business ethics, business leadership, corporate communication, Elaine Stirling, executive summary, General Motors, I/you/we, integrity, Mr. Transmission, paradigm shift, Saturn division, The Corporate Storyteller, Three Steps to Everywhere
My poetic friends and readers, I beg your indulgence. The Princeton Encyclopedia of Poetry & Poetics, you’ll need to hum to yourself in hexameter or free verse for the time being, while the gnomes and I (see previous post) tend to matters prosaic and incredulating.
As I write this piece, which may be rightly construed as a sales pitch for The Corporate Storyteller: A Writing Manual & Style Guide for the Brave New Business Leader, ten thousand fine people are suing an iconic corporation, known since my childhood for baby shampoo and other familial comforts, for creating an artificial hip that falls apart in five years. An automotive company, associated for decades with luxury and impeccable workmanship, is recalling 500,000 vehicles for a potentially lethal flaw, the second recall of similar magnitude in three years. I could go on about cruise lines that continue to publish flashy ads while their passengers flounder at sea on a disabled ship, but you know what, corporations? You entities that came into being like golems for purposes both nefarious and noble? This isn’t about you.
Who I’d like to honour in this piece are the brave new business leaders I’ve had the privilege to meet in groups of five to fifty since 2001. Technically, they are my students—corporate clients, adult learners, commerce undergrads—men and women who are ready to use language for the purpose that language was created: to communicate, to connect, to share, to improve, to heighten, to adore, to energize, to enrich. We gather in Canada, but we come from every culture. No matter the cradle tongue, religion, or political slant.
Since The Corporate Storyteller came out in 2009, I’ve watched its basic principles take shape in the minds and actions of people from healthcare, finance, mining, education, construction, and not-for-profit, to name a few, at all levels. The principles themselves evolved from the thousand learners who preceded the book’s publication, as I stumbled week after week in the early years, building bridges of duct tape and hope between the creative, the critical, and the non-thinking (read here: stuck to my handheld, I haven’t looked up in seventeen months) worlds. Sure, I had enough writing and managerial background to avoid mutiny, but really, it was the endless “show me, prove it, what do you mean by; yeah but, what if…?” that built the backbone of the instructor who now witnesses genius creators of wisdom, humour, and workable solutions who take what they learn, what they teach themselves out into the world. I float home in states of ecstasy that require no pharmaceuticals and for which there is no coming down.
So what’s going on here?
We’ve all heard the clichés of paradigm shift; the Maya may have charted our transformation five suns ago. As usual, we misinterpret and stock up on canned goods, and when the world doesn’t end, we make snorty noises. A musician/songwriter friend has been proclaiming since I first met him on Facebook: “Love is on the rise.” In fact, it’s the title and lyric of one of John Rasmussen’s songs. (You can enjoy the full song on video, performed by John and his beautiful life partner, Sarah, in the Comments section.)
If believing is seeing, John is right. Love is on the rise. I’m seeing it.
This morning, I reviewed four executive summaries, assignments from my writing class. Reviewed, read, graded. In every way—let me be clear—they were professional documents designed for the audience they’re written for: executives, decision makers, the people of influence. Only, these had the added, deliberate unmeasurable of human voice and the I/you/we structure that I call in The Corporate Storyteller “Three Steps to Everywhere”. All four, every one, made me laugh out loud, cry, gasp, and/or stop to catch my breath. If I’d been the recipient of those documents in real business time/space, I’d be reaching for my phone—where is this person? I need to talk to him/her. Now!
When is the last time you heard such a critique on the ho-hum, God let this be over soon, executive summary?
The thing is, every one of my groups is astonishing me this way. A few months ago, a young professional named Theresa created a five-minute slide show presentation for her organization based on The Corporate Storyteller and our classes. She delivered it TED talk-style without a written script to her colleagues, up and across the org chart, and generously invited me to share her presentation with anyone who expresses an interest. If you’d like a copy of the pdf, you can private message me at Twitter or on Facebook or through my website here. Thank you, Theresa!
Although I’ve heard such things happen, I could not have foreseen how it feels at the cellular level when the teacher becomes the student. It’s an honest-to-gosh reversal of polarities. Heaven comes to Earth; the greater Will that includes us all steps into the driver’s seat and we all relax.
I know there are cynics out there. I know there are people in places of power doing insidious and terrible things because for the time being, they can. But in their mindless, fear-based power grasping, they are not privy—and I mean this literally, they are shut out from what untold numbers of us are seeing within ourselves for the first time, since I don’t know when. That I’m a leader, you’re a leader, he’s a leader, she’s a leader.
The masks are coming down. The communicators and storytellers of the corporate world are showing their true faces, and they are beautiful.
A final note, on the subject of brave new business leadership, I would like to thank Frank Ragno and his soft-spoken, equally talented colleague Tom at my local Mr. Transmission, who replaced the clutch on my trusty red Saturn. GM corporate strategists, you really have no idea what you threw away when you shut down the Saturn division, but I’ll talk to you later. I am now driving what feels like a V-8 engine in a brand new car, warmed by the integrity and kindness of the best service I have encountered in the automotive industry, ever.
We shall keep singing it loudly, John. Love is, indeed, on the rise!
© Elaine Stirling, 2013