What does it look like when you’re somewhere near the top end of the business food chain – when you find yourself in board meetings where leaders’ time and attention is precious and the pressure to tell a story well really matters?
The right story at the right time can cause a business to grow. The wrong story at the wrong time can have catastrophic effects. When I met Nigel, I realised that I was in the presence of someone whose responsibilities at Edelman and experience in HR and Corporate Communication put him in that bracket. He came across as confident, kind, deeply insightful – but I wanted to bring out the play.
Nigel is a 6'2" Canadian who is full of life and who has spent a life dancing in the corporate world, seeking purpose for his teams while also finding purpose in his own life. I was training him for a 20-minute talk and I could spot all this within the first few minutes of meeting him. It is my job as coach to spot the inner ‘red-thread’ as soon as possible and to draw it out via story. It is story that makes us memorable.
I asked Nigel to tell me the story of what he wanted to say, and almost straight away I discovered he was a prisoner in the land of jargon. When I asked for detail I got insider phrases and three-letter acronyms. I don’t think anyone has ever said to us in our working lives, ‘Today guys, all I want is picture and emotion!’ But that is what gets buy in.
I love working with executives because I have to speak to them like they would speak to their people – with confidence and direction. They don’t need to be pussy-footed around, rather they need honest, valuable, and immediate feedback. So I gently but strongly tore apart Nigel’s words and got him to rebuild a presentation based on the story of Edelman’s success and his success. Here is what Nigel had to say about it:
‘Years ago, given the opportunity to improve my presentation at an Osney Media conference, I first met Stewart. I still remember and often try to apply his coaching from that day as I was appropriately humbled. And we've subsequently worked together to inspire, engage and improve the presence of a couple of teams. It's been a treat to watch his career flourish and hear about the people he has helped along the way. I'd recommend Stewart every time.’
If you meet Nigel now, you will see a man who has fire and vision and who is analytical in his approach to problems, but who tells stories to win people on board. If everyone in every corporation was like this we may well actually change the world… Nigel is a true storytelling hero.
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