Author: Robert Tennant

Reimagining Leadership

Virtual introductory masterclass – Thursday 2nd November 2023

2pm-3:30pm GMT

(10am-11:30am ET,9am-10:30am CT)

We are hosting a storytelling masterclass designed exclusively for senior leaders of large, complex organisations.

In today’s dynamic business landscape, there are ever-increasing demands to innovate, increase productivity and accelerate or pivot your strategy.  Faced with these challenges, developing the influence and impact you need as a leader is key. It is not enough for your teams to simply understand your strategy, you need to inspire them to act, whilst building the resilience for continuous change. Storytelling is recognised as a critical tool for leaders to connect people to their vision, motivate them to embrace change and transformation and put in the discretionary effort needed to activate strategy.

What you’ll experience

This masterclass will introduce you to the storytelling methodology and techniques we have successfully used to support over 200 leadership teams around the world. Focusing on the development of leadership storytelling skills, we’ll also provide guidance on utilising a story-driven approach to accelerate strategy and transformation.

The art and science of storytelling: Understand the psychology and neuroscience behind storytelling and the benefits it brings to business and leadership.

Key components of a business storytelling framework: Discover how to put storytelling to practical use to help you navigate through challenging times and inspire your team during change and transformation.

Crafting your leadership narrative and storytelling techniques: Learn how to create a compelling narrative that reflects your values, vision, and mission, develop storytelling techniques to captivate your audience and convey complex ideas and strategies with clarity and impact.

Who should attend?

Senior leaders from large complex organisations who are looking to unlock the power of storytelling and become a more influential and impactful leader. Join us for an interactive storytelling session with a select cohort of your peers, delivered by experts with years of experience working with C-suites of Fortune 500 and FTSE 250 organisations.

This event has closed for registration. Please sign-up to our newsletter at the bottom of the page or follow us on LinkedIn for news of future events.

Inspirational leadership storytelling techniques Steve Jobs built Apple’s success on

Steve Jobs, the co-founder of Apple Inc., was not just a visionary in the world of technology; he was also a masterful storyteller. His ability to weave compelling narratives played a pivotal role in inspiring and motivating the people at Apple. Through a combination of captivating speeches, product launches, and a deep understanding of human psychology, Jobs harnessed the power of storytelling to create a company culture that drove innovation and excellence.

A compelling origin story

Apple’s story began in a garage, where Jobs and Steve Wozniak built their first computer. Jobs knew that every great business needed a compelling origin story, and he often shared this humble beginning with employees. He used this narrative to instil a sense of purpose and determination in his workforce, reminding them that Apple was not just a technology company but a symbol of innovation and rebellion against the status quo.

Creating a vision for the future

Jobs had an uncanny ability to paint a vivid picture of the future. He used storytelling to create a compelling vision for Apple, one where technology seamlessly integrated into our lives, transforming the way we work and play. His famous “1984” commercial for the Macintosh is a prime example of his visionary storytelling. By showing an Orwellian dystopia shattered by the introduction of the Macintosh, he not only introduced a product but also a vision of empowerment and freedom.

Making it relatable

Steve Jobs understood that technology could be intimidating. To bridge the gap between complex technology and everyday users, he employed storytelling. During product launches, he would often share anecdotes and real-life scenarios where Apple’s products could improve people’s lives. He made technology relatable by telling stories about how his own experiences shaped his vision for Apple’s products. And this technique continues in Apple’s product launches, with very emotive human stories being used at the start of the latest product event.

Building emotional connections

Jobs realised that people don’t just buy products; they buy into stories and emotions. He was a master at building emotional connections with both employees and customers. When he returned to Apple in 1997, he delivered a speech where he said, “The people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world are the ones who do.” This narrative of challenging the status quo and making a difference resonated deeply with employees, motivating them to push boundaries and achieve greatness.

Resilience through narrative

Apple faced its share of setbacks and failures over the years, but Jobs used these moments to reinforce the narrative of resilience and determination. When he returned to Apple, he often referred to the company’s near-collapse as a valuable learning experience, emphasising the importance of staying true to Apple’s core values.

Inspiring innovation

One of Jobs’ greatest storytelling talents was his ability to inspire innovation. He encouraged employees to think differently and embrace a mindset of innovation. He once said, “Innovation distinguishes between a leader and a follower.” This narrative encouraged Apple’s workforce to constantly seek new ideas and approaches, driving the company’s continued success.

Steve Jobs was not just a tech visionary; he was a master storyteller who used narratives to inspire, motivate, and shape the culture at Apple. He understood that stories have the power to connect people to a shared vision, to make technology relatable, and to foster a culture of innovation. Jobs’ legacy at Apple continues to live on through the company’s dedication to storytelling, a testament to the enduring power of narrative in inspiring employees and a devoted customer base and driving success.

Shifting the narrative to implement ESG

The role and responsibility of organisations within society is under scrutiny like never before. Being purpose-led is now a competitive advantage and the ESG (environmental, social and governance) factors are rapidly evolving the boardroom agenda.

Consumer trends have shifted rapidly towards purpose-driven brands, regulators are raising the bar, employees are more conscious of their company’s impact on the world and investors are increasingly scrutinising ESG risks and opportunities like never before.

Leaders worldwide are recognising the critical need to put ESG at the centre of their business strategy. Many have already used storytelling to help communicate their progress. Yet, at a time when organisations are regularly called out – and often very publicly – for ‘greenwashing,’ a story that simply promotes or over-exaggerates your ESG performance will not cut it.

Leaders need to be able to turn rhetoric into meaningful action – then prove it. This is possible with a unified strategic narrative that runs throughout the organisation to take everyone on this critical future-proofing journey for your business.

Our latest eBook explains how. Submit your details to download your free copy.

Tackling employee disengagement with a compelling narrative

Workplace satisfaction, or lack of it, has always been a common topic of conversation within organisations around the world – so how does the story you tell as an organisation impact this?

Last year, workforce wellbeing reached a tipping point, with countless studies dubbing an influx of unhappy employees as the perpetrator of what fast became known as ‘The Great Resignation‘ of 2021.

The reasons behind this growing wave of unhappiness cannot be attributed to one factor alone, as an international study by Firstup has shown. Drawing on the experiences of over 23,000 employees from a vast range of organisations globally, it revealed that just 16 per cent felt that their employer need make no changes to improve their employee experience, and a mere 12 per cent felt that their organisation had sufficient boundaries in place to safeguard their work-life balance.

Perhaps most striking of all, over half of employees admitted that they did not feel valued in their role or understood how their role contributes to their organisation’s objectives. This was a point I was keen to focus on when invited by Firstup to take part in a panel discussion held to explore the reasons behind this research in more depth. For me, the statistic highlights why it’s so vital that leadership teams look very carefully at the way they are engaging their people at this time – especially those exploring and implementing new ways of working in this period of pandemic recovery.

In our experience of supporting large and complex organisations through change, businesses struggle to evolve when their people are no longer aligned behind a common purpose, identity, goal and mission – yet this can be overcome with a strong, compelling narrative.  

The power of true alignment 

Leadership teams need to consider, both collectively and as individuals, how aligned they really are around every single element of the journey they are leading the business on.

As a business leader, ask yourself these two key questions:

  • Are you inspiring your people about the journey the organisation is on?
  • As a leadership team are you collectively and individually role-modelling critical behaviours within your organisation?

Compelling context

Having a sense of alignment allows leaders to be influential, visible and really bring their change journey to life in a compelling, human way for all employees. In times of uncertainty and change, humans crave compelling context, transparency and something we can tether ourselves to – all things an aligned narrative supports. 

True connection

Once the narrative is in place, it allows everyone within an organisation from boardroom to shop floor to begin to make both a rational and emotional connection to the change journey they are on. From purpose to strategy to behaviours (and everything in between), it enables individuals to ask themselves and understand ‘what’s my role?’ And, ‘why am I valued in moving this journey forward?’ 

It also allows leaders to build ownership of the strategy to unlock engagement. When everyone, not just the c-suite, understands their role within the bigger picture of their organisation, and feels they can influence what happens next, this enables pace, agility, performance, and opportunity – all the things executive teams crave. It takes bravery for the executive team to share responsibly in this way, but middle managers too can play a crucial role in keeping the momentum by ensuring individuals continue to feel empowered and receive individual recognition for their work.

Despite some stark headlines emerging from this research, there are grounds for optimism and opportunity. Although workplace dissatisfaction appears rife, what leaders should be focusing on is that so too are ideas about how to improve employee experience – if your organisation has a narrative to harness them.

Accelerating ESG strategy – what future story will your organisation create?

There’s no escaping it – environmental, social, and governance (ESG) strategy is now a critical part of the boardroom agenda. Among the business leaders working with The Storytellers, we’ve noticed a clear shift in mindset and response too. 

Underlined by the growing climate crisis, and further highlighted by the COVID-19 pandemic, ESG has gained greater prominence because of how it’s seen by stakeholders and investors as a way to safeguard organisations against future risks to the global economy. It focuses on the areas of business that matter most to employees and, as highlighted in the latest EY Future Consumer Index, provides opportunities for businesses to create value and grow revenues by responding to the trend for sustainable consumption. 

Today, as business leaders around the world also come to terms with the practical implications of the outcomes of the COP26 summit – and the monumental task of decarbonising the global economy – there is a clear need for organisations to quickly turn their ESG strategy into meaningful action. Investors want clarity about the initiatives companies are undertaking, the reporting they are doing, and the returns they will generate. Brands around the world will increasingly be looked at and recognised for their leadership towards Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), and employees are pursuing purpose at work. In short, taking no or limited action will simply become untenable. 

Ahead of us lies one of the biggest changes in mindset and strategy that the world has ever seen – but for businesses to deliver on this at the necessary pace and scale, they will also need to leverage the power of their people to make change happen. Leaders need a powerful narrative to begin to activate a movement within their organisations and around their brands. A narrative that connects people to the reasons for change and helps them to understand their role in achieving these bigger, better ESG outcomes for the benefit of everyone.

Talent and purpose

What ultimately brings us meaning and purpose is contributing to something larger than ourselves. Just like the climate change movement, the workplace is made up of thousands of stories of endeavour and achievement, but also disengagement and failures. Crucially, these stories shape our belief about the organisations we work for and the leaders who guide us. A strong narrative that articulates the collective purpose, the journey an organisation needs to take, and what success looks like, provides a vehicle through which we can play out our own personal ambition. Ultimately, top talent will want to be part of meaningful journeys that they truly connect with.

Turning strategy into action

To move their people from passively understanding the strategy to being compelled to act in service of it – leaders must identify ways to build ownership. People are more likely to take positive action if they feel they’ve helped to create it. Empowering teams and employees to identify ways in which they can contribute to a strategy unleashes great rewards.

Employee engagement and accelerated change

Whatever your views on a “disengagement crisis” one thing is clear –  employees that are inspired by their work are happier, more productive and are more likely to achieve remarkable things. With the scale of change ahead, this is the moment for leaders to challenge themselves – is engagement enough? Our experience shows that if leaders can find a mechanism to unite their people, inspire them and provide a clear plan, they can accelerate change and transform performance.

Brand perception and leadership legacy

Ultimately, leaders and organisations will be judged on this moment. Aside from taking action to benefit or mitigate the reputational risks to their brand, what was their wider response? What was the story of their organisation? How did they approach change and how successful were they in contributing to one of humankind’s greatest challenges?

If ever there was an opportunity to write a story for the ages – this is it.

Why change fails: our top ten

It has widely been reported that 70 per cent of change programmes fail. In a world in which technology, business and market demands are changing faster than ever, this is unacceptable.

A business that is unable to evolve because it’s too deeply entrenched in its existing processes, systems and behaviours may find itself ill-equipped to manage the demands of the future.

We’ve had the privilege of advising leaders from over 200 major organisations around the world. As a result, we’ve recognised a number of patterns that begin to explain why change can be so difficult. Explore them in full by downloading our ebook today.

Webinar: ‘Transformation in Asia’ with Nick Pollard – MD APAC, CFA Institute

The pace of change shows no signs of slowing in Asia. In such a diverse region, with many distinct markets, languages, and cultures, leaders need a special set of skills to adapt to these seismic changes, transform their strategies and embrace transformation.

Recent events including the COVID-19 pandemic have also shaken up developments in an unparalleled way. For the latest episode of our ‘Stories from the C-Suite’ series, I was joined by Nick Pollard, Managing Director, Asia Pacific at CFA Institute, and Tony Williams, Leadership Coach and MD at Hong Kong-based strategic change consultancy Will Exell, to explore this topic further.

Nick is a seasoned wealth management and banking executive. In 2016, he joined CFA Institute, which has over 170,000 CFA charterholders worldwide, and more than 160 local societies. Tony, who advises boards on M&A and business transformation, set up Will Exell after gaining 15 years of experience as a C-Suite HR leader across four financial services companies.

Leading transformation across diverse markets, cultures and operations

A key point Nick stressed early on in the discussion was that due to its sheer size and diversity, while we can talk about Asia Pacific being one region, in a business context, we should never think about it that way.

One example of this was how different countries in the region handled the pandemic, which for leaders working across borders, posed a far wider range of challenges.

The impact of the pandemic and how organisations are adapting

Both Nick and Tony acknowledged that the last 18 months have been incredibly challenging for leaders – however, a common denominator across this diverse region was how to deal with uncertainty. With the focus very much on the ‘here and now’ leaders have had to get to grips with fast, short-term decision making as their businesses either thrived or required action to survive.

Nick described how the financial sector in Hong Kong was very quick to react to the pandemic. Like many Asian cities, where the average size of homes means people live in close quarters, the well-being of staff working from home became an important area of focus and often forced leaders to think outside of the box when it came to finding specific solutions for their teams.

In the last six months, Tony has observed a pivot where leaders have been able to think more strategically and look to a future beyond the pandemic. Although he warned that the recent cost reductions made by many organisations earlier on in the pandemic may not be sustainable in the long term. Therefore, leaders are going to have to find ways to simplify their business.

It was clear to Nick that management boards that had previously invested in technology were better prepared for the pandemic.  According to a CFA Institute research study, ‘Future of Work in Investment Management’, over half of the investment professionals surveyed said remote working has increased their efficiency. Nick said organisations are now starting to think carefully about hard processes for how future roles can be managed both in and away from the office.

Building high-performance cultures in times of crisis

“If you’re somebody who trusts your employees you’ll be able to cope far easier in a crisis,” Tony stated, however, he was equally keen to stress that how leaders react and respond will also depend on their organisational culture, business structure, and their individual personality. A big challenge will always be re-engaging employees after so much change – especially as operating models become more efficient, and sustainable practices and processes continue to be increasingly vital.

“All good leaders should be clear about the purpose of their organisation,” said Nick. He noted that organisations are moving away from purpose being ‘only a tagline’, to underpinning everything about how a business operates.

He also warned that people always remember how organisations engage with their employees during a crisis. Therefore, as we emerge from the pandemic, when it comes to attracting new talent, people will look for stories from existing employees when they decide on their next career move.

Overall, what was clear from our discussion is that leadership during a crisis requires a rounded skill set. “If you don’t have a style where you are focussed on both purpose and people, you will struggle going forward,” Tony concluded.

Gain more insights on Asia

Download our free guide where leaders from across the region, including Paul Baker COO at Genting Resorts and Sam Lau, Chief Executive of Total Loyalty Company, outline the skill set needed to unlock business transformation in Asia.

Unlocking business transformation in Asia

Download the essential skill set for leaders

2020 was a year of rapid and continuous change, and that has continued in 2021. Such explosive change for organisations is truly unprecedented, and having an existing robust company culture has been necessary for businesses not just to stay rooted, but to grow in this challenging environment. 

As the pace of change shows no signs of slowing in Asia, recent events including the COVID19 pandemic have shaken up developments in an unparalleled way.  In such a diverse region, with many distinct markets, languages and cultures, leaders need a special set of skills to adapt to these seismic changes, transform their strategies and embrace transformation. 

Being open-minded to change and successfully leading through it will improve company agility, resilience and future performance. The dangers of resisting or being unprepared for change have been made clear throughout the pandemic: a loss of revenue, customers and employees.

The Storytellers have successfully partnered with strategic change consultancy Will Exell to help drive business transformation programs with major global organisations. Focused on supporting businesses to navigate change in the Asia region, we draw upon our considerable combined international expertise, and a deep immersion in regional business and wider economic and cultural trends through the Will Exell Hong Kong based operation.

In this free guide we share insights from leaders in the region, including Paul Baker COO at Genting Resorts and Sam Lau, Chief Executive of Total Loyalty Company and outline the skill set needed to unlock business transformation.

Fill in the form to download now.

Webinar: ‘Putting people first in a crisis’ with Alex Perry, CEO – Bupa Insurance UK

Recently, we hosted a fascinating webinar with Alex Perry, CEO of Bupa Insurance UK. This highly relevant conversation covered everything from healthcare insurance in these challenging times, to Bupa’s journey through the global pandemic and beyond. You can catch up with the recording by filling in your details on this page.

In our ‘Stories from the C-suite’ series, we talk to CEOs who we believe are expert storytellers about the challenges of leading through change and what the next stage in the journey is for them. Alex had much to say about leading through crisis and how his team has remained united and aligned throughout this time.

Healthcare that is personal, tailored to the individual and family-centric has never been needed more than during the global pandemic of the last six months. And physical and mental health are at the top of both our personal priority lists and those of organisations. In fact, working remotely has shown us just how inextricably linked our home and work lives are, and how integral wellbeing is to our performance at work. Health insurers and providers have had to react, change and innovate faster than ever before to help customers access care when they’ve needed it most. So what we wanted to know was, how do you make this happen across a business of 3,000 people?

We covered questions such as:

  • How did you equip your business with the shock of the pandemic?
  • What does the future of healthcare insurance look like?
  • Will your story evolve as the business and its strategy develops?

To hear Alex’s fascinating insights on these big topics, enter your details to watch the recording today.