Customer Centricity
Astute Planning. Flawless Execution.
Delighted Customers.

Issue #184

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Recently, we received a compliment from a client (senior executive), referencing our expertise in driving change to conclusion stating, "...while strategy is good, execution is where it is at!" High praise indeed! This is something our clients have come to expect when working with Customer Centricity.

While we help companies execute, a key factor in ensuring that change sticks is senior leadership (within the firm) that creates and demonstrates the culture for change. If your firm has been involved in a large-scale / cross-functional initiative (including integration of an acquired firm, implementation of a new ERP or CRM system, etc.) and it didn't go as well as expected, a contributing factor may have been the lack of "Change Management."

Change Management can mean a number of things. A simple definition (from Wikipedia) that seems fitting for the context we are discussing is: an approach to transitioning individuals, teams and organizations to a desired future state.

While there are numerous approaches to facilitating change, we hope this series provides you with a useful set of tools that can aid you in your Change Management efforts. Feel free to let us know if you need an assist!

The Power of Stories: A Leader’s Ally to Transform Data Process into a Learning Driven Experience
by David Sollars and Rob Salafia

Leaders of innovative change need allies in their quest for building alignment for a new process. These allies help create a bought-in culture integrating a sense of ownership, commitment and investment into the new process.  We will share our 3-step method that global leaders have used to guide their organizations through innovation with story archeology tools that uncover, select and showcase their culture of change.

Uncover the Power of Story

A leader’s strategic and well told story can move an audience through a message of innovation by creating unforgettable images that bring their vision to life.  Our brains are hard wired to accept, translate and share the meaning of messages through story.  The sharing of a past business experience can create clarity and provide direction for your team's latest project.

Reach Back to Leap Forward

The CEO from the UK was coming to town with his top team to evaluate how to lead the American division through their upcoming innovative process. The president of this division had all the knowledge and experience to provide leadership during this next growth phase, yet had not been able to articulate his own value and vision beyond his reports. The stress was mounting. The time was short.

Through an interactive, emergent process he was able to remember a story of innovation from his childhood. These types of stories are rich with long lost gems of personal attributes and leadership qualities. As often happens, he had not thought about this episode in his life for many years.

This division president vividly recalled how he could not afford a motorcycle as a boy, yet used his resourcefulness, unschooled engineering instincts and determination to sift through junk piles for parts to build bikes that his buddies still brag about. Through bringing his story to life in a visceral way important personal attributes emerged that he was able to link to his dedication to achieve peak performance during this upcoming innovation opportunity. Our division leader opened the meeting with this story that clearly illustrated a sense of confidence. He then used his extensive experience to further illustrate his vision for the future. He continues to use stories to strategically guide his American team, while creating more meaningful communication with his CEO.

Tools for Story Archeology

  • Remember from Relaxation: We access powerful memories when relaxed. We hold back when we feel interrogated.
  • Paint a Picture: Draw out vivid recollections by using neuroscience of the brain. We guide a team through engaging exercises that allow vibrant images to come to our minds. We enhance these images by using sensory details of smells, emotions, sounds and other memorable characters.
  • Metaphor for Meaning: We often have participants start off by saying, “Think of it like this,” then begin to draw us into their story with a strong visual image that is used to connect us with their message.
  • Carve out juicy bits: Leaders have to be flexible and still be effective with their messages. We help participants to find the center of influence in their stories, then bookend these sentences with a lead in and take away.
  • Storytelling becomes the anchor: When leaders share their stories, they create neuro-pathways in the brain. The stories become sticky and are easily recalled.

Build Bridges of Buy-In

As story archeologists, we help leaders recast their organization as the protagonist, the main character, of their own innovation story. Our story process assists leaders to clarify their message in the context of their innovation strategy, while they integrate ownership, commitment and investment into the new process.

The power of a well-chosen story can deliver a high leverage tool into a leader’s hands, just when they need it the most. Lisa Cron, author of Wired For Story, reinforces this point further as she states in her text the audience of a story “must feel for the protagonist: When we’re fully engaged in a story, our boundaries dissolve.” We’ve found a well-constructed story can continue to guide a leader and his/her team through updating the organization or protagonist’s progress with innovation. A leader’s influence peaks when the recipients of change identify themselves with the transformational story of the company’s innovation.

A Leader’s Keys for Collaborative Stories

Leading with a well chosen story will produce an environment of engagement, clarity and inspiration.

  • Stories of Understanding: We engage both the drivers and participants of change in stories that reveal the history, reasons, attributes and objections to an innovation process. Buy-in is built on sharing the daily business operations and elements that contribute to the choices of change.
  • Stories of Trust: Feelings are cultivated when stories bring together the emotions, intensions and impact of innovation. We must feel a growing sense of ownership to a process before we invest in it. We ask leaders to model authenticity by sharing their genuine feelings of apprehension and opportunity.
  • Stories of Success: We encourage leaders to ask “success questions.” Tell us a story about when innovation created a big win for your company. Help us understand when your willingness to embrace change led to a great achievement. These stories will develop a bought-in culture for a leader’s change initiative.

Key Stories for Killing Collaboration

Leading with poorly told or selected stories cultivates a culture of doubt, mistrust and conflict.

  • The Delegation Story: A busy leader delegates the crucial integration of innovation, instead of modeling key behaviors and sharing powerful stories. We believe the most powerful leverage in a leader’s hands to ignite a fire of influence is his/her own compelling reasons for change told in a well chosen story.
  • The Turf War Story: You can hear these stories of destruction wrapped in rationalization. People who spread this special brand of poisonous non-compliance are fully vested in protecting their own borders, while the company is brought down around them.
  • The Whisper Story: Leaders find this particularly challenging since this story is never told out in the open or shared when feedback is requested. This quiet killer of innovation is hard to address, since these stories are silently shared behind closed doors, in parking lots or between darting eyes in a hallway.

A Leader’s Story Presence

What does it take to tell a great story?

The best storytellers make it look easy. As listeners, we are immediately pulled in by the glint in their eyes, the cadence and variety in their voice, and the expression on their face. It’s like they are telling the story with their whole bodies. But most of all, we are captured by how they make us feel. Great storytellers are willing to open themselves up and allow us to be in the story with them. We feel what they feel. We see what they see. And, most of all, we gain the realization and insight from the experience that they had as well. Their story is now our story. This is Story Presence!

Before a presentation consider the following:

  • Make the story relevant.
    • Who will you be speaking to?
      • If they are a functional group, you can speak more directly to their needs.
      • If they are a diverse group, you may need to lift the message up so all can relate.
    • What is on their minds?
      • A story needs to address the underlying concerns of the audience.
  • Make it personal.
    • An audience needs to know that you get them. A story that is personalized will ring true and engage them on an emotional level.
    • A leader’s story shares the journey it takes to get to the goal. As Lisa Crohn points out in Wired for Story, “recently discovered mirror neurons, in our brains, fire when we watch someone do something and when we do the same thing ourselves. Mirror neurons allow us to feel what others experience almost as if it were happening to us, in order to explain their desires and intensions with real precision.”

As a leader, think of a current situation where a well-crafted story can be one of the tools that imparts clarity and understanding that sticks with your audience. Our process of story archeology helps leaders find and fine-tune their stories for ownership, commitment and investment into the new process.

Coaching Questions for a Leader

Leaders ask themselves strategic questions that guide their organizations to discover solutions.  Write down your answers to the following questions. These can serve as the building blocks for your own story.

  • Quickly connect with a metaphor: What’s the first powerful image that illustrates how you feel about the need to implement this process? Why do you care and why should we?
  • Ask the success question: When did a new process save the day for your company and what personal attribute did you display that created commitment within your teams?
  • Deliver or delegate: As a leader, where would your own personal story be the most effective as a high leverage tool for implementing a process rather than delegating it to someone else? Have you handed it off already?

Start to formulate your own leader’s story and meet us back here for the next segment of this story series. The next article will detail more practical tips for creating memorable messages through story presence and give leaders a powerful check in tool for their teams.


David Sollars and Rob Salafia are story archeologists. They help leaders and top teams discover the story that sticks. They assist leaders of change to find the solutions to their process challenges by uncovering knowledge and insights that are often buried within their own experiences. They engage with organizations during pivotal crossroads to clarify current priorities, shape the newly formed message for guiding the actions of an organization, and coaching confident performance from each brand ambassador. They utilize a range of engaging learning techniques drawn from their extensive experiences in the fields of theater, martial arts and medicine. Through their process of self-discovery, you will learn the skills to find your story, carve out and customize high impact moments, and differentiate your brand by leaving a message that resonates with your audience long after you have left. Contact them to tell them your story!

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Recommended Reading

For a comprehensive guide to Customer Relationship Management, you are encouraged to read CRM In Real Time: Empowering Customer Relationships.

As described on

This comprehensive guide to Customer Relationship Management (CRM) draws on Barton Goldenberg's 20+ years of experience guiding firms to a successful implementation of CRM solutions and techniques. Goldenberg demonstrates how the right mix of people, process, and technology can help firms achieve a superior level of customer satisfaction, loyalty, and new business. Beginning with a primer for executives who need to get quickly up-to-speed on CRM, the book covers a full range of critical issues including integration challenges and security concerns, and illuminates CRM's key role in the 24/7/365 real-time business revolution. CRM in Real Time is an essential guide for any organization seeking to maximize customer relationships, coordinate customer-facing functions, and leverage the power of the Internet as business goes real time.


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