The Power of Storytelling | Book Review

Ty Bennett composes a worthy companion to Carmine Gallo's The Storyteller's Secret, founded on servant leadership with particular emphasis on the how of effective storytelling.

Bennett links influence and service to leadership in his introduction, learning from Stephen Covey (p. 10) about credibility: "Make sure you write your book for the reader and not the writer." -- "A book that's written for the reader, to teach, to inspire, to help, will make an impact."

Most speakers, leaders, teachers, and coaches are striving for perfection in their message, when what they should be worried about is connection. (p. 11)

This review frames the three book sections (mindset, skillset and toolset) as analogues of Academy Leadership workshops with corresponding references to contemporary literary companions.

Mindset | Motivation | E2L

Bennett asks: What does the audience want/need to hear? (p. 25). Think about this from a leadership perspective, about Energize2Lead (E2L) instinctive needs. Try taking a step back [slow down] and look at it from the other point of view (p. 25). Similar to Dan Pink's (To Sell is Human), whether it's a product, a service, a vision, an idea, a strategy or ourselves that we are trying to promote it's all sales (p. 27), or influence. It's about moving people. It's about becoming a trusted advisor (p. 28).

Much like our Feedback (Communication) Workshops teach, Bennett advises: Use "You" and lose "I" and "Me." (p. 31).  He goes deeper: As human beings we crave stories (p. 43), and asks "Have you ever felt that connection with others?" (p. 45), a bit like Mark Crowley in Lead From The Heart.

Executive coach Paul Heagan (pp. 47-50) offers seven reasons why stories are able to engage, connect, and compel, and cause the listener to pay attention, process, absorb, and remember:

• Stories are a common ground
• Stories ignite the imagination and senses, not just the brain
• Stories are a safe way to reveal our priorities and sense of self
• Stories are simply more effective and durable in conveying information and truth
• Stories are viral
• Stories stimulate a response and action
• Stories reveal purpose

Imagine the story of your organization, not just told internally, but as a viral message. Bennett advises we tie our messages into primary motivators (p. 55), via four primary categories:

• Pleasure
• Prestige
• Payoff
• Productivity

As leaders we may connect with others via a shared value, through our stories. Sometimes this is not easy. Bennett summarizes one of the most common methods to overcome objections of a listener in these three words: Feel, Felt, Found (p. 62), similar to contrasting in Crucial Conversations.

Skillset | Leadership Philosophy

Think about the ubiquity of products and services today. Blake Mycoskie, CEO of Tom's Shoes (p. 67), shares "... the importance of having a story today is what really separates companies." So, how may we go about organizing our team's story?

Influential stories follow this sequence (p. 80):

• The Setup
• The Struggle
• The Solution

Frequently employing these examples of struggles (p. 81):

• Man vs. Man
• Man vs. Nature
• Man vs. Society
• Man vs. Environment
• Man vs. Himself

Which struggle represents your team or your organization? If you're not the company founder, learn the story and connect to it. Bennett distinguishes two types of personal stories - experienced and observed experiences (p. 92), and relates that great storytellers personalize every story (p. 94). Ask yourself whether your organization's story is reflected in your Personal Leadership Philosophy.

Toolset | Crucial Conversations

According to Howard Gardner, Harvard University psychologist (p. 103), stories are the single most powerful tool in the leader's toolkit, with six tools in the storyteller's toolbox (pp. 103-104):

• Curiosity & Characters
• Dialog & Details
• Movement & Metaphor

As leaders we must additionally consider our audience consists of three different types of learners: Visual, audible and kinesthetic, or hands-on (p. 115). Think again about E2L instinctive profiles (how we learn). Which means characters in our stories need three things (pp. 115-116):

• They need to be seen
• They need to be heard
• They need to be understood

Just like people. Just like coaching. Somewhere between a report and theater is the perfect story. The art of storytelling is to find just the right mix (p. 125), while three different types of dialogue may be used to add impact and power to your story (pp. 126-127):

• Character
• Inner
• Audience


Let your characters [those in your organization] deliver their lines and your [organization's] stories will instantly become more dynamic (p. 127). The greatest organizations seem to develop their own mythology, their own story, told by others.

A terrific addition: Many of the Bennett's stories include links to videos such as the memorable 4C story - bravo!

Thank you Dennis Haley for providing a copy of this book

JE | November 2016