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  • Francisco Mahfuz

E82. Why Your Business Needs Stories with Colleen Stewart



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, the people who tell them and why you should be doing it too. I'm your host, keynote speaker and storytelling coach Francisco mahfuz. My guest today is Colleen Stewart. Early in her career, Colleen put someone to sleep during a business presentation and determined to never let that happen again, she started studying great presenters to learn the sequence. today. She's the co founder and creative director of perfect pitch Consulting Group, where she helps businesses connect to their audiences by telling their unique stories. And some of her clients include companies like buyer, the Home Depot, and Ava. She's also the author of the story compass, navigating through uncertainty in your business. Pauline seems absolutely lovely. But she's also that person who actually wrote a book during the first COVID lockdown, so I can't help but hate her. Just a little bit. Ladies and gentlemen, Coleen Stewart Welcome to the show.


Colleen Stewart 1:56

Hi, Francisco. Thanks for the introduction. Hopefully, I'll win you over.


Francisco Mahfuz 2:02

What I thought was more ironic is that you did the thing that most people would have considered the most annoying thing to do when when the first lockdown happened, which is, you know, you actually took the time where the whole world was falling apart to finally write your book. But right at the beginning of your book, you're moaning about LinkedIn about everyone else that they need to get a grip and, and do all this figs, which, which I thought I mean, I wasn't sure you caught the irony of that. So I had to highlight it for you, you


Colleen Stewart 2:33

know, I have a confession to make. So most of that manuscript was complete before COVID happened. I mean, it needed a major overhaul because it was a rambling, all encompassing, like everything I ever wanted to say about storytelling on the paper. So it was it was in need of the serious edit. And when COVID hit and every single contract my company had was cancelled. I did go through, you know, about three or four weeks of just sitting on the couch feeling, I think, like a lot of people feeling totally shell shocked, like not really understanding what the future was going to look like. And being very concerned, not only for my business, but for my own ability to apply my to put myself back into that manuscript. And in fact, I wrote a LinkedIn article in those early days expressing all of that emotion. And my editor said to me, I think that's now the first chapter of your book, or at least the introduction, and that really fired me up again, for the whole project. So I can't say I wrote a book from scratch during COVID. But it certainly the idea came together and I I put the work in needed to get the book out during COVID. I think in the end, it turned out to be a bit of an opportunity for me.


Francisco Mahfuz 3:51

Nice try still hate you, though.


Colleen Stewart 3:56

Well see what we can do about that.


Francisco Mahfuz 3:58

We're gonna talk a lot about the book. But before I wanted to ask you a couple of questions from a clip I found on your website from I think one of your keynotes. The first guy's gonna have there is why are you talking to dungeon masters?


Colleen Stewart 4:14

So my son, who is now 20, is an accomplished dungeon master. When he was first starting out at the end d&d, he really had, he had no kids to play with. And I just loved my son, he he started his own d&d group and actually got funding through the town of Canmore. To keep it going at the library. They were so supportive of what he was doing. And he built this great little game. Well, he was still a new dungeon master and most days he would come home and he'd be really excited about the the story that he had written the campaign he was leaving and how much fun everybody had had. But one day he came back from d&d, and he was really down about it. He just sort of plopped on the couch and you could tell he just he wasn't very excited. And I said, What what's going on? Normally d&d is so fine. He said, You know, I didn't do a good job leading them today. And I said, why? He said, Well, I had written the story so tight, that there was no room for them to make any other decision than what I had pre determined that they should make. And it turned out to not be very fun. He said it very quickly, the players weren't really engaged, they felt like they had no impact, like no power in the game. There. They were kind of losing their enthusiasm for it. And he said, in fact, I wasn't enjoying it. And I stood there. And I thought, wow, it's like a good leadership lesson, right? Like you, you know, where you want them to end up, but give them enough room in the middle to, to play and to innovate, and to come up with their own great ideas. And he hadn't done that. So that is the connection that I make to the storytelling keynote that I delivered is that you know, a great Dungeon Master knows how to tell the stories that are going to inspire people to want to go with them, but not engineer it so tightly that there's no room for them to actually be in the story.


Francisco Mahfuz 6:12

You're just referring to people as dungeon masters. They weren't an actual dungeon masters.


Colleen Stewart 6:17

They were not actual dungeons. Just a metaphor.


Francisco Mahfuz 6:20

I would be remiss if I didn't explain to anyone who has no clue what we're talking about that being a dungeon master is not a sexual kink. Is is is a role playing game that doesn't dragons is a role playing game. It's the clearest way to show anyone I used to be when I was a kid that you were a nerd. Like if you play d&d, you were a nerd. There was no escaping it. I don't know if that has changed now at for your your son's generation. I'm twice his age. But in my time, if you played d&d as I did, that was it that way, you had to keep it hidden. If any girl found out you were playing d&d, I mean,


Colleen Stewart 6:58

you were getting a date for sure. Yeah, no, but I think that has changed. So the nerds are cool now, right? Like Steve Jobs, and even Bill Gates to some degree, like the techie guys are now top of the world, right? So the nerds are cool. And then on top of that, that series, Stranger Things came out on Netflix, and all those kids are playing Dungeons and Dragons. And apparently, there's been like, I mean, it's never really gone away for the core group that loved it. But there's been a resurgence in Dungeons and Dragons. And what's so wonderful about that game is it's all driven by storytelling and the power of our imagination. When I finally sat down and played a game of d&d that my son was leading being the Dungeon Master for we also had his little brother at the table. And at the time, Julian was maybe 10, or 11. And my son, my older son, Sean rolled the dice. And it turned out that Julian was going to kill the monster. And Sean said, Okay, Julian, how do you want this to go down, and Julian looked at his list of weapons. And he actually got up out of his charities, like, I throw a fireball at the monster, and I slay him with my sword. And it was this whole acting out. And I thought, wow, like, our imaginations are so powerful. And I think as adults, and especially going to work, we think about imagination when it comes to innovating new products. But I don't think we always apply that power of imagination to the way we communicate about what we're doing at work. And so it's just I don't know, there's so many connections to how my kids are and, and what and how we could communicate better in our businesses.


Francisco Mahfuz 8:38

Something else about that clip that I absolutely love, is that at some point, you're talking about Steve Ballmer, who used to be the history onic, CEO of Microsoft. And I think the line you said is, you know, Steve Ballmer threw his hands away, and they just started cracking, but they always gave back.


Colleen Stewart 8:59

You have to improvise in these talks, everything. Anytime you get up in front of an audience, I think that you have to accept that there is no perfect, it just doesn't exist, where we are beautifully imperfect human beings, who are never going to execute a talk or a presentation, or even a communication absolutely perfectly. And I think if you can accept that, and, and just kind of go with it in the moment, you can have a lot of fun. And I believe, if I remember correctly, that was the biggest laugh I got in the keynote. And probably like the most authentic kind of connected moment was because I screwed up a little bit, but I just kind of went with it.


Francisco Mahfuz 9:41

Something else which I can't remember now, if it's from the clip or from a podcast interview, but I think it's on the book as well. Is is an analogy that I'm trying to think that there must be a way to do this live and it would be great. But it said something like most communication that is information driven doesn't and connect. And I think you had a statistic of something like 74% of that information is in Connect. And you said something like, it's just like throwing spaghetti at the wall. I just imagine this thing you could do on a stage or even on Zoom, right? Where you're just getting spaghetti and throwing it and saying, This is what you're doing. What is this statistic Exactly? Because that's not one I've come across before


Colleen Stewart 10:22

it was actually produced from a research study done in the States, I believe it was a presentation design firm. I'm not remembering the exact name of the researchers, I do have the reference, but they operate a presentation design firm in the United States. And they were trying to quantify what exactly it was that audience is disliked about presentations. And how many of those presentations actually achieve what they're setting out to achieve, which is to persuade their audience. And the numbers are pretty shocking. You know, it's something like 78%, of presentations don't do anything to persuade the audience. And the biggest complaints from those audiences are that presentations are too long. They contain way too much information. And they don't contain information that is immediately relevant to the audience. So when I looked at that study, and there aren't a tonne of studies done on the actual effects of presentations, but when I looked at that one, I thought, Here, I have clients who come to me a lot of them primarily to say, to ask me, Can you help me with my nerves? Or could Can you help me be a better public speaker and in their head, that means that they're going to stand a certain way, or they're going to hold their hands a certain way, or they're going to use their tone of voice. And I'm not saying none of that is important. But I don't believe you should start there. Based on what we know audiences dislike about presentations, you need to start with your content, you need to organise your information in a way that is going to be meaningful and relevant to your audience, you need to get rid of all the tangential information that you don't need. And you need to shorten that presentation. And the best way that I've found you know, since putting someone literally to sleep in a presentation where he snored out loud, the best way that I have found his story structure. It's what I learned to do at journalism school to take vast amounts of information and craft a story that somebody else would want to read or listen to or watch on television. And so that's essentially what I teach my clients to do. And what I do for them


Francisco Mahfuz 12:30

any chance that the presentation company referring to is Duarte. No, it's


Colleen Stewart 12:33

not Duarte. It didn't come from Duarte. No, it's another firm. So I would have to have the reference, like right in front of me, which I don't have right now. But I can send it to you, please.


Francisco Mahfuz 12:43

I'll trade you for one that I'm not sure if you've come across. But I thought it was pretty interesting. And I just had a I just gave a keynote yesterday, and I use that one, which is I talked to them about a one of the reasons why our communication is not particularly effective is that I don't know if it's because we think we're grownups or that we've convinced ourselves that we need to be professional. But as soon as we walk into the office, we start speaking in a way that no human being has ever spoken before, you know, you'd never go out for a beer or a coffee with a friend and talk about synergies, or how your priorities aren't aligned, because you'd sound like a crazy person. And then the the research that I quoted was that in 2005, Princeton figured out that about 90% of students use more complicated language in their essays, because they believe that it will make their arguments sound more valid, it will make them sound more intelligent. But audiences rated both the quality of the papers in the intelligence of the author as lower if they use more complicated language.


Colleen Stewart 13:46

Oh, yeah, for sure. And I think NYU did a similar study, but relative to trust. So the same kind of vague over complicated language actually reduces trust in the person receiving that message. And we know this, because we watch politicians do it all the time. You know, they get asked a question. They don't answer it there. They can talk for a long time. But you never hear an answer to the question. It's not specific enough. It's not given an everyday language. And so we don't trust the answer. But it's funny how we forget that at work. Like you said, Francisco, I would never go to dinner and say to my friends, how about we leverage our value added experience and you know, get some alignment over at the other restaurant? Like it's just not going to happen? Right? I'm never going to speak that way. And yet walk through the door at work. And maybe it is because we learned it at university. But yeah, walk through the door at work. And that all goes out the window and everyday language goes out the window, and I fall into that trap of using corporate jargon and sort of vague language.


Francisco Mahfuz 14:50

The way I've described is in the book I wrote about public speaking was that you should speak like you're at a bar not at Broadway, which is a slightly different problem. This is not The business language problem, this is the this is the problem that I think a lot of people end up with, when they look for presentation coaching, they think that the delivery is where they need to work on. And then a lot of people end up with, you know, overdoing the delivery and talking in a way that people don't normally talk or moving in a way that people don't normally move. And in my book, I do everything before delivery. So it's content and stories and vulnerability and humour. And I actually, I started to deliver a bit and say, Well, I've told you everything you need to know, that's it, you can go out and present. And then I leave like three blank pages in the book. And this is a wow, this was an easy chapter to write. There's like three blank pages. And then after that is like, Okay, I'll tell you something about delivery, then. But yeah, I find that it is very easy to improve those things. But it's very rarely particularly relevant. And if you tell, and I do this, when I'm training people, I, we do the storytelling part, if I'm doing my presentations training, and then I say, when she was telling that story, what was her body language like, and people go? Like, you didn't even notice anything? Right? Like, there was nothing to notice. Because you're, you're in the story. Like, yeah, so do you think maybe we should put more time into the story stuff than into the body language stuff. And maybe


Colleen Stewart 16:23

what I find interesting about that approach, Francisco is that probably I'm gonna guess, based on my experience is that not only did the audience stop caring about the body language, but the presenter, the presenter, his body knew what to do when you're telling a story. And so you know, these very stiff technical presenters who stand there, you know, gripping their hands, and not really moving around too much when they're just firing information at their audience. The minute they're naturally telling a story, oh, all of a sudden, the hands loosen up, we've got a little bit of gesturing. We're modulating our voice because we know how to tell a story. And we're emotionally in the story as well as the presenter. So a lot of those delivery issues kind of take care of themselves to a great degree. That's what I mean, I don't want to count arms for anybody just don't want to. I'm a number. And somebody counted them for me. And it was it maybe was, you know, tough love. But with my clients. Yeah, I'm the same way. I don't want to sit there counting arms with them for an hour. So I'd rather teach them how to tell their stories.


Francisco Mahfuz 17:31

Yeah, what I usually tell people is that it's a question of, of how knowledgeable and comfortable you are. Because again, if you have people telling you a story, and you've given them enough time to remember the story, they're not just doing it from the top of their heads. They don't usually I'm Anna. And I say that the way to fix your arms and your ass is to have as much of as much of your content as possible to be something you know, very well, and then you're not going to harmonise. Whereas if you're trying to memorise something, and it's just like this disconnected bits, and you're like, Okay, this is the part I'm going to talk about this other, then you're gonna not because you're just looking for what to say next. But you know, if, if there's more stories, if there's more things that you've, you've explained to people before, in a natural way, then then the arms and the eyes look after themselves. So get into the stories. Now I have a couple of I have a bone to pick with you. And one one to pick with us all people that teach storytelling perhaps. So the first one is that I've heard you say this on a podcast. And it was something like how we are all natural storytellers or something along those lines. And I could not disagree with that statement more. Because we all love stories, I'll give you that. There's not many people in my life that I know, that can actually tell any type of story to save their lives. So most of them are incredibly boring when they tried to tell a story if they do try to tell a story. And when it comes to the to the realm of business communication and presenting then then it's even worse, because with friends, you know, I do have some friends that in, you know, the watsapp group, they go up, guys, I'm just saying you dissolved you because this thing happened. And then they will tell a pretty reasonable story. Because usually, it's an interesting thing that happened. But the moment we're walking to the office, I think we can go, you know, days and days and days watching presentations and seeing people explaining things and it's very, very rare that a single story comes up I'm sure there's plenty of caveats to what you mean when you say that before the match. I just wanted to highlight that


Colleen Stewart 19:43

I'm happy that you brought that up because I think this is a really important part of what a lot of presenters think is an impossible hurdle for them to cross get to jump is that yeah, you're asking me to do this thing called storytelling but I'm that is not my natural happy place and I don't think I can get there. Well, the reality is we're telling stories all day. So storytelling at its most fundamental form, is observing data in the world around us interpreting that data and creating meaning for ourselves. We spend every waking moment using story to filter what is happening in the natural world. And so, yes, you are a natural storyteller. Now, what you may not be comfortable with or be practised at, is being able to tell a story that is meaningful has a very clear purpose is told to the right person at the right time, and in the right amount of time. And that's great news for you and me, Francisco, because that's why we have a business. But we're really not teaching anything these folks don't already know. You know, when they were kids in kindergarten, they, they would tell a story about how they weren't the ones who started the fight in the playground, or they weren't the ones who painted on the wall in the kitchen. So we've been telling stories for a long time, that's a big reason why I published the book is to show that you have this laying deep inside you. And we just need to kind of pull it out and show it to you and give you a method of telling these stories. So that's where the story compass came from, is to show that universal quality that storytelling has, we're already doing it. But here are four stories that you can tell at work. And here's how to tell them.


Francisco Mahfuz 21:34

I'll get to the four stories in a bit. But let me carry on giving you a mild, mildly hard time. This is something I'm not sure I had completely thought about before. But But I definitely thought about when I was when I was reading your book, which is that it's it's not the first time that I've ever considered because I've heard other people discuss how one of the biggest problems with with storytelling and people who teach storytelling is what I think of as the hero's journey approach in that the type of language that the hero's journey tends to involve. It makes it more complicated. And there's a lot of people you know, the guys from anecdote which you might be familiar with, they they're very much against the hero's journey, because they think that small stories are the ones that tend to get more circulation in business. But it wasn't even that what I was thinking about when I read your book is, I don't know if if we, I don't do this as much. But I do to some extent is I don't know if we people that talk about storytelling, sometimes don't make our jobs harder by talking about things like the hero's journey, because we use examples like Hollywood movies, like Star Wars, a very typical example The Lord of the Rings are or when we share stories from the real world, we are often sharing stories from startups that usually have gotten successful, or we're sharing stories from, I don't know, World War Two, just to think of something that's in your book, it just hit me as I was reading that I was like, okay, but I know where you're going with that I'm not, I'm not your audience. But if you get someone that's completely a completely layperson when it comes to storytelling, and a lot of the examples, and a lot of the references we're using to explain it to them involve Hollywood, the war, or successful startups, I just wonder how many people look at those stories, and then look at their own lives and struggle to make that connection. Whereas if, if a lot of the examples we're using are, you know, small personal stories or small things that happen in the office, perhaps their connection between our that's what you mean, like I can use a story,


Colleen Stewart 23:50

there are two complaints that you have about the book,


Francisco Mahfuz 23:53

it was just to be clear, I'm not it's not a complaint about your book. It's just that almost everyone that talks about storytelling will do will will commit those sins as I'm now thinking of them to one degree or not, this is not about you. And your book is just that it just hit me while I was reading the book, I think


Colleen Stewart 24:11

it's a fair point to make about the hero's journey that is a long and an epic tale, right, George Lucas took three films to get through the entire thing the first time around with his Star Wars series. So yes, it is it's a huge epic. So the way that I use it in the book is not as a format for your stories. So you don't have to hit all of those points around the hero's journey in your little 92nd to two minute story. I use it more as a compass of who are you talking to right now? And where are they on the journey with you? For example, if a management team goes into a boardroom, and they're developing a new strategy for the sales team, through that process, they're basically already even if part of it is in their imaginations. they're already going around that whole hero's journey. You know, here's what we're doing right now we need to change because the market is changing this way. So let's develop a strategy that is going to help us overcome certain trials and tribulations. They're doing all of that mapping out, right? And then they're trying to figure out, what are the big pitfalls? Like if we do launch this strategy? What's one terrible thing that can happen? And how can we avoid that, and that's the ordeal. And then they come up with this plan that they want to now launch out to the sales teams. So they're already coming out of the monsters cave, they're seizing the treasure. And they want to bring that back as an elixir to their sales team and say, look what we spent, you know, three months figuring out at our retreat or whatever, we have this fantastic strategy for you, it's going to completely transform the way you're selling our products, and it's going to have huge success. Well, what they forget when they're delivering that message, is their sales team is still sitting in ordinary, they haven't done the imagination exercise of going around that entire journey. And they are probably terrified, because you're telling them there's going to be this massive change, it's going to change the entire way that they're doing their work. And if you don't think about that, if you don't consider that, okay, we've gone around the circle we under we know how it's gonna look. But these guys are still sitting in ordinary. And now we are actually calling them to adventure, we have to make a story that is going to take them into that unknowable future in their imaginations. That's a vision story. If you don't think about that, and you just kind of, and I was on a sales team, I experienced this. So many times in my meetings, where director of sales or VP of sales would come out and say, Oh, look what we're doing. We're so excited about it. And you're sitting there thinking, hang on a second, you know, I've just spent, you know, a year of figuring out how to do my job this way, and now you're changing it. So if you don't consider that your message might fall flat. So that's how I use the hero's journey as more as a compass of who's your audience? Where are they sitting on the journey. And now what kind of story might you need to craft to persuade them to keep moving with you, the story structure that I encourage people to use for each of those stories, is actually the simple fried tags pyramid that we all know and love setting challenge solution outcome, it's really simple. And it keeps the stories nice and brief and focused. I hate


Francisco Mahfuz 27:29

fi tags pyramid.


Colleen Stewart 27:33

We were gonna say that, for instance,


Francisco Mahfuz 27:35

I'm in a contrarian mood, I think that you


Colleen Stewart 27:38

brought up another another point, the examples that are used in the book, you know, this tendency to go for the the net, like I do in the book, the Netflix and the Kodak and Dollar Shave Club, who I actually really love, and some of the movie examples that I use. In my course, I use a lot more personal stories from my own experience coaching clients. And I do have some of those in the book as well at the beginning with my geologist, presenter just trying to do a presentation about the software that he's selling. But what I do find is that there is this quick point of connection, it's familiarity. So although I will say my audiences are getting younger, and not all of them have seen Star Wars anymore, or Indiana Jones, Raiders of the Lost Ark best movie ever made, but so many of them haven't seen it. So I gotta switch up my examples. But there's a familiarity there. That is an easy shortcut to understanding. I don't have to give as much context when I use Netflix as an example. Because people know what if I'm talking about an engineer at a midsize software company in Alberta? Yeah, I'm probably going to have to spend a little bit more time giving context and laying the groundwork. So I think if you need a shortcut, then absolutely the famous examples stand up. That's my position.


Francisco Mahfuz 28:57

The reason I say hate for tax pyramid is because I find the concept of falling action very confusing. And I actually think that the structure you use in the book is essentially the same structure I teach if I ever teach structure. So the there's a lot of things where we are a lot, we are a lot more similar than we're not. So for example, in my keynote, I do use the Steve Jobs example, but the way I describe the structure he uses is before but so and after, which is essentially the exact same thing you do, but your call, I think you call it was it setting conflict solution and outcome. So it's the exact same thing, which might be just one step further than the you know, Aristotle's set the problem resolution, basic three part structure. So I find Freytag which I think is five sections if you if you do it exactly the way it is. I find that more confusing. Using them this four part structure, then then seems you and I are using something you do in the book that I could see that becoming that it could have been an even bigger part of the book. And I can could imagine that that is, would be very different work you would do with companies, if if it's a consulting project, a not so much workshops is is the actual story compass idea, not in the let me teach you how to use storytelling for presentations or anything like that. But in the, let's have a story that is so clear that you use it to filter your decisions through that story. And then you can go of course, which is I think, when you use the, when use the Nike example, or the in the Kodak example, in the book, that is, to me the most literal way of understanding this concept of a story compass. And it's something that most companies, they will have mission statements, and terrible mission statements. And they will have values and I'm hearing inverted, quote, unquote, values, which don't mean anything to anyone. And I don't know if any companies actually have a story that pulls all those things together, in use that as a compass. So I think that's that, to me, was the most unique part of the book. And one part I, I enjoyed, and I think you could have, you could have done another 50 pages on it, I wouldn't have finished it because I only read it, it started in two days ago. But it could have seen the problems probably scope for further 50 pages on that particular more. But that's my high level strategic,


Colleen Stewart 31:36

maybe you've just given me the idea for my follow up book, Francisco. It's very true, though. Because I think part of understanding where you've been, and what has happened to you, I mean, especially coming out of this global pandemic that we've all gone through. Wouldn't it be lovely if these companies in the interest of being able to adapt and change and be better in the future? Wouldn't it be great if they were all holding storytelling retreats, where they tell the story of what has happened to them since, you know, march 2020, I worked with a client, she was a young farmer who was taking over her family farm quite a big operation, outside of one of the major cities here in Canada. I don't want to give her away too much. But she was in a very daunting position. She's in her late 20s, she had just gone through quite a nasty divorce during COVID. And so a couple of challenges for her. It credibility taking over this family firm. I mean, she's in her late 20s young young woman who looks quite young, and also just going through that personal ordeal. During that time. Well, she was asked to speak at a conference and the conference organiser told her, this is going to be all storytelling. We're just we want to hear your stories from the pandemic. And she thought, oh, man, like, No, you know, number one, the stories that I have to tell, she thought me makes me cry. And if I sit up there, a young 20 something year old blonde, to which, you know, always helps, and cry, I'm going to lose all credibility with this firm and community with whom I'm trying to connect and create credibility. So she came to me and she said, I have to figure out what stories I can tell and get through without bursting into tears basically. Well, when we did the storytelling work, she realised that all the stories that we built, yes, they talked about the challenge and the conflict, but then they come out of that darkness into the light, and, and go into this outcome that is really positive. And when I was showing her the connections, you know, between the setting and the outcome, and, and how she had transformed and move through this experience, she said at the end, she went to the conference, and she called me after and she said, I nailed it, like it went so well. And I was so excited to tell my stories. But she said I have to tell you. The other effect of our time together is that I now see the last year very differently, very differently. You know, she came to me saying what a horrible year all these terrible things happen. It's been, you know, how can I even talk about this without crying. But at the end of our time together, she saw the last year as a time of accomplishment and overcoming her challenges and and showing how much strength and capability she has and good instincts. So now she can go into the next year, two years running this farm with all those stories behind her that are telling her you can do this, and you're going to do it and you're going to do it your way and it's probably going to work out great. So I think yeah, wouldn't it be great if companies were doing that right now? You know, telling their stories and crafting them so well, that it propels them into the future with a lot more certainty about their own capability and ability to meet that future.


Francisco Mahfuz 35:11

There's one story I love, feel free to steal, because I've stolen as well, from somewhere else. We're not the stories you talk about are the four types of stories you're talking about in the book, or the vision story, which I think is self explanatory, you have the journey story, which is I think, what I would normally call the origin story, you have the knowledge story, which I call the lessons learned story. And then you have the value story, which is one I don't have a name for value is a good one. And in the book, you talk about Joshy, which is, which is a story of seen from a few different people. I think Scott Stratten is one of the most famous people that shares the Josh's story about, you know, the little anyone who doesn't know we're talking about it's this kid forgot a little, a little teddy bear at Ritz Carlton. And then his father got terrified that the kids will be able to sleep in till the key though he's just he stayed in the resorts. And then he spoke to the hotel and the hotel, not only agreed to take a picture with Joshua by the pool, but also took pictures of him at the spa and with all the staff and everything. And the story I like to tell when I'm trying to, to explain that use is from is from Danny Meyer, who is a big lover of stories, his honour, Shake Shack and Union Square Cafe, and that he went one day to Union Square Cafe, which is one of his higher end restaurants in New York. And he sat next to this family and started eavesdropping, which apparently is something he does regularly. And the family was a father, mother and a young adult daughter. And he quickly realised that the daughter, they were all from a small town in the US. And the daughter had just moved to New York and the parents were a bit concerned about her. So that she had taken them to this nice restaurant to show them some of the best parts of New York and everything is going great until they get the dessert. And then the father says, What $42 for a glass of dessert wine, this is what's wrong with these people. That's why the words are here. And before dennemeyer can do anything, the waiter rushes into the kitchen, comes back holding a bottle of wine and three small glasses, he stops by the table and says, first of all, I want to thank you again for spending the evening with us. And second, I couldn't help but overhear you and this is the wine, the dessert wine you were talking about. It's the best one we have in the house, it's actually considered one of the best in the world. And we would love it if you were to try it on us. So he puts down these three little glasses, pours a little sipping each, they all have the wine, it's actually fantastic. And the mood in the table changes immediately. You know, as the family leaves the restaurant later on, we can guess that the parents were feeling a little bit better about the daughter's decision. And Danny Meyer took that story and stories like that and went back to the office and started sharing that, instead of talking about initiative in a customer service. And going above and beyond this is this is what I'm expecting from you.


Colleen Stewart 38:02

And that's a great value story. If you want your employees to behave in a way that they are empowered, you know, we can say to our employees, look, you're empowered to make decisions, and you just need to make decisions that boost our brand. And you need to show initiative like you like you point out. Okay, maybe I know what that means. I mean, I think if you and I were working for the exact same company, Francisco and somebody said, Just act with initiative, you and I might interpret that in slightly different ways, because we each have different past experiences. But tell me that story. And now I get it, you know, I can I can see a concrete example of what we as a company value, and therefore I know, okay, I can behave in that way. You know, I can probably do things that are similar. There's one


Francisco Mahfuz 38:50

thing from from the book, and I don't know if this was a book choice, a book decision, or if this is just some how you approach storytelling, teaching storytelling in general, which is that you talk about structure, you talk about types of stories, but what you I didn't think you talked about at all was how to actually more than nitty gritty of how to tell a story, right? So for example, when I do workshops, or in the in the online course I have, which in the coaching that goes with it, I find myself spending a lot less time on structure than I spend on things like, you know, did they have a moment or moments in the story? You know, are they putting dialogue in there? Is it obvious the character arc because, you know, however they ended up at the end is something they were the opposite of in the beginning and things of that nature. So more the editing or the crafting of the story itself, and not so much structure type and that type of thing. So that's not on the book. Is that was that a book choice?


Colleen Stewart 39:57

It was a bit of a book choice, and you're absolutely right. We know as facilitators, we spend a lot more time. I mean, the thing is, as soon as you teach structure, people are nodding. Yeah, totally get it. Because they, they already know this, they, it's deep down inside of them. That's how they spend their time interpreting their world. So they get it. It's very intuitive. Even when I go through the hero's journey as a compass, and then show the four story types. They're nodding, yep, I get it. And now let's practice. And that's when we hit the massive speed bump. Right, and they realise, okay, this is actually pretty hard. And now you get into precisely what you've just described, which is the true art of storytelling. And there are story devices like repetition and contrast and analogy that you want to use to make your stories come alive. And, and you want to make sure you know, I talked about the snake eating its tail in the book. And that's a hint to how to make a good ending, playing off your beginning. But that really comes through in the coaching with me. So yes, it was a bit of a decision to keep the book manageable and short, also to leave room for another book. So now you've given me ideas for two books. So I'm going to have to put you in my acknowledgments I'll say thank you to friends, let's go for the book ideas. And I look forward to debating to debating the books with you on your podcast, which is making for a very interesting conversation, by the way, but yeah, so there's room for another book. And I think that is why we hire people to help us do strength training. We work with a coach on our business, we work with a life coach, we work you know, we hire, we go to the dentist to help us with our dental care. Why would you not hire somebody who can help you do the one thing that is probably going to transform your business really quickly, and hire a professional storyteller to help you learn the art of storytelling. Because I think primarily that happens in the room with someone like you, Francisco, where they are really like they're doing it and you're giving them immediate feedback. And you can hear the moments in their story when they don't. And you can point that out to them. And then they practice again. And they have this feeling of success. I love that in my workshops. And I try to explain to my clients when they're booking these things with me is that, yeah, we can go through the theory, it's going to be great, and it will be great. But we need a lot of time for practice. If you want your people to do this. Well, we need a lot of time for practice.


Francisco Mahfuz 42:36

Yeah, this is that's something where I find that the biggest challenge with any type of workshop, communication or presentation workshop that is going is going to involve storytelling is them finding the stories, and I know I know people that just have homework. So they say you have to find x amount of stories in these types of stories beforehand. One thing I've found and again, this is this will not necessarily business stories, but if I'm just trying to teach them you know, you can tell a story and these are some of the things you make use to make it better. I use something that is not mine. I don't know who originally started this, but I call it first last worst best. And then I just have a big table of things like case car, pet trouble boss, teacher injury job. And then you know the first time the worst, get you lots of mileage. Like I've what I've done people with people with no official metres in public, but I like having the most embarrassing icebreaker I can almost just about think of a friend of mine has people sing like karaoke before they start doing presentations training because it says well, it can only get better after this, right? I don't like that. I hate singing. So what I do is I share the most embarrassing story I know of myself, and then I have them do the same. And then sometimes people are a bit stuck and I say okay, just think about firsts and worsts and I give them a list, you know, the case the job or whatever, and, Oh, got it. Got it. Got it. Can I just do one story because I got three worst case this is like, that doesn't make sense, but


Colleen Stewart 44:19

that's a great one. I like that. I might steal that one too.


Francisco Mahfuz 44:24

I heard that originally from Mark Brown. Then I found that Matthew Deeks has like he calls it's like the the order of those things changed. Some people say last first best worse than some people like I just picked one that I thought made sense. But yeah, that's one way where I found that because to me, that's the biggest challenge the bridge that people need to cross and that our job is is to teach them how to do that is okay. You've bought into the idea of storytelling. You believe that it's super powerful. But most people I think the challenge is not the telling or the crafting of the story. resist just finding the stories because if you just said to them, here's a very not two minute business story that illustrates this point. Just go and tell it. Most people can probably do a reasonable job but sharing the blockbuster story, right or something like that. So what I think is the the the challenges, okay? Yes, you can Google a whole bunch of stories. Yes, you can collect them from business books, or podcasts and all of those things. But you should also have personal stories in in how do you find the personal stories? And I find that once people find like one or two, then finding 10 becomes a lot simpler, because they they go, Oh, that's a story. Like I can use that like, yes, yes. Like I just helped. My kid was terrified, climbing this giant metal octopus this past Sunday, which like playground thing in Barcelona, and she was terrified, she wanted to get off. He was she wanted my help. There was no way I could go in there inside the octopus and help her I had to talk her through it. And essentially, I just made her believe that she could do it. And then I gave her some basic instructions, then she knew what she was doing. It lasted 30 seconds the other thing in my life, and then it's kind of it's like coaching. And that's it. And I can now use this story for the rest of my life as what a coach is supposed to do. And I just think people don't they don't see it as stories. I think that's one of the major obstacles.


Colleen Stewart 46:26

I think it is I think you're absolutely right. And they don't, they're not actively listening for them or watching for them and collecting them. I know, I give my clients something called the story compass journal. And it's just pages of journal pages for them to start recording these things. Because the stories are happening everywhere. Your story reminds me of the story of my son coming home from the d&d game and feeling really frustrated with how that went, you know, it's similar. You've if once you start listening for them, though, and seeing them and making those connections, you're absolutely right, then it becomes a lot easier. And I think the other big challenge for people to is being a little bit vulnerable. So not everybody is comfortable. Being vulnerable, I think we're seeing a bit of a vulnerability movement in business right now with you have to be authentic and be vulnerable and emotionally intelligent. But that's not a comfortable place for everybody. And I do believe a lot of business professionals think that, well, if, if I show vulnerability, I'm showing weakness, or especially if you're, if you're selling if I if I talk about any problems that my company may have experienced or any chinks in our armour, we're going to lose credibility with our customer. It's exactly the opposite again, because we all know that we go through trials and tribulations, we don't trust the people who act like they don't. So we want to see a little bit of the challenge that you've that you've that you've overcome, but that requires being a bit vulnerable. So yeah, I agree with you, I think finding stories, it can be challenging at the start, but you can develop a habit of doing it, and then it becomes a lot easier. And also accepting that some of those stories are going to show a little bit of your bear a little bit of your soul. To your listener.


Francisco Mahfuz 48:17

Well, you are preaching to the converted because the book I wrote was called bear a guide to brutally honest public speaking. And it has a Clark Kent type of character opening his shirt and all you see is his gruesomely drawn, beating heart. Well think about vulnerability, and this is something that people get stuck upon. Which is, and I've used this example before, because I think it just illustrates it perfectly. So let's say you're having a problem with your say your phone company, right? They're just, you're paying too much. And then you tell a friend that is like I just don't know what to do. Like my bills just come up so high every month. Let's say friend number one says, Oh, okay. I never had that before, but doesn't seem like a big problem. I'm sure I can help you figure this out. Or friend number two says, oh, man, I did I had that last year was a nightmare. It happened to me for about six months, until I finally figured out how to fix it. So yeah, I'm pretty sure I can I can give you some idea of what you can do. Like, who do you want helping you? Like, of course you want friend number two who's gone through it and come out the other side. And I think when it comes to business, the other thing is, if you don't show the struggle, which is really all we need to be saying when we say vulnerability is show that you didn't absolutely know how to do it from the first moment show that you had to sort of work through it. Because if you don't you also undervalue the work you've done because if it's like yeah we got this project was pretty easy. We know exactly what to do. We just did it took us five seconds. Well, why are we paying all this money them? Because no this this is a challenge. We put our best minds to it. And that's


Colleen Stewart 49:58

why it's so important for companies To start a bit of a tradition of sharing their knowledge stories, and it's the only way that we can learn and make our projects better for developing software, it's the only way we're going to get better at that. But if you if you are in the habit of sharing those knowledge stories, they might eventually become the value stories that you share with your clients about yourself saying look like exactly what you said, you know, last year, we went through this, I worked with a IT architecture firm in Denver, one year, and they were developing huge systems for companies to be able to have their workforce work remotely. This was in January before COVID. Like, can you imagine the, the, just, yeah, they didn't know what was coming. But they were trying to sell their services to basically set up this whole system, a company could have their workforce work remotely. And they had gone through the same thing, about 18 months earlier, they had done their own digital transformation, to make sure that their employees had the option to work remotely. And they had gone through all sorts of problems and, you know, had all sorts of trip ups and made so many mistakes that became part of their presentation is that look, we're the best people to help you out. Because we've done this already. And we made a mess in so many different ways. But we learned lessons from that we got better at it as we went along. And now you have the advantage of doing this on the back of the lessons that we learned. So yeah, I think it's really important that companies understand that. Another interesting statistic or another interesting idea from Home Depot when I was working with them, they were they have a branch home services where they do hire contractors to come into your home and do the work. And what they realised was, if a contractor comes into your home, say is working in the kitchen, doing the tiling, and he puts up all the tile just perfectly, it's exactly the tile you ordered. He puts it up in the way that is exactly the way you specified comes in right it on budget and on time, the highest customer satisfaction rating, that contractor is likely to get from us about a seven and a half or an eight. Now if the contractor comes in, and he messes up the tile, puts all the tile in and you walk in and you say that's not what I ordered. But he handles it really well. You know, it says okay, no problem we're going to we're going to fix it no extra charge to you we're going to go and make sure this is done still on time and there's a bit of a hurdle there a bit of a conflict there. Now the contractor is probably going to get a 10 rating on the customer satisfaction survey. Home Depot knows this now, it's not that they're sending out their contractors saying, okay, screw up a little bit. Okay, we want higher ratings, but they just know that we're all human. We're all you know, we're all fallible and it's okay to make a mistake it's more important how you handle that because the mistakes are gonna happen


Francisco Mahfuz 53:04

Yeah, I think I I've been taken for many years without knowing a Home Depot approach to being a husband and now a father you know screw up a little bit try hard improve get higher grades because of it. Right so I I know that you like the the ends to be connected to the beginnings the oroboros snake eating its own tail. I'm a big fan of that. I often tell people that they need to close the circle when they're doing a presentation when they're doing a speech and I always tried to do that myself so I think it's only fair to say that I no longer HATE YOU Colleen okay


Colleen Stewart 53:46

what a wonderful ending Francisco


Francisco Mahfuz 53:48

right so so if you want people to if you want people to find out more about you know the story complex has been sold well it's in the UK in the US and Canada but I don't think you're bothered putting it up on the other Amazon's which you should


Colleen Stewart 54:02

know maybe I need to I need to get on the other end. Okay,


Francisco Mahfuz 54:07

yeah just put them out there everywhere I've got my book every Amazon that they let me who knows that sometimes you do get you do get sales I get sales from Australia because it's an all over the place. Not that many sales I must say but but but enough sales to say that I have sold books around the world


Colleen Stewart 54:27

I know you're an internationally selling author. So I have to do I haven't in Mexico the US and Canada so I will branch out now Francisco


Francisco Mahfuz 54:36

yes please. So that's the story compass and and then if people want to see more of your work where they should go to


Colleen Stewart 54:42

perfect pitch pros prs.com is the website you can find me on LinkedIn that's a quick way to connect and if you do want to buy the book and you're overseas then get just messaged me and I'll get you a copy for sure. I am on Instagram as well story compass although I have to say I'm not as good on Instagram as I Am I on LinkedIn? Probably better to find me on LinkedIn or the website?


Francisco Mahfuz 55:03

Yeah. So I'm not even on other social media. i One One is enough for my sanity. So


Colleen Stewart 55:09

exactly. That's how I feel about it. So yeah, I'll put


Francisco Mahfuz 55:12

other stuff in the show notes. Thanks for coming on. This is a lot of fun.


Colleen Stewart 55:16

It was a pleasure, Francisco. Thank you so much. Alright, everyone.


Francisco Mahfuz 55:19

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 this show and scroll down a little and when you see the stars tap, I'd really appreciate it and it does help other people find this. 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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