Thursday, November 28, 2019

Paul Smith and The 10 Stories Great Leaders Tell (for Leadership and Sales Success)

In this interview, Paul Smith talks to Alexander “The Engineer” Lim, host of AuthorStory by, about his book, The 10 Stories Great Leaders Tell.

“Be honest.” ~Paul Smith

Paul remarks that his working career was typical, in that he took a job with large corporations such as Accenture and Proctor and Gamble after graduating from college with a bachelor’s degree in economics, after which he got a master’s degree in business. He got involved with storytelling when he realized that storytelling was something which leaders should have, thanks to the leaders he admired while he was in Proctor and Gamble. “They didn’t teach me that [storytelling] in undergrad, they didn’t teach me that in business school,” he remarks about his frustration when figuring out what storytelling was all about. He thus set out on his own to explore the realm of storytelling, which is how he is where he now is, as a storyteller.

For Paul, storytelling is “telling a story about something that happened to someone.” A story is thus not a speech, a presentation or a memo with bullet points, but a narrative that has a time, place, a main character that has a goal, an obstacle in the way of getting to that goal, events that take place along the way and an ending with a resolution. Paul notes that there are eight questions that a good story must answer, and these are:

  1. Why should I listen to the story? (The answer to this must be given by the storyteller, so the audience has a reason to listen to the story.)
  2. Where and when did it take place?
  3. Who’s the main character, and what did they want?
  4. What was the problem or opportunity that they ran into?
  5. What did they do about it?
  6. How did it turn out in the end?
  7. What did you learn from the story?
  8. What do you think I should go and do, now? (This question is something that the audience needs to answer.)

Paul remarks that all stories share the same common traits; that said, in business stories, the audience is the one who needs to summarize what is learned and figure out the next steps to be taken. Storytelling is becoming popular as a means of communication within businesses because it works at getting people to think and feel what it is that needs to be done, according to him, and this is because stories communicate with both the logical/rational and the emotional parts of the brain. A list of reasons, on the other hand, only communicates with the logical/rational part of the brain, which makes this method fall short, as Paul notes that human decisions are made in the subconscious, emotional part of the brain, after which these decisions are rationalized. He also notes that facts and data are between six and 22 times more likely to be remembered if these are told within a story compared to if these were merely given as a list, which makes these facts more likely to be acted upon.

Paul mentioned that, in the three books he wrote prior to The 10 Stories Great Leaders Tell, he covered some 70 different types of stories and 250 examples of these types of stories. He was thus often asked: “What are the most important ones?” and he would give different answers each time. He decided to narrow his focus on a particular type of story when a publisher contacted him to write a book which could be read in an hour’s time, and he chose the field of leadership because several of his clients, who are leaders in their respective fields, ask him how to tell stories which could help them with their work.

The ten kinds of stories great leaders tell, according to Paul, are:

  1. Where we came from. (This is a founding story.)
  2. Why we can’t stay there. (This is a case for change story.)
  3. Where we’re going. (This is a vision story.)
  4. How we’re going to get there. (This is a strategy story.)
  5. What we believe. (This is a corporate values story.)
  6. Who we serve. (This is a story about the customer.)
  7. What we do for our customers. (This is a classic sales or customer success story.)
  8. How we’re different from our competitors. (This is a marketing story.)
  9. Why I lead the way I do. (This is a personal leadership philosophy story.)
  10. Why you should want to work here. (This is a recruiting story.)

Paul gave, as an example, a personal leadership philosophy story of Mike Figliuolo, who was a West Point graduate who was assigned to lead a platoon of tanks. In one of his first training exercises, despite the planning that had been done beforehand, he found himself in a situation where he was leading a force of 400 tanks against an opposing force of 400 tanks and had to pick a direction at a time where he was somewhat confused. Mike could have spent thirty seconds stopping where he was and studying his map to figure out what to do - which is a long time, given that the opposing force was likewise looking for him so they could “kill” him and the tanks he was leading. Mike made a decision on the fly to head in one direction, and within seconds of doing so, he and his entire platoon were taken out. The tanks behind him, however, saw what happened and turned in the other, correct direction, subsequently took the high ground and, in the end, won the exercise. The lesson Mike learned was that it is sometimes better to make the wrong decision quickly than the right decision slowly; and since life gives quick feedback on whether the decision taken is right or wrong, provided one doesn’t get killed by it, one can adjust and figure out what to do next, rather than get stuck in analysis paralysis. This explains why Mike is a quick, decisive leader who forgives his people for making mistakes, so long as they learn from it.

Paul notes that leaders have a difficult time telling strategy and vision stories because they don’t know the difference between a strategy document or a vision statement from a strategy or vision story. He remarks that a story for these would run along the likes of what it would be like for someone to work in a company once the latter has achieved the vision, and that, if the story is attractive enough, people will want to pitch in to achieve that vision. The founding story of the company, on the other hand, is the kind of story that leaders find the easiest to tell, because they know it by heart, because it is the most often told and is most obviously a story.

Paul recommends that people who are looking for the stories to tell need to ask for these stories from the people they work with. He recommends creating a wish list for the kinds of stories needed, and then asking around for these. He notes that, in each chapter of the book, there are guides on why such a story would be important as well as tips on how to find such stories within a company, as well as the kinds of questions to ask. He also reflects that he might want to add a “Why you want to invest in us?” story, as this is something that smaller companies need to convince people to invest in them.

Paul points out that storytelling is just one tool in one’s communication kit, and that, in general, people should be honest whenever they communicate. He also notes the popular impression is that those who tell stories effectively are natural-born storytellers, and that one is either a storyteller or not. This isn’t the case, Paul remarks, and adds that, if people want to tell stories, they should take lessons on how to do so from people who know how to do so, as storytelling is a skill on its own.

Purchase from Amazon: 

The 10 Stories Great Leaders Tell by Paul Smith

Monday, November 18, 2019

Dr. Stephen G. Post on God and Love on Route 80: The Hidden Mystery of Human Connectedness

In this interview, Stephen G. Post talks to Alexander “The Engineer” Lim, host of AuthorStory by, about his book, God and Love on Route 80: The Hidden Mystery of Human Connectedness.

“If you cultivate a spiritual path, truly, no matter what difficulties arise, you will be blessed and you will be smiling.” ~Stephen G. Post

Stephen grew up on New York’s Long Island who went to an Episcopal school for high school, and had always been a good student and has always been spiritual. (The Episcopalian Church is the American version of the Anglican Church, which is, in turn, a British version of the Roman Catholic Church.) He was on the usual track for a middle-class child - school, college, then a corporate job - when, as a fifteen-year-old who was interested in spirituality, he had a vivid dream where he saw a thick, silvery-gray mist covering a road going somewhere, after which he saw, to his left, see the face of a youth with stringy blond hair, leaning out over a ledge. Stephen then saw the face of a blue angel who spoke to him in a feminine voice, saying: “If you save him, you, too, shall live.” The exact, same dream kept recurring over the next one and a half years, around a half dozen times, and he even became the “centerpiece” of a meeting on adolescent spirituality during this time. For Stephen, the dream occurred to him as being that of an Infinite Mind trying to break into his consciousness to suggest that there was something more to life than what was present materially.

Stephen applied to Reed College in Portland, Oregon, and after graduating high school he got interested tutoring some people who were living in the Bronx. His parents figured that the place was too dangerous for him to go to, so Stephen’s father got him a job in a factory cutting cardboard, and after two weeks of driving to the workplace in his father’s second-hand car, Stephen decided to drive out west after meeting with some friends, to follow his dreams. His drive west got cut short while he was in Pennsylvania, while on Route 80, after which he left a note to the Pennsylvania state police with his father’s address and then began hitchhiking west. He later called up his mother, collect, from Lincoln, Nebraska to let her know he was okay, and his mother then told him that she would call off the Pinkerton detective agency. Stephen then continued on to San Francisco to live with his cousin, George, who had, by then, spent two tours of duty in Vietnam.

Stephen spent that summer playing classical guitar and spending time at a nearby Buddhist temple. It was also towards the end of summer that he drew a bad draft number, which meant that he would be drafted into the Army unless there were some extenuating circumstances involved, such as becoming or being a college student. Stephen thus called up Reed College and asked to be accepted, which he was; and this was why he left San Francisco one September morning, with a holy Buddhist scroll in his bag which had been given, and explained about, by the temple monks. His journey took him across the Golden Gate Bridge, and despite the foggy morning, where he couldn’t see more than three feet in front of him, he felt safe enough crossing it. When he got to the middle of the bridge, he heard a sound on his left; and when he looked that way, he saw the face of a youth with stringy blond hair, a youth who looked very much like that of the youth he had been seeing in his vivid dream. Stephen then spoke to the youth, remarking that he shouldn’t jump, and the youth reacted by screaming out over the water. Stephen managed to talk the youth down, explaining his dream and how he got there. He then showed the young man the scroll he had and went over it briefly before sending the young man, Harry, to his cousin George’s home, along with the scroll and a note of introduction so he would be allowed to stay over. The two then parted ways, and Stephen then hitched rides to Reed College.

For Stephen, the dream and the encounter that it led to suggested to him that there was a connection, a oneness at a level of mind, spirit and soul between humans and the Infinite Mind, and that the entire experience was a lesson for him about the nature of love and reality.

Stephen remarks that people who aren’t part of any formal religion can refer to themselves as being spiritual, in that they have an inner sense of the Divine Presence as well as a sense of the spiritual dignity of other people. He also notes that there are people who are both religious and spiritual, as religion isn’t just about formality.

The book, Stephen notes, isn’t a memoir, but a collection of stories that highlight his experiences with synchronicity and connection with the Infinite Mind, and shared a story on synchronicity of his being in Oregon and being taken on a wild, wet-weather motorcycle ride on someone’s new Harley Davidson. Stephen was rather frazzled at the end of the two-hour ride as he walked into his dormitory’s common room, which had a pay phone installed in it. Stephen might have given his mother the number of that particular phone, but he never answered it himself, until this evening. Although it was 11pm Pacific Time, which meant it was 2am Eastern Time, Stephen, as soon as he picked up the phone, found himself speaking with his mother, who said that she had had a premonition of fear and anxiety and thought that Stephen was dead.

Stephen’s experiences have led him to believe that the mind is more than just brain and tissue, and that the connection with a loving, Infinite Mind allows humans, such as himself, to be guided into growing and flourishing, remarking that his life has been “a journey on Route 80.” He also claims to be a noticer, one who notices the small winks and hints of the connections between oneself and the Infinite.

God and Love on Route 80 was his first non-academic book, so he needed to learn how to write non-academically to get the book out. It sprang somewhat from the founding of the nonprofit Institute for Research on Unlimited Love. Stephen began writing out vignettes on the topic of love and what he was about, to help explain what the Institute was all about, and while he had stopped writing his vignettes for some time, he decided to write a book to pull everything together - hence the book. He also notes that the general opinion of scientists not being spiritual isn’t always true, as scientists - particularly physicists - do believe in synchronicity and a higher power.

Stephen’s favorite quote is from Eleanor Roosevelt: “The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams.”

Purchase from Amazon: God and Love on Route 80: The Hidden Mystery of Human Connectedness by Stephen G. Post