Around 10 years ago I was grappling with care options for my ageing father who suffered from Parkinson’s Disease. With a great deal of family support and outside help, we’d managed to keep Dad in his home for several years, but a bout of pneumonia put an end to that. I clearly remember sitting with my father’s neurologist going through our two options – (a) getting 24-hour nursing care for Dad at home or (b) finding a high-care nursing facility where he could see out his days.
The neurologist told me the story of his own elderly, infirm mother and how his family had also weighed up the ‘home-care versus nursing home’ scenario. They went with option (a) but unfortunately, due to his mother’s degenerative disease, home care quickly became untenable. After three short months she had to be moved to a nursing facility.
Around the same time all this was going on I was reading Daniel Pink’s incredible book A Whole New Mind – Why Right-Brainers Will Rule the Future. According to Mr Pink, the time is fast approaching where patients will already know what ails them before visiting their GP, thanks to the growing sophistication and availability of online diagnostic tools and mobile apps.
So what will patients even need doctors for in the future if not for a diagnosis? The answer is storytelling – listening to the stories patients tell about their symptoms and circumstances, and the ability to create a compassionate narrative around treatment options and likely outcomes.
Hey, thought I, that’s just what Dad’s neurologist did! By deftly and humanely imparting his own story he’d informed our decision-making process in a very powerful yet practical way. (In case you’re wondering, we ended up choosing option (b) and Dad survived a good many years in a comfortable and safe environment as a result.)
As a business communicator of some 30 years, I’m delighted by the very idea that storytelling could be such a powerful tool for bettering the human condition in just about any scenario – whether it’s the doctor’s surgery, the schoolroom or the boardroom. I’m equally delighted to say that you can now read all about the transformative potential of storytelling for yourself in Mick Mooney’s, just released book Trust Me, I’m Human – Why Storytelling Works@Work.
Mick Mooney is a self-described storyteller and story coach who, for the past decade, has helped individuals and organisations tell better stories in order to achieve their goals. In Mick’s own words, ‘…it’s not storytelling itself that motivates me; rather, it is the way it facilitates the opportunity to express ideas and how it empowers people to make genuine connection with others.’ Stirring stuff and a pointer to one of the central tenets of the book that really resonated with me – authenticity in business.
As one might expect, Trust Me, I’m Human is full of interesting stories about how several forward-thinking Australian organisations have embraced storytelling to create connection and purpose for their employees – the humans without whom there would be no organisation.
Mooney deftly discourages the reader from falling into the trap of thinking that storytelling is the preserve of marketing and ‘selling stuff’, despite these functions being vastly more effective when great stories are used in place of drowsiness-inducing Powerpoint presentations.
In a chapter entitled Sales & Decision Making that, among other things, explores how decisions are actually made (spoiler alert – it’s all about what we feel as opposed to what we rationally think) Mooney writes, ‘If the most important thing in business is the capacity to empower a range of stakeholders to make a decision, then you have to take seriously a storytelling strategy. It’s not just an interesting way to communicate; it’s a strategic way; it’s the way you increase the level of positive decisions that get made.’
The contentions in Trust Me, I’m Human are all backed by current research and Australian-based anecdotal evidence of the efficacy of storytelling at work. In addition, the author provides good guidance on how to implement storytelling as a strategy to enhance outcomes for individuals and the organisations for which they work.
Mooney also doesn’t shy away from calling out the elephant in the boardroom, the very same one that’s stalked me many times in my role as a C-suite communication adviser – the desperate need for authenticity among our corporate and government leaders. You can’t have good stories, the kind that rally people around a cause or course of action, unless these stories are authentic, relevant and above all, create human connection. Data-driven Powerpoint decks or worse, slogans repeated ad nauseum, simply don’t cut it any more if they ever did.
To my mind, this may be the one flaw in Mr Mooney’s cunning plan to position storytelling as a proven and legitimate business tool in Trust Me, I’m Human. By the author’s own admission, authenticity requires self-awareness, and where self-awareness exists, so does vulnerability. I don’t know of any person, politician or corporate titan, who enjoys the sensation of vulnerability or worse, being seen as vulnerable. This is probably why there’s a veritable dearth of authenticity in government and business leadership circles all over the world. It takes great courage to be self-aware and authentic, the two critical components of one’s ability to adopt storytelling as a tool for greatness at work.
Mr Mooney offers few words of advice as to how a leader might overcome the authenticity conundrum in order to embrace storytelling as a ‘brave new way’ of doing things. To be fair, however, answering this question would probably take a whole other book. Mick Mooney is to be commended for even broaching the subject of authenticity and self-awareness in Trust Me, I’m Human which is, essentially, a business management text.
I highly recommend this read, and thoroughly enjoyed reviewing the book for Blackie McDonald’s blog. A big THANK YOU to Mick Mooney for sending me an advance copy. Trust Me, I’m Human – Why Storytelling Works@Work is now available in paperback and ebook versions from Amazon.com.au.
Reviewed by Jennifer McDonald, who’s a bit of a storyteller herself with two published works – Vegetarian Vampires and What We Can Learn From Them, a series of essays on Deepak Chopra’s Seven Spiritual Laws of Success and My Big Breast Adventure, a compilation of 32 blogposts written during two years of treatment for breast cancer.