Saturday, December 17, 2011

Haiku competition

Win I of 10 lifetime memberships to corporate narrative resources.
Submit a haiku about a moment, feeling, event, yourself via Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, Blog or email. Closing date 31st January 2012. Use a 5-7-5 syllable rhythm, for example:

Brown mimosa seed
Where blossoms once invited
Hummingbirds to feed
(Ethel Freeman)

One magnolia
Landed upon another
In the dew-wet grass
(Richard Wright)

Road from Banbury
A man spilled from his crushed car
Dead eyes full of rain
(Jane K. Lambert)

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

'Tis the season for giving

’Tis the Season to be Grateful and Giving

Even after all this time
The sun never says to the earth,
"You owe Me".
Look what happens with
A love like that,
It lights the Whole Sky. (Hafiz)


From the moment of birth, we are given the gift of life and breath - before we learn to give. In the poem that prefaces this letter, the Persian poet, Shamseddin Mohammad (circa 1300’s), better known Hafiz (a title given to those who had memorized the Koran by heart) reminds us of the generosity of the sun that makes all life on our planet possible.

So it is gratitude that perhaps begins our cycle of giving. The Roman poet, Cicero, reminds us. “Gratitude is not only the greatest of virtues, but the parent of all others”. Throughout the centuries, mystics and writers have echoed these sentiments - Meister Eckhart: "If the only prayer you say in your life is ‘thank you’, that would suffice" while Marcel Proust advises, "Let us be grateful to people who make us happy; they are the charming gardeners who make our souls blossom".


Gift giving and/or the exchange of gifts, beats at the heart of all cultures. Within different faiths there are seasons of giving, often tied to the natural cycles with its gifts of fruit, grain. World cultures have much to teach us about gifts. In ancient Greece and Pagan traditions gifts or offerings were tied to trees when pilgrims asked for blessings. Within the Christian tradition wise men at Christmas bring frankincense, gold and myrrh with their symbolic meanings.
In Hindu culture, giving and accepting things from one to another, or presenting offerings to the Deity, is done with both hands. With the gift, prana (meaning ‘vital life force’) is also given through both hands, endowing more energy to the object. The recipient also receives the gift with both hands along with the prana from the gracious giver. This exchange of energies elevates the gift.

In parts of Africa gifts are often offered in one hand while the other hand rests on the giving hand. Unlike the Greek Trojan horse, the giver has no concealed weapon or motive.

Within Judaism there are eight levels of charity. A Jewish sage, Rambam, organized the different levels of tzedakah (charity) into a list from the least to the most worthy:

8. giving grudgingly.
7. giving less than we should, but done cheerfully.
6. giving directly to the poor when asked.
5. giving directly to the poor without being asked.

4. the receiver knows the donor's identity, but the donor does not know the recipient’s identity
3. the donor is aware of who receives the gift, but the recipient is unaware of the source
2. the donor and recipient are unknown to each other.
1. offering the gift to a person before they become impoverished (teaching someone to fish)

The Gift of Story

Stories surely feature as among the richest gifts we can offer each other. In Morocco when the market folk gather round the story-teller, they cup their hands in order to receive the gift. In O. Henry’s short story The Gift of the Magi, a poor young married couple buy secret Christmas gifts for each other. Della, the wife, sells her long, beautiful hair to a wig maker so she can buy Jim, her husband, a chain for his pocket watch – an heirloom. Meanwhile, Jim sells the watch to buy Della a tortoiseshell -jewelled set of combs. Although the gifts they chose cannot be used, both Della and Jim understand that their gifts symbolise their eternal love.

The Jungian psychoanalyst, Clarissa Pinkola Est├ęs known as a cantadora, or keeper of the stories, adapted this story in the collection The Gift of Story: A Wise Tale About What is Enough. She writers "Stories that instruct, renew, and heal provide a vital nourishment to the psyche that cannot be obtained in any other way".

Once in one of our workshops one December, a father held up an ordinary exercise book and shared a story: “A year ago my daughter gave me this book filled with blank pages. She told me ‘I want it back next Christmas filled with your life stories.’ Here they are. I’m giving the book back to her this Christmas”.

Passing Through

Gratitude and giving also speak to the way we regard our possessions and how to hold them lightly.

A story:

A tourist visits the home of a priest in a remote village .He notices that man has
only one bed, one table and one chair. He asks, “Where is your furniture?”
The priest responds, “Where is yours?”
The tourist surprised answers, “I’m only passing through”.
The priest nods, “So am I”.

This amplifies Estes’s theme of ‘enough’.

Perhaps it is this quality that echoes in these lines from Passing Through, by American poet Stanley Kunitz:

nothing is truly mine
except my name. I only
borrowed this dust.

Such giving echoes Khalil Gibran’s words, “You give but little when you give of your possessions. It is when you give of yourself that you truly give….. give now, that the season of giving may be ours and not your inheritors”.

Perhaps we can cease grasping and let go, give more. In the process we also are able to receive. There is a Buddhist saying that a bird cannot fly unless it is closing and opening its wings.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Future corporate story trends - A Storied Career interview

Q&A with Two Story Gurus: Graham Williams and Dorian Haarhoff: The Story Net Will Spread Wider and Deeper
By Katharine on October 20, 2011 Comments (0)

See a photo of Graham and Dorian, their bios, Part 1 of this Q&A, Part 2, and Part 3.


Q&A with Graham Williams and Dorian Haarhoff, Question 4:

Q: What future trends or directions do you see for corporate storytelling? What would you like to do in the emerging story world that you haven’t yet done?

To lapse into linear time for a moment, we expect that the storytelling movement will continue to grow exponentially, that cross-country and cross-culture collaboration will increase.
To different degrees, corporations are already deriving the benefits of using story to present their corporate history and values, inspire employees, enliven training, formulate scenarios, engage and emotionally connect with customers through depth marketing, elicit metaphors, sell products and services, co-create marketing launches, capture knowledge-management information and wisdom, build community and internal relationships, harness diversity, build social and emotional intelligence, develop mindfulness and imagination for innovation…………..This story net will spread wider and deeper. And more and more educational institutions will offer storytelling and story-listening programmes.
As the movement grows we predict calls for professional standards, controls, and conformance. In a sense, this is disturbing because story demands freedom and should be driven by personal ethics.
As to what we would like to do — fewer “quick fixes” in the form of workshops and limited coaching and mentoring — and more depth interventions that lead to the instilling of a sound corporate story culture and practices.


Tuesday, September 13, 2011

The Orchestra as a Metaphor for Business

Michael Hankinson, formerly Conductor Laureate & Composer-in-Residence - The Johannesburg Philharmonic Orchestra, and Guest Conductor - Cape Town City Ballet & St. Petersburg City Ballet.

The Orchestra as a business
The job of orchestral conductor has sometimes been described as “the last outpost of total dictatorship” - which might have been true for some conductors in the 19th and early 20th century. With the rise of unions and self-governing orchestras it’s certainly not applicable today.

Today's conductor has to fulfill a much wider role in the running of an orchestra, one that is not only musical but often political, financial and managerial as well. With many orchestras running at a loss the financial constraints on programming, choice of soloists and amount of rehearsal time available, all become a key factor in the overall planning of schedules and budgets.

In many orchestras the conductor also holds the post of music director, which means he has overall responsibility for all aspects of the running of the orchestra. The conductor is held responsible for the success both financial and artistic of the work of the orchestra.

The similarities between the role of conductor and of the CEO of any company are thus apparent. In both cases results are everything. Judgment by a board of directors, shareholders and stakeholders can be harsh and swift if these results are not satisfactory. Public support or the lack thereof can lead to the disbandment of an orchestra just as easily as it can lead to the closure of a business.

I am often asked “what does a conductor actually do, and does anybody actually take any notice of him whilst playing?” Well the answer is that most of a conductor's work is done either before rehearsals begin or during the rehearsals. This is when the conductor transmits his ideas and overall vision for the interpretation of the music to the orchestra.

Key to the success of the conductors’ role is the ability to lead, inspire and build a team with a common goal, one that must be clear in the leaders’ head before he begins.
He has the musical score as his map of the journey ahead (the business plan). This may or may not contain detailed information on how he has to carry out his task - or it may require further research and study before he can envisage a successful end result (the product).

Having reached a decision on what he wants the performance to achieve (vision, outcome), he must then communicate this to the musicians who will look to him for leadership.

In order to lead well and achieve the vision, he must win the trust of the musicians. He must show that he has a thorough knowledge of the score, any historical performance practices that need to be considered, the abilities of his players to deliver what he demands (competence, accountability), and an ability to plan his rehearsal sessions in a way that all problems have been addressed and resolved before the actual performance. Sir Thomas Beecham to an orchestral player who had lost his place in the music: "We cannot expect you to be with us all the time, but perhaps you would be good enough to keep in touch now and again."

Time cannot be wasted on unnecessary talking or over - rehearsing sections of music that don’t need attention (focus).

The process of preparing a concert can take anything from three hours to three days – depending on the standard of the orchestra and the difficulty of the repertoire selected. My recent work with a top London orchestra had a schedule that meant I met the orchestra for the first time at 2.30 pm, rehearsed for three hours until 5.30 (with a twenty minute tea break) - and then presented a full concert programme at 7.30pm. All this with three opera soloists, a concert pianist and a full opera chorus – that's pressure!

Head, heart and hands work in unison to meet the challenge.

Teams/ Departments
An orchestra consists of several separate teams called sections. These comprise the strings, the woodwinds, the brass and the percussion with some additional players added such as the harp.

The string section is subdivided into first and second violins – usually about ten players in each sitting in pairs - the violas, the cellos and the doubles basses. A large symphony orchestra will have anything up to 45 string players. (Why the phrase “playing second fiddle” is used as a term of disparagement I don't know, because the first and second violins often have parts of equal importance).

The other sections of the orchestra are more settled in format – usually three trumpets, three trombones, one tuba in the brass section, four French horns (who provide a link between the brass and the woodwind), two each of flute, oboe, clarinet and bassoon forming the woodwinds and then percussion consisting of timpani (kettle drums) and various assorted percussion instruments, some playing pitched notes and others just interesting sounds such as the triangle or the cymbals.

The overall authority over the orchestra starts with the conductor followed by the leader of the orchestra, always the first player of the first violins who sits to the conductors' left, and after that each of the other sections has a principal player (each of whom, being more senior, is paid more than the others – sound familiar?). Diverse musicians and roles, contributed talents, shared accountability are needed to achieve the overall purpose. Teamwork between the various sections is essential to success. The parts make up the whole but the whole is greater than the parts.

Here the conductor’s clarity of vision and ability to transmit it to the players is essential. As is his ability to persuade them that his concepts are valid and will bring credit to the orchestra through an outstanding performance. These are the attributes which will determine the success of the performance. Of course, once all the music has been thoroughly rehearsed the orchestra is confident and the conductor will have a lot less to do. By the time of the performance the interpretation will be set and agreed on by all concerned.

During the course of a concert there will be long sections of the music during which it will “look after itself” – that is until a new section or new tempo occurs – then the conductor must take charge and provide the leadership and guidance necessary for a smooth transition. When there is a deviation from the plan or things go wrong, the conductor’s split - second decision making is the difference between success and disaster.

In both rehearsal and performance there is a continual two-way communication between conductor and orchestra. When there is a concerto with a soloist such as a pianist or violinist, then there’s a third variable to be factored into the performance equation. In this case the conductor must lead the orchestra whilst following the soloist, with “give and take” from all three parties. Within limits of course! Of a soprano in a Wagner opera, Sir Thomas Beecham said that her singing reminded him “of a cart coming downhill with the brakes on”.
(In a ballet the conductor must also watch the dancer to provide a supportive musical accompaniment to the movement)

During all this the conductor is monitoring the quality of what is going on around him musically, constantly adjusting to the situation and collecting data from the musicians and the sounds around him and providing rapid feedback to the players.

Conductor Fritz Reiner summoned a cellist to his room after a concert because he had come in at the wrong place - too early. Reiner fired him on the spot.
The cellist begged for his job saying "It was only a tiny mistake".
“It's not the fact that you came in incorrectly” said Reiner, “anybody can do that. No, it's your playing. None of us had ever heard you play before”.

Successful Service Delivery
Passionate and competent leadership, teamwork, preparation and rehearsal, focus and nimbleness during execution result in the delivery of a performance that will inspire and satisfy the audience (the clients).

The similarities between an orchestra and a company go deep.

I wonder:

• How many CEO’s listen with the same degree of attention – to their clients or to their employees - and how many provide the sort of feedback – almost instantaneous, and absolutely clear - that a conductor must provide in order to lead his orchestra successfully?
• How many CEO’s have a totally clear and committed vision for their company that can be communicated to and shared by staff members and clients?
• And how many translate, execute, and consistently put into practice that which is needed to deliver the results necessary for sustainable and profitability?

Michael Hankinson is available to conduct a team-building event for your staff – a half-day spent with an orchestra and an exploration of the deep metaphor associated with ‘the business as orchestra.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Conversation Starters for Toast Masters, Public Speakers, Trainers, Facilitators...

A thought provoking slideshow/ powerpoint presentation on connecting through travel, connecting through story, connecting through conversation, connecting through metaphor, connecting across boundaries...

Video on Storytelling for Trainers

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Workshop Comments

"Bragging rights", comments from our most recent workshop:

  • Fantastic presenters

  • Great learning experience - so different from normal corporate initiatives

  • Even our normally negative people reacted positively

  • This was insightful and mind opening - from both a personal and professional viewpoint

  • Extremely engaging. You ignited our creativity and learning

  • Keep doing what you do - great stuff!

Chain Reaction of Innovation

It's been a real pleasure workshopping and working with 3Mers. Their respomsiveness, curiosity and creative thinking has been stimulating - as we carry out the task of listening, writing and telling stories that lead to an emotional connection with customers and colleagues.

Would that more companies see the immense added value and many side benefits that arise out of this sort of activity!

Monday, August 1, 2011

Sharing the 3M brand stories

This month we are working with 3M, workshopping to create chain-reaction innovation brand stories. To find out how you can create brand stories that work for your organisation, contact

Management Today Access

The access code for the digital version of your free Management Today appears in our latest newsletter.
If you wish to receive this newsletter, ask

Friday, July 15, 2011

STOP PRESS - Valuable freebie for members

Management Today, the monthly journal of executive learning, information and knowledge, has gone digital. Each issue is US$5-60.

Because of our arrangement to supply the journal with business story articles each month, Halo and Noose members will receive a free monthly link to the latest Management Today - yet another membership benefit. This latest benefit alone pays back the lifetime membership investment in less than 3 months!

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Halo and Noose contributes to ManagementToday Journal

Stop Press!
Watch out for Halo & the Noose Articles, on Storytelling in Business, in forthcoming issues of Management Today (The Journal of Executive Learning, Information & Knowledge).

Our first article published in Issue 3 June 2011 poses and then begins to answer the question: “Can traditional scenario planning take account of unexpected, catastrophic events?
After considering the role and usefulness of scenario planning in business, the article looks at the recent entry of ‘black swan’ events and how we can mature the scenario process in order to formulate more nimble, robust strategies in an increasingly uncertain and tumultuous world – without becoming bogged down in overly-intellectual systems-thinking (whether ordered, chaotic, constrained, complex).

If this sort of business story appeals to you, don't delay but becom a member of the Halo and the Noose at to get access to a range of articles, diagnostic tools, newsletters, audio streams and more.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Motive for story telling in business?

I'm contemplating writing an article on WHY stories should be used in business. It seems that all too often the MOTIVE is as propaganda or in order to 'win' something by manipulating - for example to convince, persuade, gain sympathy, motivate towards a pre-determined goal, impress........ Maybe this is sometimes valid but not as the primary role of story? Too seldom, it seems, is story used to connect, share, convey information, knowledge, insight? What do you think?

Thursday, May 26, 2011

A wide-awake firm focused on using stories......

A wide-awake, focused firm that uses stories to galvanise organisations, meet learning, communication and development needs:

Their web site is well worth visiting. go to:

Saturday, May 7, 2011


The editor of Management Today has requested that we contribute regularly, saying: "I....really like your approach to management training and consulting..."

Saturday, April 30, 2011

Content of Story Web Site

You can now view descriptions of all articles, audio streams, diagnostics and newsletters on

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Magic of Story in Everyday Life

On 28th May I am presenting a one-day workshop on when and how to tell what story. See home page for further details

Monday, March 28, 2011

Retreat on Christ & the Buddha

After reading the Christ & the Buddha article, Louis van Loon, who established and oversees the Buddhist retreat Centre in Ixopo, Kwa- Zulu, has invited us to run a weekend retreat on the subject. This will take place towards the end of 2011

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Christ and the Buddha

A soon to be released discussion-trigger article examines inherent paradigms, paradoxes, potentials suggested by the picture story of the Buddha meeting Christ. Should you wish to receive a copy email
Other upcoming articles in the pipeline for members cover Donkey Tales, Midrash, Myths. Free forthcoming newsletters to subscribers include the subjects of Little Red Riding Hood, Conversations. Utube posts to be released soon: Story Skills for Trainers, A Model for Business Innovation

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

A luxury hotel in KwaZulu, Natal has advertised to recruit a Story Teller to interact with international guests and tell stories about local legends, events, happenings. Start of a trend?

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Growing fast.......... resource website now boasts members from Afghanistan, Australia, Benin, South Africa, UK, USA, Netherlands............. Over 250 stories...........3 articles posted to archive every month......................2 'monthly' newsletters with stories posted per month
Visit to sign up for a free subscription to the newsletter

Little Red Riding Hood

In this month's newsletter, available free to subscribers to The Halo and the Noose, Clinical Psychologist Debbie Howes shares how she uses this well known story in a therapeutic setting

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Design for Living

A design for living workshop, based on accessing the hero within, is being run from 14th to 17th April 2011 at the Buddhist Retreat Centre, Ixopo, Natal, South Africa - by Graham Williams and Peter Fox (Spiritual Counsellor at St Luke's Hospice). Visit to register

Linked-In Business Story Group

A conversation, exchange of ideas blog for business story tellers has been started. Interested? Go to

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Leveraging halo effects

Our upcoming newsletter for all subscribers deals with halo effects - very useful for during job interviews, increasing your standing with colleagues, friends, strangers and for enhancing product ranges and brands

Friday, February 4, 2011

The King's Speech

In their review of The King's Speech, Ragan Communications point out 5 communication lessons well worth noting. Go to

Monday, January 10, 2011

Crmxchange - Of Saxophones, Robots and Waiting Lines: using story to build customer service superiority

Crmxchange - Of Saxophones, Robots and Waiting Lines: using story to build customer service superiority

Raise your Story IQ

Perched on a ridge at the head of a valey in the Umkomaas River system in KwaZulu-Natal, the Buddhist Retreat Centre looks out on a vista of indiginous valeys, forests and rolling hills receding like waves in the blue distance. Here for more than 20 years people of all religions have come to experience peace and tranquility. It is a gentle, sympathetic space where one can be still and get in touch with oneself and reflect on the things that crowd one's life.
Here from 11th to 13th February we are holding a Story IQ Retreat. At the heart of this retreat is our belief that once we raise our Story IQ we begin to hear and tell our work and personal life in a new and vital way. We open up to transformation and new leadership paths. Like the lotus flower we bloom and seed new beginnings simultaneously. We reach into what may be murky depths and produce something of infinite beauty and worth. In so doing prosperity and abundance take on new meanings. Cost = Accommodation plus R250. Visit for details and booking

Friday, January 7, 2011

A trilogy of articles for 2011 and beyond

A fully mindful approach to work, together with the release of imaginative powers is a recipe for continual innovation and improvement in performance. Read these 3 articles:

  • An introduction to DEEPER MINDFULNESS

  • The light bulb: mindfulness plus IMAGINATION

  • Mindfulness, mindset, meaning & 'magination - CORPORATE INTERVENTIONS