Business Storytelling: On Being SMART

Posted by Megan Wells
March 18, 2014

Business storytelling in action!

Need a great example of storytelling? Ovation Team Member Megan Wells shares one of her favorite personal stories to tell her participants. Megan’s story perfectly illustrates flow and structure. What inspiration does this give you for a story of your own? Let us know in the comments below!

“Here’s one of my favorite stories to tell to Trainers and Presenters when they are having concerns about their own “credibility.”  Very often, we slip into our underlying desire to be seen as SMART.  Focus on the ATTITUDE you want your audience to have, and everything falls into place.

In 1986, I was hired by AT&T to train all of their employees on software.  These were the early days of the personal desktop computer and the popular courses were Lotus, Word Perfect and Dos.  “Windows” were only glass views to the outside world from coveted cornerBusiness Storytelling offices.

Classroom anxiety was usually quite high as employees were on-the-spot to learn what a computer was, much less how and why to use one.  The journey from an electric typewriter to editing inside a document was through uncharted territory.

As an actress, I felt concerned my students would question my credibility to teach left brain content.  I knew I understood the software and I knew I understood how to teach it – yet brewing beneath the surface was my desire for the students to trust me.

After a month of teaching, my boss felt it was time to review my classes.  On review day, I felt an added pressure to please my boss, and taught extra hard.  Afterwards, he said, “Let’s meet tomorrow to chat about your class.”

The next morning (pre-Starbucks), I sat with him over a cup of Folgers, brewed from the office coffeemaker.  An effective manager, he began with sincere appreciation and specific feedback of behaviors I did right.  Then, he said, “Megan, you have your plug backwards.”

“I’m not sure I understand?”  I replied with my heart pace rising.

He continued carefully, “I am convinced you want your students to learn the software.”

“Yes!  I do!  I know how useful it will be to their jobs.”

“Students need to feel smart in order to learn.  Right now, as you’re developing your teaching style, I can tell you want your students to think YOU are smart – so the energy in the class is going backwards.  Focus on making your students feel smart, then you’ll leap from being an excellent teacher to being a great one.””

-Megan Wells, Team Ovation



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