More About Lead with a Story

For readers interested in the new book by this week’s Q and A subject Paul Smith, here’s a press release from the publisher. I got a copy of the book myself yesterday, but since I’m not very good at following through with book reviews (slow reader), I’m providing this background:

From Armstrong International to National Car Rental to Dollar General, successful companies in every sector have embraced the ancient art of storytelling. At Nike, all senior executives are designated “corporate storytellers.” 3M has its own process for writing “strategic narratives.” Kimberly-Clark holds seminars to teach its 13-step program for constructing stories and structuring presentations using them. And Procter & Gamble has hired Hollywood movie directors to teach its top executives storytelling techniques.

Clearly, storytelling has retaken its rightful place in the business world as a powerful leadership tool. Want a happy ending? Anyone with the motivation can learn how to tell stories that touch, teach, and motivate a department, team, or employee. In LEAD WITH A STORY: A Guide to Crafting Business Narratives that Captivate, Convince, and Inspire (AMACOM 2012) Paul Smith demonstrates how to effectively use stories for a wide range of leadership challenges — 21 of the toughest, to be precise. Drawing on his experience as a corporate storyteller and leadership trainer, Smith not only helps leaders at all levels tell other people’s stories with confidence and impact, but also offers thorough and practical advice to get them started on writing engaging, instructive, and impactful stories of their own.

Based on exclusive interviews with executives at dozens of companies around the world, LEAD WITH A STORY presents more than 100 short but powerful stories the reader can use to:

  • Set goals and build commitment. Discover two different stories–one about a campaign staffer for a losing state congressional candidate, the other about a heavyweight fighter turned fiercely competitive financial adviser–that vividly illustrate the payoff of specific, measurable, daily goals and unambiguous criteria.
  • Define customer service success and failure. Learn a surprising lesson about the value of storytelling as well as exceptional customer care from the heartwarming story of a special meatball sandwich that Pizza Hut delivered to a dying man, thanks to an accommodating cook, but neglected to write down and share with its employees.
  • Inspire innovation. Demonstrate out-of-the-box solutions to problems with the story of how an Arkansas pediatrician’s patient strategy served as a model for increasing the speed of a fledgling shopper marketing business, now known as Saatchi & Saatchi-X.
  • Empower others. Give people permission to follow their instincts with the story of a CEO who rehired an employee he had fired and gained not only a loyal worker but a future member of his leadership team–at another company…and much more.

Interspersed throughout the chapters on tackling leadership challenges — and stories about companies from Merrill-Lynch to Pizza Hut, from Kellogg’s to Dun & Bradstreet — readers will find lessons on story-writing. Starting with a simple structure for a good business story, the “how-to” chapters cover six elements essential for turning a good story into a great one: metaphors, emotion, realism, surprise, style, and, last but far from least, how to recast your audience into the story.

“Experience is the best teacher. A compelling story is a close second,” Smith declares. Filled with ready-tell-stories waiting to be retold and packed with inspiration–plus a winning formula, complimented by helpful tips and templates — for creating original stories, LEAD WITH A STORY leads the way to becoming a master business storyteller.


Paul Smith is director of Consumer & Communications Research at The Procter & Gamble Company and a highly rated leadership and communications trainer for P&G’s management training colleges. He is also a lecturer on leadership and storytelling at Xavier University and a popular keynote speaker. Smith holds an M.B.A. from The Wharton School of Business at the University of Pennsylvania. He lives in a suburb of Cincinnati, Ohio, with his wife and two sons. For more information on the author go to