communication

Storytelling 3: Tips for a compelling narrative

Storytelling at work

In the first two parts of our series we looked at the science behind storytelling, and how to jump in and create your own. And in this post we share a few tips to help you hone and maintain your storytelling habit.

Perhaps the world's (and our own) infatuation with storytelling will fade over time, but stories themselves are no flash in the pan. They speak to our quintessentially human desire to communicate. And at their best, elevate the simple stuff of life to the utterly captivating. So here they are, a few of our top tips.

1. Start with emotion

What emotions are at the heart of the story, how do you want your audience to feel when they hear it? What do you want them to do after they've heard it? Pin them down and keep them at the story's heart.

2. Identify the narrative arc

It sounds obvious. It is obvious. And yet... structure so often goes out the window. So clarify the beginning, middle and end, and make sure your story is going somewhere.

Writing down the three or five key elements on post-it notes and switching them around may help you find the most powerful structure for your story.

3. Keep it personal

The personal is powerful. If you can show why something matters to you, you'll help your audience understand why it matters to them.

If you're like me, you'll hate doing this. You could decide to suck it up, if that works for you, or you could find a personal angle on a story that can bring it to life without leaving you feeling entirely exposed.

4. Keep it short, with options to extend

Develop and practice 60-second, 2- and 3-minute versions of your story. You can fit a surprising amount into a minute, whether or not you adhere to the rules of Just a Minute.

5. Start small, and varied

Create a few stories and try them out as soon as possible, starting with low risk situations. Review, extend, condense and adapt as you find out what works best for you and has the greatest impact on a particular audience.

Do drop us a line if you have any questions, or would like to know more about how you can use storytelling more effectively at work. Or sign up to download our free Chirp Workbook.

 

 

Storytelling 1: The Science of Storytelling

By Nevit Dilmen (talk) and Tekks (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via  Wikimedia Commons

By Nevit Dilmen (talk) and Tekks (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Our world is awash with stories.

Not only ones we seek out, but others we're confronted with whether we like it or not. True stories, fictional stories, fictional stories purporting to be true stories… They feature in every aspect of our daily lives, from business to politics to leisure.

And for good reason. Storytelling is an extremely powerful tool. It alters the activity in your brain, influencing not only what you think and feel, but how you act. Which is quite useful if you’ve ever needed to convince someone of something – whether it’s that they should donate to charity or hire you for your dream job.

There’s a fascinating – and growing – body of research into the science behind storytelling. Labs across the world are exploring how stories impact on the human brain – from how we understand them to their role in communication.

Curious? Read on for three examples (referenced below) you might find useful when telling your own stories. And for insightful analysis of what to do with this all storytelling, do check out Sisonke Msimang's excellent Ted talk.

1. Simulation of reality

Hearing or reading a story creates a simulation of reality in your brain. In other words, your brain processes the story as if you were actually experiencing its events first-hand.[i] That ‘real’ experience can provide a useful short-cut to improving understanding and emotional connection between storyteller and audience.

2. Emotion and empathy

Emotionally arousing stories raise the pain thresholds of the audience, and increase their sense of group bonding.[ii] Stories with a strong emotional and dramatic arc are also more likely to inspire empathy in the audience and influence their subsequent actions (such as charitable giving) than stories that are emotionally neutral.[iii] [iv] 

3. Alignment and communication

Storytelling “couples” or aligns your brain with that of your listener. When you tell people a story, their brain activity begins to mirror yours and you interpret the story in the same way. The stronger the similarity in your brain activity, the better the communication between you and your listener(s).[v] [vi] Uri Hasson’s Ted talk, though a few years old now, is useful for a quick overview of some of this research – and why it matters.

This is the first of our three-part series on storytelling. Do drop us a line if you have any questions, or would like to know more about how you can use storytelling more effectively at work. Or sign up to download our free Chirp Workbook.


[i] Oatley, K (2012), The Cognitive Science of Fiction. Wiley Interdisciplinary Reviews: Cognitive Science. 3(4), 425-430.

[ii] Dunbar RIM, Teasdale B, Thompson J, Budelmann F, Duncan S, van Emde Boas E, Maguire L. (2016) Emotional arousal when watching drama increases pain threshold and social bonding. Royal Society open science, 3: 160288.

[iii] Barraza, J., Alexander, V., Beavin, L. Terris, E., & Zak, P. (2015). The heart of the story: Peripheral physiology during narrative exposure predicts charitable giving. Biological Psychology. 105, 138-143.

[iv]  Zak, P. J. (2015). Why Inspiring Stories Make Us React: The Neuroscience of Narrative. Cerebrum: The Dana Forum on Brain Science, 2.

[v] Stephens, G. J., Silbert, L. J., & Hasson, U. (2010). Speaker–listener neural coupling underlies successful communication. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 107(32), 14425–14430

[vi] Liu, Y., Piazza E., Simony, E., Shewokis, P., Onaral, B., Hasson, U., Ayaz, H. Measuring speaker–listener neural coupling with functional near infrared spectroscopy. PRE-PRINT. bioRxiv preprint first posted online Oct. 16, 2016; doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1101/081166.

Voice tips for the social season 5: align intent and delivery

From intention to action. " Newton's Cradle " by Sheila Sund licenced by  CY BY 2.0 .

From intention to action. "Newton's Cradle" by Sheila Sund licenced by CY BY 2.0.

We're almost at the end of our week of voice tips, with just one more to help you make it through to Christmas. We hope they help you communicate more effectively in and out of work, both now and in the new year.

Tip 5: Align your intention with your delivery

We are most persuasive, convincing and effective when we show that we mean what we say. So don’t just tell – be. Aligning what you say with how you say it can help you deliver a clearer and more compelling message.

In essence, that means matching your tone with your meaning. It will help you imbue your words with the weight they deserve. So don’t undercut difficult messages with a nervous grin; and give grimaces a wide berth when explaining brilliant plans.

It might take a bit of effort sometimes, but you'll reap the rewards in terms of trust and confidence – both from others and within yourself.

 

Sign up to download our free Chirp Guide on how to use your voice effectively in meetings, pitches and presentations.

 

 

Voice tips for the social season 4: speak from your stomach

" Lambchop and More " by Tim Johnson licenced by  CC BY 2.0

"Lambchop and More" by Tim Johnson licenced by CC BY 2.0

Each day this week we're offering you a tip to help you survive the festivities with your voice intact – at least while you're at work.

Tip 4: Channel your inner ventriloquist

Okay, not really. Though just think of the possibilities for those tricky meetings...

It's not far off, however. Venter comes from the Latin for 'belly', and loqui from the Latin for 'speak'. So, with that in mind, imagine that you are speaking from your stomach rather than your throat.

The idea of this tip is to help the sound 'drop down' in your body. Making that psychological shift can help you breathe more deeply, project more clearly and audibly and avoid straining your voice.

I suggest giving all these tips a practice run so you can get a feel for them before your next high stakes meeting. When practising this one, you might find that placing your hand on your stomach helps to focus your attention.

 

Sign up to download our free Chirp Guide on how to use your voice effectively in meetings, pitches and presentations.

 

 

Voice tips for the social season 3: vocal clarity

' Slow Motion Water Droplet ' by Public Domain Photography licenced under  CC BY-SA 2.0

'Slow Motion Water Droplet' by Public Domain Photography licenced under CC BY-SA 2.0

Every day this week we're sharing some of our top tips to help you use your voice effectively, whether at work, rest or (nativity) play.

Tip 3: Vocal clarity

Stick your tongue out. Yep, that's right: stick your tongue out. Not only will it probably make you laugh, but it also releases tension in the tongue root. This, in turn, can help you articulate your words with a clearer and more resonant voice.

This exercise is particularly useful if you find that your voice seems to get smaller or somehow restricted when you’re under pressure. It takes just 30 seconds, and can be a helpful boost both at the start of the day, and during the day if you feel your stress levels rising.

1. Open your mouth

2. Tip of tongue behind bottom teeth

3. Stretch the middle of your tongue up and out of your mouth for 5 seconds

4. Stick your tongue all the way out for 5 seconds

5. Repeat steps 3 and 4 twice, so you have run through the sequence three times in total

 

Sign up to download our free Chirp Guide on how to use your voice effectively in meetings, pitches and presentations.

 

 

Voice tips for the social season 2: breathing

" Breathe " by Shawn Rossi is licenced by  CC BY 2.0

"Breathe" by Shawn Rossi is licenced by CC BY 2.0

All this week we're sharing our top tips to keep your voice in fine fettle at work during the season of mad-rush-to-finish-project-before-Christmas-meets-festive-socialising. As we sometimes think of it. Today, we have our second tip – one that seems so obvious it's almost always the first thing to slip.

Tip 2: Breathe

You know, generally. It's good for staying calm. And alive.

More specifically in this context, breathe in just before you speak, and speak as you exhale. I said it sounded obvious. But turn detective for a minute, and you'll notice that people often start speaking on almost no breathe – and quickly run out.

Speaking as you exhale enables you to project your voice much more easily – which, in turn, will help to prevent you straining your voice (a seasonal hazard). And you'll have enough breath to make your point effectively, instead of ditching the end in an inaudible mumble.

Slow controlled breathing also reduces your blood pressure. And that will help you engage with challenge more calmly and effectively, whether at work or the office knees up!

 

Sign up to download our free Chirp Guide on how to use your voice effectively in meetings, pitches and presentations.

 

 

Why singing improves well-being

People singing

I'm sometimes asked why we use singing in our sessions. I'm not surprised – and not only because singing is, ahem, a touch unusual in leadership development. Thing is, however natural it might be, singing comes with baggage. It’s always a loaded concept, whether that's with feelings of joy or outright fear, or something in between.

And actually, in our work, all of that is useful.

That element of fear and exposure can help you notice how you respond to risk and uncertainty. And do so in a way that’s not only immediate, but that is all-encompassing: physically, intellectually and emotionally. In pulling you out of your comfort zone, singing can take you to a place of stretch. And that, we know from recent research, is where most of us learn best and most memorably.

It's even likely that, because it’s a bit risky, singing actually increases your resilience. We're currently collaborating with neurobiologists at Ashridge Business School to find at whether public singing creates templates in your brain that help you tackle other challenges more easily. We'll keep you posted on our findings!

So I embrace that element of fear. And one of the things I find fascinating about singing is how quickly it can take you from that place of fear to one of connection, trust, and well-being. And for lots of people, it can happen within the space of a single song.

There’s a growing body of research into the impact of singing on well-being. We now know, for example, that group singing raises your pain threshold. And that it releases oxytocin into your bloodstream, which helps promote feelings of trust and safety.

Singing also enables fast social bonding. It breaks the ice so you feel closer as the group, even if you don’t yet know anything about each other. The team behind this research also suggest that the social bonding effect of singing may even have been vital in enabling modern humans to sustain larger social networks than their evolutionary ancestors. And that, in turn, may have helped them colonise risky environments worldwide. Those early singers were no slackers.

When you sing with other people your heartbeats sychronise – which may explain why singing together can create a sense of shared perspective. Choral singing can certainly improve mood, enhance quality of life, and lead to greater happiness, reduced stress and better emotional well-being. But, whether you sing alone or with others, the simple act of singing raises your heart rate variability, which in turn improves both your well-being and social cognition.

And we think that singing with someone else improves your social intelligence. with, again, an impact on well-being. We're currently developing research with neuroscientists at University College London to examine brain activity during joint singing, and its impact on interaction and well-being.

As you might have gathered, I find the science fascinating. I find it hugely exciting to understand what happens in our brains and bodies when we sing, and how we can use that to enhance our lives at work or at home.

But, in some ways, we don’t need the science.

Singing is thought to be how we first communicated, even before we had speech. It's found across the world – a truly global phenomenon. It's a fundamental to the human condition. So why not give it a whirl? Even if you find it stressful you'll probably be boosting your resilience! And all you need is yourself.

This piece is an excerpt from our session for Roffey Park Institute's Well-being Forum in November 2017. Do drop us a line if you'd like to find out more about the session or our research.

Get to the point – tell me a story

Image by Ali Shaker/VOA [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Image by Ali Shaker/VOA [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

It's not a contradiction. We know from experience (and now science) that stories are more effective than facts if you want someone to connect with your message. Storytelling helps engage people in your vision, from one customer to an entire nation. Or at least enough of a nation to swing an election.*

The term 'storytelling' has been bandied about so much it's in danger of not living up to its own myth. (Ah, the irony.) But to me, it's simply a way of harnessing the emotional capital that lies at the heart of what you do, and why it matters.

A compelling story communicates the emotional core of your message. When you hear it, it creates a simulation of reality in your brain. That helps clients and colleagues to act on what they've heard, because they're engaged both intellectually and emotionally. They understand why they should care. And that's a powerful tool.

If you're interested in the neuroscience of storytelling, you might like to read this. And if you're interested in the practice, you might like to come to our Effective Storytelling session on Saturday 22nd October in Central London. No votes, just stories.

*Okay, so Michelle Obama isn't President. But she is a masterful, and vote-winning, storyteller.

Find out how to tell your own compelling stories. Sign up to download our free Chirp Workbook.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What lies beneath? Get your brain scanned and find out!

'B0005622 Enhanced MRI scan of the head ' by Mark Lythgoe & Chloe Hutton / Wellcome Images, licenced under CC  BY-NC-ND 2.0

'B0005622 Enhanced MRI scan of the head' by Mark Lythgoe & Chloe Hutton / Wellcome Images, licenced under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

We're hugely excited to be working with neuroscientists at University College London (UCL) and Ashridge Business School to investigate the science behind singing. The UCL pilot will be one of the first in an emerging field that explores why social interaction is so important to health and well-being. And the Ashridge research will valuably contribute to our understanding of both resilience and learning. Both have potentially exciting applications in the workplace, education and health.

We're recruiting potential participants now while we nervously await the outcome of our funding bids. So, if you've ever fancied finding out what's really going on inside, now's your chance! We're looking for participants of all backgrounds, and particularly scientists.

UCL RESEARCH

Using fRMI scanners, we'll look at what happens in the brain when you sing, how it differs from speech, and why many people find that singing together creates social bonds.

We're looking for 30 adults who:

  • consider themselves to be novice singers
  • haven't had any training, including singing in choirs
  • don't consider themselves entirely tone deaf!
  • are aged between 18 and 40 years
  • aren't claustrophobic – scanners are a fairly tight fit!
  • are based in or can easily get to central London

On the day, you'll start off by singing with Kamala face-to-face. You'll then get in the scanner, and sing with her (via headphones) while your brain activity is scanned. It'll take about an hour of your time.

ASHRIDGE RESEARCH

Using heart rate variance monitors, we'll look at what happens in the brain when you sing in public, and whether it enhances personal resilience.

We're looking for 30 adults who:

  • are novice, amateur (e.g. sing in choirs), or semi-pro/professional singers
  • are aged 18+
  • are based in or can easily get to central London

On the day, you'll sing together, led by Kamala. You'll then have an opportunity to lead each other in singing, and sing a solo (yep, a solo!). You'll wear a small heart rate variance monitor throughout all the activities. It'll take about a day of your time.

If you're interested in taking part in either study you'll need to have a quick chat with Kamala over the phone so we can check you're happy to go ahead. Do drop her a line if you'd like to find out more, with no obligation to take part!

 

Don't be a hermit – interact with impact with these five tips

Participants in a Chirp leadership and communication workshop run by Kamala Katbamna

Human interaction is at the heart of work. Its impact is everywhere – from process to productivity, outcome and enjoyment. Unless, of course, you’re a hermit.

Despite its centrality, that interaction can often feel unpredictable, ineffective and draining. After all, you can never guarantee someone else’s behaviour. You can, however, ensure your own is more influential, clear and effective.

Below are five tools to help you make the impact you choose in your daily interactions. Yes, they take practice, but they can make a crucial difference – particularly if you’re leading change. Either way, they’ll help you achieve your outcomes without wasting time and energy. No need to become a hermit, then.
 
1. Don’t look down!
Look up, make eye contact, then begin. Taking that moment to connect tells people you're fully present – and that your contribution is worth their attention. This is particularly useful in presentations and when opening meetings. Good eye contact also signals that you’re engaged with their response.

It might sound obvious, but it’s surprising how many of us launch straight in, without first establishing a connection. In so doing we risk throwing away our words on a distracted audience, silently dismissing their contribution, and reducing our impact.

2. Stand your ground
Yep, even if you’re seated. If you’re standing, keep your feet hip-width apart. Feel the ground through your feet. Resist the urge to drop one hip or place your weight on one leg. Again, obvious enough, but not always easy to avoid in the moment. If you’re sitting, feel the ground evenly through both feet. It can be tricky in a skirt, but worth doing whenever possible.

Feeling the ground through your feet does what it says on the tin; it helps you feel more grounded and present. It also stabilises your posture, preventing you either feeling or looking like you’re in 'fight or flight'. And that in turn creates a more powerful presence.

3. Abdominal breathing
Imagine a pair of bellows. As the air goes in, they expand; as it leaves, they contract. The same idea applies to abdominal breathing, ideally through a slightly open mouth. As you breathe into the bottom of the lungs the abdomen expands; as you breathe out it contracts. The most important thing, however, is to breathe out first!

Breathing is critical both to how you feel we’re perceived and how you are perceived – influencing how you behave and others respond. Most people take shallow breaths and/or hold their breath, particularly when nervous or challenged. Abdominal breathing reverses this so you operate more effectively. It also helps you speak more clearly and avoid swallowing words. You’ll feel better, be perceived more positively, and imbue your words with the impact you intend.

4. Take the space
Being aware of the space around you – above, below, in front and behind – can transform the impact of your presence. Unfold into that space. Release your arms from your sides. Broaden your shoulders away from your ears. And keep your feet hip-width apart. Hunched shoulders, crossed arms and a caved chest don’t just restrict breathing and create tension. They also make you physically smaller – impacting on your personal presence and suggesting that you don't want to be there.

So take the space, expand into it, occupy it. Your posture will improve. Your chest will open and you'll breathe more easily. You’ll create a stronger presence. And you'll signal to others that you are ready to be seen and to engage.

5. Channel your inner ventriloquist
Okay, not really – but imagining that the stomach (venter) is powering your speech (loqui) can help you project without straining or shouting.

Most people reach forward with their head and neck when they want to be heard. Bring them back instead so they’re aligned with your spine. Relax the throat – it will tense if you shout – and, when you speak, engage your lower abdominals. Projection can take some practice, and works best in conjunction with the other tools. Once cracked, however, you'll deliver your ideas with impact. It's also brilliant sore throat prevention in noisy pubs!

 

Want to learn more? Download our free Chirp Guide to find out how to use your voice more effectively in meetings, pitches and presentations.

 

 

Spring clean your presenting style

Spring cleaning

It looks like Spring is finally here so, in honour of the season, we're sharing five tips to rejuvenate presentations. A Spring clean, if you will. We hope they help you present with natural charisma and ensure your every word lands.

1. Breathe out

Ignore the advice ringing in your ears to take a deep breath. For most of us that results in either hyperventilation or heavy breathing – neither a good look when you need to impress. Breathing out first should help make your next inhalation deeper and more regular. It will calm you down if you’re nervous, and help you project more effectively either way.

Try it: as you're preparing, just before you start, and as you're changing slides.

 

2. Catch flies

Okay, not literally – but do breathe in and out through an open mouth. (Once referred to by a client as 'catching flies', in case you wondered.) It can be counter-intuitive, but it will make a significant difference. You'll breathe more deeply and with less effort, so you're free to focus on content. It should help to keep your facial and neck muscles relaxed too.

Try it: as you're preparing, just before you start, and a few times during the presentation.

 

3. Pause

Is it easy? No. Does it help? Yes. Will a split-second will feel like an eternity? Well, probably. It won’t be, though, and that brief pause will help you be present in the moment, marshal your thoughts, and ensure your audience is still engaged. It’ll also help them to take in what you’re saying so your messages land.

Try it: just before you start, and then at appropriate moments during the presentation.

 

4. Huh?

The second half of a sentence generally makes the whole meaningful. Not wise, then, to throw it away – whether through nerves or enthusiasm. Yet word swallowing is one of the most common issues we help with. Full, as opposed to shallow, breathing will help; as will simple awareness. It’s amazing how much more effective we are when we speak deliberately.

Try it: five minutes before you start, and then a few times during the presentation.

 

5. Aim for alignment

We are most persuasive, convincing and effective when we show that we mean what we say. So don’t just tell – be. Aligning your delivery with your meaning will imbue your words with the weight they deserve. So don’t undercut difficult messages with a nervous grin; and give grimaces a wide berth when explaining brilliant plans. Sounds obvious – yet it’s so often forgotten in the heat of the presenting moment!

Try it: before, during and after!

 

Want to learn more? Download our free Chirp Guide to find out how to use your voice more effectively in meetings, pitches and presentations.

 

 

How to communicate with clarity and influence

Autumn leaves

With the bank holiday behind us, and September drawing near, it’s either time for fresh challenges – or a dash to sunnier climes.

For those of us staying put, our challenges might be new projects, new responsibility, perhaps even a new job. It’s a fair bet that, whatever’s involved, you’ll need your communication skills in limber form.

Communicating is at the heart of what we do – even when we’re unaware of it. From brief ‘hellos’ to major presentations, we continuously send out verbal and physical messages. And sometimes those messages just get lost in translation.

Communication with clarity, impact and authenticity can transform encounters from confusing and pointless to motivating and effective. It helps us express what we want in the way that we want. And it helps us hear and understand what others are saying – or not saying – so we can respond relevantly.

We are, of course, all different, with individual forms of expression. Yet we also face many of the same issues when it comes to communicating at work. Below we share a few basic tips to help you greet new challenges with communications gusto.

Match tone with meaning

Think about how you’re saying what you’re saying. Does your tone match your meaning? Don’t undercut your words with an unconvincing delivery. They’ll lose their impact – and so will you.
 

Plan for challenge

Plan in advance for challenging encounters. Work out key points and the most appropriate language to deliver them. Is what you're saying fair? Is it confusingly indirect? It is marked by fact or irritation? And is it constructive – does it help the other person to share your perspective rather than stick doggedly to theirs? A little planning will help you be calm and direct without aggression.
 

Listen and respond

Pause for a moment. Are you aware of your audience? Are you listening and responding to them? Or are you focused solely on pushing out your own messages? Creating moments to tune into verbal and non-verbal signals will help you remain relevant – and help what you say to land.

 

A dual sense of understanding and being understood is fundamental to reducing stress and boosting enjoyment. And, given the amount of time we spend at work, it's worth making the effort to achieve!

 

Want to learn more? Download our free Chirp Guide to find out how to use your voice more effectively in meetings, pitches and presentations.

 

 

Why listening to Moaning Minnies is vital for success

Nothing works round here... La la la, I can't hear you...

Well, all right. Maybe not moaning minnies – but a complaint is a gift. And, when delivered to a business (rather than your mum), the lucky recipient can use it to improve products and services.

It seems we’ve got quite a lot to complain about, if last week's UK Customers Satisfaction Index is anything to go by. The annually published index shows that satisfaction has fallen for the second year running. It’s not all gloomy, of course – some companies continue to inspire adoration. Many others, though, just aren’t showing us the love. 

Numerous organisations now describe colleagues in other departments as internal ‘customers’, who also require superb service. Whether internal or external, that service can be improved by actively listening – even when it involves the odd moan. 

A failure to listen – and respond relevantly – is not only irritating, but pointless. Neither party benefits in the long term, and both may leave with raised blood pressure in the short term.

Ryan Block’s recent recording of his cancellation call to Comcast demonstrates this beautifully – and painfully. The Comcast employee clearly feels he must follow the script at all costs. He harangues Block, repeatedly prevents him from speaking, and refuses to acknowledge any answers he does manage to give.

The employee gives the impression that his life depends on Block not cancelling the contract. Perhaps his job does. Either way, it creates a deeply worrying impression of the organisation’s culture.

The conversation is astonishing – but perhaps not unusual. Most of us have had conversations at some point in which our presence has felt superfluous, whether with customer service reps or colleagues. As our opinions, knowledge or experiences fall on deaf ears, we may become disinclined to give the gift of feedback. And, if we can, we may resolve to take our custom – or our CVs – elsewhere.

Creating space for each other to speak, listening to what’s said rather than what we want to be said, and responding relevantly is a much more fruitful approach. Be alert to what’s not said, too. Non-verbal signals are often excellent indicators of whether the other party is actively engaged. Remember to be aware of yours, too – none of us operates in a vacuum.

By actively listening, and responding relevantly in our interactions, we can raise satisfaction among both colleagues and customers. And when a culture of listening extends right through from CEO to intern, and product design to customer, it creates a virtuous circle that both staff and customers will celebrate.

We hope you hear some valuable insights this week. Here at Chirp we run workshops to help colleagues both listen and be heard. If you’d like to find out more – or indeed, have some feedback for us – please do get in touch. We’re all ears!

How to avoid dysfunction at work – tips for the (fictional) BBC

My Wednesday evenings have been brightened recently by the arrival of W1A. Set in a fictionalised New Broadcasting House, the BBC comedy stars Hugh Bonneville as the Beeb’s unfortunate Head of Values. It's a gloriously dysfunctional portrayal of the BBC, as enjoyable as it is excruciating.

First, a disclaimer. I used to work at the BBC – alongside many talented, sparky colleagues wholly unlike those in W1A. Yet there are elements of the show that feel deliciously real. And, I admit, I watch with all the delight of being in on the joke.

But these characters aren’t the preserve of the BBC. In fact I’m sure their recognisability greatly contributes to the show’s success. Most of us have met them at some point in our careers, wherever we work. And, sadly, they’re not nearly as entertaining in real life.

What Sir Tom Jones knows about leadership

What Sir Tom knows about leadership

I have a confession: I’ve finally succumbed to BBC1’s The Voice. I blame the chairs. They’re huge, they light up, and they swivel on demand.

Though clearly thrilled to be picked via a revolving chair, the real draw for the contestants is superstar coaching. The chance for expert leadership from people who’ve been there, done it. And kept doing it.

Fervent aspiration with world-class authority is a compelling mix. The judges clearly know their stuff. But the big question is whether they can empower their teams to achieve the same. Essentially: will they be inspirational leaders?

Each coach has a different style, but it’s Sir Tom Jones that I’ve been watching closely. He knows his experience is an effective selling point. And barely a moment passes without another “starry collaboration” anecdote. (While we all wonder if there’s anyone he hasn’t sung with…)

Last week Sir Tom demonstrated what he's learned about leadership during all those years at the top. That it’s not enough to tell; you must also show. You must lead by example. By doing just that, he transformed his team’s uncertain, lacklustre delivery into a passionate, meaningful performance. Something had suddenly ‘clicked’, within just a few minutes.

One of my criticisms of the show until now has been that we've rarely seen the coaches up on stage. There’s something incredibly powerful about demonstrating excellence in the moment, rather than relying on previous success. Executed consistently, it creates clarity of purpose, avoids misunderstandings, and inspires observers.

Sir Tom seems to know that. Perhaps it's something he learned from all those musicians who inspired him. Either way, leading by example – modelling attitudes, behaviours and practice – is a powerful tool. And that’s the case whether you’re in front of six people or 6.95 million.

 

Want to learn more about how to be a leader who enables as well as inspires? Sign up to download our free Chirp Guide.