Before today, you might have not realized the importance of storytelling. How can storytelling relate to building wealth and leadership skills? Today, WTR discusses the importance of storytelling with Paul Smith, an author and speaker who has an expertise in storytelling. This podcast will uncover the steps that are necessary to help engage your audience while you are communicating your story, along with the most important stories that any leader needs to be able to tell.
Ingenious tactics to accumulate wealth, for people who see things differently.
[00:25] Kevin: Today, we're joined by guest Paul Smith, whose expertise is storytelling. Specifically, storytelling that has to do with you in your life and your profession and relationships. Stories are great ways to convey ideas and get messages across clearly to people in ways that people can relate to you and understand you
[01:38] If you wouldn't mind, could you tell our listeners a little bit about where you came from and what inspired you to do what you do today?
[01:57] Paul: I studied economics in undergrad, got an MBA, and spend a couple of years as a consultant. But along the way, I just got fascinated with this concept of storytelling and I just recognized that the leaders that I admired the most were really good at it[2:36] I set out to learn about it myself by interviewing a bunch of leaders (about 300) and this has allowed me to reverse engineer my way into what works and what doesn't with storytelling (this lead to books I've written)
[02:57] I research and write about storytelling at home and at work and I spend my time teaching people how to do that
[03:20] Kevin: Let's go into the storytelling part of this and why storytelling? What's really in it? What is it do for our listeners and why should they care about this?
[03:30] Paul: There are a lot of reasons, but the most important to me are:[03:34] Human being don't make the rational, logical decisions that we'd like to think that we do[03:43] Human beings often times make subconscious, emotional decisions in one place in their brain, and they rationalize those decisions a few nanoseconds later in a more conscious, rational thinking part of the brain
[04:18] Storytelling allows you to talk to both parts of the brain and you need both. So if you want to influence what people think, feel, and do (leadership), you need to speak to both parts of the brain
[04:38] Stories are a lot more memorable and people tend to remember what you say more
[05:13] Kevin: I remember some expert said that the brain thinks in pictures, and when you tell a story, a person gets a picture of what's happening in their mind and maybe that's one of the reasons why it sticks with people
[05:39] Paul: When you're just telling people what to do or what to think or just bossing them around, there's no movie to watch in their mind's eye
[05:52] Kevin: How do you use storytelling? (at home vs. at work?)
[06:05] Paul: Storytelling is useful at home and at work. The main difference is simply what type of stories you're telling and what your objective is[06:30] At work, you're trying to get people to see and understand your vision or you're trying to lead change or you're trying to get people to collaborate more (accomplishing some leadership objective)
[06:44] At home, you might be trying to parent your kids and teach them what kind of character traits you think they should have growing up (teach life lessons)
[07:23] There's something called a story spine that I use to teach people about the structure of a story and it's kind of like "here are the sentences that if you fill in the blanks, a story will emerge in the right order"
[08:27] Kevin: Could you talk more about the structure/the steps of a well told story?
[08:34] Paul: There are 8 questions that your story needs to answer in this order[08:43] Why should I bother listening to the story? (the hook)[08:47] Need to answer this in the first 10-15 seconds or your audience might not listen to your story
[09:04] Where and when did it take place?
[09:07] Who's the main character and what did they want?
[09:10] What was the point problem or opportunity they ran into?
[09:12] What did they do about it?
[09:13] How did it turn out in the end?
[09:24] What did you learn from that story?
[09:26] What do you think I should go do now? (time for a recommendation)
[10:11] The order does matter (will help the audience in determining if it's a true story upfront)
[11:29] In storytelling, the end comes at the end, if you give away the ending at the beginning it ruins the story
[11:54] Kevin: So you recently wrote the book "The 10 Stories Great Leaders Tell" and I know you've written several other books, but this particular book has a good meaning to it in terms of storytelling. So why did you write this book "The 10 Stories Great Leaders Tell"?
[12:45] Paul: I finally had an opportunity with a publisher to write a very short book that you can literally read in 1 hour that focuses on the 10 most important stories that I think any leader needs to be able to tell at a moment's notice
[13:08] I'm going to tell you all 10 right now[13:14] Where we came from (founding story)
[13:17] Why we can't stay there (a case for change story?
[13:20] Where we're going (vision story)
[13:23] How we're going to get there (strategy story)
[13:37] What we believe (corporate value story)
[13:40] Who we serve (customer story)
[13:49] What we do for our customers (sales story)
[13:57] How we're different from our competitors (marketing story)
[14:18] Why I lead the way I do (personal leadership philosophy story)
[14:23] Why you should want to work here (recruiting story)
[16:19] Kevin: So we've been talking about the structure of some stories and the books and why, but I think it's time to tell one or two stories, don't you think?
[16:34] Sure so let me pick a couple from that list of 10. Number 8 is a good one, which is how we're different from our competitors. The example I use here comes from a guy named Sharad Madison (the CEO) of United Banking Maintenance, a commercial cleaning company. When he's talking to a perspective client, at some point he tells them an opportunity to tell them what he does when he gets a new client. He says "there's always a 30 day transition period between when we sign the contract and when my company takes over. So what I always do in those 30 days is I sneak into the building in the middle of the night to watch how they're cleaning it now (gets permission to do this). Most of those employees are contract employees and he wants to know if they're well-trained and well-equipped to do their job. At 2 in the morning, I went into the Verizon building and I found a guy vacuuming the carpets, and he was using the type of vacuum people use at home. The problem is first of all, that thing isn't going to do a very good job and it would take forever to vacuum. So when we took over, we put him into a triple wide, industrial-grade vacuum that would do a much better job in the fraction of the time"[19:15] So he's telling this story and the person he's talking to can see in their mind's eye what's happening in the story. The story allows the person to understand why they're better than their competitors
[21:02] Another story that I want to tell is number 9, which is the leadership philosophy story (why I lead the way I do). The example I use here is a guy named Mike Figliolo and his first leadership opportunity was in the army, and his first leadership challenge was during a training exercise where he's assigned to lead a platoon of tanks. They're going to go into training battle with each other. He happened to be in charge of the first tank on his side of the field that's going into "battle" in wedge formation to 400 tanks behind him. It's important that he goes in the right direction because everyone is following him. He gets to the first place where he has to make a decision whether he wants to turn left or right and he just doesn't know what to do. He has a decision to make, so he can either stop the tank and get the map out and figure the right thing to do, or he can just guess. Mike chose option 2, he yells out "driver turn left" even though he has no idea if that's the right direction. 2 minutes later, the light inside their tank turns on which meant you "you're dead/you lose" (so he made a bad decision). All the tanks behind him turn the same way he did and also lose. Tank 4 realized that decision was a mistake, so they turn right and then the tanks behind tank 4 also turned right and won the exercise[23:50] What he learned from that experience was that sometimes in life, in work, in war, it's better to make the wrong decision quickly than the make the right decision slowly
[24:10] In life, when you make a mistake, life will let you know pretty quickly that you made a mistake
[25:20] Kevin: Do you have any tips that you could share with our WTR listeners that would help them craft a well-told story?
[25:40] Paul: So we've already talked about structure of a story. We also talked about what stories to tell, which is the most important thing. Once you've chosen a story to tell, then having the right structure is definitely important
[26:00] A couple of other things you want stories to have in order for them to be really effective is two things[26:04] Some emotional engagement
[26:09] A surprise ending (make the stories more memorable)
[26:57] Storytelling is just like any other aspect of business. If you want to be better at marketing, you study marketing. If you want to be better at finance and accounting, you study those things. When you're crafting a speech, you probably should write your words down in an outline and think through them ahead of time
[27:40] Kevin: The WTR value bomb I have for you is in your experience, what is something our listeners could look to avoid and what could they do about it?
[27:53] Paul: One of the biggest mistakes I see in storytelling at work is people announcing that they're going to tell a story. Unless you're dealing with kindergarteners, nobody wants to be told to gather around for story time
[28:45} Leaders don't ask permission to lead, they just lead. Never ask permission or apologize for telling a leadership story, just tell it