7 Storytelling Skills

7 Storytelling skills to help businesses thrive

Our programme of workshops draws on Peter de Kuster’s 20+ years of experience in this field. We also apply the insights of storytelling in order to help people examine their unconscious patterns of storytelling, behaviour and relationships with others.

Peter has chosen these 7 skills because they are the building blocks that make up emotional intelligence: self-knowledge, collaboration, flexibility, productivity, influence and confidence. The modular nature of our workshops means we can build a bespoke programme tailored to the needs of each organisation we work with.

Each workshop is 2-hours long and for up to 30 people at a time. Each session comes with a supplementary handout with further resources and a beautifully designed storytelling website containing a key exercise from the workshop.

If you have any questions, please contact us by mailing to peterdekuster@hotmail.nl

The Workshops:

Confidence

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The greatest projects and schemes die for no grander reasons than that we don’t dare. Indeed, research shows that having the right level of confidence makes us more likeable, productive, influential and ultimately successful. That’s why nearly half of all employers say they look for confidence when hiring.

In this two-hour session, we will:

• Learn how to identify the right level of confidence for a given task

• Identify sources of confidence we can rely on and ways of coping with anxiety

• Learn how to overcome setbacks and remain confident when things get tough

• Explore how our personal histories may be unhelpfully determining the level of confidence we bring to tasks

Definition

Confidence is the skill of knowing one’s own abilities and being able to put them into practice.

What characterises mastery of this skill?

Employees with high levels of confidence are able to openly demonstrate their skills and celebrate their own successes or those of their team. They might talk to colleagues about past success stories and contradict those doubting their expertise. They speak up to negative “inner voices” that so often are the source of self-criticism holding us back from our potential. When it comes to new projects and challenges at work they have an optimistic and realistic awareness of what they are able to do and they are not afraid to pursue their goals.

What characterises a lack of this skill?

Employees with a lack of confidence are usually more likely to self-sabotage their own performance or even the performance of their team. They have a tendency to catastrophize the consequences of potential mistakes or personal failure. Because of their deep belief of not being good enough, they might find it hard to stick to deadlines, tend to procrastinate, focus on unimportant details and hesitate to deliver results. Publicly presenting their work might especially be difficult due to their fear of being unmasked as low performer.

Innovation

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It’s one thing to have a good idea and another thing to put that idea into practice. In this session, we think about what to do once a good idea has struck, from the first prototype to keeping your stakeholders on board as you scale up over years.

In this two-hour session, we will:

• Practise prototyping designs and pitching so that stakeholders buy into our ideas

• Consider how to keep multiple stakeholders in the loop and engaged over the long run

• Think through how to keep our project going long term

• Explore our responses to failure and risk, where they come from in our lives, and how we can embrace risk, overcome difficulty, and learn from setbacks

Definition

Innovation is the skill of further developing good ideas, putting them into practice and in particular successfully leading a team or organisation through innovative change.

What characterises mastery of this skill?

Innovative employees can often be found in leadership positions. They are confident and willing to take on risks, responsibilities and even accept failure for the sake of significant business development. Atypical ideas and thinking are welcomed by them rather than punished and criticised. In order to lead a team towards innovative change, they actively promote change, emphasize its importance and serve as a strong role model by adapting to change themselves.

What characterises a lack of this skill?

A lack of innovation can be observed by a tendency to rigid rather than flexible thinking. These employees find it hard to let go of doubts, concerns, and anxiety regarding change of their products, services or their company. When discussing potential innovation they tend to emphasize limits. Their passivity might slow down the process of innovation. They prefer to have someone else take the lead in development and implementation of new ideas.

Entrepreneurship

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Entrepreneurship is a major fascination of our times. We often think of entrepreneurs as bold risk-takers with completely original ideas, but we all can benefit from thinking like an entrepreneur: generating new ideas, understanding what customers need, and constantly evaluating the end product to look for improvements.

In this two-hour session, we will:

• Consider how to use the insights of entrepreneurship to take our creative work to the next level

• Consider myths about what it takes to think like an entrepreneur

• Practise using empathy to uncover what our potential customers would really love

• Consider the role of higher needs in the development of new ideas and products

Definition

Entrepreneurship is the skill of cognitively reflecting about stakeholders’ (emotional) needs and generating new ideas to fulfill these.

What characterises mastery of this skill?

Employees with high levels of entrepreneurship usually work with an open mindset. This enables them to actively spot and assess their customers’ and colleagues’ needs. Once a new idea has come up to improve their business, there is no sign of hesitation to find pragmatic ways of testing and finally implementing it. They use introspection as a technique to evaluate the physical and emotional needs that they experience themselves.

What characterises a lack of this skill?

An employee with a lack of entrepreneurship often does not take the time or finds it difficult to “zoom out” and reflect at a meta-level about products and services they offer. They often hold back from thinking or sharing new ideas, convinced that there cannot be anything new in a certain field.

Playfulness

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Too often we think of play as something reserved for children, or worse, for the lazy, idle, and irresponsible. But playfulness is serious business. It helps us connect to one another in an authentic way, recover from high-stress situations, enjoy our job more, and remain curious about the world around us.

In this two-hour session, we will:

• Consider the role of play in connecting with colleagues, clients, and customers

• Learn about the role of humour in building rapport and addressing conflict

• Practise using play to generate new ideas and solutions to pressing problems

• Learn ways to make our daily routine more adventurous and playful

Definition

Playfulness is the skill of letting go, trying out and failing at the right scale and learning from this process at work.

What characterises mastery of this skill?

Playful employees bring fun and humour back to work. They thus create a relaxed and enjoyable atmosphere in a team. They might consciously choose humour to ease and resolve conflicts. Using a playful framework, they provide open space for themselves and their team to practice and experiment with new business ideas and products while taking away the fear of failure.

What characterises a lack of this skill?

Employees lacking playfulness tend to be rather serious. They have difficulties with thought experiments and with tolerating failure. It might also be hard for them to bring variety into the tasks of their teams thus contributing to a rather boring and monotonous work atmosphere.

Leadership

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Today, developing an authentic leadership style is crucial if we want to insure commitment and get results. In this session, we’ll reflect on what makes a good leader. This will involve considering our strengths, weaknesses and blind spots, as well as addressing key leadership challenges: from creating a compelling vision to empowering others.

In this two-hour session, we will:

• Discuss the overall nature of leadership and how it has changed through history

• Take a realistic look a some of the trials of leadership, and how to tackle them

• Develop a more compassionate approach to ourselves to improve our relations with others

• Learn how to communicate clear purpose to clients and colleagues

• Build a more productive workforce by demonstrating trust in employees or subordinates

Definition

Leadership is the skill of knowing one’s strengths and weaknesses, being able to choose and develop one’s own authentic leadership style and actively practicing this in the workplace.

What characterises mastery of this skill?

Employees with very good leadership skills characterized by a high level of knowledge and reflection about their own strengths and weaknesses and are able to act accordingly. They are aware of the special challenges facing leaders like loneliness and having to set the limits and say no, and practice self-compassion about these downsides. They are able to build a team that compensates for their own blind sports and regularly seeking out for feedback and taking time to adapt their own behaviour. At the same time, good leaders demonstrate trust in their team by avoiding micromanagement.

What characterises a lack of this skill?

Employees with a lack of leadership skills might nevertheless be in a leadership position or might have just started a management career. Oftentimes, their leadership style is often not a consciously chosen one and they tend to act impulsively, unpredictably or unreliably. They might find it hard to stop being too nice and struggle with team members questioning their authority. On the other hand, they might find it hard to trust their team and delegate tasks which often leads to micromanagement. Employees who struggle with their leadership position might often behave rudely or cruelty and/or pass their sense of pressure or despair on to their subordinates.

Purpose

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Day-to-day work can all too easily make us feel bored or burnt out. For many of us, this is when we start fantasising about changing careers. But what we most often need is to feel reconnected to our underlying values and the long-term impact of the work at hand.

In this two-hour session, we will:

• Rediscover our motivations and values and learn to prioritise among them

• Explore five different areas of work in which we can find meaning

• Spend time reflecting on our professional role and its place in our organisation

• Create an action plan which helps us scale up our deeper sense of purpose

Definition

Purpose is the skill of identifying and integrating one’s own drivers and motivators at work.

What characterises mastery of this skill?

Employees with a good sense of purpose are able to find meaning in their work and understand the good their work ultimately does in the world at large. They identify what is most important to them and make peace with necessary sacrifices. With a realistic view of their workplace, they adjust expectations and feel fulfillment at work. They talk enthusiastically about their job and create an atmosphere of motivation and interest.

What characterises a lack of this skill?

Employees with a lack of purpose at work might have forgotten or never reflected on why they do their job and how it contributes to a greater good or a personal value. They might feel bored and dissatisfied with their job and complain to colleagues or even customers about it. As a result, employees lacking purpose struggle with motivation and interest at work and might work as little as possible, demonstrating low job performance.

Self-Awareness

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Self-Awareness is the foundation of storytelling, yet studies show that while most of us think we understand ourselves, we often have little idea how others really see us. This alarming gap leads to misunderstandings, poor teamwork, increased conflict, poor decision-making and a lack of direction.

In this two-hour session, we will:

• Consider how our image of ourself may differ from how others see us

• Take stock of our own unconscious attitudes and beliefs

• Learn to recognise some common barriers to self- awareness, including projection, transference and resistance • Learn the technique of “what is your story?” to begin to get to grips with the hidden beliefs that lie behind our everyday feelings and behaviour

Definition

Self-awareness is the skill of understanding one’s own feelings and behaviour and being aware of one’s own emotional reactions.

What characterises mastery of this skill?

Highly self-aware employees practice Story Questioning (or other forms of meta-cognition) on a regular basis by reflecting on their stories. They know and take into account that their thoughts are influenced by the unconscious part of the mind. They work to actively recognise, understand, and reshape their inner dialogue. At work, they might demonstrate self-awareness through a very conscious process of decision-making and through admitting vulnerabilities to colleagues, clients, and managers. They often ask for feedback, actively reflect on it and reevaluate the feedback to better understand how others see them.

What characterises a lack of this skill?

A lack of self-awareness can be observed in employees who tend to have a very different image of themselves than others have of them – who do not have the ability to recognise this or the curiosity to find out about it. They mostly avoid asking for the opinion of others and their response to honest and constructive feedback tends to be overly resistant. They struggle to accept that others might disagree on their version of reality. At work this often leads to misunderstandings between two parties of how a job should be done, slower learning rates or promotions, conflicts that are caused by the ever same behaviour. Another consequence might be dissatisfaction and stress in subordinates who must to compensate for a manager’s lack of self-awareness. In addition, employees who lack self-awareness do not show awareness of the ways that they might be lacking in objectivity or need to correct their perception of important situations at work.

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