It didnt seem like a dangerous situation. I was telling stories at a green-hilled conference center. The balmy Virginia weather was relaxing the Boston winters grip on my body. The audience of storytelling enthusiasts was welcoming and supportive.
Then, out of the crowd, I noticed one shining face. That happens sometimes: a listeners face seems to gather all the power of a story and reflect it back like a golden mirror. When that happens, I know Ive gotten my story across. More, I know Ive been seen; Ive made a connection.
Little did I know where that moment of connection would lead me.
Until that day, I had been a full-time resident of the "storytelling world," performing and teaching in colleges, conferences, and festivalsin any corner where interest in story had taken root. Since the first National Storytelling Festival in 1973, enough of these venues had sprung up to support a few hundred full-time storytellers in the U.S. Along with the tens of thousands who told part-time for money, as a hobby, or who just came to listen, tellers like me constituted the "storytelling revival."
Back to that shining face. After the performance, I sought her out. Immediately, I realized she was an anomaly in that group of teachers, pastors, religious educators and storytelling fans: Annette Simmons and her friend Cheryl DeCiantis came from the bigger world of business. Not only that, they were excited about what storytelling could offer that world.
Having survived for 25 years on the fringes of our economic system, I was suspicious. Were they sure that executives, managers, sales peoplethe whole "bottom line" culturewere interested in and could profit from what I was doing? Was there really a demand for storytelling in the wider world?
If anyone could convince me, it was Annette. At that time, she was a full-time corporate trainer, specializing in "tough situations," the ones where a room full of hard-boiled executives came to learn how to "fix all those problem people" they seemed to run into all the time. She could help them switch from the brute force approach of a bully to the elegant tactics of a martial arts master.
Not only that, she had an uncanny ability to see the big picture, to understand the overall significance of storytelling without losing sight of the gritty details that make a story work. She felt the wonder of this indirect but amazingly powerful form of communication. And her background in advertising communications didnt hurt, either: she knew how to boil down the essence of an idea and communicate it with lightning-bolt force.
Soon, I found myself with a student and a mentor, all in the same person. I helped her refine her already substantial appreciation of storytelling. She helped me become an emissary of storytelling to the corporate world. And now she has written a book that, like all great books, points out the emerging truth in a way that allows us to stop overlooking it.
What is so special about The Story Factor? It brings together three trends that have belonged together all along. First: the rebirth of the storytelling art around the developed world and the subsequent appreciation for the mental and emotional processes it unleashes. Second: the emerging realization in the business community that thriving organizations need whole persons working for themthat anything less cheats both the individual and the firm. Finally: the successes of practical psychologies in helping us achieve lasting influence through respectful relationships.
Annettes book walks its talk. She uses stories convincingly throughout. She treats the reader with respect. She emphasizes what great leaders have always known: the elemental role of storytelling in motivating, persuading, and gaining eager cooperation. And she describes this, for the first time, with a clarity and passion that makes it intelligible and usable for people from all walks of life.
When you read this book, you may see Annettes light shining through it. If you do, beware! You will learn a thousand secrets for influencing others in lasting ways. And, like me, you will find yourself forever changed.