Where To Find Endless Stories And How To Build A Great Place For Storytelling?

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I used to sell computers back in the days, for a famous french retail store. The direction put pressure on the sales team and I was always looking for the very best techniques and tricks to sell faster and more. God was I wrong! My clients didn’t come back and didn’t call me either. My follow up Emails went to their trash cans. Maybe because they realized that I tried to sell them expensive warranties instead of computers.

I started hitting books about selling, but they were full of dull sales tactics and tricks. One caught my attention and It was “The Little Red Book of Selling: 12.5 Principles of Sales Greatness” by Jeffrey Gitomer. Jeffrey is a very cool guy and it shows in his writing. I stumbled upon a sentence that would later resonate with me: If you want to sell without looking and sounding like a jerk, join a Toastmasters Club.

So, I went to a TM’s club session in Paris and I was so thrilled to meet enchanting, warm people curious to know everything about me and applauding me as I took the stage to speak non sense words while my legs were uncontrollably shaking. The applause closed my speech and made me eager to come back for more.

Same ambiance in Brussels: laughs, applause, friendship, Open-mindedness .

Once you start to realize there’s no TM club in your town – I was living in Lille (France)- back then, you want to bring the whole experience in. Here’s a fact: building a public speaking club is hard. Public speaking is human. Let’s have a look about the challenges we are facing when we are dealing with people:

1- They don’t have time
That’s the number ONE objection you’ll get. You’ll learn that time based objections are hiding the most important concerns. Let’s put it this way: it doesn’t take too much time to hang out with friends on a Friday night, have a drink and spending some quality times. It makes you forget about the hard work week you had. Why then, going to a Toastmasters meeting would be that much time consuming?

2- They are shy (and scared)
We are all shy! It’s hard to perform in front of strangers. I never thought Elvis and Michael were scared to death at the single idea of performing. I once witnessed a start-up founder fall off the stage before his speech, painful experience but not something you can’t get over with. Shy people are the greatest speakers. Believe it!

3- They forget about things
If it’s not important to them, they’ll forget about it. How Important is Toastmasters? What’s on the table for the individuals who want to join it?

4- It’s hard to catch their interests
Do they like movies, money, fame, music? What goals are they pursuing? What’s the first thing they do when they wake up in the morning? What keeps them up at night?

5- They lack of self confidence
Some people think they don’t need to practice their speaking skills, because they think they were naturally born with it. Some don’t think they are “capable” of speaking. How to make people believe in themselves?

Now, according to me, here are the tricks a TM club builder should use to get his project on track:

1- Say Hi and smile!
Ah! The daunting art of approaching strangers without sounding like a sales rep. What’s your name? -Open your arms, apologize- state exactly what you doing, and grab their attention with questions. Remember to keep smiling! Nobody talks to grumpy people.

1- Explain Toastmasters in your own words.
What Toastmasters is all about? What we do? Where we do it? How we do it? What we learn from it? Use your own words in a simple talk.

2- Get your business cards ready
Put your name on it and every professional links -websites, social media, etc.- where you and your club can be found. Design a nice but simple business card and always give your interlocutors two or three of them each time

3- Design your communication materials
You should get your website and your printing visuals ready. The writing content doesn’t have to be complicated but it SHOULD look nice. The best designs are talking to human emotions and emotions sell. Craft illustrations, use images, make bold statements and call to actions. Ask for the help of a designer among your friends or business connections.

4- Engage on social media venues
Why social media? To build a community near you. A community of listeners. People wake up in the morning with Facebook  app opened in their smartphones or tablets without even having their feet touch the ground.

5- Spread the word
Newsletter, invitations, interviews, podcasts. I mean, you have everything at your disposal to make noise and get noticed. Go to groups or forums and tell them about your challenges, any issues you may have in building your project up. You’ll always find great insights coming your way.

6- Call for action
Put your number and Facebook page address in front, middle and bottom of your club’s webpage. Ask your visitors to subscribe to your newsletter, join your events; openly ask for memberships. If you don’t ASK you’ll not get anything. Don’t be afraid to ask.

I’ve participated -with two friends- in starting and launching the first Toastmasters club in Lille, our biggest challenge was to find the proper venue for our meetings, and to persuade others that it’d not take that much of their time to come and have fun with us. Today this club counts 25 members and got its certification. Now that I’m in Cameroon (Africa) , I can feel that the lack of culture: no libraries, no theaters, no music venues, no Toastmasters. How to change it?

Either you are a TM member or builder, you are seeking for changes.

I think we are all craving for a change but are fighting so hard against it at the same time. The experience of building a club is the same as founding and marketing your own business. It’s full of failures and discouragement. A Toastmasters club near you is the place to find great stories, have fun and meet new friends. It’s a big family all around the world with open hands and hearts. I think It’s easy to go out and club all night. It’s not that easy to sit down, prepare a speech, rehearse it, stand up and talk to persuade others about the importance of your story. We are all laughing and crying for the same things: books, movies, illustrations, music, arts..
We are all listening to storytellers, because everyone likes a good story.

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10 Simple Ways To Be(come) A Great Boss

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Gladys didn’t get paid today. Five months anniversary of ‘non-payment’. She’s really having a hard time because she: can’t afford to pay her kid’s school tuition, avoids her landlord. She knows that she’ll have no lights soon. She’s late for work -again- because she had to deal with the school’s principal first.

I’m not saying that it has always been like this: the job interview was great. Smiles everywhere, new premises, warm and cheerful executives; the pay was good with possible increases. Today, her taxis expenses are unbearable. Coming to work has become a punishment. The projects are dull and monotonous, meetings and briefings keep coming but they are not relevant. There’s no magic anymore. She will sell her belongings to make ends meet. Asking for help to her colleagues? They got exactly the same issues…

‘Do they know how I live? Them, in their big cars and shiny suits? ‘ she asked herself. Yesterday ‘they’ asked her to manage the new equipment delivery, back to her desk she did a Google search and realized that only one of these items cost four times her salary, it brought her down in tears. Gladys is a graphic designer.

Do bosses know how bad they’re hurting their workers when they act like this? Why they keep doing it? How to keep your workers’ loyalty when the competition comes knocking with better salaries? Do they have great bosses? Not necessarily. How to become a great boss then?

Be accountable
We are looking for leaders to unite us around a vision, that’s you. When problems occur we want you to take the lead. If you don’t take the entire responsibility of your employees’ failures or difficulties, you will fail miserably to instill admiration and respect in your troops. You will be only good at giving orders. Problem is that the orders never walk. Do what you say and say what you do, nothing is worse than a chatterbox.
Swim with your team
The work is done, you came down there and validated the client’s project, and you went back in your office. Absent boss. You have no idea how your team will hate you for that, for not having saved everybody’s time when you could just pull a chair up and sit next to each of your team members. Get in the ‘arena’, build constant feedback. Give room for suggestions, push for improvements and if they don’t fly, take a pen and go to the whiteboard or go back to your office’s desk and come out with a rocking PowerPoint presentation.
Honesty is stronger than pride
So many meetings are beginning with new goals conversations, or those the team missed and had to catch up. The first thing to make sure of, in a room, is to ask ” Who, here, has a problem ? “. When troubles arise, it is important to speak frankly. If the financial situation is dire, tell them you will restrain the budget; tell them they will not get paid this month; SAY IT! After that, you will work on solutions as a team. Pride, taboos, hierarchy: they have no place in a team brief. The goal is to urge every players to speak their mind. Issues must be squared and resolved before even getting new clients.
Do not take hostages
It is better to reward someone in full or not at all than in thirds. I’ve often seen managers pay their team third the salary by mentioning problems of treasuries or unpaid bills. Do you really think they will thank you for that? Don’t you think they have electric bills to pay too? May be you thought that they would not be in for the money. Everybody’s in for the money when it’s not invested properly. These investments are what make people stick together.
Invest in your team
This is the truth: you have recruited people who have worked hard for their degrees and are now entering into a routine that’s boring. You, as a leader, must constantly stimulate their knowledge by offering them in-house training. Technology is everywhere and it’s easy to get lost between how to write a good social media post and crunching numbers in Excel.
Invest in your company
I think any company that does not have a quiet room with nice couches and cushions on the floor, simply should not do business. If you expect people to spend their midnight oil, collapsing in chairs waiting for the cleaning service to wake them up: you’ve missed a huge point. Make people love their work space. The interior design and spaces were carefully studied and articulated in companies like Pixar or Google, why not be inspired by them? It is true that some have family obligations, but others are willing to invest serious time in your great projects. Do not turn off their passion when it will only cost you a couch or offering catering services to them.
Limit your exposure
A day in a troubled company. Employees are expecting a raise, as they were promised, and that glorious day didn’t come. They are now stunned to see, coming out of a brand new Aston Martin, their CEO in a golf attire. Be discreet, when you know the rebellion is coming take a bike.
Avoid badmouthing
Lack of information and communication between individuals is the worst evil. If you speak ill of an employee to another behind his/her back, you will do the same on your clients/partners; you will do the same on your competition; your workers will do the same on you! The meeting rooms are made to resolve conflicts.

Be patient
Oh… my biggest flaw. I know that I’ve never been patient; I also know that I am a dog lover and mine taught me a lot about it. It is very hard to master. I remember the day when my Labrador barked endlessly in his cage, I decided to take him out and proceeded to a thorough inspection and cleaning. When you do things well, you expect quick outcomes right? Wrong! He refused to get back in. With patience, I tried several tactics but the one that really worked was linking the action to the word – I pointed the cage out and took an authoritative voice -. If I had listened to my inner voice, I would have taken this alligator’s reincarnation -my Golden Ret’ never chews…- with both hands and forced him in there. But was I aware of his real issues? Was there a snake in that cage? I didn’t know. Clients will not pay you in time -it always drives me numb-, workers will not ‘get it’ right away, people in business will owe you money. Patience is one of your greatest asset.
Forget about the money
I like to think about money as a wild horse instead of a unicorn. If it fascinates you, it will be hard to distance yourself from a greedy competition. Money can make you avaricious to the point where you’ll automatically not pay your team and use vain tricks to keep them around you. Then you’ll establish a downward spiral and cause troubles in your company. I don’t like to minimize the power of money but great relationships are stronger.
In conclusion, finding the right leadership balance is very hard. Sometimes you have to be tyrannical to get things moving in the right direction, but even the tyrants have a great heart. Dictatorship is so yesterday and people’s -especially young bloods- reaction to it is so bad. Nowadays, you have to ‘go with the flow’ without drifting away from your vision and your goals. I think that running a business is like being the eldest of a family: you are expected and forced to be in charge against your will. Entrepreneurs bring hope into the lives of their customers, but most of all: their employees. The power to make their lives better , realize their dreams, allowing them to send their children to school and have a roof over their head. This power is huge and comes with great responsibilities. If you fail, lead by your own vanity, they will blame you for it and forget everything you’ve done for them in the past. But if they watch your baby steps and get involved in the process, things will be different. Stakes are high, be a great boss by practicing these fundamentals.

Your turn. Do your employees like you? How do you keep the magic going?