effectively.  Find some opportunities to practice this technique. You can use previous employees or employers as examples if they are relevant to your anecdote. This will also help you relate to your own story if you use people you know. As you proceed with the story make sure you integrate those all-important indirect suggestions (in addition to the desired outcome).

Be careful, when you begin relating your stories, that you don’t repeat them or explain too much about them. The power of storytelling is to allow your staff to take away the moral or contents of the story and think about it from their own personal perspective. Ambiguity is often more powerful than direct suggestion and can really make a difference to how your staff perceive you and how they work.

Very often people will ‘listen’ to a story’s message that they won’t listen to in another form. The great thing about a story is that it motivates and gives you something to aim for – if they could do it, wouldn’t can’t you?!

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3 Things I Learned from My Subordinates

Some days I feel like I’m on walking upward on a down escalator — my 25 years of supervising and managing experience isn’t getting me the results I want.   This past few weeks, the managers in my own department have been teaching me a few things:

1)  Know the “style” of the decision-makers in your business

When implementing change in the workplace, key decision makers are critical to have “onside”.  These key players may have different ways of gathering information, processing the facts, coming to conclusions and implementing changes or improvements to the business.

Some styles include:

      – the thinker:  he/she needs information a day or two ahead of meetings so they can mull over and think about the issues and facts at hand

      – the idea driver:  he/she wants the issues articulated but not solutions – they prefer to come up with their own solutions

      – the skeptic:  he/she is very unsure of input from anyone except close, trusted colleagues and advisors.  You will waste your time trying to convince this person of business issues until you spend a considerable length of time building trust and credibility on a personal level.  You may need to demonstrate either loyalty or high technical competence to gain this person’s trust.

     – the bottom liner:  he/she wants the problem and solution summarized quickly and succinctly.  Don’t waste their time (just watch their eyes glaze over) when you go on and on with lots of details and discussion

Adapt your approach to the appropriate style of the business decision-maker who you wish to influence.  Watch for clues as to each person’s style, and if necessary try different techniques until you find approaches that work.

2)  Prioritize your list of issues / initiatives using a mix of business agendas

Consider that your high priorities might not be the same as others in your business, especially leaders in other departments.  Pushing your highest ranking issues at all costs can isolate you and create subtle resistance to everything you are working towards.  Put yourself in the shoes of other departments:  what are their key initiatives?  How can your goals link with their likely goals?   Try finding common goals that you can build as winning initiatives for other stakeholders in the business; this will give you more likelihood of success.

3)  Be patient and work toward success in very small steps  

Executives can be very impatient, wanting results NOW!  (okay, yes, that’s me!)  One of my managers very wisely pointed out to me this week that my timing for pushing an initiative may not be in sync with the timing of others.  Sometimes, others are not “ready” for the changes involved.  Some leaders may need mulling or processing time to consider the risks and alternatives.  Some leaders will want more personal input into ideas or initiatives so they feel they have ownership of the results.  Some leaders will resist all suggestions and help until their own trusted colleagues support the initiative.

The key to success?  Know your customer and your colleagues.  This will help you create win/win opportunities with common goals / solutions, use a pace of change that is relatively comfortable for all parties, and develop approaches that encourage positive acceptance whatever the style of your key decision-makers.

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How to Use Imagery for Better Coaching Results

The following is a guest post from Dave Marr at t2 Management Training in the UK.  t2 is a specialist management consultancy, established to provide strategic leadership training and development for company directors and management training for their teams.   t2 is one of only a small number of leadership and management development providers to have achieved the prestigious Training Quality Standard.

How to Use Imagery for Better Results When Coaching Your Staff

A lot of management and executive coaching techniques use imagery that uses NLP (neurolinguistic programming). It’s an excellent communication tool that can help people to change their habits. However, it’s essential that you break this technique down into manageable ‘chunks’ so they can be used by managers every day.

We all process imagery in a different way to other types of language. An image can be really powerful serving to motivate and move us when they are presented well.

Think of the taste of sticky toffee pudding and now compare it to the recipe. There really is no comparison. Taste wins out every time!

Try to use similar techniques in your communication. Use compelling, sharp images to get your staff imagining experiencing or doing something. Help them to picture how it would feel to learn something new or to achieve an important task. Get them to imagine how they would feel on achieving that task and the satisfaction it would bring.

Below we’ve listed some examples on how to use imagery effectively with your staff:

Mastery or Coping Imaging – this kind of imagery is particularly effective when dealing with challenging tasks or situations. Get your staff to imagine how they would successful deal with a situation. You can project general images or small images with lots of detail. Detailed imagery really assists those who are learning something new.

Modelling Images – This is another useful technique used for coping with challenging tasks and situations. Ask your staff to picture somebody who has a firm grasp on a desired skill or task and go over the steps the person would take to reach their goal. This is a great transitional learning procedure and often assists with problem solving and trouble shooting situations.

Idealised Future Images – This is a brilliant technique for promoting positive learning. Ask your staff to imagine what their life will be like in 5 years. Where do they picture themselves? Where do they want to be? How do they feel? Help them to use their imagination to guide them and to really feel the future that lies in store. This can really make them focus making them more accessible.

Levelling Images – This can be used for dealing with difficult situations and people. It is also very effective for overcoming fear of public speaking or making presentations. Get your staff to picture their audience in their underwear or a particular client in their casual gardening gear or at an informal BBQ with their children around them.

Corrective Images – Another great confidence booster! This can be used especially after somebody has made a mistake. Get them to review the situation and imagine how they would do it again.

Worst Case Scenarios – These are excellent for coping with intimidating situations. Get your staff to imagine the worst situation and the worst outcome. Help them to make a decision on the outcome and if they could cope with it. Now ask them to take an alternative view and to determine a more realistic worst case scenario. Work out how bad the situation would be and whether they need to prepare for it. Now ask them to go ahead and develop a plan of action in the knowledge that they can cope with any imaginable result.

Empathy Images – These are useful for developing the skills needed to read other people. Ask your staff to imagine being in the shoes of another person and to go over the situation from their point of view. What are they thinking or feeling? This is a great way of growing into a better manager capable of reading people more effectively.

Imagery is one of the many executive coaching techniques that work very well. These techniques help managers to lead staff better and to help bring about positive change.

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Hot Air and Management: Is there a Connection? (guest post)

The following is a guest post from Doug Dickerson  through one of my favorite Leadership Blog sites, the Leaders Beacon

So much of what we call management consists in making it difficult for people to work.

–          Peter Drucker

A story is told of a man flying in a hot air balloon who realizes he is lost. He reduces height and spots a man down below. He lowers the balloon and shouts, “Excuse me, can you tell me where I am?”

The man below says, “Yes, you are in a hot air balloon hovering about thirty feet from this field.”  “You must work in information technology,” says the balloonist. “I do,” replies the man, “How did you know?”

“Well,” says the balloonist, “everything you have told me is technically correct, but it is of no use to anyone.”

The man below says, “You must work in management.” “I do,” replies the balloonist, “but how did you know?”

“Well, says the man, “you don’t know where you are or where you are going, but you expect me to be able to help you. You are in the same position you were before we met, but now it’s my fault.”

For a business to run effectively it must have good management. It also must have strong leadership. Not every manager will be a good leader but every strong leader can be a good manager. And while some managers are full of hot air, a skillful leader will take his or her people to a higher level.

While it is true management often time gets a bad rap, allow me to rise in defense of the many great managers out there who wisely blend their management and leadership skills to create a positive work environment. How do they do it and what can we learn from them? Here are three observations worth consideration.

A great manager is a student of leadership. He or she is smart enough to understand that management skills can only take you so far. A manager may possess enough business smarts for the day-to-day operations, but a student of leadership understands it is just half the battle.

A manager at the next level is there because he learned the value of relationships, the wisdom of collaborative teamwork, and leadership by example. He placed the needs and interests of others ahead of his own, and learned that servant leadership will take him further than brow-beating ever could. Are you a student of leadership?

A great manager is a good listenerI saw a bumper sticker recently that read, “Bark less, wag more,” and this, I thought, was a great leadership concept. Yes, there are some managers who enjoy barking because it is all they know. But those who bark and growl are not great. They are just loud.

A great leader will invest time listening to the ideas, concerns, and dreams of those around her. A manager can create the climate in which the business works, but only a leader can create the culture by which the people work. The difference being, in one setting it is about the task, in the other it is about the purpose. When the team has the ear of the leader the leader will have the heart of the team. Are you a manager that listens?

A great manager adds value to others. John Maxwell says, “Successful people find their own strength zones. Successful leaders find the strength zones of the people they lead.” And this is the point of separation between managers and leaders. A great leader wants what is best for everyone in the organization. He wants everyone to succeed and will go to great lengths to make it happen.

Finding the strength zones of those you lead is about positioning the right people in the right place where they can shine and be successful. Insecurity will prevent a manager from doing this but a great manager finds great satisfaction in seeing team members excel. Billy Hornsby said, “It’s okay to let those you lead outshine you, for if they shine brightly enough, they reflect positively on you.”Are you adding value to those you lead?

A great manager is a student of leadership, a good listener, and adds value. While not an exhaustive list by any stretch, it is a starting point from which to transition from being a manager to a leader.

Are you full of hot air or are you taking your people to a higher level?

© 2011 Doug Dickerson