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‘The Little Engine that Could’ Syndrome

‘The Little Engine that Could’ Syndrome

You all know the story of the ‘Little Engine that Could.’ Great little blue engine that pulled the big train chanting, “I think I can. I think I can. I think I can.” It’s about the little guy overcoming odds with attitude and proving something for himself.

It’s great. But it’s not your organization’s best story.

The Little Engine story-syndrome for nonprofits looks something like this:

“We’re really tiny but we don’t give up. We make good use of everything. We’re struggling but we’re going to make it. We believe we can. We believe we’re doing good work! Can you support us?”

So?

Present a better story. The Little Engine That Could story is a narrative about confidence.

We want a narrative about PURPOSE!

No time for you to tell us you can give yourself a pep talk. With all due respect to the little engine, we’re not pulling a train full of toys; we’re SAVING lives, CHANGING lives and IMPACTING lives!

Channel Ghandi.

Inspire like MLK.

Heck, charge forward like Braveheart.

They were driven by a sense of PURPOSE, not self-discovery.

“If you don’t like how things are going, tell a different story.”

“If you don’t like how things are going, tell a different story.”

Here’s a really solid article from Rosabeth Moss Kanter at Harvard Business Review: If You Don’t Like Your Future, Re-Write Your Past. (June 11, 2012)

At For Impact and The Suddes Group, we talk an awful lot about the power of story.

This article reinforces the whole idea of changing the narrative … so that it creates a different view/perspective.

Every one of us can take this to heart. “If you don’t like how things are going, tell a different story.”

Here’s a For Impact example of how to ‘tell a different story.’ It’s an excerpt from our On Boards guidebook:

The best way to begin improving the dynamics of your Board relationship is to Change the Story.

OLD STORY: What is the current ‘STORY’ you’re telling yourself about your Board?

They want to micro-manage everything.

They won’t give us names.

They won’t ask their friends for money.

We can’t get new and better Board Members.

We are stuck with ‘Legacy’ Board Members.

We all dread Board Meetings.

This ‘story’ is familiar, but doesn’t have to be true moving forward.

NEW STORY:WHAT IF… you change that ‘STORY’ to one that sounded like this:

Our Collective Board is engaged with us at 30,000’ around our Vision.

Our Individual Board Members help us at 14,000’ around our Strategy.

Our Board truly understands their role when it comes to funding … and they love it.

Successful community leaders who believe in our Cause and our Case are fighting to get on our Board.

We have had great conversations with our entire Board about the ‘BUS’… where it’s going and who needs to be on it. Those who are not in alignment with our direction have gracefully and gratefully accepted either Emeritus status or rotated off the Board.

Our Board Meetings are now Memorable Experiences … exciting opportunities to both see and talk about our Impact! We can’t wait for the next one.

You control the Board ‘Story!’ It can be a negative story or a positive story. Your choice.

Either way, it will become a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Tell Your Story Enough and You Will Change the World

Tell Your Story Enough and You Will Change the World

Let me tell you a story … about an amazing man and social entrepreneur named Bill Strickland. We had the opportunity to exchange ideas with him and his team at the Manchester Bidwell Training Center in Pittsburgh.

Bill’s credited as a terrific social entrepreneur and a visionary; he’s both. More importantly, his program to transform the lives of poor youth individuals and the community works. Harvard’s done four case studies exploring the success. (By the way, Apple is the only other ‘organization’ to be the subject of four Harvard Case Studies.)

What I really appreciate about Bill is his ‘persistent story telling.’ I’ll bet he’s shared his slide show 3000+ times. I know for a fact he’s shared his story in front of every audience that will have him … in hundreds of cities … around the world.

I share this with you for two reasons. First, Bill is a great storyteller and you need to hear his story. (Listen to his TED Talk, “Bill Strickland makes change with a slide show.”)

Second, the dude works hard and you can too! Sharing your story 3000 times is hard work. It requires persistence and conviction to your message. Sometimes you end up speaking to a room of five people and sometimes Jeff Skoll is in the audience. Bill’s stories frequently include something like, “And [insert famous/influential name] was in the audience; she came up to me and said, ‘I’d like to help!’

If you tell your story 3000 times I promise these things will happen to you as well. Here’s the thing … you don’t need to share your story 3000 times. You don’t even need to share your story 1000 times. It’s just the idea of committing to MASSIVE ACTION (as Tony Robbins calls it).

What if you told YOUR story 100 times? You WILL raise some funds and change some lives.

What if you told YOUR story 1000 times? You WILL change your sector or city.

What if you told YOUR story 3000 times? You WILL change the world.

In 2011, Bill was awarded the 2011 Goi Peace Award. This is Japan’s equivalent to the Nobel Peace Prize.

Secrets of the World’s Best Storytellers

Secrets of the World’s Best Storytellers

“Let me tell you a story …”

The exact same story can be told very differently by different people … or in different ways.

The STORYTELLER as a lot to do with it. To most effectively ‘share the story’ of your For Impact organization, you want a storyteller who is authentic … filled with passion for your organization … and a great communicator.

To help you tell your story the very best way possible, here are the 7 SECRETS OF THE WORLD’S BEST STORYTELLERS*:

  • LESS IS MORE!
    • Make every word count.
    • Get it perfect … then cut even more
  • DRAMATIC PAUSE!
    • Use silence.
    • Use inflection.
    • Think like an actor.
  • PAINT VIVID WORD PICTURES!
    Listen to Zig Ziglar tell the story of how the “Redhead” got him to buy his first house!!
  • PAINT … WITH YOUR HAND, YOUR MIND AND YOUR HEART!
    • Really get into it.
    • EnthusIASM (IASM: “I Am Sold Myself.”)
    • Passion.
  • ACT THE STORY … DON’T REPORT IT!
    Storytelling is NOT a PowerPoint … Presentation … from the Podium! It’s about PERFORMANCE … whether it’s one-on-one or in front of a group.
  • KEEP IT SIMPLE! KEEP IT SMALL! KEEP IT SHORT!
  • CUSTOMIZE TO YOUR AUDIENCE!
    The absolute best stories and best storytellers make the story RELEVANT to the audience … to the topic … to the point.

At For Impact, we’re all about training, coaching … PRACTICING! PRACTICE your STORY! ‘Practice’ with everybody and anybody. The better the storyteller … the more powerful the story!

*I cannot remember (senility) where I found these 7 secrets. If you know the SOURCE, please let me know.

Storyboarding

Storyboarding

Try this tool for building your story.

STORYBOARDING: It’s a Walt Disney animation term … but it works perfectly for us. Actually laying out the ‘STORY’ is a way to Prepare and Practice your Presentation!

  • HOW do you begin?
  • HOW do you talk about the WHAT, the WHY and the HOW?
  • WHO do you talk about? (Their Story)

Storyboarding works for helping you design your ORAL STORIES … WRITTEN STORIES … or VISUAL STORIES. Or any way you combine them.

P.S. The story doesn’t always start with “In 1842, Father Sorin and six brothers came to a snowy lake which was actually two lakes…” (Notre Dame).

Be creative.

Think Visual: Imagineering

Think Visual: Imagineering

I once spent a day at Disney World with an amazing group of Junior Achievement CHAMPIONS (aka Board Members and Staff). It was a six-hour ‘RETREAT’ and my role was to facilitate/coach to help Junior Achievement Board Members become more ENGAGED and more PASSIONATE ADVOCATES for Youth Development, Economic Development and Workforce Development.

We (60 Board and Staff Members from Junior Achievement of Central Florida and West Coast) spent the day talking about IMPACT and INCOME and their ROLE. I was totally energized by the commitment of these CHAMPIONS … and of their serious desire to figure out how to help.

As part of my ‘prep,’ I re-read one of my favorite ‘books’ called Walt Disney Imagineering, by the Disney Imagineers. It’s full of all kinds of the SKETCHES (VISUALS) that were eventually turned into reality.

Following are some tweet-like quotes from Walt Disney Imagineering that reinforce the entire idea of STORIES and VISUALS.

“You know bankers don’t have any imagination, none at all.
You have to SHOW them what you’re going to do.”

- Walt Disney

 

“I could never convince the financiers that Disneyland was feasible
because dreams offer too little collateral.”

- Walt Disney

 

“Question: How many Imagineers does it take to change a light bulb?
Answer: Does it have to be a light bulb?”

 

“For Disneyland, the process of ‘learning and succeeding
by dreaming and doing’ was employed for the very first time.”

 

“The only rule during this time (of brainstorming Disneyland): There are no rules.”

 

“The Walt Disney Company is in the business of TELLING STORIES.”

 

“There are no days in life so memorable
as those which vibrate to some stroke of the IMAGINATION.”

-Ralph Waldo Emerson

 

“Storyboards are used a PRESENTATION TOOL… to SELL THE IDEA!”
Shaping the Message. Telling the Story.

Shaping the Message. Telling the Story.

In a blurb that came out from Notre Dame News, the president, Father John Jenkins, was talking about his vice president of university relations, Lou Nanni.

In a very complimentary way, Father Jenkins indicated that, in the time that he has served, Lou has been involved in “shaping Notre Dame’s messaging and helping tell our story to various constituencies.”

I’ve gotten a lot of comments over the years about how ‘easy’ it would be to raise money for Notre Dame … how you don’t have to worry about doing ‘this stuff’ at Notre Dame, etc.

Father Jenkins quote seems like a gentle reminder that, even at Notre Dame, it is very important to shape the message and tell the story.

Example from the Land of Storytelling

Example from the Land of Storytelling

Here’s a summarized version of the STORY for The Abbey Theatre in Ireland.

They’re an amazing organization, with an incredibly rich history, a glitch five years ago that has been dramatically reversed, a terrific Senior Team and more.

I believe The Abby would tell you that one of the most important things we’ve done as their COACH has been to help them tell their story! Obviously, as a theatre/artistic/performance group … The Abbey and its leadership understand the whole idea of ‘STORY.’ The challenge was that the story they were telling (and not telling) wasn’t working.

Hope the following helps you better understand the whole idea of STORY and its power:

THE ABBEY’S STORYLINES:

  • The ORGANIZATION STORY.
    THE NATIONAL THEATRE OF IRELAND! For over 100 years have been staging and reflecting Irish life and culture. Deeply engaged in the Easter Rising in 1916 (founding of the country!) … and will be again on the 100th Anniversary in 2016. Major challenges in 2004, leadership, financial, etc. Big-time turnaround. Superstar Artistic Director. Super-smart CFO. ‘Brilliant’ new Senior Team. New financial controls. New Message and Marketing. Now in position to scale and grow the IMPACT of The Abbey in Dublin, Ireland, the United States and around the world.
  • The MESSAGE STORY.
    Again, THE NATIONAL THEATRE OF IRELAND! Staging and reflecting Irish life and culture. Connecting TALENT and AUDIENCES!
  • PERSONAL STORIES.
    Everyone on the Senior Team (and actually the Board as well) has their own personal story as it relates to Ireland, the Theatre and The Abbey. Each can now tell that in a powerful way.
  • The LEGACY/HISTORY STORY.
    FOUNDED before there was a country! Manifesto written in 1899. Yeats, with the help of two amazing women benefactors, founded The Abbey in 1904. Abbey central to the Easter Rising in 1916. Abbey full of legendary artists and writers including James Joyce, Sean O’Casey, George Bernard Shaw and now Tom Murphy, Bryan Freel and Mark O’Rowe. Now impacting almost 100,000 people from 62 countries enjoying shows at The Abbey; five world premieres; etc.
  • The MATH/NUMBERS STORY.
    The government plays a huge role in funding the Arts in Ireland. Part of the ‘Numbers’ Story is that this money goes to help sponsor and underwrite performances to allow the people of Ireland access to theatre and artistic work. The ‘Math’ Story also includes ‘tightening of the belt’ (redundancy), packaging up the actual ‘cost’ of performances and tours and much more. [E.g., the actual (average) ‘gap‘ for each performance is approximately
    €1,016.] (Cost – Ticket Sales = Gap)
  • The CAUSE & CASE STORY.
    The ‘Cause’ Story has now grown from simply being THE NATIONAL THEATRE OF IRELAND and doing what The Abbey has always done … and to becoming a leader and prime-time player in the resurgence of Ireland’s economy! Business and political leadership in Ireland have determined that Arts and Culture are two of the country’s greatest assets.The Abbey needs to be positioned as a vital part of the country’s message.The ‘Case’ Story centers around The Abbey’s responsibility to:

    • Develop Playwrights
    • Mark History
    • Create Dialogue
  • The MODEL STORY.
    The Abbey has an entirely new FUNDING MODEL built around TODAY. TOMORROW. FOREVER. It is a top-down model that relies heavily on shoulder-to-shoulder visits with The Abbey’s very best Qualified Prospects and Potential Investors. The model is designed to help The Abbey with Current Operations (Today), Priorities & Projects over the next six years (Tomorrow) and Legacy/Planned Gifts (Forever).
  • The PLAN STORY.
    There is a very specific ACTION PLAN around both IMPACT and INCOME. In the ‘blue’ IMPACT … that Plan includes encouraging and developing playwrights, particularly more women playwrights; expanding The Abbey’s reach and influence to the school children of Ireland; reaching out to the Irish Diaspora around the world, and much more.The ‘green’INCOME Plan/Story includes very specific fundraising goals for the Yeats Performance Fund (1,016 Euros, 100/300/400+ Members); 25/50 Members in the Annie Horniman Circle (10,300 Euros); 50-100 Members in Lennox Robinson Society (Legacy Gifts), etc. The FUNDING PLAN Story also includes a bold and aggressive outreach to the United States.
  • The FUNDRAISING/DEVELOPMENT STORY.
    Simple story. Yeats was the original fundraiser. The Theatre was built on fundraising … literally. It’s in The Abbey DNA. The performer IS also the business storyteller. First gift from Annie Horniman for 10,300 lbs sterling. Yeats then did three whistle stop funding tours in the U.S. where the Irish Americans BUILT the Theatre and brand known today.Yeats sat with people in New York just as The Abbey is doing today … continuing the tradition. Fiach is Yeats and the person The Abbey is sitting with is Annie.2nd Story. No real culture of philanthropy in Ireland until very recently. No real fundraising or development for The Abbey until very, very recently. Government has been and continues to be the #1 investor/benefactor. The Abbey has not gone out and ASKED. The Abbey is now out SHARING THE STORY … and PRESENTING THE OPPORTUNITY.
Re-Write Your Destiny in Business and in Life

Re-Write Your Destiny in Business and in Life

Jim Loehr is one of my favorite authors. He began his career working with high-profile athletes in tennis and moved to other sports. He now runs the Human Performance Institute in Orlando, where he now focuses on executives and leaders.

His book, The Power of Full Engagement is required reading in our little organization. The entire message is on the cover: Manage Your Energy, Not Your Time.

His more recent, groundbreaking book, The Power of Story, talks about the way we tell STORIES about ourselves, to ourselves – and how we can change those STORIES to transform our business and our personal lives.

“Your story is your life.” Jim Loehr makes this point early and often. While much of the book is geared towards our personal stories … every idea, nugget and point has amazing relevance to all of our organizations as well.

I cannot recommend this book highly enough. It can change the way you think, operate and even fund.

Three teasers:

  • The 3 RULES of STORYTELLING. (Page 137)
    • PURPOSE.
    • TRUTH.
    • ACTION.
  • IT’S NOT ABOUT TIME
    Great summary of The Power of Engagement, ENERGY, focus, etc. (Page 153)
  • FALSE ASSUMPTIONS turned into stories.Loehr says that much of the material of our life and organization stories are based on assumptions – many of which are not true. (Page 68)

This could be one of the most impactful books you can read for your own PERSONAL DEVELOPMENT, your ORGANIZATIONAL DEVELOMENT and your INCOME DEVELOPMENT!

Order this book fast. Download it on your Kindle. Do whatever you’ve got to do to understand The Power of Story.

Empower Volunteers. Engage Investors.

Empower Volunteers. Engage Investors.

Great stories empower your volunteers to connect with other prospective investors.

Here’s a simple test: Ask any of your Volunteer Leaders or Board Members (or even key staff) if they would rather:

ASK THEIR FRIENDS FOR MONEY
or…
SHARE THE STORY (AND) ——–> PRESENT THE OPPORTUNITY!!!

No one wants to ‘ask the friends for money.’

But ‘share a story?’ Can’t tell you how many board members we’ve worked with who’ve said, “Oh, I can do that!”

On the flip side …

Prospective investors are LOOKING FOR a GREAT STORY.

I thought you would enjoy these THOUGHTS from a philanthropist about the IMPORTANCE of a GOOD STORY:

“I also know firsthand what a donor experiences when being approached.

The very first thing I want to hear is a GOOD STORY. Why are you the one cause or organization I should give my time and money towards?

I hear lots of moving stories. Essentially I’m being asked to take a leap of faith that you are the most capable to make the dream come true.”

Get out of your office and start sharing your story … your story that’s SO GREAT that it inspires listeners to “take a leap of faith!

Storytelling & the Power of Story

Storytelling & the Power of Story

I was in Ireland, doing some FOR IMPACT TRAINING. Wonderful, incredible people.

A country and economy that is growing, booming. And, For Impact Organizations that have powerful ‘Causes’ and ‘Cases!’

During breaks, at lunch and after the training, I stood in the front with a flipchart and tried to help people with the MESSAGE part of our For Impact sales process. As always, their message was too much, too complicated, too many words. However, when I asked each to simply TELL ME THEIR STORY … the ‘WORDS’ jumped out!

HUGE lesson for all of us:

DESIGN THE STORY! TELL THE STORY! SHARE THE STORY!

3 Big Ideas:

  • STORYBOARDING. It’s a Walt Disney animation term… but it works perfectly for us. Actually laying out the ‘STORY’ is a way to Prepare and Practice your Presentation!
    • HOW do you begin?
    • HOW do you talk about the WHAT, the WHY and the HOW?
    • WHO do you talk about? (Their Story)

    P.S. The story doesn’t always start with “In 1842, Father Sorin and six brothers came to a snowy lake which was actually two lakes…” (Notre Dame).

  • STORYTELLING!!!! Here I was, in Ireland, the land of incredible “storytellers” … what a great place to think about the POWER of STORYTELLING. It’s about AUTHENTICITY. It’s about VISUALIZATION and IMAGINATION. And it’s about PASSION, EMOTION and ENTHUSIASM. It’s POWERFUL stuff!
  • SHARING THE STORY. Nick and I have been using this idea for a long time. It’s so much easier for you and your Board and anyone connected with your For Impact Organization to SHARE THE STORY and PRESENT THE OPPORTUNITY … than it is to go and ‘ask for money!!!’ THE POWER OF STORY helps with the Open, Dialogue, Conversation, and much more. Building, telling, sharing your STORY is ALL you need
    to do. And I mean that pretty literally.
Sharing the Story

Sharing the Story

I got a note from one of the most wonderful women in the world … who, with her team, is running one of the most incredible women’s “shelters” in the United States.

United Way had asked her to speak at different corporations. Here’s her quote:

“I can bring them to tears in less than five minutes. I’m like a Hallmark card, only thing is my stories are all true and happened in their hometown.”

SHARE THE STORY PRESENT THE OPPORTUNITY

Five minutes. True. Happened in their hometown.

THINK ABOUT IT. TELL YOUR STORY

“I never give presentations.”

“I do tell stories.”

“STORY after STORY after (linked) to STORY.”

I’m definitely a Tom Peters ‘groupie’. I picked up his book, The Little BIG Things, in the Tampa airport.

As always, his 163 nuggets are thoughtful and provocative.

I opened the book up to #25 You Are Your Story!

“He/she who has the best/most compelling/most resonate STORY wins: In life! In business! In front of the jury! In front of the congregation!”

I would simply add: IN FRONT OF THE PROSPECT!

SHARE THE STORY -> PRESENT THE OPPORTUNITY.

As Tom Peters says: “HE/SHE WHO HAS THE BEST STORY WINS!”