Karen Eber’s journey in storytelling began with her personal experiences and evolved into a professional passion. Her approach goes beyond traditional methods, integrating storytelling into the fabric of leadership and culture development. Karen shares how storytelling has become an essential tool in her work, enabling leaders to connect more deeply with their teams and drive meaningful change.
Throughout the episode, Karen delves into the science behind effective storytelling, providing listeners with practical tips and insights on how to craft compelling narratives that resonate. She emphasizes the importance of authenticity and vulnerability in storytelling, arguing that these elements are crucial for building trust and fostering a strong, cohesive team environment.
Karen also shares her experiences working with diverse organizations, highlighting how storytelling can bridge gaps, enhance communication, and create a more inclusive and engaging workplace. Her insights are backed by real-life examples and experiences, making the conversation not only informative but also relatable.
Listeners will leave the episode equipped with a new perspective on storytelling and its impact on leadership and culture. Karen’s expertise and engaging storytelling make this a must-listen episode for anyone interested in personal development, leadership, and organizational culture.
“It is always to help people bring out their best and give them enough runway and the tools and support so they can make that happen.” – Karen Eber
“I don’t have one specific story, but the attributes of those stories that I’m enthralled with are when I didn’t see where it was going…” – Karen Eber
“Emotions are the recipe for action. And if you want to tap into emotion, you need to start with stories.” – Karen Eber
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Dr, Jessica Kriegel: Well, Karen, thank you so much for joining us. I am such a huge fan of yours and so excited to chat with you. I just finished reading your book last night and I was enthralled by the stories. Shockingly, I guess not shockingly, the entire time. And I feel like a kindred spirit with you because we have a very similar background.
Dr, Jessica Kriegel: I want to dig into the movement that you are the master of and you are the master of this movement around storytelling. You may also have other things that aren’t about your book or related to that that you are super passionate about. We want to get to know you. So the first question that we always begin this podcast with is understanding what is your why?
Dr, Jessica Kriegel: What is your purpose?
Karen Eber: It is always to help people bring out their best and give them enough runway and the tools and support so they can make that happen. Like in anything I do. That’s what I want to help you figure out your best. Let’s give you a whole lot of runway so you can do it.
Dr, Jessica Kriegel: That’s so where did that passion come from? How did that develop?
Karen Eber: I don’t have a good understanding of it. It’s always been there. I think I was always even when you’re in elementary school and you play games and stuff, like, I think I was always trying to do that because I am an introvert and I do definitely notice details that sometimes people don’t notice from observing. And so I would notice maybe a talent of someone that could come forward more or something that I thought they could do.
Karen Eber: And it was just so fun to see that and pull that forward and try to help amplify them and give them what’s needed. And so in anything I do, I want to make sure people have what they need to be successful and I want to give them the space to do so.
Dr, Jessica Kriegel: Well, that’s fascinating because so we talk about intentional culture creation and you are a culture consultant, amongst other things. And one of the core tools that we use to drive intentional culture is storytelling. It’s one of the top three storytelling feedback and recognition, I think, are the three most powerful drivers of culture. And you dig in to the storytelling and then you coach executives on how to tell these great stories.
Dr, Jessica Kriegel: And you are an expert storyteller and you’ve broken it down in this book in a way that’s really fascinating. So what’s the best story you ever heard that you had no involvement in creating, that you didn’t tell or coach someone around, but that you were the listener for that motivated you?
Karen Eber: I don’t have one specific story, but the attributes of those stories that I’m enthralled with are when I didn’t see where it was going, where it starts, and then they take you on a journey and all of a sudden you end in a destination and an idea that you couldn’t see at the beginning. You seem to know where this story is headed, and then they just build an idea or put a plot twist and that you were like, I did not see that.
Karen Eber: And wow, is that clever? Like, those are my favorites because I’m right there. I want to see what’s going to happen. And I am fascinated by the way it’s told.
Dr, Jessica Kriegel: Yeah. So the story is an experience that people have, right? You had that experience and then that experience shapes a belief. We shape some understanding or belief about something that notable idea, whatever it is, that then hopefully will drive action change. Right. And you talk about in your book that data doesn’t change behavior stories do. It’s interesting, though, because you are talking about the science of storytelling.
Dr, Jessica Kriegel: I mean, you’re using data to convince the reader, so to speak. And I’m also a data scientist that’s talking about culture. I’m a keynote speaker too, so I’m constantly playing with here’s the facts and here’s the story that will hopefully motivate that. How do you find the balance between because data also does tell a story, right? How do you find the balance of those two things?
Karen Eber: What I find, if you just share data and you don’t focus on the context or the story behind that, is that you risk people having different interpretations of it. So even a simple bar chart can lead to different assumptions. I had a bar chart about students in a university that were required to complete four papers in a semester, and with one month left to go, 23 students had finished their four papers and 300 something.
Karen Eber: Having me even started them. And so you have the simple four part bar chart and you show it to people and you say, Why do you think this is? My general reaction is procrastinate in their students in university. But when you start to dig into it, it turned out that there was high highest enrollment ever on the campus.
Karen Eber: And so some students were balancing working and being a student. And we’re trying to to manage the juggles and weren’t procrastinating but hadn’t had enough time to get there. Some were being really selective about when they were doing it and what they were doing. And and so through conversation, we learned it wasn’t just procrastination, but you put up this really simple bar chart and people are going to make assumptions of like, yeah, it’s procrastination.
Karen Eber: And that starts to show where we make assumptions about data that could be different and we think we’re having a discussion about the same thing, but we’re really not because we each have different experiences that inform our assumptions. So when you’re telling a story with data, you are making people come to the same starting point and make sure they’re having a discussion that makes sense for everyone.
Karen Eber: When you don’t, you’re risking different interpretations and not having the same discussion.
Dr, Jessica Kriegel: So it’s interesting, you the biggest insight I got out of your book may be completely shocking to you and not have been an intention of yours whatsoever, but you have risen lived a mystery that’s existed about me and my relationship actually with my boyfriend for many years. So I’m going to share it with you now and hopefully you’re be excited about that.
Dr, Jessica Kriegel: Okay. So I hate watching movies. I just absolutely cannot stand watching movies. I don’t want to watch a movie. I have never been excited about watching a movie. I love bingeing crappy television, though. So I get into a show like Love Island or something, really just garbage, you know, kind of television. And I want to watch that show over and over and over again.
Dr, Jessica Kriegel: And my boyfriend is this connoisseur of great movies, and he’s like, Why can’t you get into it? And you answered the question, which is that great movies captivate us and engage us and electrify us. And when I watch TV, I watch TV to disconnect and just dissociate from all of the stress of life and go on autopilot, which you state in your book.
Dr, Jessica Kriegel: That’s why we love binge watching reruns, because we just go into an autopilot mode, which is what I’m looking for when I watch TV. So you’ve actually solve this mystery for me, which I’m very excited about.
Karen Eber: Yeah, it’s a thank you. You are welcome. These are the nights where and I’m sure listeners experience a series, you get to the end of your day and you you think the words like, I don’t want to think, please don’t put on something hard. I don’t want to think. I just want to say it. I just want to the urge out because our brain is maxed out.
Karen Eber: It is saying it is time to save some calories. We cannot afford to spend anymore. Your days are probably very full with complicated things and you’re putting a lot of energy towards it. And so being able to just have a lower energy spend and and save some calories is amazing. Whereas it sounds like your significant other is like, no, let’s do some hard thing.
Karen Eber: You hear me say these are different, I’m sure. Yeah.
Dr, Jessica Kriegel: They are. He literally has 4 hours a day to like meditate and do yoga. Meanwhile, I am running a thousand miles a minute and I just want to stop running in my head. At the end of the day. Yeah. So the science of storytelling, there it is. That’s how it plays out in real life. Okay, So one thing that I really loved in your book was you told a story I’m going to put you on the spot, if that’s okay, about your working with someone who was at the London Business School.
Dr, Jessica Kriegel: You were doing a keynote. You worked with a girl named Emma, and you wanted to workshop making her story better. So I’m a keynoter. I tell lots of stories. I can always get better. Can we do a little mini workshop right now?
Karen Eber: I would love that. Okay. You. How cliche. Yeah. Do you have a certain.
Dr, Jessica Kriegel: About a million stories in mine?
Karen Eber: All right.
Dr, Jessica Kriegel: Here’s one. I struggle. I’m going to be vulnerable with you. And I guess the audience too. And talk about the hardest part about being a keynoter when you keynote about culture transformation is there’s that signature story about a company who transformed their culture. And it’s not a story about being in a boardroom in the CEO who said this one brilliant thing, and then everyone in the room gasped and then suddenly behavior changed.
Dr, Jessica Kriegel: It’s, you know, that’s a great story, too. Yeah. Or my closing story is all about this woman who was a receptionist who was kind of crusty and irritated all the time. And she worked there for 30 years and she didn’t feel connected to the results of the organization. And when she went through a workshop, she realized that instead of being the receptionist, she could be the director of First Impressions.
Dr, Jessica Kriegel: And suddenly her whole persona changed because she felt ownership of the results. And it’s a great story and I tell a great and it’s because it’s this one person who has a transformative moment. And you watch this crusty lady turn into this joyous, bubbly director of first impressions, who’s taking accountability for the results of the organization, even though she’s simply the receptionist, which is how she had perceived herself this whole time.
Dr, Jessica Kriegel: Okay. But the story that I struggle with telling effectively is the big one in the middle about Oracle’s transformation from being an on prem company to a cloud company by leveraging the power of culture. Yeah, and they hired this guy who was the head of culture, and it’s this big broad story about applying our model of culture transformation and the results that they got.
Dr, Jessica Kriegel: But I can’t get it to feel wowee enough. So can we work on that one?
Karen Eber: Yeah, and I just I’m going to keep pausing and dissecting to, to share like, because we’re probably not going to get it far enough in the conversation. It is very common as you’re working on stories where you feel exactly what you said of like, I know this is the story, I just haven’t quite figured out which way to do this, so it feels more wowee.
Karen Eber: So very common doesn’t mean it’s bad. It just means we get to play. So let’s play. Set the stage for this story.
Dr, Jessica Kriegel: Okay. And I will also acknowledge before I tell the story, that you have these checklists in your book that says, Here’s how you do to find stories, which, by the way, I have a note on my phone now where I’m collecting stories and then here’s how to select them and here’s how to structure them and here’s how to think about the audience, etc., etc..
Dr, Jessica Kriegel: That’s like a million questions, Karen. Like, that’s going to take me, you know, two months. It’s exhausting. So I’m conscious that we only have a few minutes here and we’re going to just, just touch briefly on some of your best practices, but we’re.
Karen Eber: Not going to go through all of them. Yeah.
Dr, Jessica Kriegel: So culture transformation is about intentionally creating experiences that drive people to hold certain beliefs, and then those beliefs are going to allow them to proactively take action and that’s going to get results. Cultures, the way you think and act to get results. And no one understood this more clearly than Shawn Pryce. I was working at Oracle. This was in 2013.
Dr, Jessica Kriegel: Oracle was an on prem company, not a cloud company. And Sean Price was hired to take Oracle to the future and to become a cloud company. He was the head of Cloud. I was his organizational development consultant. I was so excited because this was super high profile guy coming into super high profile job and I got to be his consultant.
Dr, Jessica Kriegel: And this leader, unlike so many other leaders that I’d ever worked with before, understood that culture was the only way he was going to drive results. Most leaders at Oracle at that time were all about operationalize, execution. Go, go, go! Drive, drive, drive. And this guy said, We need to shift the way we think if we’re going to become a cloud company.
Dr, Jessica Kriegel: So the first three days of his employment at Oracle were spent with me and one of my colleagues in the organizational development team crafting messaging the story of what our culture needed to look like in order to become a cloud company. At the time, only 5% of Oracle’s revenue came from cloud and we wanted it to be 70% and I don’t know how much you know about what an on prem company versus a cloud company operates like, but it’s a completely different customer.
Dr, Jessica Kriegel: It’s a completely different I mean, you were you were in the tech world, so you must know a lot about this. But for the listener, the way the operating model is different, the customer is different, the product is different, the development of the product is different, the sale is different, the legal is different, right? I mean, everything is different.
Dr, Jessica Kriegel: So the whole company needs to transform. So we started by identifying a purpose and he wanted there to be a certain acknowledgment, transparency and humility around the purpose statement to put voice to the fact that we are not there right now. So he his purpose was to create a cloud company with non cloud DNA, and that was Oracle at the time was just not a did not have cloud in the DNA.
Dr, Jessica Kriegel: Then he created a strategic plan which had three different elements that were the big bets that we had to take. And then he created meaningful, measurable and memorable results that we could measure our success on achieving those strategic plans. And then he identified forward the way that we have to think and act to get results. And that was the beliefs that he wanted to instill because he understood that people had to think differently in order for them to act differently.
Dr, Jessica Kriegel: And the way he wanted to instill that kind of thinking was through the power of storytelling and recognition and feedback. And he got really explicit about what he was going to, the experiences he was going to create for the team in order to instill these new beliefs. And so he would talk about terrifying things, things that most leaders at that company at the time were not willing to talk about.
Dr, Jessica Kriegel: And one of them was he stood in front of the room of consultants. These were the implementation people, a massive organization. And he said in front of thousands of people, your job is not going to exist in two years at this company. I mean, chaos ensued, right? Everyone is feeling panic in that room because he’s basically said your job is about to become obsolete.
Dr, Jessica Kriegel: And then he turns it around and says, but what will exist is a customer success manager, someone who is focused not on how to get this product implemented, but someone who’s focused on how to make sure our customer wins. And you can either get on board with that new purpose and that new mission, or you can leave the organization basically, which was kind of the culture of Oracle at the time, blah, blah, blah.
Dr, Jessica Kriegel: A bunch of stuff happens. Cut to this last year, Oracle now has 70% of its revenue coming from Cloud and they had the best year ever, $50 billion, The blah, blah, blah. Bunch of stuff happens. Feels like 10,000 stories I could tell about how this behemoth of an organization transformed. And I don’t know how to tell a story about 140,000 people.
Dr, Jessica Kriegel: So there’s where I get lost. So that’s what I need help with. Can you help me?
Karen Eber: I can. I think there’s little things that are going to make a difference. And so it’s almost like you’re looking through a camera lens and now you’re just playing with the aperture to bring it into the focus that you want. The thing that struck me as I listened is that for an audience in a keynote that is a part of Oracle and didn’t live it, it’s very easy to say, not me, whatever.
Karen Eber: I don’t have to do that. Right. And so would you want to do is paint the Sikhs in a way that they are going to connect to it and they can’t avoid to and to look away. And so you might even start with something like him saying your job is going to go away. What you want to do is connect to the what would happen if they didn’t do anything, because, yes, making a shift into different markets, different different customers is important.
Karen Eber: But the urgency, you know, all the pieces that we do, we’re navigating change. You want to help the audience feel that. And so it could be as simple as saying things like, you know, those projects where you realize your job won’t be there and a year unless this or have you ever been in a I wouldn’t necessarily ask questions but where you’re you’re helping them think of these moments where you are in these projects or these situations where if something isn’t done, there’s going to be really significant impacts to the business, to your team, to the people around you.
Karen Eber: You want the audience to feel that. And when they feel that, the blah, blah, blah and all this other stuff will be easier because now they realize the urgency and why this had to happen as opposed to, this is another corporate initiative and these people do things and that’s great. It’s the pulling the audience in. So they care and they feel it.
Karen Eber: That’s probably the biggest shift you can make in this story, which could be starting with Sean standing in front of a group and saying, Your job won’t be here in a year. Can you imagine walking into a meeting where you were told this? That is exactly what happened. And then like starting to unpack it that way.
Dr, Jessica Kriegel: That you can that I love that there’s a part in your book where you talk about structuring the story in the order and that there’s the chronological order and there’s also you kind of end with the bang order. And I don’t remember how you talked about that, but that’s so brilliant. What a much more powerful way to capture the audience’s attention.
Dr, Jessica Kriegel: Right.
Karen Eber: Well, and let me flip it for you, because I was in a very similar situation, a business that was moving from manufacturing and physical based work to cloud based and the CEO, every annual meeting was coming in with 50 McKinsey slides of the opportunity and the market and what could happen and why, what this would mean. And the second time I worked and I’m like, these are the same 50 slides you put up last year.
Karen Eber: Like, are you saying it louder for the people in the back? You don’t need the same slides. This isn’t working. And we actually ended up telling a story that had nothing to do with the company or the situation. Is it okay if I share the story? Yeah, absolutely. Okay. So this person, you know, when we got on the call, happened to be talking about his son, who is a really talented surfer.
Karen Eber: He can surf waves that are just fully over his head. He’s not afraid of anything and would take on everything with ease. Just have this natural talent barely wiped out. He was a talented swimmer, too. When he would go in to swim competitions, he would jump in the pool and would be out when the other kids were halfway across the pool.
Karen Eber: And he was talking to his son and said, you know, are you even trying? And as I said, no, like I what’s the point? I’m I just jump in a swim and I’m done. What’s the point of trying? And he told us and, you know, some day other people are going to catch up to you. You should try.
Karen Eber: You should really try to exert yourself and get better. So we start here. We start telling this story of his son because he was comfortable with it and it was going to be a good parallel. And he’s describing this of how he’s this gifted surfer and swimmer. And he decided that he wanted to take up skateboarding, thought it would be great cross-training in the winter when he couldn’t go surfing and he’d go to the skateboard park and he gets on his skateboard.
Karen Eber: These terrible could not see up was a mess falling everywhere. And for the first time in his life, nothing came with ease. He had to stop and listen to his instructors and he had to be challenged and he had to be pushed and do all these things that felt uncomfortable and new. But he had to do it. And so we took this story about his son and told this about how he wasn’t going to be able to be complacent.
Karen Eber: He couldn’t rely on the things he was used to doing. If he really wanted to try to do something different, he had to do these things. And we tell this story and we use this as the opening story. And then he transitions into why they need to move to new markets, why they need to embrace the cloud technology, why they can’t keep doing what they’re doing.
Karen Eber: And I got a text from him that night. They’re all at dinner and the tech said it went so good. People came up to me at dinner and said, Once a surfer, always a surfer, let’s skate.
Dr, Jessica Kriegel: cool.
Karen Eber: And I share that because sometimes it’s not even the story about the situation at hand. Sometimes you’re telling a completely different story that lands the idea that you can then connect into what is happening. And so there might even be a situation where you’re telling a slightly different story or you may think of something else and then you pivot into what Oracle did and what the parallels are, because that could also work well too.
Karen Eber: Sometimes stories about a different topic are easier to immerse ourselves into because we’re not having the objections of like they were Never be true in my organization and we didn’t do this or that, that you were just in the story and then the take away comes in. You’re like, I didn’t see that coming. She got me.
Dr, Jessica Kriegel: That’s so great. So one of the things you talk about, you have a very successful keynoting career. You’ve been doing this for a long time, and the longer you practice storytelling, the easier it gets, the less maybe cumbersome the process can become. I’ve also been keynoting for, you know, almost ten years now, and I, I don’t think I’ve ever given the same keynote twice every single time.
Dr, Jessica Kriegel: I’m improving it in some ways. And right now, if I were to look back even a year ago to the keynote I was giving a year ago, I would be horribly embarrassed. Right. And it’s always true that a year ago today, I would be horribly embarrassed of redoing that keynote. There’s also been times where I most of the time I get good feedback.
Dr, Jessica Kriegel: Sometimes I’ve gotten just the most worst, horrible feedback specifically about the stories I’ve told. And interestingly, it was when I went personal, when I’ve really tried to open up at a vulnerable level. Sometimes there are audiences that just don’t respond to that. And you wrote, There’s a line in your book where you say sometimes being vulnerable feels like it could be saying, Me, me, me, me, me, look at me.
Dr, Jessica Kriegel: Right? And we don’t want to go there. But trust me, you know, it’s I agree that mostly it’s helpful to go there. But I’ve had the experience where someone said she’s talking about herself too much that was too personal. And you talk about the distinction between private and personal, which I really appreciate. You know, personal doesn’t mean private.
Dr, Jessica Kriegel: You can keep what’s private. Private. It took me about a month to recover from getting that negative feedback. Has that happened to you where you’ve told a story that just bombs or you’ve gotten just this? How do you recover from that moment? This is now you being my therapist, like.
Karen Eber: Being like Alice. Suddenly everybody I get in the fetal position and I suck my thumb and you think back and forth, I’m going to give you a really hard. It is really, you know, I think people don’t always recognize, even when we post on social media or we get on stage or, you know, everyone has their own form of vulnerability that is really hard.
Karen Eber: And it stings when someone says not for me. What I tried to do before I ever give a keynote is ground myself in Who am I? Okay. Disappointing because in any keynote there’s a bell curve and there’s going to be people in the room that sit outside that bell curve that they’re not quite right for it. And so I share this story in the book about this young man I was working with who was getting ready to do a keynote.
Karen Eber: He was really fidgety, couldn’t settle down. And I asked him, what’s going on with you? And he said, I’m just really afraid they’re not going to like what I have to say. We were in the UK, he was British, and they said, If you were going to have me to your home for dinner, what would you make? And he said, Easy bangers and mash my great.
Karen Eber: If we took this room of 200 people, how many of them in here do you think would like your bangers and mash? And he’s like, I don’t know. Like, not everyone said rain because some might think that it’s too salty or not salty enough or they’re vegetarian. Like, you’re not going to have all 200 people in this room wanting to eat the meal.
Karen Eber: You make. How do you feel about that? He’s like, That’s okay. It’s different preferences and like same thing. If you can embrace that idea of not everyone’s going to eat the meal that you make and that’s okay if you can get yourself into that going in, that helps. It is hard when people come back, especially when you’re telling a personal story and they make a comment.
Karen Eber: The first thing I try to do is say like, were they in my career? Bell curve or not? If they weren’t, that’s okay. It’s okay. You might get unlucky, disappointing you if they were, then I want to understand, did I do something in the delivery that should be different next time? Or am I really helping them tap into something that’s bothering them?
Karen Eber: You know, sometimes when we’re sharing a personal story, it is evoking something in the individuals that is really about them and not about you. And so the pre-work and getting clear on your audience and what is it that you’re really trying to have them do and who is in that and who isn’t is still key because then you can kind of make peace with it of I tried because sometimes the air conditioning in the room is bad or people are hungry or they didn’t sleep or they’re having a tough time.
Karen Eber: Or maybe your story poke them right in the culture that they are sensitive about. And so you’re getting their genuine reaction. And sometimes your story doesn’t work. And that’s okay, too. I always say, you know, comedians tell jokes all the time that don’t work and we don’t come home repeating all of those jokes. I’m like, can you believe they said that?
Karen Eber: We tell the ones they do and we don’t even remember the ones they don’t. So the best thing is just be kind to yourself and move through it. You know? Especially with keynotes I find for me anyway, there’s all of these great neurochemicals that have you going on stage and then you come off stage and you’re slowly resetting and that is also so vulnerable.
Dr, Jessica Kriegel: Yeah. So when we’re coaching leaders around how to intentionally craft culture and we say create an experience for people which can look like a story that drives a certain cultural beliefs, you want a cultural belief you want to nurture, and then that will hopefully lead to some behavioral action or change that then results in something happening for the business.
Dr, Jessica Kriegel: That is an outcome that we’re trying to drive towards. I’ve seen people react with skepticism about this idea that that could be kind of manipulative, right? You’re trying to what? You’re trying to change the the beliefs I hold and you have a whole chapter about that in the back of your book, which I was. I didn’t read the table of contents.
Dr, Jessica Kriegel: I just dove in and I was thinking this the whole time, wondering, Yeah, but what about if they feel like they’re being manipulated by the leader because they’ve spent all this time and energy crafting the perfect story, right? And then they feel like it’s not authentic and you address it so beautifully. Can you speak to that a little bit?
Dr, Jessica Kriegel: Because it’s something I hear about a lot.
Karen Eber: In first is recognizing any time we communicate, we have an intended outcome. And to say that just because you you have an outcome or something that you would love for people to to know, think, feel or do after is manipulating isn’t quite fair because I think most business communications have something that, you know, even if it is just to be informed, but to avoid manipulating, you always have to lead with intent and transparency.
Karen Eber: If it is clear why I’m talking to you, why I’m sharing, you know, here’s what I know, here’s what I don’t know, then you are leaving as clearly as you can and laying it all out there. Where manipulation comes in is when people feel like you are intentionally withholding information to form a narrative and people sniff that out and once they feel that that is it.
Karen Eber: And so we have all experienced maybe a journalist or a politician or someone in our lives where we feel like there’s something not quite right about what they’re saying, and it skews how you see them. So in busy settings, when we are driving change, when we are shaping culture, treat people like adults. If there is something like a return to office policy, a decision, communicate that.
Karen Eber: Don’t try to put a story on that because it will feel completely disingenuous. Everyone will see through it and they will have no respect for you. Communicate those updates, those decisions. Use the stories for how you are shifting strategy, how you are navigating change, how you are using it in a coachable moment. But when it is a decision and something you know, I cringe any time a leader says like, what story should I tell?
Karen Eber: That for the fact that no one is going to get a raise this year, I’m like, you shouldn’t. You should just communicate that and be as clear and transparent as you can.
Dr, Jessica Kriegel: That’s great. So are you the storytelling person or are you this evolving leadership consultant, support culture transformation expert that is going to wow the world in some other new way Next year? What’s the next TED talk or the next, you know, book? I mean, what else do you have in your little bag over there?
Karen Eber: Well, thank you for asking that, because I have been pushed into the storytelling person and I’ve walked into it. But for me, I’ve always really tried to focus on how am I building leaders, teams and culture one story at a time. It’s not storytelling for storytelling sake. It’s storytelling for creating workplaces where people can thrive or creating leaders that can extend their reach.
Karen Eber: And so I don’t think I will ever be just storytelling or just leadership. That’s a piece of it. But certainly as I’m promoting the book, it’s really leaning into storytelling and through the context of leadership. And that’s my runway for the foreseeable future.
Dr, Jessica Kriegel: Okay, beautiful. Just so you know, everyone that’s listening, there’s also a part of the book where she tells you how to write the perfect eulogy and the perfect wedding toast. I loved that because it wasn’t actually about corporate. And yet you were applying the same tools. And man, I wish I had read those before the M.S. eulogy. I gave her the last wedding toast because they were so brilliant.
Dr, Jessica Kriegel: I got chills from the imaginary eulogy I was imagining might exist from the tips that you gave. You know, I mean, it was really eulogy.
Karen Eber: Yeah, I you know, when I was writing this this book is is I think first looked at as a business book. But the best feedback I’ve gotten is, you know, I thought this is going to be a business book and it wasn’t. There are, of course, many business examples in there, but it’s meant to help anyone that wants to be a storyteller.
Karen Eber: And I felt like we have these moments in life that are really hard to navigate, like a toast or a job interview or a eulogy. And while I certainly wouldn’t expect anyone to buy the book on how to give a eulogy, I want them to remember this is on their shelf in that moment so they can have a way to step through something that can feel really incredibly hard.
Karen Eber: Or for a wedding toast where you feel the weight of how do I honor these people or graduation toasts, Like how do I do this? It’s meant to guide you through that.
Dr, Jessica Kriegel: Yeah, the whole book is a guide. I mean, it really is. I mean, it’s filled with stories, but it takes you through. Here’s step one. Step two, Step three. In creating the perfect story, the circumstances where you would do that, things to think about. You’ve created multiple frameworks to break it down in a really simple way. And I mean, for me, as a keynoter, I tell stories all the time and super helpful, but we coach all of our clients that storytelling is the driver of culture.
Dr, Jessica Kriegel: It’s one of the core tools. And so if you are a leader of a team of any level, right, I mean, you could be a front line manager of a team of three people storytelling is one of your greatest tools in driving intentional culture to get results. So we’re super aligned on that. I mean, I even wondered, did you ever work with Partners in Leadership when you were a DJ?
Karen Eber: I did not know.
Dr, Jessica Kriegel: okay. I was like, I wonder if she did work because we are now culture partners. We rebranded since then and I’m like, I wonder because it’s just so aligned our our work is. So anyway, I ate it up. I love everything you do. So we have reached out to some people who have questions for you. Some of these are your fans I saw callers in.
Dr, Jessica Kriegel: I don’t know what they’re going to ask, so we’re just going to take it from here and leverage your expertise while we want to see you in action. So let’s go to our first caller.
Caller: Hi, my name is Karen Hilton. I am president, CEO and Chief Vision caster for top executive coaching. And rock your vision. I’m based just outside of Atlanta in a little town called Woodstock, one of the top places to live in the country. My specialty is executive coaching, H.R. consulting, and organizational development.
Caller: My question is for Karen Eber, your guest today. I work often with leaders from large organizations, founders, heirs and folks who are accustomed to succeeding and doing well at what they do. What they’re also used to doing is getting stuck in the weeds and one of the things that I’m passionate about is the concept of vision in leadership.
Caller: And as I work with these leaders, one of the most challenging aspects of my work is convincing those same leaders who are really good at what they do. That storytelling can be a really effective part of casting a vision. My belief is that vision is the power play for 21st century leaders, but it’s often a hard sell. So what advice do you have for those leaders who believe that they’re not storytellers, they’re just fill in the blank.
Karen Eber: So fun. Hi, Karen. You know, and
Karen Eber: Very common leaders. Natural Idol is just going and sharing information and it can feel like more work to tell a story. I love to start with the question of do you want to be talked to hot or do you want to have an experience? Because that’s what audiences go through. You can talk at someone with a vision and lay it out, or you can tell it in a way that they are alongside you, experiencing it and feeling like they are a part of it.
Karen Eber: I think the reason leaders are hesitant to tell stories is they don’t know how they see TEDx speaker give this eloquent story and they think that’s not me, but they recognize there are steps to get there. And the most important thing our audiences can do is give us their attention. And so do we want to squander it by talking at them or do we want to bring them into it and give them an experience?
Karen Eber: That’s where I like to start, because once they understand and agree, yes, no, let’s let’s have them be a part of that. Some experiences you can then take them through the steps to tell a story.
Dr, Jessica Kriegel: that’s beautiful. I mean, we talk about the action trap, which is most leaders get stuck in this, okay, we want to achieve X result, you know, $200 million sales. Great. Let’s take a bunch of action to make that result happen. We’re going to hire salespeople. Do we make $200 million? Not yet. Okay. How about we train everyone on a better sales process?
Dr, Jessica Kriegel: Do we make $200 million yet? No. Let’s go back to an action. Let’s, you know, do a bunch of technology implementation, get a new CRM. You know, maybe that’ll get we’ll do a new marketing campaign. And all of that is action focused on a result that is feels like the rat race of chasing business. You know, if you really want to transform people’s behaviors at work, you need to get at the mindset, the beliefs that they hold.
Dr, Jessica Kriegel: And we do that by creating intentional experiences and storytelling, the most powerful tool tool to do that. So I love what you said about it’s really you’re saying, do you want to talk at them, which is just more action trap, or do you want to engage with them in a way that gets them being proactive about taking the action you need them to take instead of having to constantly micromanage the activity?
Dr, Jessica Kriegel: Right.
Karen Eber: I heard a great quote the other day from Dr. Lisa Feldman Barrett, who’s a neuroscientist. She said Emotions are the recipe for action. And if you want to tap into emotion, you need to start with stories.
Dr, Jessica Kriegel: Beautiful. Okay. Let’s take another question from a caller. These are fun, aren’t they?
Karen Eber: They are fun. Yeah. Like it’s like, who’s who?
Dr, Jessica Kriegel: Who’s what’s next? I don’t ever know either. So it’s called Bring me.
Caller: Hi there. I am Jillian Murphy. I am on the prairies and Canada. Although today it snowed, so maybe we are runners up at the North Pole. Not too sure. Anyway, I wrote a book called Modern Day Courage and will be asking questions about the heart and how to use your heart for storytelling. Thank you so much.
Dr, Jessica Kriegel: great. I mean, this is what we were just talking about, So go on. What is the question?
Caller: If either of you want to answer this question, I’m curious about your thoughts. In my book, I wrote six short stories, and it’s about 44 pages. And I was told that I have a way of putting thoughts and feelings into words. I’m just wondering if there is a way or do you think there’s a way to use the heart to put actions words into obviously a story and then to get action from that?
Caller: So again, using your heart to put a story together and then to get action out of that, I’m just wondering if you have any information or any ways to get that done. I would just be curious. I know, Karen, you talk a lot about about data, but I’m just wondering if there was anything that you had on the heart in regards to making a stronger story.
Caller: Thank you so much.
Karen Eber: Absolutely. It does build on what we were just touching about of emotions are the recipe for action. What you want to be thinking of at the onset is what is that feeling or experience you want to give the audience? And I find there’s two places that are particularly helpful to think about as a starting point. So in the book, I talk about these five factory settings of the brain, which is how our brain is going to respond to information or communication and the last to get to a little bit of experience.
Karen Eber: So one is are you trying to help the people listening to the story feel like a member of an in-group, meaning, you know, in groups or groups where we share values and experiences or even aspirations, things we want to be a part of in sales. This is the I’ll have which she’s having. Our groups are where we noticed a difference is that we are in a part of something.
Karen Eber: Charities use this where you hear the story of someone impacted by a natural disaster and they don’t have electricity or food. And you’re listening to this while you’re in electricity and food and you recognize how different your circumstances are. So when you’re telling your story, you have these choices. Am I trying to make the audience feel like a member of the in-group, like feel a belonging in this idea that I’m saying, or am I trying to make them feel different?
Karen Eber: So with organizational change, you want to often tell stories of an outgroup of why we have to make this shift. So if we look at Oracle like why they needed to make the shift to be cloud based and why they couldn’t stay where they were, you want to make people feel like this member of an alt group of like, Yeah, we can’t stay here.
Karen Eber: That doesn’t make sense. Do need to go. We do need to make these these changes. That is a really interesting place to start because it really gets to this feeling of belonging and acceptance and where do I feel like I fit in? Which is of course right at the heart of emotions. The last factory setting is that we seek pleasure and we avoid pain.
Karen Eber: Well, we’ve got all of these neurochemicals that our pleasure neurochemicals are our dopamine or serotonin or oxytocin, which are released in these moments of connection. And they are bonding. The the uncomfortable ones, the pain ones are your norepinephrine, adrenaline and cortisol. And those are released when we need to focus and potentially get out of danger. So when we’re telling stories, these neurochemicals are released depending on the story and how we are interacting with it.
Karen Eber: And you want to be thoughtful of are you telling a feel good story? Are you telling this story about this incredible experience like you could tell that Oracle story and a really feel good way of how people went through this change? Or you could tell it in an uncomfortable way of why they couldn’t, where they were and how do they navigate through this discomfort or both.
Karen Eber: And so I feel like even playing with both of those things of what is that experience that you’re trying to give and how you move people through, It can start to pull people into the experience of the story. Every story has heart because you do want to take people to a different place, whether that’s through knowledge, whether that’s through a decision or action or something.
Karen Eber: They feel and leaning into that is key.
Dr, Jessica Kriegel: Such powerful words. And I’m fascinated because I’ve done a lot of research on Henry Tudge fell in in outgroup dynamics and I’ve never heard about the power of the outgroup. It’s always been we need to make people feel like they’re in the in-group and the outgroup is bad. That’s othering In-Group as belonging, and I’ve been doing a lot of research lately on how to create large scale change of beliefs, and there’s a lot of data out there around cults and how cults leverage the power of group in group dynamics to get people to transform their personal beliefs.
Dr, Jessica Kriegel: When you feel belonging as part of a larger group that becomes sacred, it becomes part of this survival mechanism of the brain that the group will save us. And social death is almost worse than physical death. And so when the beliefs of the group are attacked and you can see this in political polarization, right, Republicans and liberal Democrats, if someone in the group or outside of the group attacks your personal belief, you see this inflamed emotion from people, whatever side it is, because they feel like the group is getting attacked.
Dr, Jessica Kriegel: And therefore that psychological identity that has become part of our own identity feels like it’s getting attacked. It feels like a personal attack. And I get in fights with my boyfriend all the time about things like feminism, for example. We have not necessarily the same views on that all the time, and I feel like he’s attacking me with his beliefs, you know, because the in-group of female has become part of my identity and you are talking about using the power of the outgroup to get someone to want to belong to something that they don’t know.
Dr, Jessica Kriegel: How do you do that without inflaming that fear?
Karen Eber: So think of a job interview. In a job interview you in a commute. If you’re the candidate, you want to communicate, you’re a member of an in-group of a culture addition. So you bring knowledge and experience and things that fit in really nicely to the team in the company, and they can easily see you being a part of that.
Karen Eber: You match their values and you are adding to it in a way that feels like you are complimenting. But you also want to demonstrate you’re a member of an outgroup because you are coming with different experience, you are coming with different knowledge. You’re bringing things that don’t exist, and you want to do that in a way that they recognize.
Karen Eber: This is a complement and not a competition. So you don’t want just a a, you know, I hate the term culture fit because then we’re probably just building more of the exact same, which isn’t the goal. As you are hiring, you want to show where you were similar, but you also want to show where you were different, but how that different benefits them.
Karen Eber: And it’s the same thing when you’re using outgroup to move people to a different spot. You’re showing why it’s different, but want the benefits of that difference is and what that could look like to get there.
Dr, Jessica Kriegel: Well, I just have to dig into one thing that you said. Since you’re a culture consultant to We hate culture fit at culture Partners, that whole idea, I mean, it just allows for unconscious bias to seep into the hiring process. And when people think culture fit, they’re thinking someone I’d want to get a beer with. And most of the time that person looks and talks just like you and has the same background.
Dr, Jessica Kriegel: I mean, all my friends are 40 year old women that are, you know, in my same socioeconomic status. That’s just my world because we look for those similarities. Right. And that’s not how we want to make a decision about who we hired. We we encourage companies to hire for purpose. Fit. What is your personal purpose and how can it be fulfilled by helping us accomplish this organizational purpose?
Dr, Jessica Kriegel: Does Uber consulting Uber Leadership group right and your company? Yeah. Does Uber Leadership Group have a purpose statement or mission outlined yet?
Karen Eber: Yes, I just don’t remember it. It doesn’t like it’s been a long day, I guess, to our brand going on. I do. It’s a variation of building, the building, the people centric leaders, teams and cultures, creating healthy workplaces where people can thrive. But I don’t have this distinct wording of it. But yeah. Okay. Are you there?
Dr, Jessica Kriegel: Work on that for next podcast? Sure.
Karen Eber: Guilty. Guilty. Guilty.
Dr, Jessica Kriegel: Guilty. So here’s the last question that I always love to ask people is what is one question that you haven’t gotten asked on your book tour and these podcasts and the interviews that you do that you really wish someone would ask you so that you can answer it.
Karen Eber: When a storytelling hard for me, I think people think that, you know, you’re a storyteller, you do this. I still struggle. You know, I wrote half of that for myself and the things that I struggle with. I am an introvert that does my best thinking when I’ve had time to process. And so there are times where I’m doing a workshop with a team and I have to like, work on a story on the fly.
Karen Eber: And so the same questions and concerns that everyone has of how do I tell a story in the moment? How do I tell the story that doesn’t ramble? How do I get the right ideas? Like those are are things that I work through too, because I’ve done it a lot. They’ve gotten easier, but when I am tired, it’s very hard to get all of those things in place that aren’t that are really leveraging the factory settings of the brain.
Karen Eber: And so I will have moments where I’m like, Gosh, I’m just seeing the most boring generic thing ever. How do I change that? How do I step back and think and kick things into gear? And so I share that because I struggle with the same things. And it’s about setting the right things in place, giving myself time to work on the story and edit and come back to it and know when it’s not right, even if I don’t have the solution.
Karen Eber: So I can then come back later.
Dr, Jessica Kriegel: Well, and that’s interesting because like you said, you didn’t drive into the storytelling career. You kind of walked into it. You had a TED talk, it went viral. People came knocking on your door saying, Do you want to write a book about this? You had ideas and off you go. Now, being the expert at storytelling and really your expertise was steeped in so much more than that beforehand.
Dr, Jessica Kriegel: Do you feel pressure now to always tell great stories too, because you’re the expert? I mean, is it harder now because you’re the expert?
Karen Eber: I’ll tell you what makes me nervous is, you know, as a part of keynotes, you’re often asked to join a dinner or a meet and greet or something. And then when you accept, they’re like, you’re a storyteller. This is going to be amazing. I’m like, Hold on. I’m an introvert, too. Like, I don’t want to be working the whole room and like, I’m an introvert that isn’t the center of attention, which is very funny because I’ve chosen a career where it’s keynotes.
Karen Eber: But for me, keynotes are very much about bringing ideas to scale and giving people the information they need to be successful. So it is always like the same thing. I think everyone feels, Am I going to be able to come up with that story in the moment I have spent my career in these places where I was a chief learning officer ahead of culture and always trying to persuade people that had budget to make these investments where one person had the ability to say yes and 90 could say no.
Karen Eber: And so that’s where my storytelling chops came from, of how do I use the stories to get people on board and slow the know from all of those people that could stop things that didn’t have the approval to say yes. So in some shape or form, that’s what I rely on. I’ve always been telling stories in the moment to try to connect people to ideas, and I usually get there.
Karen Eber: And when I don’t, I admit like I’m coming up short on a story right now. Let’s see what comes to mind for you. And it ends up being okay.
Dr, Jessica Kriegel: Well, that’s a beautiful way to end it. Thank you for your own vulnerability and sharing this conversation with me and allowing me to put you on the spot. Get some free coaching from Karen Eber. That’s fantastic for me. I’m going to implement that in my next keynote next week. Right away, I’m going to start the Sean Price story with this leader stood in front of a room full of 2000 people and said, In two years, your job won’t exist here.
Dr, Jessica Kriegel: Mike. Drop, pause, turn. You have all of these body language and tonality and pause suggestions in your book as well on how to deliver a great keynote and deliver a great story in person. So I’m going to take all those tips and make them mine.
Karen Eber: Take that one step further. When you say that, then take it to the audience and say like, Can you imagine being told that? Can you imagine what that would feel like? You know, any time you are talking to them as you and having them put their head into that, it gives them the moment to invite them into it or say it for sure and then make sure they really feel it before you then go into it, because then it’ll be like, yeah, that’s scary.
Karen Eber: What do you do?
Dr, Jessica Kriegel: That’s the emotion part of it, right? Yeah. Wonderful. Well, thank you so much for your time. It was an absolute pleasure. I’m such a fan. Everyone should absolutely get your book. Tell us, is there where can people learn more about you, about your business, or just get more information about you? The amazing future, things that you will be doing for the world?
Karen Eber: My website is the best place. It’s my name, KKR and eBay.com, the books there, there’s all sorts of different storytelling articles and tools. If you want to dig in and and poke around on being a better storyteller, you can get started today.
Dr, Jessica Kriegel: And I joined your newsletter, Brain Food.
Karen Eber: Right now.
Dr, Jessica Kriegel: I’m so excited. I can’t wait. It’s wonderful. Thank you so much. It was a pleasure chatting with you.
Karen Eber: Likewise.