Anecdotally Speaking

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085 – Corporate Storytelling—Narrative insight with Bernard and Tracey Swanepoel

by Shawn Callahan & Mark Schenk
November 23rd 2020

The shortest distance between two people is a story. Listen to hear strategy and leadership experts Bernard and Tracey Swanepoel share their experience in story listening.

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welcome toe, anecdotally speaking a podcast to help you build your business story repertoire. Hi, everyone. I'm Shawn Callahan and how everybody I'm Mark Shank. And today we've got two guests who are going to be talking about the topic of narrative inquiry or story listening, which is one of the topics one of the 14 topics in our corporate storytelling paper that we released two weeks ago. And I've got the pleasure of introducing Tracy and Bernard Swanepoel, who are based in Johannesburg in South Africa. And I had the pleasure of spending some time with them in South Africa a few years ago when they were doing their accreditation for the Storytelling for Leaders program. And so it's our wonderful to have you both on the podcast, and I'll just do a quick intro. First of all, Tracy. So Tracy is thief, founder of Inspiration, which is a specialized specialist consultancy, helping leaders focus on

on strategy and getting strategy understood. Tracy is the author of The Leadership Riptide and How to Escape It, which was selected by the South African Board of People Practices, is one of the top five leadership books, and I read It's fantastic It was one of those books that all the way through I learned stuff. There wasn't just like one or two chapters of interesting things. Um, that was a fantastic read and traces now, writing a second book and the nod is the founder of things separate or sorry, that, uh, one of the partners in Thinspiration and has had a long and and celebrated career. Hey was CEO of Harmony Gold, his business business owner. He is director of numerous mining operations across the world South Africa, Zimbabwe, Canada. He's on the board of a number of companies. The

chair of two online conferences. One of them, which is the Joburg Indaba. Did I get that right? Pinatas. Anyway, basically, Tracy and Bernard, they're your average Underachievers. So looking forward to them joining us on the podcast today, so yeah. Welcome, guys. It's great. Great to have you on the show. It's really I'm looking forward to this conversation. Yeah, most definitely. Thank you. It's really great Thio to be with you guys and your typical Ozzy sense of humans. So we were looking forward to it. Yeah, they probably I in the last five years of my life get to share a platform with that. My wife, who is also my boss. And that alone is always such a privilege. Thank you very much. Yes, I've seen you both in operation. It's a It's a great combo, Tracy. Starting with the your book, the leadership riptide and how to escape it. What is the

essence of the book? Well, Mark, you know, I sort of worked in, you know, with corporate with companies for I've been working for for quite a long time, and I m really sort off as time went on. Um just observed that leaders are really battling Thio change the way they lead people really battling to get through the people really battling Thio Thio deal with engagement. An engagement, as we know, is just getting, you know, worse and worse throughout the world. Um, and you know, there's so many initiatives. There's so many interventions that come from corporate, but it just doesn't seem to be making a difference. So when I in fact, what really sort of triggered it was we were doing a intervention with the coal mining division off a

large multinational conglomerate and we work with getting strategy understood eso we helped leaders paint a compelling picture off the future. We visualize that in a picture, but a key part of that is you know this. There's the strategy that comes from the top. But in order to take people to the future, you actually have to go to where people are. So we do what we call listening sessions to understand how people seeing the company right now. So as part of this intervention, I was chatting during a listening session with a coal miner. Been and we were It's a one hour session and we were chatting about the business. He was very sort of reluctant actually to to have the conversation, and we were sitting there and, you know, tried to sort of relax him a little bit on. Get him, get him, Thio, open up a bit on. We got to the part of the conversation where I said to him, You know, So

what? What do you worry about? What keeps you awake at night? And he said, You know, he thought for a moment, and usually when you ask that question, people say, Well, you know Well, I have a job. Will I be able to feed my family, and and he said something that there was quite different. He said, You know what really worries me is harder. I get my people to do what I need them to do. Aan dat pinned in my head because that's leadership. Hey, didn't call it leadership on guy said to him, You know, baby, well, like, what do you what do you do? You know now how do you how do you do it? And he said, No, I don't want to tell you says it looked relaxed. You know, I'm not gonna tell anyone. So he said, Well, I shout, I scream Sometimes I swear on day I said to him, Well, you know, how does that work for you? Andi said, Well, it doesn't work so I said, Why do you do it? And he said, because that's what my boss did. And you know, when I drove away from that, I just thought, you know what we've got actually change things because

here you have a guy that is actually looking for ways to lead differently. And despite all these initiatives, all these huge, very expensive corporate interventions, it's not getting to literally the coalface. It's not actually making the difference. So how do we go about equipping leaders with the skills to do things differently? And I remember that two hour drive between the coal mine and my my place. Um, I thought, you know, how could I? That was really the inspiration for the book book. I guess on that's that's really the essence of what the books books about. Yeah, Mark, obviously I have become the president of the Traces Wonderful Fan Club, so I'm much more comfortable talking about what is in the book than what she is. E think if you read through the book, you will be fucked as you've read through the book. But anybody read through the book will be struck by the beautiful way in which Tracy spells out what science tells

us, what works in the space of leadership and leading people and how, in reality we often do exactly the opposite. Not almost opposite exactly the opposite, you know, not something slightly different. So when you talk about you know what gets people excited, what motivates people? You know what makes people want to work? If you go to the typical corporate environment. We do the opposite. Andi, that is really the profound challenge that she lays out in that book is how do we empower people? Because as leaders, we caught up in a riptide. Now we all know anybody who lives in your accursed is in the reptiles. You need to swim differently. You can't just try and beat the uptight. And that is really what I think. What she has introduced into this conversation off leadership is a profound. Okay, so the riptide theme inexperienced person tries to swim against it and they swim really, really hard, and they make no progress

. In fact, often they end up going backwards. And that's the metaphor, is it? But leaders were putting leaders in the position where they're just swimming so hard on day. Just gotta change instead swimming into it. They have to swim across it, or even with it. Yeah, yeah, yeah. I remember that. How that book was titled, Yes, I thought that somehow I thought that was going to come up in this conversation. No, there was. It was it was bacon and eggs. So I remember at the time that mark came to visit us for our accreditation. I had just finished. My book was sort of at the proof reading stage, but it still didn't have a title. And, you know, it's really hard. You kind of It's really hard to sort of do that to just sort of say what it is. And we were chatting about it in the kitchen over breakfast. I remember Andi. I have to say

, Mr Schenk was the genius that came up with with the leadership riptide. So, Mark, I hope you planning a a trip to South Africa in the near future for the new books type, all looking forward to that. Well, there's a vaccine in the offing, so that could be on the cards. I think you should keep to the coastal sort of metaphors, and maybe it's running over the sand dunes or wading through the mangroves. What else? E mean? You've got a plethora of possibilities there, don't you? Holding your breath, you know, you know, it's interesting about the title, because people the sort of the question that they ask is like, What is this? What are you talking about? You know, what is a riptide have to do with leadership. Andi, It's actually quite a nice way of saying. Well, that's essentially, you know, when you caught in a riptide has burned, unexplained You someone, someone some you don't get. Anyway. Sorry. We're doing the same in terms of leadership. We have all these interventions

, all this money, and we're getting no closer to the shoreline. Often engaged, Motivated, productive. Workforce s. So it's a mass. It really was a stroke of genius, Mark. Thank you. One of my very few. So mhm. I don't wanna congratulate you there, Tracy, because you took a really poorly phrased question. You know, the topic that we're talking about for the podcast is narrative inquiry, your story listening. And I ask you about the book. And you told the story that tied both things together and you kept that all in your head and landed both points. So, uh, you can come back. I felt very, very roundly, quite frankly, thank you. But one always does. But, you know, you guys kind of you know you, you great conversationalist. So it za nice relaxing environment to do it in. So, Bernard, you've also well, story. That's right. The listening

sessions that you conduct are like an essential part off your work with coming up with the strategy maps. And, uh, I know you. You showed me one that you did for for the mining industry in South Africa when I was over there and it was fascinating, but so have you ever had similar experiences with with the listening sessions that were a bit of a revelation for you? And I say Thio young people, if they were dumb enough to ask me for advice about what would I have done differently? When I was much younger, I said I would have learned to listen and I would have unashamedly brushed up on my storytelling skills. And I really believe those two things actually flip side of the same sort of coin because I mean, as you teach, I mean kind of story is the shortest distance between two people. And so, in the heydays of my corporate career, we were not very inquisitive

. State off corporate strategy. We were buying other companies that own gold mines. I was in the gold mining industry originally in South Africa later Australia, Canada and Papa New Guinea Onda. When we do an acquisition in the South African context. One of your key stakeholders is organized labor unions, very strong union movement in South Africa. We did an acquisition. Everybody loved it. And yet we got stuck with a regional union leader, political in super for purposes. Off this that story, Mexico was just not buying into this. Excuse the fact he was not seeing any benefit. He was just making my life help. And and, you know, I tried. And I think much smarter people than me to engage with him. And his national leadership was supportive, and politicians were supportive, but not see, but And some

traces advice. I actually one uh they found him, and I said, we need to talk. I didn't say I'm coming to listen because I'm the CEO of a big mining company. I'm coming to talk. I'm not coming to listen. Of course. Tracy reprogrammed me, recalibrated me and I drove about two north hours through one Saturday morning. Only time this person had to see me all the way through to his officers, uh, in another province in South Africa. And we sat down and it wasn't going wrong, and he was threatening and raving and he was making demands and it took way over an hour. He gave me one hour. He's a busy man and you're missing a part in his life. He gave me one hour and well past the hour. He sort of seemed to run a little bit out of steam, and I was there to listen. So I prompted trying to really understand what exactly was

it that so upset this man, that he could not get his mind around what we were trying to do. And then, for some reason, he changed them and I could see it. I could see it in his posture and he started to share with me a personal story. The story of how a previous mind we bought nearby Soon after we acquired it, there was an incident. The mine accident, and his brother died in that. Now, rationally, I can tell you it had nothing to do with me. It wasn't us. It probably would have happened. We had one of the best safety record was in the industry. And when we take over operations, the mind runs safer. That's the fact his perception waas. Soon after we took up her mind somebody near and dear to him lost their lives. Now, from that point on, where the different relations I listened, I got his story. The distance between us shortened and it wasn't Oh, hunky Dorry after that. But we connected at

a personal level and we could actually continue to collaborate and build a company together. Not Why didn't we listen? That clearly is when we connect with another human being when suddenly we are not Democrats and Republicans, We are Americans. Thank God we are not, but just to make the oh yeah, the Eric. It's so interesting that whole idea off, you know, listening dissipates. Anger. I remember when I worked in in camera. She's where Mark is heading off the camera soon toe live. And when I was working in camera and I worked for a software company called Sybase and Sybase had arrived in camera set up shop and did a lot of good business. And then it must have fell on hard times because it disappeared out of camera on. I was there when it was coming back in. So there was this period where to

the customers, it felt like we had abandoned them right, and so myself and my boss at the time, Walt Hoyer on dear friend, is he used to be my basketball coach as well as a kid. Anyway, we went around to all of the customers, and Walter said, Sean, we're just gonna have to take it. We're just gonna have to sit and listen and we did. And they toss strips office, you know, like you said. But then they run out of steam, and then you get back onto an even keel. And if you go again, you gotta it's almost like you. You walk the slight clain in some ways by listening. It's it's quite quite amazing. I remember a listening session I had within another business, a plant business and that, you know, tensions were very high. Things were very rough. And this guy that I was having the session wolf his name was your hunt. He actually was he, like, banged the table? He was so upset

. And so, you know, I mean, I've had listening sessions where people actually, you know, get to like tears of frustration. Um, so, you know, and I realized that you kind of just let that moment go because I've sometimes suggested Well, you know, maybe you need to sort of chat with the, you know, resolve this and they're like, No, I feel fine now, You know, after, you know, I don't feel so fine, but they feel fine. But it's actually incredible what insights you get and also how people feel after having had that opportunity. I guess Thio have their voice heard what happened with your arm. That's how we fall in love. I mean, go back to the last time you fell in love. I mean, in my case, it's only 19 years ago that you listen. You've gone. I mean, hear enough about what comes out of the lips of the other person. E Just go to those early days and a sort of states when you know the other person is the important one and

you want to learn about them and you want to know them better. Even as men, we shut up and we listen. And then in the corporate world, this is not what we do. We put on a jacket, the Blazer title, and we tell, doesn't work at home. So why do we do it at work? I mean, and I know we don't want our workers to fall in love with us, but leadership is about taking people on a journey. How can you take anybody in the journey if you don't go and join them where they are? I mean, this is not philosophy. This is influence one or one? Yes. And the beautiful beach picture of the future. Yes. Give hope. Yes. Excite people about the journey and then bothered to go and find out exactly where there are the cabin situation, their circumstances, that can only be done through listening. So any culture James plan, which doesn't start with story listening, is doomed to fail, in my opinion, Yeah, I do have a question for you, Tracy

. Just on because you mentioned the beginning, Um, sort of the, you know, sort of helping people create a picture of the future, right? You know, with your strategy work. And I've been chatting to some story practitioners about this topic of how do you do it? And And I'm interested in how does it work with us? A story listening approach and, you know, getting that insight into the future. I mean, what sort of things do you do toe to make that happen? So one of the things that we dio is we create a visual what we call it a visual strategy. Macro visual story may, which is probably about 80% the journey to the future. We use an analogy or a metaphor that's relevant to that particular audience, but a key part of that to make it resonant and to make it riel comes from the insights from our listening sessions. So we always have a sort of

we often call it the From You know, we refer to it as the from culture or the from so some of the attitudes and the insights that we've got from the listening sessions that aren't the good stuff that aren't the nice stuff. And, you know, when you get an opportunity to to depict that in a creative form, um, it's much it's much more palatable for people. Thio, you know, to understand so often we'll have, for example, let's say we're all on the bus, you know, going off to the soccer stadium. If that's the particular analogy we have, what is the what is the mood and mindset on that bus, and we get to understand that by the soundtrack off the songs and then the songs would be some of the the insights off the listening station. You know, the blame game road to nowhere. But when you do it, you know when you depict that people love the idea that they've been heard. But it sort of takes the stink off off the negativity away

, so it really it makes it acceptable. Bond. I think you know it very valuable part of the process, because otherwise it's just another thing coming from corporate. It's not us, you know. So that's so that's really how we put it together. That's so interesting. You know, that metaphor approach, isn't it? See, it goes from the title of your book all the way through to your your strategy work. Very good. Eso I seem to recall there was one about you tackle some quite difficult issues, you know, safety, gender equality was what or in gender equality that that s that. So that was a particular very interesting, um, insight that we got It was working with the mining company and, you know, there's a huge push in mining companies for Thio get their woman in mining statistics Looking good on this particular company had really had alot boxes were checked, everything looked great on

paper. We went in and we did listening stations and we weren't probing for this, you know, we were just asked. We asked people, It's a general conversation. We're just asking people, you know, what are the issues? One of the challenges you need to deal with and this issue of women in mining just kept coming up. You know, it's it's so inconvenient, you know? I mean, they need special toilets, you know, Can't they just do the laundry? You know, these these. This was the mindset. So it was this huge discrepancy between the what was on paper and all the nice box ticking and the actual mind set off the people. So what we did when we sort of did the feedback we depicted this. As you know, way had a little bust scenario of everyone sort of sitting on the bus, and the guys sitting there had little picket saying, you know, we support woman in mining, but there was a little thought bubble off a woman kind of doing the laundry doing the ironing on. And, you know, it was so powerful about that was when the c a spoke to that

issue. I mean, everyone just kind of collectively gasped and got It was like, Okay, we now are looking in this often quoted looking in the fat mirror, You know, where you see ALS, the yak Penis, Andi, and you have to confront it. But it was such a good process because they realized whatever they were doing, mindset wise was not actually working. And they needed to, actually, you know, take that on and address it. And and so you pick that up in the story, this thing sessions. Did you? Yeah. Yeah, yeah. One thing that Z I'm keen to ask Bernard. All right, So you said there was two piece of advice. One of them waas was the listening and you gave that fantastic example of how the difficult relationship was moderated. Bye bye. Listening. Okay. And then the other one storytelling. So what's the? Is there in any moments that where you went are there it is. I could see where this works

. So I've been my whole life. Had to communicate either English, which is my second language. I know you can't tell, but I wasn't born and break in the Queen's English. And then in the South African mining industry, we had a horrific, like, uh, makeshift language called Flanagan. Or we've had about 3000 words in which you could give instructions. So how do you communicate as the supervisor, uh, leader and that sort of environment. So I am from Yang, found myself using analogies, and that's got its place Can analogy. It's got its place. You know, instead of trying to communicate something, you make the case off. When I you know, for example, if I had to explain to people that you know you should lead people in a way in which you celebrate progress, I would say, How do we teach our kids to ride a bicycle? You put a four year old five year old on a bicycle, you're

holding you supporting and then you let go. And if they fall over, you actually celebrated. You said, Wow, my boy, this is the most spectacular four I've ever had the privilege to witness. Let's do this again. Now how do we do it at work? Exactly the opposite We shall we scream? We send out a memo with the rules and then when people don't cycle successfully, we wanna fired it. So that's the analogy. And then as Tracy got keen on storytelling and we bumped into you guys, you know, with a specific sets, a clear thought out sort of methodology. Andi, I thought, You know what? If only I knew this at age 20 if only I was more deliberate because on the one hand is a deliberateness about it. And on the other end, there's a vulnerability to try to tell your story. In late Mark Shane tells you this is a shitty first draft, that we can work with it. I think anybody who's ever been taught by Mark Shake

Nurse, what is 51st draft means. But that's okay. And then we try again and then we shorten it. And then we, uh, now e mean nothing communicates better than a story. If you think of any person you look up to, there's a story did. You may not have distilled eject, but it's there. If you think of a company that appeals to your brand, there's a story now, as a leader. Surely you wanna communicate as successfully as possible in the shortest possible time. And what better way to do that than through stories? And, of course, we talk about business stories in the context of the business, but it is the same recipe as you guys have taught us also. Well, right. I think one of the really interesting combinations is when you take analogy and story and put them together. You know, you have an analogy on, Then what would you call it? Analogous story or a story analogy? Um, you know, one of the ones that

really stuck in my mind is last year we had a CEO approaches who had a situation where he got caught out because he couldn't tell the story. But his colleague there was actually two CEOs running this business. One was transitioning out of the company, and this guy was a new guy. And the guy who was there already stood in front of a big town hall and just sort of said, Hey, has anyone heard of the movie hidden figures Anyone's going? Oh, yeah, that was Yeah. I remember that. Maybe that was a good movie and says, Yeah, remember when they brought the IBM computer in and on Dorothy Vaughan. You know, the the African American woman, uh, realize is gonna be a disrupter for the business and for her, particularly. You're gonna lose a job and all her colleagues we're gonna lose their job and how she goes out. And she steals a book on four Train Teaches herself for trained, teaches herself out of program that IBM computer

teachers, all of her colleagues how to do it. And they become the first computer programmers for NASA on at the end, he goes. So what's our four trend like, What's the thing that's going to save us from disruption? What's the thing? And it just it just took off. The whole thing just took off, whereas the other see, I got up there and did this presentation just full of graphs. And, you know, like his a utilization rate. And here's our you know, sort of revenue. A year on year and year on your profit and and of course, the first day I got away. This feedback all this, you know, people going Hey, we worked out how toe You know, we think our four train is this? And we got the team together and are four. Train is gonna be this and the other guy got nothing and s Oh, I love this idea of, you know, the combination of, you know, story. An analogy. Yeah. I mean, you must see that in your work, you know, so, so rich An analogy. It's I tell you, it's such a you know, it's a it's a riel secret

ingredient because I think analogies or shortcuts exactly like that. You know? You know how you have, you know, algorithms process a lot of data and they tell you something. Analogies for me do the same. You know, like, what is our four trend? That's like a little It's a little code and it gets people. I mean, when we were in harmony, we had a little analogy that we used the cost marathon because it was all about, you know, keeping costs under control. And the idea was, you know, you can't just do it once it's a marathon. So you've got it, you know, so you can just use it. People get it and you can build on it. The other thing, I think that's so powerful about analogies. Is they because they are outside of ourselves? There's some way in which they work, that they are not confrontational. So it's people everyone can identify with that. Get behind it, understand it, Andi

. And it's not like it's, you know, it's negative to a it's not personal. So it's It's about something sort of over there that we can all project onto and get behind. And I think that's definitely very powerful. Always call it equalizer. In the corporate world, especially, it's completely different cultures. You find the right analogy. We can all relate. Often it's a sports analogy. Doesn't have to be there crazy, done some amazing analogies of space journeys, you know, etcetera. And suddenly I don't have an advantage because I didn't MBA doesn't give me this corporate speak that put you at a disadvantage way equalize the conversation. Therefore, we are really human beings. Therefore we connect, therefore we doesn't bend it to each other stories. It is such a powerful too, and the visual component of it is important. And I want to say to people who think of this visual thing, this is not like the storyboard you have seen from consultants computer generated. This is a deep inside

building to an analogy that works site specific company specific on then every single. I mean, I've had 40,000 people in an organization speaking to an analogy like they all own it Now that, I think, is what we are pursuing you Yeah, I love it. Love the equalizer idea. Now I'm going to ask for a favor. When I was there with you running that first storytelling polluters program, one of the participants told what is possibly the best connection story I've ever heard, and I didn't make any notes, which is bad, you know, like That's obviously a no no, But can you can, either, If you remind me of it, you know which one it waas 50 cents. I think I'm giving that over to my husband. Thio. It's his real name, but we won't go beyond that. One of the

wisest people I know later in life, when I went on and did other things, there was always a phone call back to reach it to come and join me to come and assess me. And he was in this, uh in this space, off interacting with unions, which in South Africa still often waas and white management, senior executive management having to interact with Black Union. And Richard was relating the storage off how he was growing up on a mine. His dad was the chief medical officer, and so they that house on the mine property, and on Saturdays, one of the mine workers would come and work in the garden and, you know, for extra income. And Richard was a young young boy. I think he says he was nine or 10 years old when one day at the end of this shift is observed

his dad paying this man, this Gardner, who's an underground mine worker and his normal job, his monthly, uh, fees can pull in a salary again. Stop it for working in the garden and Richard saw orders. And you realized this guide for working four or five Saturdays a week in a month is getting paid less than what he gets. Pocket money as a nine year old boy, and that moment of inequality formed his life. He liked to get arrested by the apartheid government, as it is uh, a student leader, one of the liberal campuses he was detained, you know, for a few days his family worried that he was in the line. He had amazing life. Informed by a moment in time when he is a young boy observed something. And from that point on, I could not stand inequality. Mark, I'm not even sure that was the story you were after That. Is that that's the one? Yep. Nailed it. Yeah

, that's lovely. Mike is re tingles at one. So that's that's always a good sign. Um, they the other thing I wanted to ask you both of you was also about graphics, right, Because I know that you guys were fantastic and illustrating your work and your strategies and things like that. And I know for May the ones I've used a few different times in different types of projects. But actually, one of the ones was a mining related projects. Where am a friend of mine? Who's a cartoonist? Jock McNish, Right now, Jock was doing some work in Western Australia from mine, and he collected sort of like some of the rial K safety stories that were instrumental in how they viewed safety from a positive perspective. Right? And he had this brilliant idea and he created these cartoons really big posters

that they put in, you know, like the shared areas of the mine. And you'd have speech bubbles, but the speech bubbles were left blank, right? And it kind of got people. The either knew the story. So you just saw it. New moralists, Quickly. Word in your head. But for the new people, they'd look at him, go better. What's what's this? Oh, yeah, Well, you know, 12 months ago and they tell the story which explained it was like a trigger for stories. Brilliant. But I mean, you must have found some really interesting things on how you do your illustrations and what works and what doesn't work. I'd love thio. Love to get your take on that. I think I just love that idea. That idea is being stolen as we speak. No, no, no. Sean, you know what we find in with our maps is on DWI. Always say this. The one

part of it is to conceptualize allow this a lthough stuff. All this corporate stuff, the strategy, the reason for the decisions I always think of it is like the plot of a movie. It's the reason why certain things have happened. You have to conceptualize that into the analogy, and it needs to make sense and you do the beautiful picture and it's a lovely We love it and it's great, but that is 20% of it. The 80% comes in the conversation, so we train leaders to then have a conversation around that picture. And that's where the magic actually happens for a couple of reasons. And I think one is absolutely related to your to your blank speech bubble is that you ask people. So So this personal, this little in the graphic the speech bubble says this, But do you agree with that? What would you put in there? Can anyone tell us about the time when you felt like that? So what we add to

the analogy is the power off storytelling and then train leaders to actually illicit those stories. So we say to leaders. So, Mr Leader, you've got to where you are by speaking. But actually this process is the opposite. You need to actually get your people to speak because that's our internalization happens. So it's training those leaders to facilitate the stories to listen for. The stories on DTI actually gather the stories around the picture, and I think that that makes it richer. And I have to say, It's all credit thio your process because before we meet you guys, our whole focus used to be on the visual. And now we have actually realized that it's so much more than that when you combine it with with oral storytelling, getting people to have conversations. So I mean, there's a good pictures, a Skoda's 1000 words. I would argue that a good

visual analogy which has Bean, uh, with the people in an organization, a really an opportunity to engage with, to find themselves and to see their unique contribution. I mean, suddenly a visual analogy could be like a million personal stories. And that's when people belong that when my story is part of the big story, I'm not just a number. I'm not the voter that doesn't get counted or, you know, I mean, I am, I am it. I am the story on part of it. And it worked like a charm. It really works so long. Oh, that has been a fantastic conversation. Now we cut our teeth in the story world on the story listing side at where in fact, Sean and I initially we didn't do storytelling because we we could see that there was huge potential for story to be misused on has been misused throughout history. But clients

really wanted it. So we kind of added that to our repertoire, but yeah, well, one of the things that that we think has really helped us is that we started with listening. Yeah, that's right. And you know, I'm standing to come to this viewpoint that you probably learn a ZMA much about storytelling. Well, let me Let's rewind. I think if you wanna be a good writer, you need to be a good radar, right? And so, to be a good storyteller, you need to be a good story listener, and you just absorb it. It's like how you learn language, you know? So you know, you don't learn by just learning the grammar and and all the bits and all this part goes before this part In that part, you learn storytelling, but you don't even learn it. You acquire storytelling. I think that's the and you're acquired by hearing stories and Mark and I, we must have heard 1000. I think we mentioned this last podcast. But But

what I'd love to get a sense from you guys is what are some of the lessons that you've learned in collecting stories? You know, like what works and what doesn't for you? Have you Have you formed some? You must have formed some really interesting perspectives on that trace and I actually both together us and went for training on how to listen. She human me because obviously a woman thing, they listen and they think main Don't listen on gets enough truth in that that I think typically women are better listeners than may on. But I think again, I think one should firstly be the retail liberate about it. You should have the intention to this. Yeah, one of the other person isn't in the same frame of mind yet, you know. And then I think listening for stories or listening is really about just prompting the conversation. Now it's a fine balance because I have opinions. I have

unique contributions to any topic in my mind. I have to bite my tongue not to share my wisdom. I am so clear that and yet I'm yet to learn from you. So I for me, it's hard. It's sweaty hand palm stuff. It is certain on your hands and shut up and engaged and show with your I mean with your body language that this is important and make eye contact. If culturally, that is an acceptable practice, and do whatever it is to make it clear that this is a safe space that you've been really Julie, share your story and very few people have seen through a storytelling course. So there's a messy stories all over the place. They haven't this told them they haven't gone through the shitty first draft to a second draft. The better drop, it comes out the way it comes out at the polls or the diamonds are in there. And so I must say, for me, it is really a simple us. Get it in your diary, actually

die, arise, listening stations go out and listen and then reflect on it. And sometimes, as I say, the rial diamond was hidden. You need to work through it a bit to get the deep story. But the person who get the opportunity to share. It feels like he connected with you. Eso listening is the key Absolute key as far as I'm concerned. Tint e. Of course, left to now I have my little two pins with I realized, you know, of course, I realized in our listening training that despite being I've always a I have always believed in the value off listening and listening is a skill I have realized in normal life. I'm actually a pretty serial interrupter. I get excited when people make points and I want to add my point to their

point. So when we do a listening session, it's actually quite a great discipline because it's almost like you have to get into that mind set off. You actually have to be an empty space, and you actually have to inhabit the other person's world and not come to that conversation with wanting to make your own contribution. So and I love that process. I really enjoy that out of a lot of things that we do, I would say listening sessions are one of my favorite things. However, in normal life, maybe it's just in marital life. I interrupt a lot so It's like I have to sort of turn the interruption switch off because you have some competition going on there. Tracy, you know, your well stated so well, C e they came with only design era. I would say on women in general, is immune patterns. Do not well, So this is the thing. I'm very, you know, sort

of. I don't quite understand. And even this in zoom call because you actually have them your mute button on and we can hear you. Is this an analogy? Hey, there's one. There is one thing that one experience I had that sort of gave me an insight into listening. Um, it was actually with a, uh you know, uh, what do you call it? A power station up in Hunter Valley in New South Wales. And I was going around to all the teams, talked to the leaders about how they work, how they operate their teams. And this one guy had become a new team leader and he arrived with his team. And then, of course, they have a bit of a briefing session in the mornings. And the previous leader just talked all the way through, like he didn't listen to anyone. He just talked. And so they developed the habit off. Not speaking. So when he became the leader, he sat down. He said, Okay, love to hear you know what everyone thinks

, what we're doing. And I just sat there and he says, No, no, no, no. Look, I'm serious. I really want to hear what? What? You've got to say nothing like they refused it all. And so he sort of scratched his head for a bit. And in the next session, he said, Like I look, let's just talk about what we did on the weekend. So what did you do on the weekend? And the first guy starts, you know? Well, I got a jet ski and we went out on the lake and and they just got used to talking, right? And then it took it. He said it took him a couple of weeks or just chatting about informal social things, and then he was able to flip that to get them used to talking about business things. I thought, It just shows you how ground, how ground down Ah group could be right. We see that a lot of time in our map sessions. We actually design those chatty questions in. So we say, You know, you might think this is weird. What? We're

going to start with a question like, What was the best thing that happened to you in the last couple of weeks or you know, something completely, And they're like, What has this got to do with the strategy? And we actually need to do that because it encourages exactly as in your in your story. It encourages people to actually know that they have permission to speak because that isn't there, that isn't they any last any last thoughts comments before we wrap it up? I've been busy trying to listen, but I have a thought. What's that? But it's something that we haven't said explicitly, but which has been implied. And that is that the story listening, the listening sessions. It's not just about getting the examples and finding the metaphors and analogies, but the whole idea that the sessions themselves are an intervention indeed. Indeed, it is amazingly respectful

, and it always gets received that way. If you listen to somebody, they feel seen and I feel hurt, I feel respected and that the results in connection now in business and in, uh, leadership. How could you not want to pursue that? Yes, of course. You can abuse it from their own. But that's on you. That's not what happened in the listening. And the listening is you demonstrate to respect and you connect very much. So I always think that's the first step to engagement in the process. People really, really enjoy them, and they feel part of it. Well, I'm gonna finish up just by saying thanks everyone for listening Thio anecdotally speaking, it's great to have you along and, yeah, tune in next week for another episode off How to put your stories toe work Bye For now, anecdotally

speaking was engineered by day steaks from author Toe audio. Mhm

085 – Corporate Storytelling—Narrative insight with Bernard and Tracey Swanepoel
085 – Corporate Storytelling—Narrative insight with Bernard and Tracey Swanepoel
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