Tell to Win- What Nelson Mandela and Deepak Chopra can teach you about business

I love stories. They make me come alive. Give me a story to tell and I’ll give you voices and everything (truth be told, it drives my long-suffering hubby mad) but what would you think if the head of the board of directors started with a little story instead of his usual boring rubbish?

OK, I’m using artistic license, lots of it, because I wouldn’t know a board of directors if they came up and danced the cha-cha-cha right under my nose. But I have this image of boring suits and bar charts and looks of dire tedium. If you’ve ever sat in a business meeting you’ll be able to feel the pain.

But what if meetings didn’t have to be like that? Leaving aside my agreement with the 37 Signals guys that meetings are toxic, what if the word meeting was synonymous with entertaining and enlightening?

I read a book this week that made believe in this angelic picture.

I do my thing online. I love that I can connect with people from across the other side of the planet, while still being home in time to pick my children up from school. But I learned why it is that I make extra time to talk to people via video Skype calls instead of text chat (for example.) I thought it was just me but science has reasons why this proper connecting works so much better.

So what would you say if I told you I chatted with a guy this week who has exchanged stories with Steven Spielberg and Michael Jackson? I use the word ‘chatted’ very loosely of course. I’d have loved to have interviewed this guy here on the blog but, traditional publishing being what it is, he has an exclusive interview lined up with The New York Times.

(I know! I was shocked he chose them over this place too but what’s a girl to do?)

So anyway, I was forced to make do with the next best thing and I read his book. Tell to Win and the chap in question is Peter Guber. I rabbit on about the importance of voice and one of the things I love most is when I can really hear a writer speak through their words. It’s ironic really. Guber hammers home the point that the best stories are told in person and yet I really felt his passion jumping off the pages at me in this book of his.

And no, he didn’t pay me to say that. You’ll remember how a couple of weeks ago I turned down an offer to write something for cash? So you can be assured that whilst I didn’t pay for my copy of Tell to Win, this is my ‘warts and all’ account because there’s enough stuff in this book for you to love that it comes with the El smile of approval.

And overall I enjoyed it. It was stuffed full of stories and examples (proof in action that stories really are the best way to inspire action) and it felt more like entertainment than education much of the time.

Sure, the subtitle is a little emotive (do we really need anymore of that ‘hidden power’ hype?) and fails to mention that not all stories are winners. But if you’ve ever wanted to entertain your audience into agreement but didn’t know how to start, Tell to Win has some great thought provokers in there.

A word of warning though. Despite admitting in one solitary paragraph in the final chapter that he’s had success telling stories in different mediums, Guber is a huge advocate for in-person communication. He even went as far as getting blog superstar Arianna Huffington to champion face to face story telling. Whether this bias is merely a case of choosing to focus in on one thing or because doing so allows room for a follow-up I don’t know, but as someone who communicates mostly in written form, I was left a little underwhelmed.

I would have dearly loved to have seen concrete examples of Guber using Tell to Win strategies online.

But we’re not dummies. Having laid out his ‘how to’ advice in the form of real life stories, there is enough stuff in there to take and digest and use for our own awesome means. Every chapter ends with an ‘ahha!’ moment where he lists the points being made through the stories and it’s those moments that we can take and use for our own illustrious means.

The short version is, instead of just telling people stuff, if we wrap it up in a well-chosen story, people will feel emotionally engaged and are more likely to say yes.

That’s what the guys in this post’s title did. It’s what Guber’s being doing for much of his career and it’s how history has survived through the ages, despite writing being a relatively new invention.

And it’s why, as someone who sees stories in the stupidest of things, I’m never at a loss for things to write about.

But what about you? Do you use stories in business? Have you found your voice? We’ll be chatting more about this in a few week’s time when I bring you my video interview with fabulous author and all round lovely lady, Courtney Cantrell. But in the meantime, what’s stopping you from telling stories?

Oh and if you’d like to learn more about Peter Guber and his methods, to check out Tell To Win. I’d love to hear what you think. (And yes, if you click that link and buy, I’ll earn a few pennies. Seems it’s important to do the whole disclosure thing these days.)