Four 2017 Topics That Bad Leaders Will Ignore And Great Leaders Will Embrace

*As originally seen on

Are you ready for 2017? What will make it your best year yet?

Will it be tackling key goals? Finally getting those long-delayed “to do” items off your list? Or will it be taking your leadership to an entirely new level?

I’m hoping for the latter—and if you’re on board, I’ll be right there with you. Here are the four key areas that should be on every leader’s agenda for the New Year.

1. Lead With A Great Story

“Every great leader is a great storyteller.” — Howard Gardner, Harvard psychologist

Storytelling is a tool that is more powerful than most leaders realize. Paul Smith, author of Lead with a Story: A Guide to Crafting Business Narratives that Captivate Convince, and Inspire, says that: “storytelling is useful in far more situations than most leaders realize. The five most commonly used are probably these: inspiring the organization, setting a vision, teaching important lessons, defining culture and values, and explaining who you are and what you believe.” Stories help your team take the journey with you and share in the triumphs. Stories are memorable, so make sure people are remembering you in a positive way.

Why Leaders Need To Be Great Storytellers


Here’s the storytelling “recipe” that my executive coaching clients love. If you are ready to dive deeply into each of these “ingredients” see my blog “Why Leaders Need To Be Great Storytellers.”

Step 1: Focus On Your “Story Customer” And Their Context: Who is the story for?

Step 2: Make It Authentic: Telling a fairy tale won’t cut it, your “Story Customer” wants an authentic Happily Ever After.

Step 3: Give The Story Movement: Make sure your story moves from problem/challenge to a more desirable outcome.

Step 4: Make It Value-Oriented: Your story doesn’t need to be an action-packed, overly dramatic screenplay that J.J. Abrams wants to direct, it needs to demonstrate your values and provide insight on how you will show up for your team.

Step 5: Test The Efficacy: Tell your story and make edits as needed. It’s not carved in stone.

2. Use A Collaborative Approach To Motivate Performance

Performance motivation is intrinsic motivation within a supportive environment. Team members are empowered to understand their role, believe they are making a difference in their company and desire to bring their A-game. Every. Single day. This infographic lays the groundwork.


3. Boost Your Emotional Resilience

4 Steps To Become A More Emotionally Intelligent Leader

Are you done with the drama? Tired of negative meaning making?

In order to be emotionally resilient, you must increase your EQ (emotional intelligence). To briefly recap from my previous blog on EQ, there are four steps:

1. Figure out what you’re feeling

2. Take a breather

3. Consider the recipient

4. Focus on the outcome

Let’s create an environment where you as the leader get the results you want and your team members feel powerful, effective, enrolled and engaged. In order to do this, leaders must be able to manage their emotional state. Remember when I talked about how you can choose your meaning in any given situation? No matter what happens outside of us, we always get to choose the meaning we make about it inside. Emotional resilience is the ability to deal with the toughest, most challenging situations. It’s being able to bounce back even when you fail big. Emotional resilience is the one thing that will ensure you navigate through situations where others would give up. An article in Time discusses the research conducted by Steven Southwick and Dennis Charney that dives deeply into how the toughest people summon the will to keep going. They found 10 things that emotionally resilient people have in common.

1. Be Optimistic

2. Face Your Fears

3. Have A Moral Compass

4. Practice Spirituality

5. Get Social Support

6. Have Resilient Role Models

7. Maintain Physical Fitness

8. Keep Your Brain Strong

9. Be “Cognitively Flexible”

10. Find Meaning In What You Do

Neuroscience says there’s only one real way to deal with fear: to face it, head on. This is what the most resilient people do.

4. Bust Workplace Bullies

It’s time to get serious about busting bullies. They are scary, shocking, embarrassing and have been tolerated in the workplace for too long. Leaders avoid dealing with them because they don’t want the attack, conflict and discomfort. And bullies can be hard to detect because they often work within the rules of the organization. This stops now. Don’t let bullies disrupt and eventually cripple your company. If you have bullies in your culture, start with this plan on January 1.

My 3-Step Bully Rehab Plan:

1. Identify how you are enabling the situation

2. End the enabling behavior

3. Set up a new system with healthy boundaries and behaviors (rich in safety, belonging, mattering and shifting from tension to empowerment)

To see an example of how this rehab plan works, my previous blog goes into more detail. Remember, the targets of bullying are not always the weakest players – they are often the strongest. Bullying is a cycle that will result in prevalent Critter State, high employee turnover rates, far less revenue per employee, increased absences, the list goes on and on. It’s up to the leader to recognize that they are responsible for a team member’s bullying behavior. Confront the bully, use my formal feedback steps, turn their skills into assets if possible and create the culture of your dreams, a real SmartTribe.

For more info in bulling in the workplace and how it’s affecting your bottom line, check out my most recent post: “75% of Workers Are Affected By Bullying – Here’s What To Do About It.”

Chime in if you’re game to share this journey to the next level of leadership!

Why Leaders Need To Be Great Storytellers

*As originally seen on

*As originally seen on

We’ve all seen them. Emotionally flat presentations. Emotionally devoid corporate mission, vision, and value statements that are simply wall art. They’re not memorable. And even if the team has been asked to memorize them, even recite them, but if you ask what they mean, you’ll get blank stares.

Why? There’s no emotion.

There’s no story.

What’s your favorite movie? I’ll bet you can enthusiastically tell me all about it, even if you haven’t seen it in years. Stories are like nutrition for our souls. We remember them and love them. They have deeper meaning for us. On YouTube, there’s a wonderful video clip of a group of marines belting out the lyrics to the theme song from Disney’s Frozen. Who would have thought combat soldiers could relate to a Disney princess?

Why Leaders Need To Be Great Storytellers


And then there are company stories. Many of us have heard the story about a Nordstrom’s customer returning a snow tire, and the customer service rep handling that request happily, even though Nordstrom doesn’t sell snow tires. We hear the story and we don’t need to be told that Nordstrom’s values customer service. We know already, we have the story.

Why Leaders Need To Be Great Storytellers



What Do You Love In A Story?

Notice what makes stories memorable for you. For most people, the stories we remember have some sort of emotional impact on us. They have this impact because we can relate to the hero and the storyline in some way. The stories you tell about your organization need to be positively impactful too. Neural coupling enables us to connect to the story and personalize it. We connect to the storyteller via mirror neurons, we get deeply engaged and feel/hear/see and even smell/taste what’s happening in the story too. And dopamine, a feel good neurotransmitter gets released when a story is emotionally engaging. And that’s just a start!

Here’s the storytelling recipe my client’s love when they are crafting company stories.

Step 1: Focus On Your “Story Customer” And Their Context

Who is the story for? Customers? Team members? Take a moment and think about the recipient of the story, what is their context? Notice the situations they are in, and make sure they can relate to your stories, tell stories where they can see themselves as the hero(ine) of the piece.

When you tell your story, choose the communication vehicle that fits their context. For example, one client’s target customer is parents of small children and they told their stories via Mommy blogs. Telling the same story on LinkedIn would probably not have been nearly as effective.

Step 2: Make It Authentic

Fabricated stories don’t usually have the same emotional impact as the real ones. You just can’t make some of those quirky details up, as Mark Twain said “Truth is stranger than fiction”. People like stories that have enough specific details to create a picture in their mind. Have a contest and ask your team to submit the stories of times when your organization’s values were demonstrated. Develop the stories that have the most emotional impact. Remember the brain and emotional engagement!

To make it really memorable it also helps if the story is told by a trusted member of the community. For example, stories told by customers about their own experience are going to feel more genuine and impactful than ones that you publish yourself.

Step 3: Give The Story Movement

Start your story with a problem or situation and then tell how that problem is resolved. Make sure the story goes from a problem (or less than fully desirable situation) to a more desirable outcome.

The more challenge in the story, the more interesting. The more distance between the starting point and the ending point, the more dramatic and compelling.

Step 4: Make It Value-Oriented

What value, insight, or service resolved the problem? For marketing stories, they might be about how your product or service helped in a unique or challenging situation. Ask yourself: what desirable outcome happened for the protagonist?

Make sure your story demonstrates your values. Other stories might be more funny, but you want to promote the ones that demonstrate your values, who you are, how you’ll show up for others.

Step 5: Test The Efficacy

Try it out. Does the story communicate positively? Specifically test your story on a representative group of recipients to make sure it has the intended meaning and impact.

The internet makes this pretty easy to do, but make sure you have tried out your story in a non-recordable way before you “go big.” 

The Net-Net = C.U.R.V.E.

Not every story will meet all of the below criteria, But I like to check my clients’ stories against the CURVE model to make sure they are creating a positive experience.

C for Curiosity, does the recipient want to know what happened?

U for Urgency, does the story create a sense of “must get this done now!”

R for Relevance, is the story relevant to the recipient’s situation or context?

V for Value, does the story reflect my values, is the story valuable to the recipient?

E for Emotion, does the story have an emotional impact? Is it funny, scary, surprising…?

Your Turn

People love to tell stories, they are potent engagement and teaching tools. Follow the above guide and make sure the stories being told about you and your organization are sending the right message!




Galileo Was Wrong: The Customer Is The Center Of The Universe [Infographic]

Gartner says that in 2017 CMOs will have a bigger share of the technology budget than CIOs.

Mayur Gupta, Global Head, Marketing Technology & Operation at Kimberly-Clark, says it is not about the C-Suite or the budget—the customer is in charge now, and more than ever before. I caught up with him recently to tap his brilliant brain.

They’ve Got The Power And Pull

Thanks to the vast quantities of info available, the customer now has the ability to make smart choices with speed and agility anytime and anywhere she wants. Not only is she in charge and in full control but she is also moving faster than most brands. She does not differentiate between channels and touch points–expects brands to behave the same way.

While the customer has become omni-channel, and always on, brands and marketers still operate and think in a multi-channel model. Brands are still channel-obsessed keeping the channel–the medium where they’re delivering amessage, albeit web, mobile, print, etc all important. They still think the message orbits around the channel. But it doesn’t. It orbits around the customer.

Now Mayur says this fundamental shift from thinking channels to thinking customers isn’t easy: it requires a change in the entire operating model. But for brands to be competitive (or even have a shot at keeping and gaining customers) it’s time to switch.

So what are the key shifts that brands and marketers need to create a customer-centric operating model? Read on…

The Five Shifting Principles of Customer Centric Marketing

1. From Just in Time to Life-Time Value (LTV)

Seth Godin sums it up well in his post on Thinking Lifetime:

The thing is, a customer is never out of warranty, even if his product is.”

He explains how brands need to stop thinking about time on the phone spent with customers or cost per hour of support people—sales at a given point of time. Instead they should start focusing on “lifetime, all the time”, thinking about customer relationship as an “always on” engagement rather than a point in time interaction.

2. From Storytelling to Story-building

It seems that suddenly everything is about storytelling it is the thing that gets associated with “everything.” In the book StoryScaping , Gaston Legorburu and Darren McColl illustrate a similar art that they call storyscaping which moves from creating universal stories to delivering ever-innovative ways of placing the customer at the center of the story, reassigning customers from the role of audience to the role of a protagonist. It is their journey that matters.

3. From Channel First to Customer First 

While the customers have truly become OMNI-CHANNEL where they are only concerned about the experience, the story and the value (customer first), the brands are still operating in a MULTI-CHANNEL model (channel first). How often do you talk about “mobile first”, or “TV first”? Is that relevant if you actually have the customer at the center? The question of a channel being first or second should not even exist in an “omni-channel” model– the customer does not differentiate between channels–in fact she expects a frictionless and seamless experience across them.

4. From Customer Segments to Individuals: the Universal Customer Profile

The evolution of data and technology has enabled modern marketing to be more precise, relevant, personalized and most importantly contextual. Shift from thinking target audiences and customer segments to personalization, context and predicting customer behavior. This requires brands to converge the isolated and fragmented data sets across first party, second party and third party customer data into a connected, universal 360 customer profile. This profile is channel agnostic and impacts every single touch point.

5. From the Conscious to the Sub-conscious Customer Research

Modern marketing demands an end to traditional customer research and the famous focused groups or the “sitting-behind-the-glass research.” Many new product launches fail because they assume customers make a conscious decision while buying products. Instead 90% of the decision-making happens in the sub-conscious–which does not play a role in the standard research set of questions and answers. Instead, brands need to become more “experimental”, focusing on big testing and big learning (not just big data) to understand customer behavior, expectations and patterns in real time–or just in time–and use the learning to drive relevant customer experiences that influence and inspire desired behavior.

Mayur’s list may not exhaustive, and every marketer and brand may have their own models and principles. However one thing is certain: we live and market in a digital world which is now controlled and driven by the customer. For brands to succeed they must make this customer the hero of their story.

The customer was always the center of the universe. Just now it’s time for us to remember.