The art of storytelling

storytelling wordle

“Could you please tell us more about yourself?”

Since roughly the dawn of time, leaders have recognized the power of stories to clarify, mollify, unite and inspire. In the past 20 years, as storytelling has been adopted as a “management thing,” we’ve been deluged with books, workshops, conferences, and TED talks on the subject.

As  Herminia Ibarra and Kent Lineback mentioned in their article “What’s your story” on Harvard Business Review magazine, by “story” we don’t mean “something made up to make a bad situation look good.” Rather, we’re talking about accounts that are deeply true and so engaging that listeners feel they have a stake in our success. Without a story, there was no context to render career facts meaningful, no promise of a third act in which achieving a goal (getting a job, for instance) would resolve the drama.

Being a good storyteller is important. In the research that Center for Creative Leadership conducted showed that successful senior leaders are very adept learners, doers, and teachers.  They possess learning agility in adapting to different ways of approaching problems; they are excellent at making things happen through vision and delegation, and they are good teachers of others.  Storytelling is more than just telling what happened. It is a reflection of agility, a window into how things get done, and always has a key learning piece for teaching.

Moreover, storytelling does not only serve personal purposes but it is usually used by companies to generate more business, explode on the scene with a new offering or launch new products. Paige Arnof-Fenn says in her article on Forbes that facts are boring but putting facts into a context with emotion makes them memorable.  The descriptions make the facts come to life and keep us engaged. Anybody can find the facts on Google but data starts to run together if there is no context around the information. Creating a story with those facts is what helps them stand out.  Lastly, creating and telling a story that resonates also helps us believe in ourselves. We need a good story to reassure us, to motivate and keep working hard to accomplish our goals.

For those reasons it is important every individual to be a good storyteller and extends the idea of his vision.  Especially, when it comes to persuading others, rhetoric has its limits — it can sound didactic and boring. Stories are a much more effective way to convince others of your point of view. Here are three tips for shaping and telling a story that influences:

  • Know your message. Underneath every good story, there must be a point. Remember your message and weave your narrative around it.
  • Use the right example. Your story should center around a character that your audience likes and relates to.
  • Support with facts. Your story is only effective if it is based on and supported by facts and figures. At the beginning or end, share relevant data to convince your audience that your point of view matters.

Tom Searcy mentions in his article on Inc. that in order to craft a great sales story, you need to:

  • Begin with the end in mind: What is it that you want the person to do at the end of the story?
  • Have great characters: These could include yourself, your clients, your prospects, or someone else–but your audience has to care about them.
  • Give your characters goals and a vision: Identify something they’re trying to accomplish.
  • Give your characters obstacles: These should reflect real life so the audience can engage. Never let your characters get it right the first time.

Here are some extra resources to master your skills on Storytelling:

 

 

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10 steps to prepare for your job interview

“Dear candidate, thank you for your interest in our company. The manager has reviewed your CV and she would like to invite you for an interview in these upcoming days.” Such a great news, they noticed your CV and now is your opportunity to get this position. Congratulations!!! But what you should do, how to prepare for it, what to read and how to impress them?

First of all take a breath and calm down, there are 10 simple tips that can be implemented in every interview and can help you to prepare better for your job interview.

1. Go deeply to the role and responsibilities

This is the first and most important step. For sure since you apply it means that you now very well the position, or not? So go deeply to the position, what are the main responsibilities, what are the characteristics that the person should have, what are the measurable of the role. Go through all of the job details and consider your wider research to identify the key things they will be looking for at interview. Moreover, think about why do you like it, what do you want to gain through this experience (except of salary and other benefits that position offers). Those information will help you to adjust your profile based on role and make you a suitable candidate

2. Research for company vision and purpose

If you want to be a serious candidate you should be well-informed about the company that you are applying. Why to do it? It is crucial to know what this company represents, if you fit in their environment and how you can grow within it. Moreover, this research can help you to have stronger arguments during interview. One of the most important think that an interviewer seeks is if the candidate fit to the organizational culture. What to search for? You can learn about mission of company, values and code of ethics, products and services that offers, long-term goals, target group  and market, who are their main competitors, statistics and some indicators regarding to organization’s performance. Where to find them? The website of company, annual reports and sales sheets can be useful resources. Also by searching outside of company such us articles on online journal or people who may work for it can provide you with more clear picture.

3. Find out about your interviewers’ profile

Find out their names and job title. Search on LinkedIn where you may be able to read their business profile and see their photo. Moreover, search if they have publications or other resources in which you can identify information about their beliefs and their personality. Research shows that people like those who are similar to them. In case there is an interview panel, then each member is likely to bring a slightly different perspective. Think about what this is likely to be and how you can address these in your answers e.g. an Operational Manager may have a different perspective from a Financial Manager

4. Prepare some questions 

In order to give more constructive answers during your interview it is necessary to practice. Prepare some questions and write down the answers. Rehearse it and even ask from someone who you trust to give you feedback on how you look and sounds (content, body language, confidence). There are lots of online materials with some frequent questions (the next article will present you some of them). Russell Tuckerton’s book “7 Interview Questions You Must Get Right” is also a useful recourse. in order your answers to be concrete and to the point, you can implement STAR technique (Situation, Tasks, Activity, Results) that Michael Higgins suggests in his article in The Guardians. Additionally, in case the role request to have some specific linguistic skills, then be prepared during interview to switch from one language to another effectively. Lastly, base your answers on real examples and facts that happened in the past instead of giving theoretical and sophisticated replies.

5. Be aware of your CV and cover letter content

CV and cover letter are the mirrors of your personality, so for sure you should know very well everything that are mentioned there. Moreover, people have the tendency to favor information that confirm their beliefs and hypothesis (in Social Psychology is called Confirmation Bias). This means that the interviewer will try to confirm the information that got from your CV during interview. He or she is expecting to see all those things that are written there, your skills, your attitude and beliefs. So create materials that represent you and show them during interview

6. Exercise with some psychometric tests

Employers use psychometric testing to assess potential employees and learn more about their personality and ability to fit into the role they are offering. It will be better to exercise and feel confident with those kind of tests. You can find online different kind of tests, the most usual are verbal, logical reasoning, numerical, or in case of an IT role there are more specific tests. A glimpse of those test you can have on SHL website. Most of them are time limited and may identify if you lay or not. So be yourself, be effective, keep in mind that are designed in order not to finish them on time and ask for the results even if you are not selected.

7. Prepare questions that you want to ask your interviewers

Usually, at the end of interview, interviewer give you the opportunity to ask questions that you may have. You can ise it to ask more questions regarding to role that you will have, measurable of role, the selection process, career opportunities within organization or any other that appeared to you during interview. This is an important moment that you can show your interesting for this position. Here are some questions from Joel Spolsky related to IT field that you may ask

8. Choose the right outfit

According to a recent survey by career websites The Ladders, 37% of bosses say they have decided against hiring an applicant because of the way they dressed. You don’t want this to happen to you. So make sure that your dressing is aligned with code of ethics of company and the role that you are applying. CareerBuilder surveyed more than 2,000 hiring managers, asking them which colors interviewees should wear if they want to look professional. Blue came out as the No. 1 answer with 23%, followed by black at 15%. One-quarter of respondents named orange as the worst color to wear, one “associated with someone who is unprofessional.”

9. Bring with you all the appropriate documents

Keep in mind to take with you a hand-print CV and cover letter. Moreover, you may bring some sample of your job that prove your skills that this role required. When you enter the interview, you can mention that you brought samples to show if they are interested in seeing your work. This will typically be received quite positively and could lead to a deep dive into familiar territory

10. Plan your trip to the company

DSP-SEO-job-interview-goes-wrong

It is astounding how many people turn up late for an interview, because they got lost. Know the address, print out a map so you know how to reach the place. Always take the main reception telephone number with you, in case of an emergency, and give yourself plenty of time.

Finally, you should aim for a conversation, directed along the lines you prefer – whereby you can play to your strengths. This requires to be well prepared and be confident about the role. An interview is as much about first impressions as it is about your skills and experiences. Be enthusiastic, positive and professional, give a firm handshake, look the interviewer in the eye and smile!

IT Leaders’ Survey

Recently we run 2 surveys to identify what means IT Leaders, how to develop and what IT students think about this issue. To be more specific, we ask HR managers and IT Project managers to share with us what are the characteristics that an IT leader should have, how we can develop this kind of profile. Moreover, we asked them to evaluate based on this profile the recent graduated students that apply for different job opportunities. Then, based on those input, we created a second survey in which we asked from IT students to mention what skills and competencies an IT Leader should have. After that we asked them to evaluate their selves based on those characteristics and to prioritize which skills they want to develop.

Below you can find results of our surveys.

IT Leaders Surveys

Please share with us your thoughts, do you agree with those results?

How to boost your confidence

lion-and-self-esteem-copy

Confidence. Is it a mysterious word for IT people, is it something that other blame us, or just another skill that we are pushed to develop because it is a trend? Why do we really need to be confident? Hm.. maybe because we have to believe in what we create (program, code, product etc) and show that to others, maybe because we need to convince our team, boss or client about the solution that we suggest or just because we need to trust more ourselves and our abilities. Whatever the reason, we need to be confident, and to be honest is not our strength point. So let’s see how we can develop it:

Confidence is dynamic and not a static emotion. Is not 0 or 1 as we used to. Just like a physical muscle that needs exercise to grow stronger, a leader’s confidence requires continuous attention. So how can you build and sustain your confidence muscle? Here are some tips:

Recognize your strengths: If you dont know your past you can not build your future. So self awareness is a key factor for your confidence. Make a list of your success stories, your skills and what you are “the best at” and then use them to boost your self-esteem

Believe in yourself: the Latin root of the word “confidence” is con fidere, which translates to “with faith.” So believe in yourself and your abilities, keep in mind the purpose behind every action that you take over and be passionate

Be prepared: “The best way to build confidence in a given area is to invest energy in it and work hard at it,” says Schwartz. You have to work hard and practice lot of time. Professionals make communication and presentation look easy. That’s because there is a lot of rigorous rehearsal behind that performance. You can even record yourself, to evaluate not only what you say but also how you say (your non verbal communication)

Do it your way: Confident people aren’t only willing to practice, they’re also willing to acknowledge that they don’t — and can’t — know everything. So yes practice a lot, prepare and read materials that may help you to perform better, but DONT copy paste! Find your special and unique way to deliver, add your personal style, make it yours. Then you won’t need to worry about performance

Nix negative self talk: You may be an over-thinker with lot of negative self-talk rolling around in your head. I m sure that lot of time you hear a voice that tell you “are you sure about this decision” or “maybe you are not ready yet” or even worse ” you can’t do it”. So take a breath and think positively.

Worry less: Spotlight effect, in social psychology, means seeing ourselves at center stage, thus intuitively overestimating the extent to which others’ attention is aimed to us. So research shows that others may hardly notice and soon forget what we agonized over (Savitsky & others 2001). So the next time you feel nervous about looking nervous, pause and remember that other people noticing less than you might suppose

Get feedback: Ask someone who cares about your development as well as the quality of your performance to tell you what he/she thinks. A third person can observe things about you and help to develop more. As Noel Tichy, professor of University of Michigan says, you need to get out of your comfort zone and go to your learning zone, which is quite hard to do it by yourself and you need people to guide you and give you feedback

Here is another great TED talk about body language and how confidence you look like

It’s going to be a long destination, but starting with these small steps you can see soon some great results. Take action now and let us know how you do!

What confidence tips work for you? Share them with us here

What is your leadership style?

If you search on Google the word “Leadership” you will get back more than 300 MILLION hits! What does it mean for YOU to be a leader? Can you define leadership in a way that works for you, and helps you discover the leader within?

Interest in this topic goes back many centuries and was written about extensively by Plato, Sun Tzu, and of course many others. Over time countless theories and models have emerged about leadership. You can skim some of these theories in theWikipedia article on Leadership, or better yet, have a look at this presentation about different leadership schools by  Bert De Coutere.

If you want to define your leadership style there are widely used personality tests like Myers Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) (a free online test here), DISC personality theory, Big Five Factors etc. A simple way is the map that Inc. has created based on leaders’ behaviors.

There is a very interesting approach of this topic from Center of Creative Leadership. Instead of putting the entire weight of leadership on individual managers and their capabilities, they think that it is important to examine how the whole system is involved in making leadership happen. In the whole system perspective, leadership happens in the interaction and exchanges among people. More concrete, they mean Direnction, Aligment, Commitement (DAC) happen in every system. About DAC approach and how to implement you can read the white paper that they released.

Moreover, two researchers from MIT validate “distributed leadership” models like DAC in their article It’s not all about you, but also suggest the need for balance between networks and individuals to achieve leadership.

Another interesting video from HBR blog:

So there are tones of articles, scientific researches, new perspectives and more and more but at the end all these theories will keep being theories if you don’t try, you don’t challenge them, you don’t fail you don’t achieve.

So please go out there and experience, don’t wait for the right moment or position, because we don’t need any role to act

What do you think?

6 simple tricks to increase your persuasion skills

In today’s world everything is about communication and persuasion. From convincing your friend to go out till to sell your idea to your manager about a new innovative project. As far as we understand that and start implement small tips we can increase our efficiency and performance in every area. Mr. Robert Cialdini, a psychologist and author of bestseller YES, suggested 6 shortcuts that can bring closer to convince people. They are:

Reciprocity

People give back the behavior or service that receives first. If colleague does a favor you owe that colleague a favor. In the context of social obligation, people are more likely to say YES to those who do they owe. So be the first who do a favor, who give a personalized and an unexpected gift, surprise your team mates with something unique and soon they will return you back even more

Scarcity

People want more of those things there have less of. The idea of potential loss plays a large role in human decision making. In fact, people seem to be more motivated by thought of losing something than by the thought of gaining something of equal value. So, when you offer your product or service, it is not enough to mention benefits that they will have by choosing them but it is crucial to mention what is unique to your products and they stand to lose if they won’t choose them.

Authority

People will follow credible and knowledgeable experts. The way how you stand, how you talk, your body language can create a first impression to your audience that is very hard to change. People have the tendency to favor information that confirm their beliefs or hypotheses (in social psychology is called confirmation bias). So focus on how you present yourself, how you stand and what is the first impression that people create when meet you or ask form someone else to introduce you. This can increase highly your brand and positioning.

Consistency

People used to consist and not change. They are looking for and asking for commitment that can be made. Social psychologists point out the strong connection between commitment and consistency. Moreover,  they believe that each of the strategies is intended to get us to take some actions or make some statement that will trap us into later compliance through consistency pressures.

Liking

People used to say YES those who they like. The main factors that influence in liking or not someone are:

  1. People who are similar to us
  2. People who pay as compliments
  3. People who cooperate with us

 Genuine compliments before you start to sell may have an incredible impact

Consensus

People will look to the actions of others to determine their own. People behaviors are influenced by presence of others and group dynamic. In order to increase more your result, rather than rely on your ability to persuade others you can point on what similar others are doing

 

Why Big Data is Important and how to manage

big data

Big Data* is not just the latest fad, it’s the future of how we are going to guide and grow business. It is the biggest game-changing opportunity for marketing and sales since the Internet went mainstream almost 20 years ago.

Some facts:

Every hour, enough information is consumed by Internet traffic to fill 7 million DVDs. Side by side, they’d scale Mount Everest 95 times.

By 2020, one third of all data will be stored or will have passed through the cloud, and we will have created 35 zettabytes of data.

We have produced more data in the last two years (≈3,500 exabytes) than in all of history prior to that.

30 billion pieces of content shared on Facebook every month

250€ billion potential annual value to Europe’s public sector administration from Big Data – more than GDP of Greece

Moreover, in the fall, Columbia will offer new master’s and certificate programs heavy on data. The University of San Francisco will soon graduate its charter class of students with a master’s in analytics. Other institutions teaching data science include New York University, Stanford, Northwestern, George Mason, Syracuse, University of California at Irvine and Indiana University.

Big data is turning to be a crucial issue for companies, government and whole society.

Why do you care about?

… because you simply are part of business team. If we are going to really capitalize on Big Data, we need to get to human insight at machine scale. We will need systems that not only perform data analysis, but then also communicate the results that they find a clear, concise narrative form. Also, algorithmic marketing is allowing companies to do things they couldn’t do before, and some early signs show it can deliver big value, especially in financial or information services. To go algorithmic, companies need to move from batch systems (where work is done at regular intervals) to algorithmic system (real-time updates)

In 2010, MIT Sloan Management Review, in collaboration with the IBM Institute for Business Value, conducted a survey of more than 3,000 business executives, managers and analysts One of the most significant findings is that there is a clear connection between performance and the competitive value of analytics

Is it relevant to you?

If you still wonder how this is related to you, then keep in mind that Big Data and Analytics need people with IT skills such as SQL, Hadoop, R etc. It request people with experience in Machine Learning, Statistics, Data Analysis, Data visualization, Algorithms, Artificial Intelligence, Visualization and design, and many other areas.

“That’s one of the challenges,” said Terence Parr, program director of the analytics and computer science programs at the University of San Francisco. “To be successful, you need to have a wide range of skills that doesn’t fit in one department.”

And if you are not convinced yet then let me inform you that in a globalization system in which unemployment is rising rapidly, in Data Analysis area something different happened. To meet demand from employers, the United States will need to increase the number of graduates with skills handling large amounts of data by as much as 60 percent, according to a report by McKinsey Global Institute. There will be almost half a million jobs in five years, and a shortage of up to 190,000 qualified data scientists, plus a need for 1.5 million executives and support staff who have an understanding of data.

North Carolina State University introduced a master’s in analytics in 2007. All 84 of last year’s graduates in the field had job offers, according to Michael Rappa, who conceived and directs the university’s Institute for Advanced Analytics. The average salary was $89,100, and more than $100,000 for those with prior work experience.

Harvard Business Review calls data science “the sexiest job in the 21st century,” and by most accounts this hot new field promises to revolutionize industries from business to government, health care to academia.

*Definition: “Big data is any data that is expensive to manage and hard to extract value from” – Michael Franklin

Big data and analytics