Archives for December 2013

How are YOU telling your story? Sizzle, Steak or Rainbows?

baby pandas

Of course, sometimes you just need a really good distraction!


To be perfectly honest, I’m a numbers and facts girl.  Give me the numbers and the facts if you want to sell me something or get me to support your project. I appreciate a bit of finesse and style in the telling, but if you’re still spinning stories and playing on emotions five minutes in and I haven’t heard a single number or fact, you’re done.  

This can be a problem when I need to motivate people who prefer a more emotional, storytelling approach.  I always believe the numbers and facts speak for themselves…but the wrong approach can diminish enthusiasm for you and your project fast. If you don’t get “buy in” you’re a leader with no followers.

Learning to flex your storytelling style to meet the needs of your audience is a critical skill to master when you’re leading through complex changes. Some teams want to hear a “Rocky” type story (think of the countless sports coaches who lead with this sort of motivational speech), others prefer the “Rags to Riches” approach (“I grew up in poverty but I had a dream, and now I’m living it”), still others want a “Yes we can! Go Team Go!” hands in the middle type huddle. Some want to be wooed. Some want to be sold. And some, like me, just want the facts.

Word choice, tone, style and message for external messages keep giant marketing departments busy for years, and we need to think just as carefully about how we talk internally. You will need to carry a consistent, authentic message, but craft the delivery to meet your audiences needs.

Are you telling your story up the food chain? Generally as you are trying to persuade more senior executives, leaning heavily on facts and numbers will be the best option, but to truly sell it, put some passion and a bit of sparkle around the numbers (you want some passionate champions at the top too!). A general good ratio might be 75% facts wrapped in 25% sizzle, but you need to know your audience. If they’re like me you want to dial back the fluff and stick to the facts.

You may also have to tell your story to the world outside your company, customers, stockholders or regulators. How you craft that story will be a combination of understanding why the story needs to be told, what your audience currently understands about your business and what is important to them. Are you fixing a problem they knew about? Are you improving something that will bring better service, a new product option and what’s in it for them?

So today, take a minute and think about how you are telling your story.  Are you leaning heavily on an approach that always served you well with a different audience? And is it serving you with your current audience?  Do you need to flex your style?

P.S. As numbers focused as I am, if you play a video of cute baby pandas in the background while you’re talking I’ll probably sign anything.  I would start with this one.

P.P.S. Got some challenging news to deliver? Try our “Uncomfortable Conversations” Series for advice.  Working on your brand’s story? Learn from an expert here.


book by Jeanne Goldie

Speed Read an Organization with our Easy Guide

Thinking about making a move? Size up your Corporate Landscape or any other company you may be thinking of moving to by using our free guide, Reading the Terrain. Get your copy today by putting your email address in the subscription box at right. And no, we won’t spam you, you’ll just get our weekly update of articles.

Five Reasons Your Project isn’t Getting any Love


turning a deaf ear

You’ve gotten the sign off all the way up the executive ladder. Why is no one listening??

You’ve gotten the green light. The executive committee signed off. Everyone held hands, blessed the plan and said “Go Forth and create this change!” So why the heck isn’t anyone listening to anything you say?

They’re paid to resist.

Is their job function tied to the original structure? Would their skills or value as an employee be in jeopardy if your change plan works? If so, don’t expect them to be the first to jump onboard the change train.

They’re paid to resist (Part 2)

Does their compensation structure (particularly when commission or tier-based) reward them more significantly for other activities? If they can make 2-3 times the commission or fees based on doing what they’ve always done, and it will make up for any penalties or commissions lost by not doing what you want them to do, why would they choose to behave otherwise?

There are bigger issues at hand.

Is your company facing lawsuits, regulatory pressure, a revolution in the industry’s way of doing things or delivering product? If that’s going on, unless your project immediately and significantly contributes to solving that pain, it’s going to be the low man on the totem pole. Think about it, if you are in the horse and buggy business, and your business  is being threatened by the automobile, your project for more durable horse harnesses is not going to be a top priority.

You’re not making the benefits clear, or your benefits aren’t beneficial to them. 

Are you communicating the WHY of doing things in a new way?  And is that “why” compelling?  As we are taught in sales training, people spend too much time talking about features (how a product or service does something) vs. benefits (This product will help you do X in less time, and allow you to have greater revenue which will get you a great year end bonus). As a project leader, we spend much time dwelling on the features because you’re “building” the project. You have to sell the benefits to get people to cooperate.

You’re stretching them so far out of their comfort zone they’re afraid of looking stupid.

Never underestimate the discomfort factor.  Are you making them learn something they don’t think they’ll be good at? Are you having them interact with a new customer base or manufacturing process that they perceive will have a high risk of blow back on their career prospects if they fail?

They didn’t sign up for this: 

When you change how something is done, you may be forgetting that many of the people working in that industry consciously or subconsciously chose their profession in part because it didn’t focus on that skillset. A recent example is the number of doctors, nurses and medical professionals struggling with the fun of incorporating the required Electronic Health Records (EHR) protocols into their practices.  From the intricacies of having to chart patients via computer to the added issues of having to answer emails from patients on a 24/7 basis, this is a very new activity for many in the medical profession. While many are very computer proficient, it’s not exactly what they signed up for in a career, and much of that resistance comes with the package. “I can piece together the human body after multiple gunshot wounds and you think I should do what with this computer?!”

Many years ago I worked in a public library system, just as the DOS based internet was becoming a major research tool. We had several senior librarians, who were near retirement age, who opted for early retirement rather than have to master the rather difficult computer programming required to use the system. These were smart people who loved books, and chose their profession based on that, rather than computers. For many, at 57 or 58 years old, they just were unwilling to have to relearn their entire profession, and face the possibility of looking stupid in front of a teenager on a computer at the same time.

We’ve talked about resistance to change before, if you haven’t already done so, read What Dieter’s can teach us about Organizational Change and Change does not Occur in a Vacuum.

What other situations have you seen? Can you figure out why your team resisted? Share your successes and your mysteries in the comments below:

book by Jeanne Goldie

Speed Read an Organization with our Easy Guide

Need help testing what you “know” to be true? Download our free Field Guide for understanding the organizational landscape before you begin creating change. “Reading the Terrain” gives you easy questions to ask yourself that will help you see your world with fresh eyes and broaden your perspective.  Sign up at the right to receive our newsletter and you’ll get a free link to download our guide. And no, we won’t bombard you with junk mail.

© Jeanne Goldie 2015