I was in the UK all last week. I met Inspectors, Sales Force, Scientists, Partners, Colleagues, Lobbyists, and Friends. By telephone, in person and via video conference. I worked, socialised, worked out, drank coffee and walked.
I listened. Asked questions. Thought. Suggested. Laughed. And thanked. I told stories…and I used quotes. I even combined stories with quotes.
My first most influential boss once told me that stories are a powerful way of communicating. In truth, we sat in his office and he told me about how his first most powerful boss once sat him down over a cup of coffee, and told him about the moment he had first realised the power of stories as a way of communicating. I still tell that story…
Stories work because we relate to them, and are interested in them; we remember them and above all respond to them. They move us to engage and move us to action. Stories become the basis of conversations, discussion and anecdotes. They allow us to connect with each other. We learn. And in turn we communicate and share. Laugh and amaze. Listen and influence.
I tell stories all the time. About people I know, I meet, I like and I love. Most of my stories are personal – they nearly always involve me as a character or as an observer…but I always attribute the insight of the story to the original storyteller…
I also remember and recount good quotes. A good quote has relevance and resonance. Short, provocative and memorable. And I like to name names – the person who first said the words, or if not…whoever first gave me the quote.
My second most influential boss sat with me during a coffee break at one of my first large, scary, global off-site meetings (in Cambridge) and said…the power position is to influence strategy and to own implementation. ‘Absolutely right’ I agreed. ‘No’ she replied. ‘Give yourself time to think about it and what it means.’ That was some seventeen years ago. I am still thinking.
Power position is to influence strategy and to own implementation’. Well it has to be right. There’s no way ‘owning strategy’ could be the position of power. Is there? After all, most strategy is nothing more than a handful of PowerPoint slides.
And yet it is amazing the extent to which our actions suggest that owning strategy is key. No matter how brilliant our slide sets or documents on strategy may be, strategy can only have impact, can only deliver value, can only be full or power…when we implement…and moreover when we implement successfully.
But there is more to this quote. To own implementation without any influence on strategy is important but, in itself, is also not enough. It misses out on value – and yes – power…power to influence and to improve.
It is only when we implement that we experience – and create – the reality. Implementation occasionally takes place exactly as planned. (Very occasionally). No matter how much planning and foresight we may believe we have, it is only when we implement that events occur. Unintended or unexpected. Better than predicted or worse. Delightful…or delaying.
It is only by implementation that we learn. We learn what to do more of, or to do differently. What to stop even. The cycle of influence of strategy (what we are trying to do) by those owning implementation (doing it) is as essential to ultimate success as it is exciting and satisfying.
And my last learning about this quote is that it is nothing to do with power of control. It is everything to do with power of capability…power of opportunity.