Storytelling

This page includes leadership stories that have been used to inspire, inform or encourage.  Please feel free to use them in any way that might add vaue to the teams you lead.  If you have any feedback for me on these stories, or are willing to share one of your own, please email me at rob@wisdomtransfer.com

Attitude of a Dog

A friend of mine once told me that I should pursue the attitude of a dog.  While I respected his opinion on lots of things, the idea that I should strive to become more “dog-like” was not that appealing.  To make his point he offered me this challenge:  “Lock your dog and your wife in the trunk of your car for two hours.  When you open the trunk, notice who is happy to see you.”

 

Most men know what kind of reaction they could expect if they locked their wife in the trunk of a car.  (BTW, this reaction is not limited to wives…any man would be just as furious if it happened to them.)

 

The interesting thing about the dog is that he is just happy to see you.  It doesn’t seem to matter to him that you are the one that locked him in, or treated him badly.  He is sitting up, wagging his tail and ready to lick your face.  Not so much with your spouse.

 

Although I am sure there are other dog traits that are not so great, the simple truth is that we would all be a little better if we…

 

…smile through adversity

 

…love people, even those who treat us badly

 

…see beyond their bad actions, and assume the best of them

Caller I.D.
A few years ago I had a close friend who was diagnosed with a fatal form of cancer.  When she passed away, I delivered the eulogy at her funeral.  With this type of closure to our friendship, you can imagine my surprise when six months later I got a phone call with her name showing up on my Caller I.D.   I remember being shocked at first, and then confused as I tried to imagine how she could be calling me.  When I finally got the nerve to answer the phone it turned out to be her husband calling.  The telephone was registered in her name and he had never gotten around to changing it with the phone company.   My reaction to seeing her name on my Caller ID is probably more dramatic than most, but most of us do register some type of emotional response when we see certain people are calling.  You probably have people whose name evokes a very positive response and you are delighted to pick up the phone and talk to them.  You may also have others who cause you to frown and allow it to go into your voicemail to deal with later.  My question for you to ponder is this:  What kind of reaction do people have when they see your name on their Caller ID? Do they smile when they see your name because they know that this is going to be an enjoyable, motivational call, or do they just let it go in to voicemail?  As leaders we need to be intentional about communicating with others in a way that inspires a consistently positive response.  I know I have some work to do.

The Importance of Hope
I saw a sign recently that said “Due to budget cuts, the light at the end of the tunnel has been turned off.”  While that humorous sign made me smile, it also caused me to think about the importance of that metaphorical light.  Without the hope that light represents, people will give up.  It is the hope of a better future that causes people to get up when they fall down, try again when they lose, and continue to fight no matter what the odds are.  Numerous studies on youth crime and gang behavior have shown that the threat of jail is not a deterrent to young people who have no hope of a better life.  Many of these young people have already given up their hope of getting an education, or a job, or of achieving any type of success.  Once the hope of a better future is gone, then consequences like getting expelled from school or being put in jail really lose their sting.  Hope can power the dreams of a young child and provide the motivation and determination to persevere no matter how difficult their circumstances.  Thank you for all you are doing to keep hope alive and provide that “light at the end of the tunnel.”

If You Knew You Were Dying
On September 11, 2001 two airplanes slammed into the World Trade Center in New York City, USA.  Although there are many stories that have been told about this tragic event, none are more compelling than those told by the family members who received phone calls from people trapped in the towers.  These people knew that their lives were coming to and end and there was nothing they could do about it.  When faced with that reality, many of them spent their last moments on this earth on their cell phones talking to the people that they loved and cared about.  At that moment they were not concerned about their house, or car, or bank account…only about making a personal connection with their loved ones.

In his best selling book “Half Time”, Bob Buford suggests that most of us have two distinct phases of our lives.  The first half of our life is often spent on a Search for Success, with the second half focused more on a Search for Significance.   Often times this happens in our 40’s as we realize that the pursuit of wealth and the gathering of possessions is empty and meaningless.  Obviously, the earlier in life that we reach this understanding, the longer we have to pursue things that really matter.  One of the saddest scenarios is the person who reaches the end of their life with no one at their side because they never invested in the only thing of value…other people.

A few years ago I was challenged to think about what kind of legacy I wanted to leave on this earth.  A wise mentor asked me to sit down with pen and paper and develop an order of service for my own funeral.  Identifying who would welcome the guests, who would speak, who would sing or pray and who would serve as pallbearers, was a strange, but revealing exercise.  I was also challenged to think about who would be sitting in those front rows that were reserved for my closest and dearest family and friends.  Finally I was encouraged to imagine what those people would have to say about me and whether they would feel like I added value to their lives. 

As  leaders, each of us has an opportunity to create a legacy of leadership and service to others.  It is never too late, or too early to become a person of passion and caring.  But don’t wait too long…the world needs you.

Who’s Got Your Back
As a leader, I am sure there are things that you have accomplished primarily as a result of your own hard work, talent, or maybe just sheer determination.  I also suspect that there are a number of successful endeavors you have been a part of that were only possible with the help of others.  Any man or woman that believes they are “self-made, is probably not paying attention to what is going on behind the scenes, and all around them.  Even hard-driving entrepreneurs ultimately discover the value of having the right people in a position to open doors, challenge conventional wisdom, and encourage innovation.  This month I am reading a book entitled “Who’s Got Your Back”. The premise of the book is that all successful leaders need an inner circle of “lifeline relationships” that will offer the encouragement, candid feedback and support to help them reach their full potential.   Author Keith Ferrazzi says:  “A lifeline relationship is one between equals, between peers, between individuals who can be intellectual sparring partners and confidents.”   Following are some insights from this book that are worth considering:

  • We are all entrepreneurs of our own ideas…a salesperson of ourselves and our opinions.
  • Most of us come against personal and professional problems that are too big to solve alone.
  • Most leaders have too many nodding acquaintances and not enough close encounters.
  • The internet provides us with more contact, not relationships.
  • All of us need the help of others to truly be successful.
  • In today’s culture we’ve overemphasized the individual at the expense of teamwork and collaboration.
As a leader, it is important to take the time to evaluate how well we are doing in developing deep, lasting relationships. I would encourage you to take a few minutes to do the following exercise:
  • Make a list of the people that have contributed to your success, or had an impact on you.
  • Next to their name, make a notation on how you are going to let them know how much they mean to you.  (call, visit, hand-written card or letter, e-mail, etc…)
  • Just do it.
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