Stories from the Road. From Washington to New York.
He was a great speaker. He used his voice and body. He made eye contact. He talked about his life. Basically here is a guy with a military background talking to a bunch of bankers and he was able to connect with us through storytelling.
Today we have a Business Leader who immediately started telling stories at work after participating in an Ariel Group program. Peter Keaveney is a Managing Director from BNY Mellon. I caught up with him last week to see how things were going. He told me that a few days after our program he’d attended a conference where General Colin Powell was the guest speaker. Peter said:
He demonstrated all of the techniques I learned at your workshop. He was a great speaker. He used his voice and body. He made eye contact. He talked about his life. Basically here is a guy with a military background talking to a bunch of bankers and he was able to connect with us through storytelling.
He told this one story that really impacted me; so much so that when I got back to the office I shared it with my team. He calls it his “Squirrel Story.” It’s pretty funny. It’s back when he was National Security Advisor to President Ronald Reagan.
General Powell is at one of his daily briefings with the President about a current problem he’s having. He’s hoping for some insight on what to do and Reagan is just looking out the window staring at some squirrels playing in the Rose Garden, barely paying attention. General Powell said he left that meeting thinking: “What the… what the heck just happened in there?”
Upon reflection he realized that Reagan was signaling to him: Look, I’m the President of the United States. I’ve got a lot of problems to deal with. This is your problem. Go figure out how to fix it and then come back and tell me your plan.
A few days after the conference I was at an all-hands meeting with my project team and I told them the “Squirrel Story”. I summed up with: “we’ve each got our own problems to solve. I believe that each of you has all the skills you need to solve them. I trust you. Figure it out and let me know how and what you did.”
It landed well. It empowered my people to take more initiative.
There are many different types of stories Leaders can tell to motive and inspire their teams. The above is a great example of using another person’s business experience to encourage your own team to successfully do what has worked before.
This style of storytelling leverages the influencing technique of Social Proof. Social Proof is a principle that the psychologist, author and researcher Robert B. Cialdini put forth in his book Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion. Quite simply, it is the idea that people will do things that they see other people are doing.
Next time I’ll share Peter’s hockey story with you. It’s a good one. In the meantime, feel free to share the squirrel story. Experiment with some social proof of your own.