Retail Observer

September 2020

The Retail Observer is an industry leading magazine for INDEPENDENT RETAILERS in Major Appliances, Consumer Electronics and Home Furnishings

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Page 47 of 67

RETAILOBSERVER.COM SEPTEMBER 2020 48 A fter more than thirty years as a corporate communicator and journalist I am still surprised by how hard it is for most business professionals to tell a decent story. Standing up to deliver an important idea or update, people often stumble and stammer. Tasked with writing a memo or email, they freeze before the blank white computer screen. Too often people retreat into bland generalities and "corporate speak" when communicating at work – missing the opportunity to reveal their unique wisdom and connect with the people around them. Ironically, off the clock they'll usually step back into their own skin and turn into the natural storytellers they truly are. Storytelling is the heart of all effective communication. Yet many of us find ourselves disconnected from our innate storytelling skills, especially at work. I believe the reason is we think we need to talk and present in ways that conform to some external standard. Years of institutionalization, starting in our earliest schooldays, have taught us that survival on the job requires adopting new words and rules for what we can and cannot say. It's easy to lose your sense of self when all around you your coworkers are hiding behind clichés, platitudes and buzzwords. But with a simple shift in mindset, it's possible to reconnect with your authentic self and use that innate inner knowledge as a wellspring of highly impactful stories. In my years of working with business professionals, I've discovered two key factors for unlocking that power. THE FIRST IS COURAGE. Storytelling is an act of creation, and creation is never pain-free. It can tempt us to pride – just see what the gods did to Prometheus. Asking people to identify and deliver authentic stories often means asking them to step outside the carefully delineated lines of "acceptable" corporate behavior. Executives say they love good stories, but they're often just hoping for Disney tales that start at a place of Happy and move to Even Happier. Real stories aren't that way. Real stories are messy. People fail. Things break down. Bad guys often win. But hard experience is usually the crucible in which our most important knowledge and values are forged. It takes courage to risk exposing your authentic stories and your authentic self. It means sharing vulnerabilities with no guarantee of the outcome. But shared vulnerability is a primary factor in establishing trust, community and purpose – the things many workers feel are missing from their jobs, and that most modern organizations are desperately seeking in their workforces. THE SECOND FACTOR TO GREAT STORYTELLING IS LOVE. The point of storytelling in business is to win people over. You want to guide someone – a customer, a team, a partner in innovation – to a new way of thinking or behaving. This bit of magic can only happen with great skills in empathy. Empathy is about inhabiting the life of another person. Not just understanding it, but feeling it. Knowing it down to your bones and allowing it to inform and even change you. It's impossible to be an effective storyteller without being good at empathy. Otherwise, you're simply blathering about yourself. In my workshops, I help my clients build empathy by asking them to imagine a specific person – an actual person they know well, or an imaginary prototype – and go deep in learning everything about them, from the place they live to the fears that keep them up at night. This exercise forces people to step out of their own heads and learn enough about their audience to make real connections. Here's the thing: to do this properly, you have to genuinely care. You have to find and internalize what is human and lovable in your audience. You have to want to make their lives a little better. History is full of examples of storytelling being used to manipulate and deceive. In the end, a story is just a tool. It's up to you choose how to use it. In my view, storytelling must always work in the service of positive transformation, and be rooted in honesty, compassion and respect. Love your audience and what you're bringing them, and you can't go wrong. COURAGE AND LOVE : THE HEART OF GREAT BUSINESS STORYTELLING Mario Juarez Business Mindset RO Mario Juarez is an organizational consultant, coach, and motivational speaker. He focuses on helping organizations and individuals achieve better business results through strategic storytelling. An award-winning former journalist, Mario led a series of innovative communications initiatives at Microsoft before founding his company, StoryCo, which serves clients across a range of industries.

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