Friday, May 22, 2009

Back to leadership

After some time away from leadership topics, doing mostly project and program management activities, I've come back to leadership. Not that I was totally absent from the leadership world: I taught some leadership classes at Cornell's Johnson Graduate School of Management over the last two years and have emphasized the importance of leadership in my PM blog and in my site

So, why am I back here? Well, one of my current clients asked for some guidance on how to improve the performance of his team. I quickly came back to the leadership discipline, recommending to him that he read It's Your Ship, a book previously discussed here. I also gave him 25 guidelines on how to lead, which I'll discuss here later on.

But another story triggered the return. The May 25, 2009 issue of Business Week has an article on "Selling by Storytelling". The story, while marketing-focused, describes how Jeff Gomez has been successful at creating stories for companies such as Mattel and Disney. This story triggered a thought about a book I read in the last year of so about the importance of using storytelling to sell your ideas: The Springboard: How Storytelling Ignites Action in Knowledge-Era Organizations by Stephen Denning. The book relates the struggle that Mr. Denning had at the Wrold Bank, where he worked, in selling the concept of knowledge management and knowledge sharing. While he presented it as a business proposal, no one listened to him. He then ran into some situations where through stories people had been able to accomplish major successes and he started pulling stories into his effort, which turned it around. So, if you want to light a fire under the initiatives you are leading, consider what story you can tell to sell it. Get this book as a good primer.

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