This week, I am working with a great group of executives on the inaugural run of Chicago Booth’s Executive Education program, Personal Leadership Insight. I’m really excited about the program and the discussion we have had so far this week. If you’ve been reading the blog every so often, you know that I think stories are our most powerful sales tool, but that they can also be used in the context of leadership and management. I was reminded of this story (which I originally told in April 2011) while preparing for today’s session and thought I’d share it with you again today:
“This week, I had the honor of working with Chicago Booth’s AMP (Advanced Management Program). I conducted a Story Workshop called “Having Impact” for 25 top executives from every corner of the globe. One of this things that I talked about during the workshop was the fact that stories are playing out all around us all the time, and one of our responsibilities as leaders is to not let these stories float up into the ether, but to capture, distill and tell them. Why? Because stories house two things that are mostly missing from our communications; context and emotion, and it’s exactly these two things that have the most impact.
Just after I was making this point, I was pulled aside during the break by one of the executives, Mark. He said; “Craig, I just wanted to apologize about the fact that I’m standing up in the back of the room sometimes. See, I have a herniated disc in my back, and it’s uncomfortable to sit. But you may have noticed the chair I’m sitting in when I do sit down. The guy who is sitting two seats away from me, Ric, is a senior guy at Hon, the office furniture maker. On Monday morning right after we met, Ric noticed that I was kneeling next to my chair, kind of leaning on it, and he asked me what was wrong. I told him about my back, and didn’t think anything more about it. The next afternoon, this $1,500 chair shows up from Hon on a truck from their plant in Muscatine Iowa. See, Ric just made a call and this thing got put on a truck and shipped here for me. And when we are done this week, he’s donating it to the school. Unbelievable.”
Unbelievable is right. As I was wrapping up the workshop, I said to the group; “There’s one more story we need to hear. Mark?” He told the story of the chair, and people were blown away. They were stunned, but not surprised by Ric’s kindness. But then the different dimensions of the story began to sink in. “This is a leadership story, an ethics story, an execution story, a customer service story and on and on.”
Last but not least, Mark added a final touch; “It’s a sales story too. We are helping to build a new bank building. What kind of furniture do you think it will have?”