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  • Francisco Mahfuz

E95. Business Storytelling that Works with Gabrielle Dolan



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 for 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 first. My guest today is Gabrielle. Gabrielle is a global thought leader on real communication and business storytelling. She is a highly sought after keynote speaker, educator and author in her extensive client list includes Telstra, ey Accenture, Visa, Australia Post, National Australia Bank, Amazon Vodafone in the Obama Foundation. She has also written seven books in communication and her latest is magnetic stories, connect with customers and engage employees with brand storytelling. And as I'm sure she would say herself, she will help you hit your KPIs maximise your ROI and become a communication VIP. Jargon enough for you there. Ladies and gentlemen, Gabrielle Dolan. Gabrielle Welcome to the show.


Gabrielle Dolan 1:59

Thank you, Francisco. Yeah, I was trying not to laugh when you started talking about jargon. I thought you might mention the word pivot there.


Francisco Mahfuz 2:07

No, I agree with you. I'm not I'm not a fan of jargon. I think that in most cases, it just makes people sound very strange to say the least. And at times, it just makes them sound like you know, corporate corporate buzzword robots. But it's also true that, you know, is a disease that afflicts most people. So I think a lot, a lot of people listen to that line and go, Oh, that's fine. Oh, hit my KPIs and maximise my ROI. Great.


Gabrielle Dolan 2:36

Yeah, so that was one of the reasons I started the jargon free Friday is because I truly believe if we spoke the way we did in business, we were just, you know, we just call ourselves out for how ridiculous it sounds. But in business, we think it's not ridiculous. And And yes, I think we all like it. Me included. We all use jargon, because we're using words that we actually don't realise their jargon until someone outside of the industry or or your family go, what the hell do you mean by that? And you go, Oh, I don't know. Yeah,


Francisco Mahfuz 3:06

it's an interesting battle that are a struggle, because I as I've often said, on this podcast, I've given this example before I work with an MBA here in Barcelona. And I've occasionally sent to people once they do a speech or tell a story, they say, Okay, now, can you any chance you could do that again, but but like a human being, and they have no idea what I'm talking about? And I said, well, listen, I know, you, all your colleagues understand what you said, I understand most of what you said. But do you think that if you're speaking to someone who's not 100%, in your industry, they would understand and we'll go if you couldn't tell it this way to an intelligent friend of yours, then I don't think you should tell it this way to anyone. If there's an acronym that saves you three lines of explanation, and everybody knows it, by all means, use it. But if it's not that, you know, don't maximise your your praise a lot of the line that I heard before that was crazy. He needed to improve his competitiveness against his competitors. So you, you want to you want to do better than the competition? Oh, yes, that's it. Okay.


Gabrielle Dolan 4:11

When you said before, probably your your colleagues understand what you said, I would challenge that, too. I think half the time people are saying this stuff in business, and even the people in their own teams don't know what they're saying, but they don't want to actually actually sort of say, what does that mean? Can I share a funny story with you, this happened to me, you can always share a funny story. I shouldn't start off with a funny story, because you might go That wasn't funny, but it was about probably about 25 years ago. So when I was working in corporate Australia, and I worked with this manager, and he used to always use the word the term executional excellence. So executional excellence. I hear it a lot of people say operational excellence. And I remember saying to him, I go his name was Jeff. I go, Jeff, I'm just I'm not sure Draw people understand what you mean, when you say excellent executional excellence, I can't because I sort of really don't know what you mean. So what do you mean? And and he again, he started to use jargon, it's like, you know, using best practice to meet our, you know, desired objectives, KPIs, and I just went, can you just again, could you just maybe use normal words, and I pushed him a few times, and I could see he was getting really frustrated with me. And in the end, he just said, we'll put simply, it's once we decide to do something, let's make sure we bloody well do it. Right. And I thought, can you just sort of say that, because that that would actually sort of inspire that would you know, if you said that to your team, everyone would go? Yeah, like, Yeah, that's absolutely. But we, he kept saying executional excellence is is one of our values is like, I just sort of later I said to him, it sort of sounds like you killed someone, but you did it really, really well.


Francisco Mahfuz 6:01

There was a, there was a bit of research that I'm forgetting now, if it was Harvard, but when in doubt, always say it's Harvard. That's the rule with research. I don't remember exactly the source. But they what they did is they were they were looking at student essays. And they found that the vast majority of students use language that was more complicated than they would normally use, because they believe that that made them sound more convincing or more intelligent. And the absolute opposite happens, the vast majority of students reading the acid essays, Judge both the quality of the assay and the intelligence of the of the writer to be lower, depending on how much jargon and and fancy language they used.


Gabrielle Dolan 6:45

So yeah, yeah, I know the research paper you're talking about. And, yeah, let's just say it was Harvard. I can't remember either. But yeah, you're right. And that's, and that's what it's not, it's not only students, we see it in business, because if we use these words, we think it makes us sound intelligent. But it doesn't actually any actually, a lot of the time, it makes us sound like we're hiding something, if we're if we're not prepared, it makes us feel like we don't understand it enough to explain it simply to people or actually hiding something. And so there becomes this high level of distrust when we're using a lot of jargon. So, you know, the really good leaders and the really good communicators can make something quite complex, simple. And but if you're making something simple, more complex, because you're using jargon, lucky, you got to ask yourself, why? What's the point? Yeah, so


Francisco Mahfuz 7:32

one, one thing I wanted to talk to you about, since we are on the on the corporate part of the conversation is, is something that I get a lot of talk to a lot of people about this, but I know you've done a tonne of work with corporations, in it's this pushback against storytelling, for one, but but most other kinds of real communication are better styles of communication, particularly when it comes to presentations. So there's always this pushback of, you know, you can't do this in a corporation or or in my, in my company, you could you wouldn't have the time for a story, it would just be too weird if you started with a story. Now, I fully believe that that's because most people have no idea what we mean when we say story. And because if they've seen it done, they've seen it done very poorly. So my question to you are my questions you are first, how much of that pushback? Do you get having in mind that people are bringing you in to pitch them that so So perhaps the sample size we're looking at is lightly biassed? And also what? What have you found? That is people's opinion? The people that are more reluctant that what tends to turn their mind? No, bring them over to the to the light side?


Gabrielle Dolan 8:46

So so a couple of things. Let me unpack there. Yeah, you're absolutely right. When there's pushback about, we don't have time to tell a story, or or I would never use a story. It's because we don't understand what we mean by stories in business, or we've seen people in the past, do it really badly. And so we're not going to do that. And we and we've seen people like part of doing it badly is taking 510 minutes to tell a story and they're going well, I don't have time for that. So and of course you should never be telling a story that long in business. You're also right, is when companies are bringing me into the organisation. There's a revelation that okay, this is important, and we need this. But what I'll tell you what I have known Francisco and what I've seen, I've been doing this for 17 years and without, I guess this is more anecdotal evidence, but based on my 17 years of doing this, when I first started doing this, I'd go into organisations and I would run workshops with you know, let's say the senior exec team or the top 100 leaders and I would run several workshops with them. Even though someone in the organisation had brought me into the company and it would normally be perhaps the head of comms or the head of HR or indeed maybe the CEO. They're the people people in the room, the leaders in the room, most of them were in the room, because are expected to be in the room. So they weren't there to learn storytelling. And I could guarantee you, let's just say 17 years ago, a third of the people would be sort of had heard about storytelling and would be keen to learn about it. A third of it were a little bit. I'm not sure if this is relevant to me, I'm not sure how I would ever use it. But I'm here and I'm prepared to listen to what you have to say. And a third downright, would be going, this is just crap. I am it's not professional. I'm Senior, why would I ever use it? And that's what I would face all the time. I must say I did it. I did have a very high success rate of getting those third people that thought it was crap. I hate making them realise that Oh, actually, this could work. Because, you know, they'd say thing to me like, well, you know, I don't have time because stories take 10 minutes, right? No, no, though. They take a minute, 30 seconds. Or and they've got to be true. And of course, they got to be true. No. And then they go, you still need data? Of course, you still need data. So I was doing that. I would say over time over time now. 17 years on? I don't think I experience any person in that final third category. I don't I don't think I've experienced for maybe for the last five years, I don't think I've experienced anyone that has said to me, this is just like there is no it's not professional, I wouldn't do it like would never work. Maybe they've thought it but then no one has ever said it to me. And even that middle third, where I'm sort of not sure how how it's worked. I reckon that is now down to about 10%. So when I work when I go into organisations now I would say 90% of the people in the workshop with me, are there and they want to learn it and 10% are there. They're curious. They're still not sure how, but they're curious. And I think so I think there's been an absolute growing acceptance, that storytelling is not only a critical leadership skill, but it's absolutely so important when it comes to communicating, and how we connect and engage with not only our customers, but our employees and our potential employees, like how do we attract great talent to work for us through stories


Francisco Mahfuz 12:28

on those workshops? Right? And perhaps you haven't had some of these people for a while. But was there one particular exercise or thing you had them do? Which is probably an exercise? I said, this is me trying to use simple language for something that has a perfectly good word for it. Is is there? Is there a was there one particular activity that you had them do? Where you noticed the biggest sort of I you know, like, this is when the eyes open, and they went, Ah, this is what you mean, um, I can definitely do that, or just one that you found that was the one that gave people more quicker results. And I'll share, I'll share some of the stuff I do. But I'll be curious to hear that from you.


Gabrielle Dolan 13:13

Yeah, so I do so you know, the workshops I normally run are normally half day or full day or longer in some instances. But let's just say the half day workshop, and I introduce a couple of things at the start about what you know a little bit why storytelling is important, the different styles we have it's interactive, and then about, so I'm sort of warming them up a bit, and then about 1520 minutes, I go. So let me give you an example. What I've mean by here because I talk about how you can share personal stories to communicate a business message. And I sort of emphasise, you know, when I say personal stories, it's not like your deepest darkest fees or anything, it's just something that doesn't happen at work, and how you can relate that to a business message. So I get to the point where I share, I've given them an example. And I'll share it with you because I think your listeners, they might have the same realisation. So I set up the scenario saying that I used to I did some work with our whole risk team. So the entire risk team and the head of risk. Her name was RoseMarie. And Rosemarie was saying that one of the biggest challenges she has in her role as risk manager is when she's talking to all the business units that she supports. Every time risk is raised, they sort of all look at her and go, you're the Risk Manager, that's your job. And she said, it doesn't matter how many times I've told them that I cannot manage their risk for them. All I can do is help them manage their risk and, and she sort of says I provided case study after case study example after example of the benefits of managing your own risk the consequences of like leaving it to the Risk Manager and she just kept saying but the behaviour doesn't change because I feel like the message doesn't get through. And she was really frustrated. So this is during the workshop, I helped people come up with a story and so we use that as the basis so she came up with this story and in the workshop. She She used it to huge success. But let me share the story with you. She said when I was a kid, I grew up on a farm. And growing up on a farm there was all these dangers we needed to be aware of, but Mum would teach us what to do. So we knew what to do if we ever came across redback spiders in the timber heap. And we knew about all the potential traps in the dam after heavy rain. And we knew what to do if we came across a snake in summer. And I remember this really hot day mom was yelling at me to get my bike from the front gate because we were having visitors over for lunch. So I ran down the path. And then I just froze, was in front of my bike was this massive Copperhead snake, but I remembered everything mum had taught us to do. So I played statues. And I slowly walked backwards until there was enough space between me and the snake. And I ran back to the house to tell mum, and I'm sharing this with you because it reminds me of the role we play in risk. All I can do is give you the skills, knowledge and advice. So when you come across your own Copperhead snake, regardless of what that looks like, you will know what to do. So Francisco, I share that story. Then I asked them three yes or no questions, and I'll ask them to you. Does that story help you understand the role of a risk manager better? And the role you play in risk? Yes or no? Yes. Yeah. Will you remember that story? Yeah, you will. And I often go, you know, if you ever come to Australia, or you come across a snake, you now know what to do. It's a place that Jews walk backwards, go to your mum. So it helps you understand the message, it helps you remember it? And if you had to, if you had to, could you retell that story to someone else without losing its meaning? Do you think you could? Pretty sure good? Yeah, yeah, you wouldn't have to do it word for word. And so what I suggest to them is that is some of the fundamental challenges that they have in business, when they're sharing a message to people understand it, do they really understand it? Can they remember it? When the meetings over the presentations finished the sales pitches done? Can I actually remember it? And then can they then retell it to other people if they needed needed to. And a story like your personal story will give you traction on those three things where, you know, facts, figures, data, of course, you still need all that you still need it, but very hard to understand. Remember, in retail, so it's the story that makes the message sticky. And it's when I, when I do that share, share that story, and they sit there going, yes, that helped me understand that, yes, I would remember, yes, I'd be able to retell it. And it also highlights that it's a personal story, not an overly dangerous, something that something that happened outside of work, that can make their business message really sticky.


Francisco Mahfuz 17:48

I remember, I think I heard this story from you in a podcast. And I remember that my first my firt, my thinking when I was listening to the story was that the girl was going to find those an ache that her mom had never told her about, she was gonna get beaten in the lesson. See, I can prepare you for everything, right.


Gabrielle Dolan 18:10

But that's the cool thing about when you're sharing a personal story in business. And you also notice that that story was like maybe 90 seconds, a minute, 90 seconds. So really short. And there's a real part of what I teach people is that discipline to keep it that short, and what you need to actually leave out for it to be that sort. But the cool thing about when you're sharing stories in business is people might be going, I bet I know where this is going, or I have no idea where this is going. So they're sort of intrigued. Now, the reason you got to keep it really short is because if they don't know where it's going, they can be intrigued. But if you still if you're still talking five minutes later, and they don't know where it's going, that's when people will be saying get to the point and that and that's when people have already switched off. So that's, that's bad storytelling. But a really succinct one, to the point to get your message across is, is what it's all about. Yeah,


Francisco Mahfuz 19:01

I've seen you talk about how to you the ideal length of a business story is no longer than two minutes, right. And I tend to think that you can get away with slightly more but slightly more is three. But I also find from my own stories and everything I put out on social media that I'm always aiming for 90 seconds, and I find that if I cut everything that doesn't need to be there, then it will be 90 seconds usually, but I'm also aware that if we start requiring people that are doing this if they're already doing it that's such a great thing that sometimes I think requiring them to be very good at editing them down or crafting them might be one one skill level above what a lot of people in the beginning will will master but it obviously helps if the story they find is a super simple one. You know that one doesn't require any setup. Really.


Gabrielle Dolan 19:56

Yeah, exactly. But you know like that story itself without Rosemarie having the discipline to leave stuff out, there was a whole lot of other stuff she could have put in and that and that's the track people go down is they put in unnecessary information. And yeah, you're right. Look, I agree. I've heard some stories that are longer than two minutes and have really worked, and I've kept my attention. But I, I think I almost push business people harder to go aim for 90 seconds. If then, if it goes for two minutes, okay? It won't have to be a brilliant story if it's going longer than that. And because even when I say, like, I can run my workshops and go, Okay, two minutes, and then you do it, and then they'll tell the story, and I'll sometimes go, how long did you think that went for? And they'll go are was it a bit long? Was it three minutes, and I'll go, it was actually five and a half minutes. So some people aren't aware that they're, they're talking, talking, talking? Sometimes the reverse is true. I go, how long do you think that was? Or some people go, Oh, my God, I'm sorry, that went too long. And I go, it actually went for 40 seconds. So because I think because they're a bit nervous, and it felt like it was going longer. So I mean, one of the things I do suggest is practice your stories and actually time yourself. And, you know, if it's going too long, just look at and go, What could I cut out what's not necessary? Yeah, that


Francisco Mahfuz 21:17

is one of the biggest challenges I come across. And on the face of it, it makes sense. But if you dig a little deeper, it's just one of the most ridiculous objections anyone can have about anything, which is this idea of having to practice. Because I There are very few things that I talk to people when I give them presentation skills training, that is more controversial than when I give them my super basic rules for for slides. So what I teach people when it comes to slides is this 0123 row, and I say, Okay, so the zero is for how many times your company logo needs to appear on the slides, or the name of the presentation, or any sort of extraneous bit of information that everybody knows already, because they're they're watching you, when is for how many images per slide two is how many presentations, you prepare, because one of them is for you to present, that one only has the information you actually need to present. The other one is in case you need to send it to people and you're not going to be there. So that's where your walls of text go. And the third three is the ideal number of words, the ideal maximum number of words in a slide three. So two and three drive people mental. They're like, how could I possibly prepare two presentations? Like no, you're already preparing a horrible one full of text. Now you just spend like five minutes deleting all that text, and the three is like, Oh, how could they possibly get away with three words in his life? It was like, well, you What are you there for if you have full sentences, why you


Gabrielle Dolan 23:00

why I love Can I just say I love love, love, love, love that I love the simplicity of that. And I love number two, because I when I take presentation training as well, I said the worst thing you can do is develop your presentation for people who aren't in the room. So they develop this presentation going, all these people won't be there and they're going to have to send them to so they develop a presentation for the people aren't in the room. And the people that have given you that your time to be in the room are sitting through this boring thing that you could have just sent them. And and yeah, I agree. If it's like a few words, if you're just going to read it, just send it to them. Just you you're making yourself irrelevant.


Francisco Mahfuz 23:44

In this is the other thing about presentations and gospel storytelling as well is people complain about well, I don't have time for that. And that's fine. And I understand that if you if your company is requiring you to do presentations, you know, two, three presentations a week and they expect slides and all that stuff. No, I get that there's some things that may be just using the company templates are is the most time efficient way to do it. It's all efficient in time. It's not efficient for everything else. But then, but then I talk to businesses that have to pitch or people that are pitching their own business. And then I usually ask them, okay, so you you're presenting them with a project or a product or whatever. How much does the product sell or the project sells itself? Without the presentation? Do you think they're halfway there before you present? You know, are they 90% of the way there? Are they only 10% of the way there? And some people would say well, we know maybe they're 30 40% of the way you know they're positive but they still need to convince them said okay, so if they're only half of the way there, how much how much time are you putting in preparing the actual presentation that needs to get them half of the way there the other half of the way there compared to how much you spent on the product or anything else in If you like, why, you know, takes me an hour and a half to the presentation, and then I, I kind of practice once for 10 minutes. So you, you're dedicating like 10% of the whole project time to something that is responsible for half of your success. Do you see that a bit of an imbalance in that? And people go, Oh, you know, kind of makes sense. But but then I think they fall back into, often fall back into what they gotten used to, which is, do a crappy presentation, not really practice, and that goes for a store is the same. It's like, I have to look for a story. So what do you want this thing to work or not?


Gabrielle Dolan 25:36

It's Francisco, one of the things, I love the fact that you help people do that, because one of the things I see when people are pitching is the lack of stories in the pitch. And, and I sort of go, you know, what, you're what you're prepared for them, and they, you know, they're going up, they're competitive. So they've got, you know, three, I go, what you're going to present is probably 90%, the same as what your competitors gonna present, right? Like your client has asked for this, this and this, you're going to give them this, this and this, and there's going to be a few things different, I think a what a pitch is, it's very much like a job interview, they're deciding whether they want to work with you, they're actually deciding if they like you if they trust you, if you're going to be good to work with. And the really cool thing about stories when you're putting personal stories in there that demonstrate your values, stories, when people there's all this science to show that when you share a story, people not only connect with the story and the message, they but they connect with you as the storyteller. And ultimately, if like whether it's a job interview, or a pitch, the person on the other side of the table is deciding whether they like you, and whether they want to work with you. And if you're sharing stories that connect on a human level, I guarantee you, they'll walk out and go, what they were really good Weren't they, and they will justify why they want you with the best person for the job. And no one's gonna say, oh, because we really liked them, they're going to justify your proposal to say it was the best proposal but deep down, they're thinking, because we really liked and we really trusted them, we felt we could really work with them together. And that's going to be the ultimate decision making.


Francisco Mahfuz 27:15

I think what also happens is that people, there's this idea of what you're supposed to do, or what's expected of you what's normal, and most people will will openly admit that the vast majority of presentations or pitches that they watch are boring, or not particularly memorable that they are engaging. They don't you know, there's there's very little about them that they think is good. But then when it comes to doing their own presentations, they say, oh, but but I can't do that because everybody else does it in a different way. But didn't you just say that everybody's boring? And you never remember the presentations. But I understand that there's that fear of, but if I do this different thing, and it doesn't work, then I have put myself out there. And now it looks worse than if I had just failed the way everybody fails.


Gabrielle Dolan 28:02

Yeah, it's a good point, I think so some people think, Oh, if I told the story, it'd be too risky. Because, say if it didn't work, and I always go, but what you're doing now is probably not working. And I think you make a good point where where they can go. Yeah, but if it doesn't work, we can just blame. Because when everyone did that, or it was the process, if they told a story, and it didn't work, they might I don't know, I just I can see. That's why some people are reluctant to do it. But what I know is once they've once they've seen it in action, and once they have the courage to do it, the amount of emails I get from people that you know, that have had the courage to do it and do it and it's worked really well. Would you send me an email going? This storytelling stuff really works? It's like, I know, I know. And I'm just so happy that now you know, but yeah, it is it is a bit of a risk. But what's the alternative? We just keep delivering boring, same old, same old presentations that everyone hates? I mean, that's the alternative.


Francisco Mahfuz 29:05

Yeah, a couple of the two exercises that I do in most training sessions that identified how people shift a bit from this from the some of the biggest problems they have, which one of them is by far the main one by far is not having the stories because if you're just got the story and thought someone's tell this particular story, this is the one you tell a lot of the concern goes out of them. Okay, fine, I can see that that wouldn't work. I can do that. No problem. So finding them I think is a big problem for a lot of people. So there's this thing I learned a long time ago which I some people call it slightly differently but I call it first last worst best. And it's just as simple matrix whereas it's in first last words best you put out a whole bunch of nouns. You could be like, you know, kiss car, Pat's job boss project, you know, whatever you want in there, and then you know, what was your first job? What is your last job? What was your worst job? What is your best job and Give people five minutes and just save. You know, just write down something a prompt that you know what that story is, in most people can come up with, like 10 things straight. Oh, I definitely know who my Boss Boss was. Okay, well just just tell me, tell me about a time. Tell me about something this boss did that was the typical terrible thing that this person did to you? And they go, oh, yeah, but there was that time it was like, well, there you go. You started out.


Gabrielle Dolan 30:23

Because we're human, aren't we? And we naturally just tell stories. That's a really great technique to get stories out of people. I might steal that


Francisco Mahfuz 30:31

go for it. I heard that originally from from Mark Brown, who is a well known keynote speaker in the West. And I think he I mean, you everybody voted the order. So I call it first last words past I think he calls it last first best worst, my head from another storyteller that calls it something different. But that one is that is very useful. And then all I typically do is when I have people tell a story, because before they would have, I asked him for feedback when people present and everybody talks about body language, and everybody talks about this usual things. And then they do the story. And I say, How much did you pay attention to their body language? And they go, I wasn't really paying attention. Sorry. I was like, but how much do you pay attention to their arms and ask Why don't think they were doing any? Okay. So this person was just prepare the story for like a minute and got up there and present that you're not paying attention to any of the sort of negative things that you're paying attention to before. And they go Oh, yeah. So there you go.


Gabrielle Dolan 31:24

You just reminded me of a great story that I shared with anyone I was running a workshop was a full day workshop. And it was one of the big companies so they had full on catering during the workshop, which was lovely back in the old days. And I remember this time I got to the point where people were sharing the stories, you know, where normally it was after dinner. And you know when the caterers come in, or after lunch, or that the caterer is coming and they if you if you're running a normal meeting, the caterers will come in and clearing plates, you would probably just stop the meeting, because it's a massive disruption there. They're literally this this guy was pretty much had just started the story was halfway through it. And the caterers came in, and I was gonna, I was gonna actually asked the caterers to stop, because it was quite a personal story. But I sort of didn't and, and I thought, because it didn't seem to be been a distraction. The caterers came around, they were taking plates, just as they normally would. Everyone had full on attention and listening to the whole story. And when we finished and the caterers left, before we got into the story, I just sort of said, what happened here? What just happened here, because I love saying that to what just happened here. And people and people noticed it, they said, I just noticed that those caterers even though I could sort of hear them and scene wasn't a distraction, because I was so engaged in the story. And, and so I agree, that's what happened. We can, you know, we can do presentations, and go all do this and body language. And yes, it's important, but not anywhere near as important as the stories you're sharing. And what I find also to Francisco is, if someone who, you know, I might consider a pretty dry presenter, but then they share a story, they might share a story about the kids or they might share a story when they were a kid or sharing story about their parents, and their whole body language changes. And, you know, though, I remember once I saw someone do it, and I was giving them feedback. And I go, I just, I just actually really love the way you put your hand on your heart when you talked about your man. And he went, did I and like he had no idea who his body language but his body language was so congruent with the story he was sharing that he wasn't even aware of. He was actually doing it. And to me, that is the best body language when it's actually congruent and authentic with what's coming out of your mouth.


Francisco Mahfuz 33:49

What are the objections I got from telling personal stories is this is my MBA students think is the you know, they dropping a nuke on my argument ago, but what if it's a boardroom meeting? And I say, Okay, fine, you know, you might not necessarily open your presentation to the board with a personal story that is perhaps didn't in their eyes, who is going to be completely unconnected, whatever. But you can just open with the story of whatever you're there to talk about. Are you there to talk about a major issue that you're just found out in the factories? Did you just find out about that, then share how that issue was discovered? You know, all you need to say is two weeks ago, we were doing a routine check of the factory. And normally, this is incredibly boring, because they're always fine. But this time, one of the one of the numbers we used to measure productivity was just completely out of whack. And we thought there was some problem with the measurement. And then I started talking to the foreman and he told me, that's it like it's probably gonna take you 3040 seconds to introduce the you know, now what we found out is and then you can come in with your numbers in your data and all of this stuff, but you know, just out The story of the data or the story of why you have to be there in the first place, instead of saying, you know, two weeks ago, we found a problem, this is the problem. Again, take an extra 20 seconds and make that significantly more interesting.


Gabrielle Dolan 35:16

Make it more engaging. I agree. So I feel like you're, you know, your brother from another mother. To me, it was like, everything you say is like, yes, yes, yes, I have the same issue where again, I would have let you know, people who are presenting to the board. So first of all, people presenting to the board are normally pretty senior. And so I would have seen your leaders going, but I couldn't have got a presentation. But as with the board, so I couldn't possibly share a story. And I just go, why. And they go well, because it's the board. And I go, think about being a board member. You're stuck in a boardroom all day, with people, different people just coming in presenting to you after. And the board meetings are normally there, you know, pretty much all day, I reckon there's a reason they call board because I reckon they're bored half the time. But imagine presenter after presenter after presenter doing the same thing, and you walk in and start your presentation with a story. But I go oh, probably be the most memorable thing of the whole day. And they're probably going to be really intrigued and ask really good questions. And but what they're saying when they say I couldn't possibly say it to the board, what this truly saying is, it's too risky, I feel it would be too much of a risk. I'm not prepared to do that. But it's just so much more powerful and effective. So yeah, I'm on the same wavelength as you with that.


Francisco Mahfuz 36:44

Right? Let me pick a bigger brain on some of the stuff that some of your material that I've got from the book or from some of the other stuff I've seen over the last few weeks. So you've you have the some mistakes you say that a lot of people make when they tell stories, we touched on one, which was the stories being too long, I wanted to ask you about a couple of other ones. And one of them you said that the mistake you want to avoid? I think the question was to ask yourself is does the story ending link back to the purpose of the story, which I think I probably called the point of the story or the lesson of the story, without being too directive to Can you just elaborate on that, please?


Gabrielle Dolan 37:21

Yeah, so the real and this is the hardest bit. This is you know, when you're talking about this being a skill, how you do it, well, how you end your story. So it gets your point across but without being too directive, I think is the hardest, hardest bit. So I think the power of stories is when people sort of you allow people to get the message. So you've, you've directed them, and you've guided them, and you've done everything you can to hope they get the message, but you've allowed them to get the message. I think one of the worst ways to end the story is to say the moral of the story is, so, you know, it's things like you could be talking about teamwork, for example, and you could share your story about, you know, maybe it was about your best mate John, and it's ending in the ending would be something like, you know, imagine what we could all achieve. If we all put the same effort in as John did. So it's like going, it's not saying be John, it's not the moral of the story is you should do what John did. It's just saying, imagine what we would achieve if we could all do this, or we did or do this. Or I invite you to consider how you could and you know, finish it, make it make sure it's linked to your story. So


Francisco Mahfuz 38:35

okay, so you so you don't you don't have an issue with them? In a sense, making sure the point is clear. Your issue is they're making that a direction or an order or, you know, we're now you need to blah, blah, blah.


Gabrielle Dolan 38:50

Yeah, yeah. So it's got to be it's got to be he still want it to be clear. So I think the worst mistake people make with the end is their to directive going. The moral of the story is, the flip side of that is when they're not directive, and there's no real guidance, and people just go, what was that about? Like, I don't even know what that is about. So that's the real skill. So it is, you know, if you're trying to, you know, say if your message is around, working together, like I said, working together as a team, it could be something around, you know, imagine what we could achieve for our customers. If we all work together as a team.


Francisco Mahfuz 39:27

Yeah, I found that found different a few different ways of tackling that problem. I think that as far as good storytelling goes one of the basic rules for me, which which a lot of people don't find the most instinctive thing to do is, whatever, whatever is happening at the end of your story, you know, whatever the whatever change the characters have gone through, or whatever the point of the story is, in the beginning of the story, or near the beginning of the story, the character or characters need to be doing something that is pretty much the opposite of what they learned at the end. So if it was a man about teamwork, the character needs to be acting very selfishly and trying to do everything by himself or herself in the beginning, because then that change becomes obvious in in those cases, you might not even have to spell out what the point was. But a lot of people, you know, that type of crafting, a lot of people won't necessarily be good at. So I sometimes find that aligning like in that was the last time that I, and then you will not, you know, you talk about a mistake tends to do the job. But I also like an approach from your fellow Australians from anecdote where they, I think they call it the relevance statement. So you just say you kind of trained at a point before, which I think is more useful in conversational storytelling than in a presentation where you'd say, you know, there's, there's something that a lot of people don't get about teamwork, and then you launch into the story, you so you haven't given the point. But the point should be pretty obvious when you tell the story. And I like that as well. But yeah, the you should now do this is taking a story, which is a pool strategy, and trying to turn it into a push strategy, where you're just pushing information, you're pushing direction to people, and that will make the story less, less powerful, for sure.


Gabrielle Dolan 41:13

Yeah. And that and that issue of relevance, like, so you do sort of mention it to set it up. I always find that you could use a story to create context to say, this is what we're going to talk about, or we could already be in context. So you know, for example, the story I shared about the risk management story around the copperhead snake, if she was doing a presentation around risk management, I would suggest that the first you know, she walks up on stage and sort of says, When I was a kid, I grew up in a farm and goes directly into that story. I mean, people know, they're here to talk about risk management, but then shoot in the story and go, so what I want to do today is help you identify all your Copperhead snakes in your business. So she's used the story to set up, you know, the concept of risk management. Copperhead snakes becomes a metaphor for risk management throughout the presentation. So that's using the story to set up context. The other way we're in context is you know, you could be in a situation and they go, Well, you're the Risk Manager, that's your job. And she will go well, actually, that reminds me of when I was a kid, I grew up in a farm. So it is sort of you sort of already context, so people sort of already know you're gonna, you're gonna be talking about risk management. And yeah, this the same could be, like you said, with teamwork, you know, you could be on a panel or whatever, and someone would go, Well, what's your thoughts on teamwork? And you go well, when I was growing up, and you could go into a story about teamwork? And, of course, they know it's going to be about teamwork. So yeah,


Francisco Mahfuz 42:41

something else you talked about as kind of a mistake was that people need to realise that telling stories to their friends is different than telling stories in business. Now, other than this, this is just be fully realised I'm not your average person, in many ways, concerning ways. But I'm not necessarily sure I know the difference. Apart from you know, some subjects you might not want to talk about in business. But apart from that, what would you say, you know, what is? What can you do? When you tell stories to your friends that you shouldn't do? When it's early stories in business?


Gabrielle Dolan 43:16

Yeah, it's actually I read it, I ran a workshop last week. And I had that was the CEO, actually, who challenged me on that concept. And he said, you know, because one of the activities I get them to do is what's the difference between sharing stories with our friends over dinner down the pub, and sharing stories in work? So that's one of the questions I had. And he said, I don't think there is a difference. And a lot of his team laughed at him. Because, like, maybe because he didn't know the difference. But he but he said to me, and then he says In fairness, where he was coming from, he said, but if I'm sharing a story with my friends to give advice, or to influence them to do something, or sharing a story, to my kids to get to get a message across, there shouldn't be any difference than when you're sharing stories in business. And I went, Oh, yeah, in that situation, I totally agree. So if you're sharing a story, so you're sharing a story with a friend or your kids, to encourage them to do something or to get a message across the same structure? Well, the same structure that I would teach in business, I would suggest you do that with your friends as well. Where I'm saying the differences is when we're over dinner down the pub sharing stories. So in that situation, the main difference is the stories we're sharing with our friends over dinner can go on for a very long time. They could go on for 510 15 minutes and they can be funny and they're good like you know, no one's sort of going get to the point because they're just enjoying the story because there is no point that's just you know us What did you do today and you tell a funny story that doesn't need to be elicit learn out of that. It's just you telling the story? Yeah, granted, some people tell boring stories and still go on for way too long in a personal situation.


Francisco Mahfuz 44:58

I think most people Most people tell boring stories. This is I think my main point, of course, I get that story in business should have a point. Okay, the way the way I describe stories to people is a story is a real life example that makes a point that in business, now you can have a real life example, without a point in you will tell that your friends will tell that to your partner, because that's what we do all day. Oh, you wouldn't believe what just happened to me, you're not getting a point out of that, necessarily. But that aside, I think that if you would tell the story business and you do it in 90 seconds, the only reason you will do it in five minutes in person is if there's a whole bunch of other funny stuff that happened there that has no bearing on the point, you would use it in business for insurance, and all the crazy stuff because it's funny, but I find that this is a very strange phenomenon that's happening with me now, because I tell stories all the time on social media. That one sometimes my friends know the stories when I tried to tell them, which is kind of annoying. In two, I tell them almost the exact same way I told them in social media, particularly if it was a video, you know, I've just recorded this, I ran it through two or three times recorded the video and one or two takes. And then I tell the same story two days later to a friend and I can hear it coming out of my mouth like, but you don't need to wrap up the wrap up is a business point, like leave the wrap of like your, your last year lines, you don't need to add because the business point is lost on this on this guy.


Gabrielle Dolan 46:27

You don't tell stories to your friend, friends just go in there. And we so join us next week.


Francisco Mahfuz 46:31

We're about to be fed, I would never say that anyway.


Gabrielle Dolan 46:34

And I think also too, one of the main differences is how appropriate the story is. So you know, they they clearly use some stories we share with our friends, that would not be appropriate to share at work. And sometimes with our friends, we're sharing a lot, a lot of really vulnerable stuff that we wouldn't feel comfortable sharing in a work situation. So that's, that's definitely some differences about appropriateness. And and you know, how much you do want to reveal. I mean, we talk about being real and authentic and being vulnerability, but you know, you're gonna, there's gonna be different levels of that you share with your best friend, as opposed to just an acquaintance as opposed to a client or one of your team.


Francisco Mahfuz 47:16

Yeah, I think there's two interesting points there. I think one is the appropriateness I am not sure I'm the best person to talk about that one. Because the one story that I open a lot of workshops with, is I think the first line is, you know, the first time I went skiing with my wife, I found out she was cheating on me. That's the first one. And


Gabrielle Dolan 47:39

that is going to get people's attention that there definitely get people's attention.


Francisco Mahfuz 47:44

I'm about to post the story about next week, I think in the first line is I like to post a dialogue, like the first lines of dialogue. And it will be Why are you in your underwear burning down the house? When it comes to when it comes to vulnerability, I think I think I've heard you use a line that I hadn't heard before, which I believe was heal before you reveal. Yeah, I've seen a lot of people talk about that, as you know, share scars, not scabs, which I think is interesting. So


Gabrielle Dolan 48:13

yeah, if you want to share something that's quite, you know, traumatic, I guess, make sure that it's not roar, and make sure that you have sort of healed. So when you do reveal it, you're you're in a good spot. And it's not traumatic for you as a storyteller, which is not great. But it's also it could be then it probably won't be effective in business, because it will pick your audience would feel really uncomfortable. They might feel sorry for you. But it probably won't be effectively get your message across. So yeah, I think he'll refer you a reveal. I like that one too. The scar, not the scab. Yeah,


Francisco Mahfuz 48:48

scars, not scabs. Yeah. And at the same time, it is riskier for both the audience and the tailor. But it also can be the most powerful thing you do. And when I do workshops, I do this exercise too, where where one of the stories I asked them to share is is an emotional one. And and I I tend to say to them, you know, this is the most uncomfortable you're ever going to feel when you share a story. And they do it. They're fine afterwards. And then we get feedback, not on the story because people are not usually people feel really strange giving feedback on that type of story. But I asked him, How did you feel like how do you think about this, about him or her now that you've heard this very personal story? And the answer is almost always something along the lines of I just feel like I know her so much more now. Like I've been working together for three years and I had no idea about this stuff. I mean, I and you can see that it's never a negative thing. And this is sometimes people sharing really painful things that you wouldn't necessarily share in business but in to me, it's like you've gone there. That is the worst possible thing you perhaps could have shared and you're absolutely fine. Everybody likes you more after You did it. Now, you don't need to do that again. But we can dial that back and share a bit more of the struggle. And nobody's ever going to think less of you. Because you've done that. That's really interesting because


Gabrielle Dolan 50:11

I do a similar thing where, again, I get, I get them in groups to share their stories. But it's almost no, because I guess I'm working in a lot of business and corporate, I don't push them there. And in fact, I almost say the opposite to say, you don't, you don't have to go really deep. It's just, you know, it's just sharing a personal story. But what I find is I get them in groups, and they come back. And of course, some people share, some people decide to share very personal stories and very emotional stories. Some people decide to just share these stories that they don't think is emotional. But once they start sharing it, it gets a little bit emotional, or other people get emotional. And the question I ask them every time is, tell me what you liked about that. And without doubt, every single one say, I feel I know the people better I feel, I feel I have a strong a closer relationship with them. Because I've just found out something a bit more personal. And it was like, when you're talking and again, whether it's the people your lead, or whether it's clients, if you every time you want to communicate a message, you're just sharing a little personal story, not an emotional one. But might be it doesn't have to be. But if the added benefit is so you get your message across. But if the added benefit is I feel a closer relationship. That is just win win, because that's what it does. And that's what I was saying before that there's science to show that when we hear a story, we not only have a connection with the story, but we have a connection with the storyteller. So yeah, I love the fact you do that and pushes them to extreme to go okay, well, let's now just come back away from that. So any story after that should be easy for them? Yeah,


Francisco Mahfuz 51:56

I actually I actually tend to open the I tend to open the workshops often with if I'm not telling the the my wife's GTV story in the terminal. She wasn't cheating on me. But I have often opened with a story that is perhaps the most embarrassing story I have, which is, you know, involves me waking up in three hours away from home in a bus by myself. And I I'm I actually pee inside the bus. I'm so drunk, and I don't even realise that's not a good thing to be doing. And then I getting home, I find like chips on the floor on top of like kebab tape wrapping paper, and I eat them. But it's horrendous, right? And then I do that. And I say, Okay, well, that's probably the most embarrassing story I could ever have shared. Now, I want you to think of one embarrassing story doesn't have to be the most embarrassing story you have, think of a embarrassing story you have. And then they I have them come up there and share for a couple of minutes and you just having a laugh. It's like, okay, I'm glad we got some of the embarrassment out of the way. So nobody's gonna have an issue coming up here doing the other stuff. And yeah, I just I think it's we all feel a little bit broken or a little bit imperfect inside. And when someone goes up there and shows that they're also a little bit broken and imperfect. We got it. You actually just like me,


Gabrielle Dolan 53:23

I think what you're doing is role modelling perfectly. What leaders need to do when it comes to vulnerability is that they've got to have the courage to show it first, like, like, what you do with your stories by sharing them first. And then if you've if, once you've had the courage to show vulnerability, it builds trust, and then people are more likely to show vulnerability back at you. And I think I think what you're doing perfectly illustrates that.


Francisco Mahfuz 53:49

Let me let me try and one last question that we can just about sneaking in the time we have, which is this. You open your book with a story about Barbie about how the reality of Barbie is that when Barbie was invented, he was with this idea of being kind of progressive and showing girls that women could be anything they wanted. And the history of Barbie is a fairly progressive one, where there was an Astronaut Barbie Barbie executive Barbie way before perhaps they were astronaut women or executive women. And you share that story. So we saw people realise how much a story can change how we think about something and how we look at a brand in particular, putting Barbies example, no one that I know of thinks of Barbie that way. So why did they get so wrong? Because I think the Barbie brand for most people is the absolute opposite of what that story shows. And so where do they go wrong? That other conference can avoid going round two?


Gabrielle Dolan 54:50

Yeah, it's a good it's a good question. And I think just looking at it so obviously I'm a brand so Bobby winter to be doing debuted in 1959. So it's Been around. It's like a clearly successful product quite clearly a successful product. And so I think maybe in in the 60s and 70s and 80s, it was very successful because it was very progressive. And like you said they had Astronaut Barbie and executive Barbies in the 60s. I think when the whole, we'd probably call it cancelled culture now, where people go with the shape of Barbie is ridiculous. It's unattainable. It's bad body image. And so that narrative came in, and I'm not sure Mattel did anything to change that. I don't know why maybe they thought they didn't have to. And maybe they thought Barbie had run its course clearly hasn't. So they didn't, they didn't offer any other narrative. So you know, as I say, in my story, I bought into that narrative, and I had girls and refuse to buy them a Barbie. But it was only when I heard the backstory of those quotes, what you just said return for the Barbie is all around women having choices that it changed my opinion. And so I think the mistake they made is they didn't they let that narrative run for decades. And well, from what I could see didn't do anything proactive to change the narrative. And I also talk about in the book, that story around Barbie, I had to look really hard for it. Like I had to research for it, where I thought what a missed opportunity that that story is not not on every single Barbie package is not front and centre of their website, because that story could could change perception of the brand. And I know it does, because nearly every person that reads my book, the first thing they say to me is you've completely changed my opinion of Barbie. It's almost the first thing out of their mouth.


Francisco Mahfuz 56:47

I guess that I guess the problem. One of the problems with Barbie is just the visual problem, which is clearly that that idea of beauty. Or one of one, why does a doll for children need to have like a beauty ideal, which is kind of artificial to begin with. Like she didn't need to have that body at any point, she could have just looked slightly more average or normal. And he ran away with it. Because now everyone when you say oh, she's she's she's just a Barbie or she looks like a Barbie. You are talking about a specific type of person with specific type of look, which has lots of negative connotations. But yeah, I think I think you're absolutely right is having an amazing story. There's no one any good. If you're not telling it, like if you have to look for it, then you're just wasting all this potential. And every single TV commercial, every single packaging, every news story should have that. Like they should try and get that story out there as much as they possibly can. Because otherwise, it's it's kind of pointless, right? It becomes almost a negative. It's like, well, but if you generally felt that way, why have? Why don't we know about it? Like why you've been hiding that I think


Gabrielle Dolan 58:01

the mistake a lot of companies make is they have these really great, what I would call magnetic stories, perhaps about why the company started or some early things and they just seem to be lost. It's like we lose this corporate memory, or they go or everyone's heard it before. No, not everyone has heard it. And and I think they underestimate the power of those stories. So, you know, my whole book and why I love writing about it is like there's some companies that have just got great stories, and they just find ways to keep sharing them and and finding new stories and sharing them because they understand the power of them. And I think yeah, I think one I think once companies on any individuals realise how powerful story is. And if it's done in a really authentic way, this isn't about marketing or manipulation. It's about just genuinely connecting and engaging with people on a human level, then, of course, there's been business benefits to that. Of course, there is


Francisco Mahfuz 58:54

Yeah, I think the the option of you know, sort of looping back to our beginning, the option is to, at best, keep trying to find, you know, catches Logan's or some fancy way of positioning yourself in the market or having this this awful social initiatives that almost everybody sees through as, as just a marketing ploy to make you look more socially aware, or good, and at worst, just sounding terribly artificial, which is I think what happens to a lot of businesses that don't have the budget for hiring big marketing companies. Whereas on the other hand, you just you have the stories, which are actually the real things that happen and the real things that your values are based on. Just sharing those takes. It takes some practice, do you need to learn the skill, but you don't have to invent stuff?


Gabrielle Dolan 59:48

No, don't invent it. Don't that's the worst thing or don't exaggerate it. It's some the stories are there and you're right linking back to how we start. The reason I'm so the reason I love stories The reason I love stories because I think they're a real authentic way to communicate. And the reason I really hate jargon and acronyms, because I think they're a terrible way and in an authentic way to communicate. And I will often see websites and they might have like our story. And I get in and have a look. And it was like, their version of a story is something like a timeline. It's a timeline, or it's like, or it's like, for 50 years, we have been providing best practice and leading edge technology to help our clients achieve their KPIs and was like, Oh, my God, what part of that do you think is a story? It doesn't even tell me? It doesn't even tell me what you do, let alone why you do it. And it's just God. That's my heading.


Francisco Mahfuz 1:00:44

All right. Okay, so your latest if you can't stop writing books, apparently. So your seventh and latest book is magnetic stories. It's out everywhere books are found. And if anyone wants to find out more about you is Gabrielle dolan.com. Right?


Gabrielle Dolan 1:01:04

Yeah. Gabrielle Dawn calm. There's a whole lot a whole heap of free stuff on there. And you know, access to books and all my workshops and


Francisco Mahfuz 1:01:11

whatever. For anyone who doesn't speak Australian heap means a lot.


Gabrielle Dolan 1:01:17

I could imagine there's a lot of Australian words in there. So that's a form of jargon, isn't it? I could say a lot of it's just


Francisco Mahfuz 1:01:25

laying it's fine. I lived. I lived with some Australians when I was in London, and I would say heaps all the time. And then I leave to South Africa work to South Africans, and I would say the strangest things.


Gabrielle Dolan 1:01:38

So did you manage to say grass as an Australian? That's grass? No, that means like, it's really good. Like, it's really good. Like, like, like this interview has been grass. On


Francisco Mahfuz 1:01:48

that note, I'll finish before I change your mind. Thank you very much. This has been great fun, Ralph. Thank you. Alright, 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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