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  • Francisco Mahfuz

E68. The Stories You Need to Spot with David Pullan



Below is an AI-generated transcript and therefore it may contain errors.


Francisco Mahfuz 0:00

Hi everyone, Francisco here. Just before we get started, I wanted to share something I'm really excited about. I recently launched the story powers bootcamp, a course that teaches you everything you need to know about how to find craft and tell stories that work. But it's not just an online course, because you get personalised feedback from me for all the practical activities in three hours of life coaching to work through any challenges, or focus on specific projects. So it's like if you bought a cookbook, but the chef came along with it. So go to story powers.com and click on Course, all the information you need will be there. So please check it out. And if you love the show, and would like to support us, you can go to buy me a coffee.com forward slash story powers. I drink about five coffees a day, so any support would be much appreciated. All right, on with the show.


Welcome to the story powers podcast, the show about the power of stories that people who tell them and why you should be doing it too. I'm your host, keynote speaker and storytelling coach Francisco first, when I was a kid, I used to think that by the time you had grey hair, you had everything figured out that life didn't change anymore, that people didn't change. And what you did for a living definitely didn't change. Well, my guest today is David Poland. And here's the proof I was completely wrong. As a 20 year career in film television in the Royal Shakespeare Company. David is now one of the founders of the story spotters, a company who helps leaders and teams use the power of story to do powerful connections one conversation at a time in his clients include PwC, Novartis and American Express. So here to talk about all the other ways in which I'm wrong. Ladies and gentlemen, it's David Poehler. David, welcome to the show.


David Pullan 1:51

Thank you. I have been looking forward to meeting you and talking to you for such a long time. Can I just say, the day that things stopped changing, it's not about the great you should stop living the day that things stopped changing. That's what life's about life is a story, as you know, well, listen,


Francisco Mahfuz 2:05

I I'm proven wrong on a regular basis. It's it's just one more way that I was proven wrong from what I from what I from the things I used to think about. So this one is not particularly embarrassing, because I used to think that when I was a kid, but this was the same time that I perhaps watching too much peanuts, but I used to think that grownups were these mythical creatures that actually knew what they were doing. I hadn't realised that grownups aboard regular people that just didn't pick their noses in public.


David Pullan 2:36

That's the thing is, is as soon as you start seeing the flaws in the adults, that's when you start learning about stories.


Francisco Mahfuz 2:41

Yes, yeah. I believe that both you and I in our not necessarily our origin stories, but in our recent origin stories. We have a lot to thank Neil Bearden for.


David Pullan 2:57

Oh, man. I have a lot to thank Neil Bearden for, in fact, the whole I mean, you said that things don't change. The major thing that has changed for me during this whole lockdown period was I changed the name of my business to the story spotters, which was for years before I actually work with my wife and you're married with a young child, but my wife and I not only married, but we work together. Her name is Sarah Jane McKechnie. I'm David Poland. And for years, we were very imaginatively called mackechnie Poland limited. And nobody has a clue what one of them does. But when when lockdown happened, Neil was working well. He's just recently lived left INSEAD in in Singapore, and which is an which has an MBA, right? It's the MBA exactly in the Executive MBA as well. And he'd gone from being a stats Professor essentially to being he's a real rock and roll professor. I mean, anybody who's seen his bicycle guy, video on YouTube knows about that.


Francisco Mahfuz 3:51

Hold on, let me let me just let me because I think I think we talked about this, but my one of my introductions LinkedIn, though I had it for business like everybody did, and never really paid any attention to it. In one day, I was just, you know, I looked at the feed, which is not something I used to do. And there was this bald guy wearing a black V neck t shirt, telling a story about bicycles. And I watched that and I thought, wow, I had no idea you could do this. So this was around the time that I was deciding to start doing what I'm doing now. So I for a very long time had the bald guy as my inspiration. And not that long ago, maybe three months ago, I found out about a Snapchat filter that made people bold. So I made a little film of me bald with a black V neck t shirt, perhaps the one I'm wearing right now. And I talked about my you know, the bald guy that inspired me and I actually said you know I want about guy can someone find me who this bald guy is? And I think when I was talking to you over the messages and you mentioned your beard and I went to check out on your beard and was like he's bald, and he talks about stories. And Lo Lo and behold, on his website, there is a video of the bicycle story. Are you connected to him now? Yeah, as I've connected to him, he should be coming on the podcast in August because he's moving from just moved back to


David Pullan 5:19

China. Yeah, yeah. Have you ever considered this is your Cinderella story? You're trying to find the bald guy?


Francisco Mahfuz 5:27

Yeah, as I've not, I've told it on LinkedIn. And I think of this the thing with with origin stories, and I say this to people that work with me, unlike superheroes, we don't just have one. So I have one that I use often, which is about me telling a story when I was 12 years old in school. But you know, I have other kung fu moments. You know, this moment that I realised I have this power is and this was one of them. This was one of those things where I thought, well, I didn't really know that this is something you could do. So a new beer than the plot. Wolf should be coming on the podcast in in August. Back to your story.


David Pullan 6:04

No, no. But I want to pick up on something you say there because I 100% agree with that, I think to sort of think you have one origin story, or one Connect. If you think often people think of the origin story as your connection, the story, the story that's going to connect you to other people. I completely agree there is not one size fits all the story I'm telling now about Neil, because actually what happened is I saw his bicycle guy on LinkedIn. And I just I reposted it. And I said, there is so much to admire him what this guy is doing. He got in touch with me, said thank you. That means a lot coming from you. He obviously seen what I've been doing in the past. We ended up working together at INSEAD at the business school at the MBA. The reason the story spotters came about is he said, listen, David, I really like what you do. But what the hell do you do? And I said, well, the majority of my work is actually going into businesses I listened to either their strategies or them connecting to clients if it's a big pitch, right? Because I do a lot of business development work. And I stopped them when I think that they've arrived at a story that needs to be shaped and shared. And he went, Oh, you're you're a story spotter. And I thought that's interesting. I'll figure out what one of them does. And there are four elements to it. But you know, that is that's my origin story of how the name came about the story spot is there's another origin story about how I got into story in the first place in a business.


Francisco Mahfuz 7:19

Let me let me pick you up on the on the on the name change because you know, I don't know if you've seen me talk about something I stole from Andy Henriquez, the, the aeroplane and the destination. And then if you've seen me talk about them. Yeah. Okay, so for anyone who hasn't essentially is this idea that if you want to sell someone on a holiday, you sell them on the destination, you don't sell them on the aeroplane. So a lot of people in marketing talk about benefits and not features you know, you should focus on other people get out of it, not what gets them there. And I think it's interesting with a change name and again, you know, the storage spot is a much better name then Marc Bolan. Just say what is it mackechnie Poland? And I think there's a children's book in there. No one's there is new Poland. What does a McKechnie Poland do? It's like your version of the Gruffalo. But, but what I found interesting is that I've gotten a lot of pushback over the last sort of two years, a year and a half that I've been doing this because my focus is very much storytelling. And then you know the name I use not as company because it's me. I'm reading the business, but I use story powers as the name of the podcast, I use it as the name of my course I use it. I use it every everywhere. In a lot of people talk about how Yes, but stories are not, you know, arguing the story is the aeroplane. The story is not the destination that the story is, is a means to an end you're trying to either, you know, maybe it's more employee engagement, maybe it's better leadership, maybe it's sales, it's marketing, or whatever. So I find it interesting that your change went from being a consultancy that use story as as one of the main things you guys did to achieve results to making that part of it, the main thing you want to be known for?


David Pullan 9:09

That's an interesting one, actually. I mean, the name was a well it was alliterative, so we quite liked it. So the story spotters sounded good, but in but then it had an element of mystery. It's sort of it's sort of the story spotters, what does one of them do? And that tends to lead to a conversation, which is the four elements we do which is the stories that people have to spot shape and share to connect either internally or externally with the market. The stories that you trigger through your behaviours, how you show up, because that's a big thing of mine is, is the stories that we infer from people just by how they behave. The stories that you get out of other people through conversations so that relationships become more than more than just transactional. And the final thing is what are the stories you're telling yourself that are either going to help or hinder your your success in the future? So there are these four elements of story spotting, so that the name actually leads to a further conversation about what does a story spotter do it intrigues enough, I found.


Francisco Mahfuz 10:13

So there is something, something about what you said that I think is interesting. And I'm going to, I'm going to make a sort of a tongue in cheek accusation here. And you feel free to tell me I'm full of crap. But from some of the descriptions of what you said, so to people that didn't catch that it was the stories you need to tell stories, you're triggering with short stories you get out of people and stories, you tell yourself. Someone could could say that by having a name that has story on it. And having this four different criteria that have story in them. But actually having the meat of that is two of those four things. They stories more the way you talk about them than necessarily storytelling themselves. Because the stories you tell yourself, I think most people would argue that this was more cognitive behaviour, or psychology or psychiatry than necessarily storytelling. I'm a storyteller. I don't think I'm, I don't think I'm at all qualified to help someone with the stories they tell themselves. It's a different skill set than the one I have. Interestingly enough, I don't know if you've seen this, but Kyndra Hall was just putting out a new book. It's coming out in January, and it's called choose your story change your life. So she's clearly moving in towards the the Mel Robbins type of universe where she's, yeah, sounds like she's gonna focus on the motivational, inspirational behaviour change side of storytelling, if we can consider that a side of storytelling. Yeah, more than the actual telling of stories. So back to what I was trying to say is, so you've, you've branded yourself more with stories. But would you agree that at least a couple of the things you're doing there they're not? I think there are a lot broader than the types of story work I would ever do. For example, I completely


David Pullan 12:03

agree. The thing that you didn't put in my introduction is that that I'm also a trained cognitive behavioural Hypnotherapist. So I actually do have some of the brain stuff going on there as well, which I tend not to use in making people behave like chickens. But I do actually, you know, it's very, very useful in terms of changing people's view on the world, and indeed, their own world, which is the story they're telling themselves. Just to come back to what you say there. I think you and I are in a really interesting business at the moment because story is used everywhere. You go on LinkedIn, and everyone's a storyteller, but how are they defining story? And I would, I would make a differentiation between a narrative and a story. There is a narrative that I work with people, for example, I'm working with a couple of organisations at the moment, on strategies for sales and indeed change strategy for their internal performance, which requires a narrative. And I believe, and we can talk more about this if you want. But I mean, I sometimes say that I think life is like a narrative negotiation. We are constantly thinking, you know, what is the problem I have to overcome. But over that overarching narrative, there are small stories that hang off that which might be the traditional person in a time and place with a problem, a series of events, overcoming a challenge, having surprised all of the things that we know from the lodging people's mind. So I would make the story spotters is nicer than the story and narrative spotters. So I actually, yeah, I do think there is a difference between the narrative and a story. And I do think that we genuinely as human beings, I mean, what the listeners won't have known is that I made a complete cockup of getting my microphone in my head headphones ready for this thing here. And so we have a situation where as I'm sitting here, and I'm really looking forward to talking to Francisco, but then suddenly, none of my tech is working. So I have to run into the house. It's like I'm negotiating the problems that are constantly cropping up in my life, from the moment I wake up to the moment I go to bed. So that's why I think life is a series of, of narrative negotiations. And if you can spot those spot, the problems that people are trying to overcome, then it's still a form of story.


Francisco Mahfuz 14:18

Yeah, what I find interesting, and I, you know, obviously I've moved towards one side of that, that question and so have you the same side is idea that so I have friends who are in the presentation skills universe, and that they live their whole careers as being you know, although they don't call themselves that But effectively what they do is they teach people how to become better public speakers or better presenters, or you know, the one particular person I'm thinking of he what he would say is my His job is to boosting people's charisma, the medium is presentation training. Now, he doesn't actually say that a lot of you will believe this is this idea of but isn't story just one small part of it. You know, even if you have a presentation and stories part of it is not all of it. And I can see that argument. But I also think that there is an element of how good are you actually at specific skills? And how much can you get out of that of that skill, if you're not at a certain level of quality. So if you get trained by a good presentation skills, person who covers most of the things you need to cover to get someone from being okay to being good, are you generally going to come out of that being able to tell stories, if you couldn't, probably not, like I've seen those have done some of them myself, there is no time to dedicate to anything like that. So I would argue you could come out as a very good presenter, that still probably going to be a weaker part of your game, like so I think the question is, you know, when companies are looking for the specific skill, you know, are they trying to get people from, you know, a three or a four to a five or six? In which case, I think you need more of a generalist? Or are you trying to get people that are reasonably competent to a higher level? And in that, I think, need the person who's very good at PowerPoint, or, you know,


David Pullan 16:11

oh, which I'm not, I certainly do, or storytelling, or, you know, whatever


Francisco Mahfuz 16:15

the body length, whatever the skew is, is that you're trying to improve so,


David Pullan 16:19

well, it's an interesting thing that because actually, I think all of my I mean, I have occasionally from procurement teams been asked, you know, so what is your training in to become a story spotter? To which the answer is my life my whole life? I mean, from a very, very early age, I was like all children, I mean, you have a young child. I mean, they tell stories. That's that that's the, that's the currency of childhood is storytelling, generally. And I remember as I grew up, I mean, taxi drivers always used to say to me, you should be a chat for shows. I mean, because because I would be I've eaten so much food so quickly in my life, because I've got other people talking at dinners because I'm just interested in people. And that combined with my performing background, where you do get the body language stuff, obviously, I feel like I might my degree was in involved screenwriting. So structurally, I was, I had a big background in the structure of story as well. And then added to that with the, you know, the hypnotherapy side, all of these sides do come together. Well, the phone call I've just literally come off now just before us talking, essentially, it was a it was a kickoff for a big sales pitch for a big global organisation. They were talking to me about this is what's happening with the client tonight. I I sometimes feel like Haley Joel Osment, in The Sixth Sense, except I don't see dead people. I see stories. It's like, it's like I can see how it all fits in together, I'd say I think the the narrative, the simple single narrative you need to be telling is this, then we'll get in the room together. And we'll think about the stories, the bicycle guy type stories, that that are absolutely going to drive that narrative home. Has that answered your question?


Francisco Mahfuz 17:59

I don't know if there was a question really? I think, no, I think I don't think I actually had a question. I think it's just something I'm just thinking out loud. About this, essentially, the generalist versus versus specialist conundrum. And also, there's also the aspect of what works best. If you're trying to build a career teaching people there's a training on these or speaking on this. And and what works best for developing a skill there are very different things, you know, maybe maybe it is easier being a generalist if you're doing a specific type of work, but up to a certain level, I think I think past a certain level, it's very difficult to do that. And one, one place where I found that very early on was if you want to speak so I decided that I was much more interested in pursuing a career as a speaker who trains then a trainer who speaks and they found that presentation skills was just not a subject that you can if you want to be known for that, that the market for keynotes on that is not broad. Companies don't hire someone to come in and do a keynote on presentation skills, but they hire people to do a keynote on storytelling.


David Pullan 19:09

Yeah. No, it's interesting. I've I've I've literally only in the last probably in the last year, and thanks to us being all virtual now entered into the into the world of keynote, and I've done a few of those in the last couple of weeks actually, around. I've got one that I do called the best story wins, which is not an original title as we know, but it's but it's about the purpose of story, what it's basically why story, what is story and how story and what's that going to do for you as an organisation. I love doing that stuff. I mean, it's it's great because you can to level change people and I remember the last one I got a bit of feedback on LinkedIn said I just changed my presentation for a client this afternoon based solely on what you said and it worked, thank goodness, but it was i i love that I love I genuinely believe As I know you do as well is that story can be what is the what is the purpose of story? I think that story is the glue that sticks us as human beings together, it is the connector, it has been since we probably sat around campfires trying to figure out how to go and hunt a buffalo together, it's you know, it's all of those things. It's how we it's how how we stuck together in society, and shared ideas. I, I just think that somehow along the line, people lose sight of what is a natural human skill. And giving them the permission to go back to what they can do is sometimes the biggest gift we can give them a story coaches,


Francisco Mahfuz 20:41

I find that when it comes to keynotes, many cater comes to any form of communication, but for keynote keynote, for sure is the only thing that people are likely to remember from a keynote are maybe a very strange or different image that you put out there to put on a keynote, maybe, maybe a very unexpected statistic, something they just had absolutely no idea about, you know, I didn't know that it was that low or that high, whatever. But almost certainly it's going to be, it's going to be the stories. So I have used this in a recent keynote where I was talking to a whole bunch of HR people. And I told them the story of my wife getting shafted, leaving her last job. And I said, like, if you most people, you probably pissed off, you want to torture the company, all of that. But there's no way you can, I can generate that type of response. With facts and figures, there's just no way you're not at all. Not at all, even if I could, you wouldn't be anywhere near as fun for you to listen to. And you wouldn't remember. So I just find that the idea that you can do any type of communication particularly slightly longer form communication without packing it full of stories, you just need to disregard both what feels right, but also what the science says about how, how they are remembered how they inspire us to action and all of that,


David Pullan 22:04

well, assuming they haven't fallen asleep in the first five minutes anyway, then if they have bothered to stay awake, they will be creating their own story of what you're saying. And it's probably not the story you intend. So better to tell a story. That is actually what you intend. Because as you know, this, as you say, the science says that that is what will stick on the keynote thing. Actually, interestingly, probably about four or five years ago, now I did a big project in India with with HSBC, I don't think it matters, I say who it was. And there was a, they had a number of keynote speakers who came along to that. The one I really remember is a guy called Hamish Taylor, who is based in Scotland. And he used to be he was at, he was the marketing, he was in charge of not of the marketing of British Airways, when they put flatbeds in. And he was in charge of Eurostar, I think in various banks, he's he's done big transformations and his whole speeches about stealing from others in order to change your business. The thing I remember about him is his keynote was at eight o'clock in the evening, after dinner, he was there for midday at the back of the room, listening to everything that happened in that room, and taking notes. So that what he said that evening was 100% relevant to the people in there. And he adjusted, he made minor adjustments, potentially. But I think that's an extraordinary thing to do. It's, it's, it shows huge commitment on the speaker, because without relevance and without context, you're not going to get people interested in the first place. So I take my hat off as a keynote speaker to him.


Francisco Mahfuz 23:36

Yeah, there's some very basic things that that you can do on pre calls. And if you don't do them, you can be setting yourself up for for a difficult hour. In one of them. And a lot of people talk about this is just asking them, you know, what does? What does? What does success look like for you, when it comes out? You know, what, what, what is me, you know, hitting it out of the park look like, and what would be, you know, not failure necessarily, but what would be a problem or something you wouldn't want to see. And you easily get rid of a lot of contentious things that you could be doing. And sometimes I've seen people fall prey to the silliest mistakes, which is, which are you are talking about a company and one of your examples, you're using a company, therefore, for one reason or another is not kosher to use. So you might be using a sports company, when you're presenting to another sports company or apparel company or something along that industry. And it just they don't want the great example of, of whatever you're talking about to be a competitor. I agree with. You can be as simple as that.


David Pullan 24:43

Do you know what I love about what you've just said? Then Francisco as well? Is that is that that question? What does success look like to you is automatically triggers a story it triggers a future imagination and an audience and there's a very interesting thing I notice this actually comes from my hypnotherapy. into terms of non directive hypnotherapy. It's like, so how might you feel? Or what would you feel like if you managed to avoid cigarettes next time you were having a beer, and people will go, they'll look up and they'll go, Well, I mentioned I'll be really proud of myself. And I'll think, you know, you've achieved something, David, rather than me saying, the next time you have a beer, you will avoid cigarettes. And of course, you have a beer, you have a cigarette, you think David is a terrible Hypnotherapist. But the interesting thing about your question there is you've triggered a story in someone, they've done most of the job for you, they've told you what good looks like, all you've got to do is fill that in. It's a great interview question.


Francisco Mahfuz 25:37

Let me ask you some very pragmatic points, because you've been doing this stuff, calling yourself a storage spot or not. But you've been doing this for a long time. So some of the trainings that I know you you offer companies include, for example, facilitating story powered meetings, I probably could go on a tangent about how we need to be perhaps slightly careful about the story power thing, because the hyphen is a trademark. I'm glad that my website is registered. It has been registered for a while. But yeah, so So I generally picked mine the name of my my thing, before I even knew they existed. But But yeah, anyway. Right. So how would you use? How would you train people to use stories in meetings? Now, I obviously have my ideas here. But how do you do that?


David Pullan 26:28

Well, I that's a very, very good question. It's how you it's almost a view on on how meetings are told I how a meeting is structured in the first place. With that particular course, I get people to see a story as a narrative. So as a chair of a meeting, what you can often do is what is the story that you're telling right at the beginning that sets the context and the relevance so people are, you know, what meetings like people go in there, and they're busy thinking about, why didn't I have that sandwich at lunch, or I've got to get that report done by five o'clock, and I'm stuck in here. So a story that gathers people's minds into the one place is a great way to to, to just kick off a meeting anyway. But then there are other elements of it as well. I mean, if you think of a three act structure, I mean, the situation complication resolution, how many meetings have you been in where, where nothing gets resolved, because people are coming at it from a different angle. So if you think about what is this, where are we in this meeting? Are we in the situation where we're just trying to understand the situation stage, where we're literally just trying to understand what is the context here? What are we dealing with, then you start arguing, which, of course is the bit that people like, you know, the complication, that's the bit that people really enjoy the meeting. But as the chair, it's your job to say, great, we've understood the context. Now let's move on to debating this. And then that that's all that divergent thinking. And then the last stage, the resolution, I mean, it's, it's the convergent thinking where you're starting to come out to find a solution to what it is you're talking about, of course meetings might have, the whole purpose of one meeting might just be one of those stages. But you could easily have all three stages in the meeting as well. So we do we do I, my acting background means that I do a lot of roleplay in those things as well. And I enjoy. I enjoy playing the person who tries to derail a meeting and take it into a state an area that is not meant to be and watch people try and get it back on track. So yes, stories, story powered meetings. Absolutely. What's the structure of it? How do you use story to get your point over? And indeed what stories do you need to get out of people as well?


Francisco Mahfuz 28:37

Alright, so that story being used as as as a structure? Totally. And would you would you normally try to get people you know, so the structure is the overarching thing? Would you always try to do people to what make whatever points they're trying to make with stories are not necessarily


David Pullan 28:56

know without doubt, without doubt, because I genuinely believe that it is the word we've said this already today. But I mean, it is the it is the single my image for and this is going to be terrible for podcasts. But if anyone's watching this on YouTube, it's going to work for you. I often think that we our lives are filled with points that we're trying to make. And if you try to and that's like a nail, if it is holding a pan up for anyone who's know the OD I'm holding a pen up and David is now about to bash that pen onto his hand and drive it home. Like a nail because I think a story is the hammer that drives the point of a nail home for people that it's the best one. You can try and do it with facts, but it ain't gonna stay stuck for long.


Francisco Mahfuz 29:38

Yeah, the problem is the problem with that analogy is that you've now opened yourself and us to the hole where you have a hammer


David Pullan 29:49

Well, actually, do you know what I think that analogy goes even better, because one of the things I do say people to people with that is you've got to really watch the audience as well because, you know, I've heard some people who go on and on going on in the story as well. I mean, if you're driving the nail home, you've got to spot the point when that nail has been driven home. You know, don't keep hammering otherwise, you're just damaging the table.


Francisco Mahfuz 30:09

Yeah, there is a problem that stories, the user stories in professional context have that every other communication have. But people don't necessarily see that way, which is, if you do it badly, they're bad. You know, the same way as any other, almost any other skill, like if you're a bad storyteller, and I'm not going to go into the merits of what makes a bad storyteller. But if you're, if you're essentially boring, and you're not doing it the way you're supposed to be doing it, then it might look even worse, because it will seem I'll know is trying to tell a story. And look how horrible this thing is. Whereas if you just boring the way everybody else is boring, people don't tend to think too much of it, because they probably think well, at least at least you're not trying. Yeah,


David Pullan 30:53

I know. I do. You know what Francisco, I think that the, the connection between the story and the storyteller is incredibly important. And I there are some people I know. And I think some people that you know, as well, who get a bit worried about what they would call the Hollywood eyes ation of storytelling in business. And they, they think, Oh, well, if you're acting too much, then then you you shouldn't be doing that in business. And I 100% agree with that. But I think that there is a way of telling the stories, which show your connection, your feeling about the story. Because as we know, a good story shows what's happened, a great story makes you feel what's happened. And it doesn't have to be Hollywood eyes, but it has to be connected. And I think that there, there are too many people I've seen in business, who have a great story. And it might be a couple of minutes long, but it feels like half an hour because they're just not getting behind it. They're just not given the passion that they need to do it.


Francisco Mahfuz 31:49

You said a line that I think was very interesting. And I've been banging on about this for ages, but I hadn't seen expressed this way you were you're going against the idea of writing down stories. And I think what you said was, the moment you put it down in writing, it just changes the language because we don't talk the exact way most people don't write the way they talk. And I think you said it now. But when you're not a talented dialogue writer, so you can try to write it, there's a good chance you're going to make it you're going to write it in a more official way than what was actually said, in the end, if you're trying to read those lines naturally, which is something that actors can do. And it can do it by heart, you know, hence, you know, Shakespeare and every other play that you and other people have done. But you're not that trained actor. So although I know plenty of people, myself included, who were able to do speeches word for word. Yeah. And not make them seem scripted. But I also know how many hours it took me every time I have a speech to get to that point. Oh, massively.


David Pullan 32:52

I mean, you know, when I was at the Royal Shakespeare Company, we rehearse for we rehearse for 12 weeks, not so that it not so that it goes well, but so it can never go wrong. It's like it's it's, it's, it's like you walk on that stage as Hamlet or as whoever, Henry the Fifth at the beginning. And you could somebody could poke you in the in the middle of the night and say, say that line from ACT five scene to you'd know it. I mean, but that who's got time for that. It's got to have it out in business. There's a guy called Marshall Ganz, do you know that name? Do you know Marshall Ganz?


Francisco Mahfuz 33:24

I heard the name, but I'm not sure what exactly is done.


David Pullan 33:27

Okay. So Marshall Ganz teaches or taught, probably still teaches at Harvard, Kennedy in the States. And he came up with this idea of what he called the public narrative. And the public narrative is basically it's a leadership model of this is my story. This is how it is relevant to the collective and this is how it's relevant now. And he worked famously with Obama on his first election. So it's Obama's story how that related to the story of the United States, and why that story was relevant now. Now, undoubtedly, Obama will have had a number of script writers speech writers working with him, but he doesn't need a speech writer to tell his story of him growing up and the things that have gone because that they're the logic they're, they're the things that are in there. So, as you said, one of the many reasons why I'm not a big fan of scripting, because you end up talking to the script to the speech rather than to the person it's why I love your your tango of Netflix of the mind. I mean, it's that's the basic premise of


Francisco Mahfuz 34:21

that is actually your line I or B or Neil's line I might better than mine is is become more interesting than Netflix. Oh, has it? Yeah, that's my headline is become more interesting than Netflix. That's my thought on LinkedIn. The Netflix of the mind, I think is something your beard and SAS in I've seen you say, which actually find it a bit. I must admit I find that a bit odd. Because how? No, no, it just has become a replacement for the movies. Right because a lot of say that that story should be. It should be a movie inside the listeners mind or inside the audience's mind. And you know, I find it interesting how we are now using Netflix as the as the Republican brand Netflix is replaced Hollywood, right? Don't say a movie they say Netflix right? Which is


David Pullan 35:14

would you agree that the the our basic aim as storytellers is to create the is to transfer the images on our heads into this into the into the audience's head, the listeners head? What I'm saying I want you to have Yeah.


Francisco Mahfuz 35:29

Yes. Which is which is making it which is my lead for you to talk about a rickety bridge? Remember the rickety bridge? And remember, let me let me remind you of everything. So the SIR the regret the bridge, the rickety bridge is something I've seen you talk about. And I believe that what you said was, you were talking about moments in a story, which are other people call scenes, or some people call, you know, action scenes. And those are the movie like parts of your story. Exactly. I think I think your metaphor was, it's like, you know, it's, you're trying to cross a rickety bridge. Anyhow, some pylons that look very solid, and it hasn't come back to you


David Pullan 36:12

now? Oh, no, it's come back to be absolutely clearly. I mean, because it's what I fundamentally believe. I mean, the interesting thing is here, Francisco is that, you know, fact is the facts are the are the the currency of business, they are the currency of business. But they are not the necessarily the things that sell business. It's the stories, I believe that sell business. And so I work as I said earlier, I work a lot with teams who are presenting and pitching for very big contracts globally. And there was a lot of factual stuff they need to get over. But I think one of my major jobs is to find those pylons, the facts of the rickety bridge, and the facts will fall down unless they are supported by the pylons of the stories. And if I give you an example of that, actually, I was working with a team last year who were pitching for, it was a it was it was some work with a bank, and the person who was in charge of it opened up. And his opening was he said, Listen, I was in German Street, in June of last year, and I bought a very expensive suit. And I gave my credit card from your bank to the to the person I was buying the suit from. And it was maxed out because my wife and I had been doing a lot of renovations back home. And he said, I rang up your bank. And I said, Listen, I've got a terrible problem here. And the woman on the other end was really, really kind. She was so calm, she was so help. She said, Okay, when will you be back in the country. And I said in four days, and she said, I've just put this amount on your card, now, give us a ring, we're sorted out, as soon as you get back, we'll have a great, have a great trip. And then he said, and that's essentially what I want to give you in this project, that that breadth of thought that care, that attention to detail that can do attitude that you always that you that you shown to me. And as soon as he I don't think he would have thought that story was either relevant or appropriate in a business context, unless I'd stopped him and said, tell that story. And I think that that was such a great opening, it was the first pillar. And then there were other things that held that that rickety, old factual bridge up they want as well,


Francisco Mahfuz 38:14

I think there is yet another way of using that metaphor, which is that with a new story you're telling, there's only so much of it that can be vividly described, otherwise, you just load it too much. And you can have a story. Whereas a very small story more like an anecdote and a story without a moment. And for anyone who doesn't understand what I'm talking about. When I say a moment, I'm talking about the bit of the story that happens in real time, exactly where you're, you're describing what the character seasons, males and hears, how do they feel like, and that is usually what the story is. So something happens to you out in the street, and you want to tell someone is you want to tell about this thing that happened? You know, you have to tell us what, you know what life was like before. So we understand what the context of what you're talking about. And you need to tell us a little bit what happened after but the story is usually that moment. And in any story. If it's a longer story, you're going to have a few of those moments, but the rest of it is basically you just taught and


David Pullan 39:13

I completely agree with that. I mean, it's a quote Hamilton the musical it's, it's when do you want to put people in the room where it happened? And you actually, interestingly, I think, I think within business context, you'll often find those the relevant moments are often moments of human interaction and dialogue, where you actually sort of say, and I was in there talking to the head of it, and he said to me, you know, I've I've heard terrible people, bits of coaching in the past where people have sort of rammed a story full of you know, and I could smell the bacon on the sandwiches, and the coffee as it percolated as I walked in, and you think, Who is this helping? This isn't relevant. This is just fat on the story. I mean, get rid of all that. Get me to the point. And if there's a real point that needs driving home, then dive down into the moment as you say, and I think often that will be we're fascinated by human interaction human beings talking to each other. Brilliant.


Francisco Mahfuz 40:06

I think there's, there's a lot of nuance to that point you just made because on the one hand, we do want sensory descriptions, because descriptions are what trigger the other five areas of the brain. And I just the two are responsible for language processing and acquisition. And that's why stories are literally more engaging to the brain, because there's more areas of the brain being triggered. At the same time, I think part of the problem is that when people use sensory descriptions, it's very easy to become artificial when you do it. Like you know, you can say, you know, I woke up and like, you know, that smell of coffee when it's just brewed. That's fine, right? Like, I know, you will know what I'm talking about. But if you say, the smell of coffee percolating, so it's a voice problem, I'm making a voice. I'm using percolating, which is not a word you'd normally use in everyday life. So I think it's, you know, if you're using your normal voice, if you're using your normal words, then you can you can say, you can say a lot of stuff that is sensory without ever sounding artificial. But if you if you fall prey to those to the voice to the to the language that is not normal, then you you become the story weirdo, as I call it.


David Pullan 41:19

That's fantastic story. We can still laugh because that's absolutely


Francisco Mahfuz 41:23

yes, by all means. One more thing about the story, we're the the story we're the not only is the person that does the voice and uses words nobody uses, but he overact the story, and he announces it every time. So he will either say I have a story for you, or I have a great story for you, or you're going to love this story. Every time. The story. Always analysis. Yeah.


Unknown Speaker 41:46

It's so true.


David Pullan 41:47

If you don't, on that sensory thing. Actually, this goes back to Neil, when we when I was working with him at INSEAD. It was it was what and this is an interesting point, actually, because it's one of the stories I really remember. And it was one of the MBA guys. And the point he wanted to make is that he's great at solving problems with teams. And he told this story about once a week because they were people from all around the world. They'd get multicultural teams together in housemates together. And one person would cook from their a meal from their, from their country. And he was from Iran, I think it was and he decided to do a kebab in the oven. And he done this thing and he made a rotisserie and everything. And suddenly, there was this huge explosion that the thing had exploded. I mean, the whole oven had exploded. Suddenly, there were five engineers from INSEAD with a head inside, but this smell of kebab everywhere trying to figure because when maybe if you stop that thing up there, and then we put some sort of duct tape on that. And they managed to solve this thing. And even now, I think it was just such a great example of, you know, somebody works well in a multicultural team solves problems. And it was around the smell of Vicky bab.


Francisco Mahfuz 42:54

Yeah, and, and, and that, and that is a perfect example of what we were talking about you it's almost impossible to use dialogue and not make it a moment where it's very difficult to say, because you say my you could say my mother always said to me things like and even then you struggling not to make it a conversation. Yeah. But if you using dialogue, if you discriminate, they're putting their head here and they're doing this and they're doing that you're right in the middle of and you can imagine most of that scene, even if you're not an engineer, if you don't like a bob or never tried cooking a kebab in the oven, or anything, anything like that. So yeah, I think I think that's a perfect example. And again, we could probably talk five years from now, if you said, Do you remember the kebab story? I told you? I would know it. I don't think I would struggle to remember someone trying to almost blowing up in an oven. Because and you know, there we go. That's that's that's the power of a story well told. Right? So I can see we are coming up to the time you have to bash so ever about this. Yes, I can imagine you but probably I wonder if it's a good or a bad thing that we have other commitments in our lives? Probably good. So for anyone who, for anyone who wants to see what you're up to and find out more about you. Is it the story spotters.com


David Pullan 44:10

The story spotters.com We've got a page for the we've got on LinkedIn, the story spotters on LinkedIn. Very happy for you to connect with me on LinkedIn. David Poland. I wouldn't bother on Twitter because he's because you're still


Francisco Mahfuz 44:25

going by McKechnie. Paula. Yes, exactly. Yes, I do. I do want to see that children's book. What is that McKechnie


David Pullan 44:33

McAfee pulling


Francisco Mahfuz 44:34

under my legs that I literally perhaps


Unknown Speaker 44:42

I expect them to commission that make it with no legs. No legs.


Francisco Mahfuz 44:49

Yes, that's. Let's see. Let's see where that goes.


David Pullan 44:54

Thank you so much. I've really really enjoyed this Francisco. It's great to meet you.


Francisco Mahfuz 44:58

It's been a pleasure, my friend. All right, everyone. Thanks for tuning in. Take care of yourselves. And until next time


I hope you enjoy the show. And if you did, I'd love for you to subscribe and leave us a review or a rating on the Apple podcasts app. It's very easy. You open the app and find the show and scroll down a little. And when you see the stars tab, I'd really appreciate it and it does help other people find us. And if you'd like to get in touch or find out more about what I do, reach out to me on LinkedIn or visit my website story powers.com



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