What is a story?

Let’s talk about what a story is.  In an essay entitled, “Praise of Stories,” Daniel Taylor writes, “A story is the telling of the significant actions of characters over time. Each element is important, both in the stories of literature and in those that shape our own lives.  Remove or fail in any of these elements and you no longer have a story.”    As Mr. Taylor says, “The central things that happen in important stories don’t happen to a character, but within a character. This is why significance is part of our definition of stories – the telling of significant action.  Most writers on stories would agree that the best stories are about morality, values, and choices that we can relate with.

So stories are the telling of significant journeys with meaningful characters whose principled choices help us see ourselves.     

Think about the stories you cherish.  Did they not stir something within you?  I would venture to say that stories can ignite us to think about things in new ways, ignite our spirits and emotions to actions, and enable us to see ourselves.  

If you are feeling stagnant in your career or life…if you are desiring a boost to your service to your customers…if you feel the need to get out of your rut…if you are looking for new perspectives… I would encourage you to read a story. 

Get reading!

What Stories Teach Us

“Tell me a fact and I’ll learn. Tell me a truth, and I’ll believe.  But tell me a story and it will live in my heart forever.”  -Indian Proverb from Marlo Thomas & Friends, The Right Words at the Right Time

 From the time we were small; stories capture our imagination and hearts and can ignite us to action.  As a professional speaker, I know first hand the incredible power of story telling and have been enthralled by speakers through the years who were able to – through their choice of words and delivery style, catapult me on a roller coaster ride of emotions, imaginations, and engagement. 

But I have come to believe that story telling is not just reserved for those of us in the communication industry (speakers, writers, entertainers, or authors).   The ability to tell a story can help anyone gain more persuasive power, be a more influential person, and gain credibility for your idea.  The next 5 BLOG postings will help unveil the mystery of stories, how reading and telling stories can expand your mind to new ways of thinking and seeing the world, and how stories can make you a better influencer no matter what your job or life role.

Getting Ready…Set…GO!

So you’ve got someone to hold you accountable and you have set yourself for the best possible success….what else do you need to tackle that big project in your work or home life?  My last tip:

 Do something.  If it is writing – write one word.  If it is filing – pick up one piece of paper and file it.  If it is a financial analysis report, save your excel report with the name of the project. If it is a team project, create your team’s distribution list in your Outlook.

 

And it is interesting – whether it is a filing project or a writing project –once I get in the flow of the activity – it is easier for me to keep going. 

 

As Eugene F. Ware said, “All glory comes from daring to begin.”  So what are you waiting for?

Get Set…

In my last blog, I spoke how accountability can help us deal with this perpetual “getting ready” mentality.  And yet – sometimes accountability isn’t enough for us to move forward. And even when we are making strides towards our goal, we may not be able to sustain our momentum.  Here’s another idea:

Set yourself up for success.   Yes, we can use all sorts of excuses to not start a project. But there is something to be said for knowing what we need. For example, I like to write in our study – that overlooks our beautiful garden.  Being able to see outdoors seems to “open my mind up” to new ideas, creativity, and expansive thoughts.  You may find that doing work at a coffee shop can be a productive space for you.  Or you may find that having your favorite beverage is what you need to get the juices flowing.  (Pardon the pun!).

 For your next project, what can you do to set yourself up for success?

Getting Ready…

Does this happen to you?  You have a project to do.  Let’s say for the purpose of our example, it is a writing project.  You have it on your to do list.  And then you say, “I need to get some of these smaller to do’s done first.”  Or, “I need to get my desk clean.” Or “I actually am not in the mood for writing -  I need to “get ready” to write!    What happens? You never get to writing!

 I can think of every excuse – not to do what is good for me – my business – my clients. 

 This “getting ready” tendency may be something we all deal with, isn’t it?   Unlike a quick to do list, these longer-term projects some time, some effort, and uninterrupted concentration.  We don’t get that immediate gratification and yet, truth be told, if we don’t do some of these activities, we may not be as effective as we would like to be.     If you suffer from the “getting ready” mentality, here’s an idea:

 Hold yourself accountable.   There is something powerful when we tell others – either through writing or through spoken words – what our intentions are.    I have an accountability group of two other professional speakers where we create our goals with specific target dates.  Your accountability may be with a friend, a co-worker, a spouse, a significant other. 

Over the course of the next month, I’ll be celebrating the achievement of writing 20 new BLOG postings!  What about you?

Victoria Day

Victoria Day, is a federal Canadian public holiday celebrated on the last Monday before May 25th, in honor of Queen Victoria’s Birthday.  This year, Victoria Day lands on May 21st.     Since this holiday honors Queen Victoria – who was she? 

Queen Victoria was born on May 24, 1819. Following the death of three uncles and her father, she became Queen of the United Kingdom on June 20, 1837 and reigned until her death on January 22, 1901. Victoria is still the longest-reigning monarch of the United Kingdom. During Victoria’s life, the British Empire expanded considerably.

Let us today – celebrate with our Canadian brothers and sisters – Victoria Day – as we honor Queen Victoria!

Honor our Troops – Armed Forces Day

Did you know that May 19th was Armed Forces Day?  President Harry S. Truman led the effort to establish a single holiday for citizens to come together and thank our military members for their patriotic service in support of our country.  

Though May 19th has come and gone, here are some practical ways we can support our men and women in the military any day:

  1. http://www.anysoldier.com/  – A great place to start to support a military person.
  2. http://cranfordx.tripod.com/cranfordtroops/id2.html – Lists items that troops need.
  3. http://troopsneedyou.com/ – Become a Battle Buddy by directly supporting a deployed unit or healing warrior here at home. 

Eric Egland (Reserve) authored a book entitled “The Troops Need You, America.”  In this book, he shares a speech made by President Roosevelt who shared on December 9, 1941 these statements, “We are now in this war – we are all in it all the way – Every single man, woman, and child is a partner to the most tremendous undertaking of our American history. We must share together the bad news and the good news, the defeats and the victories…”

Though all of us are not wearing the military uniforms – we are all leaders in our shere of influence and part of leadership is supporting those who sacrifice for others.  We can all share in supporting the many thousands of people who are protecting our freedom and putting themselves in harm’s way so that we can enjoy our freedom. Thank you Military men and women on May 19th and every day!

Making it Right for your Customers

My husband and I recently purchased some living room furniture.  This has been a two year process!  We were looking for some furniture that we could “cuddle” in as well as a new couch.   We finally found two beautiful pieces at a local furniture story and after waiting 10 weeks, they were delivered to our home last week.  You can imagine the disappointment we felt when I had neck pain after sitting in the chair for a 2 hour movie!

This is when this story becomes amazing.  My husband called the salesperson and he was told “We want to make it right.”  And they did.  They first set up an appointment with the chair manufacturer to see if there was something that could be done with the chair.  And when that didn’t work – we were told we could ”start over” and exchange what we had with something that would work better for us.  What can we learn from this story?

When something goes wrong, we have an opportunity to “win back” our customers.   Encourage your leaders to teach your customer service professionals to look at problems at opportunities.  Recognize the positive impact that you can have on your customers when you can creatively brainstorm solutions.  Take a look at your company policies and make sure they provide enough room for people to do what it takes to keep that customer relationship.

Guess what, this furniture store has made fans of us!  What about you?  We have got to “make it right for our customers!”

 

The Importance of Checklists

I wll follow the rulesAs an entrepreneur, many of my days are filled with client commitments, meetings, training preparation, client proposals, writing Blog entries, and doing bookkeeping… I could go on and on.  To some extent, every day is different, depending upon if I’m in the office or working with a client.   However, the more that I work in my business (and on my business); the more and more value I see in establishing and maintaining some sort of routine.  Without systems or processes or “rules”, I can forget important things!  Checklists are also an easy way to remember what needs to be done – even for those tasks that we are pretty comfortable with.   Regardless if you are a small business owner, individual contributor, or team leader, these checklist ideas may help you reduce your stress and increase your workplace efficiency: 

  1.    Write a checklist for those tasks you do frequently.  For example, when I prepare for a training program, I need to do several things, including,  discover training needs, write an outline, create participant materials, develop slides, and design customized case studies. With checklists, I can estimate how long these activities will take – which helps me plan more effectively.
  2.  Review your checklists with others.  A friend and colleague in the training field will be sending me her checklist – I may want to incorporate some of her ideas in my process.  I will send her my checklist!
  3. Update your checklist as needed.  Sometimes certain activities can be automated, or delegated to an assistant or even assigned to a team member, or even deleted altogether!  Other times, we need to add important tasks to our checklists.   Be sure to update your checklist – deleting or adding items as needed.

You can experience more freedom (and carve out more time) when you follow checklists - enabling you to focus on creative brainstorming - something that many of us never seem to get around to doing!

Kit-Kat® Clocks Rock!

Excellent customer ServicI recently had an experience with Kit Kat® clocks that I just have to rave about!  You know the famous Kit-Kat® clock.  They are those cute little cat clocks with the moving tail and eyes.  My husband (boyfriend at the time) blessed me with a gift of this clock for my Birthday back in March 2008. I have love this clock!  It’s been running great  until a few months ago. The tail kept stopping even after replacing the batteries with new ones.  I called their corporate office – left a message –  and here is where the real magic happened:

  • I got an answer that day!
  • Dave, the customer service professional was friendly, professional, and highly competent
  • He was so knowledgeable about the clock that he troubleshooted why the clock may have stopped working and walked me through the step by step process on getting it fixed
  • When we called back the next day with some remaining questions, we got the same person!
  • In a few moments, Dave walked my husband through some additional steps and our clock now works wonderfully!
  • And now we are raving fans about this company! (Note:  The pink kit-cat® clock (with eye lashes) may be joining our family soon!)

For more information about this incredible organization (celebrating 80 years in business) – go to http://www.kit-cat.com/

You don’t want to miss the three-story tall fully-functional Kit-CatCat®’s Clock that will be seen by over 300 million TV viewers at the Rose Parade!