LIMITED SUMMIT SERIES: The Power of Storytelling with Francisco Mahfuz

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Francisco Mahfuz

A good story can change an opinion, can change a vote… it can change the way we see the world and our place in it. But stories also play a powerful role in our working lives. Businesses and organizations can rise or fall based on the stories they tell their employees, their customers, their partners, and the public. Leaders who value storytelling – who eschew boring, artificial corporate jargon in favor of active, intentional, engaging communication – can do more than just hold an entertaining meeting. They can close deals, inspire teams, and transform their organizations in powerful, lasting ways.

Don’t believe us? That’s OK. Because today we sit down with Francisco Mahfuz, a national champion public speaker and one of the most sought-after storytellers and organizational coaches you can find anywhere in the world. And he can be pretty convincing. Learn more about Francisco here.

*This podcast was recorded LIVE on LinkedIn. Follow us for future live interviews here.

Find our Online Improve Cards here.

Key Points

  • The importance of storytelling
  • The relevance of storytelling in a change project
  • Why being authentic and vulnerable leads to better stories and better business outcomes
  • Practical tips for developing your storytelling powers

Have you ever pondered the following questions?

  • How do we give people and their happiness the attention they deserve in our organizations and transformations?
  • How do we enable change for people and not push change on people?
  • How do we create the culture and environment we need for people to express themselves?

Of course, you have! That’s why you listen to our podcast. But while podcasts are a one-way street, our Forward Summits are all about interactions.

Anna Löw will present a case study on their move to a 32 hours work week, the pitfalls, and their successes.

So come and join the conversation at our upcoming summit: HAPPINESS AS THE ‘WHY’ IN AGILE TRANSFORMATION, held in Berlin, Germany, and Online from 30 November – 2 December 2022,

You’ll get to hear from our kick-ass keynote speakers Sunny Grosso; Svenja Hofert; Debra Corey; and Fransisco Mahfuz. Take part in our practice, case study, open, and global networking sessions in Berlin and online!

Go to our designated Forward Summit Website for more info and tickets.


*Please note that the transcript has been automatically generated and proofread for mistakes. But remains in spoken English, and some syntax and grammar mistakes might remain.

Elisa Tuijnder: [00:00:00] As a podcast host speaking to you, a podcast listener, I don’t need to explain the power of storytelling. A good story can change an opinion, can change a vote, it can change the way we see the world and our place in it, but stories also play a powerful role in our working lives. Businesses and organizations can rise or fall based on the stories they tell their employees, their customers, their partners, and the public. Leaders who value storytelling, who eskew boring, artificial corporate jargon in favor of active, intentional, engaging communication can do more than just hold an entertaining meeting.

They can close deals, inspire teams and transform their organization’s in powerful, [00:01:00] lasting ways. Don’t believe me? That’s okay. Because today we share our recent LinkedIn live chat with a national champion public speaker, and one of the most sought after storytellers and organizational coaches you can find anywhere in the world.

And he can be pretty convincing.

Before we dive in, you are listening to a limited series by The Happiness at Work podcast by Management 3.0 where we are getting serious about happiness.

We are currently in the run up to our Forward Flagship Summit. Which will be held from 30 November to two December live in Berlin and from your computer screens. This year is all about Happiness as the why in agile transformations. In this limited series, we’ll be speaking to partners, [00:02:00] conference speakers, and those with ultimate know-how about happiness in agile transformations, we’ll be publishing regular in the run up to the summit, so make sure to subscribe so you won’t miss a beat.

And do keep listening for a special promo code for our podcast enthusiasts thinking about joining our summit.

Nadine Koehler: Let’s get this started. Hello and welcome to this experimental podcast recording during a LinkedIn live session. This is the first time we are doing this. We are curious ourselves on how it would go. My name is Nadine, I’m the one who built this LinkedIn account of Management 3.0. I am responsible for the global marketing as well as the coursework coordination.

And with me today are Elisa, our conference organizer. Who will speak about Forward the conference in a bit, and Francisco, he’s a storyteller and also a keynote [00:03:00] speaker. But again, more about this later. This is an experiment for us and yeah, we would like to invite you to co-create this with us. So if you have questions for Francisco as well, then drop them in the chat.

I will make sure that they somehow reach Elisa. Let’s see how this goes. And without much more at all. I would hand over to you, Elisa. 

Elisa Tuijnder: Thanks, Nadine. We’ll see you at the end again. Before we dive into the questions that we normally do, I’m gonna choose some introductions because you know who is Francisco Mafuz is who we’ve asked here to come, except for the fact that he’s a keynote speaker for us at the Forward Flagship Summit.

So he’s a keynote speaker, storytelling coach, trusted by global organizations to inspire teams and individuals to communicate more effectively through intentional storytelling. He’s also a former national champion of public speaking, so we’ll have to hear a little bit more about that. And he’s also the host of the Story Powers podcast.[00:04:00] 

He wrote a book called Bare, A Guide to Brutally Honest Public Speaking, and that’s already impressive CV Francisco. So thank you so much for joining 

Francisco Mahfuz: us. You’re welcome. I am glad you are impressed. With that much, my, my family and friends don’t seem anywhere near as impressed by that severe

Elisa Tuijnder: Good. That I saw your credentials as counting . We’ll we’ll dive into this, your work in, into a little bit. But for those that know, or for those that don’t know, we always start the podcast with the same question, and that is, what does happiness mean to you? And feel free to put in the chat as well what happiness means to you.

Francisco Mahfuz: I probably have some deeply philosophical answers to that question, but in general I tend to think of happiness [00:05:00] as not being bored. And again, this is not an over encompassing answer but I tend to feel that it’s pretty much impossible to be happy if you are not paying attention to things, you’re not engaged to things if you don’t particularly care about the things that you’re doing.

If you, if a lot of what you are up to feels like, things you have to do and not things you feel you need or want to do. And I think that those all happen, not just necessarily because you’re bored, but if you are bored, all of those things are true. And I tend to find that even when I’m doing things that are very difficult or things that might not necessarily be pleasant on, every moment. But I’m never bored when I’m doing them because I understand I’ve got, there’s some type of purpose behind it. So that’s generally what [00:06:00] I mean. But what I think about when I think about a happy life is a life where you’re never really bored. 

Elisa Tuijnder: good. Yeah.

I I aspire to that as well, to never being bored, although sometimes being a little bored . And just having a relaxing time can also be good for our happiness. Hey, so you’ve built a career on not only telling stories but helping others harness the power of storytelling and in their own life.

To start off, you have to tell us how you got into this. How did you wake up one day and think, Hey, this is where I’m gonna head this is my career path. So yeah. Give it to me. How did you end up 

Francisco Mahfuz: here? So there’s lots of different points in the story that I, I could start from, but I think that, The very beginning was probably when I was I was 12 years old and I was in seventh grade, I think.

And then my teacher said Francisco, please come up here and [00:07:00] tell a story to the whole class. And understandably I was terrified. Then I looked around my classmates and half of them were terrified for me. The other half looked like they were pretty excited to see me crash and burn because I was never really like a popular kid.

 And I went to this fancy private school, but my family didn’t really have that much money. So I was usually very different than the other kids. And at that age, being different is not a good thing. But as I was walking up to the front of the classroom to tell the story. I started getting a little excited as well because I had one of this sort of stupid kid thoughts of, what if this changes everything?

What if they really like my story? And actually that’s what happened. And I got up there and I told the story and they laughed and they cheered and they asked for more. And at that moment, I felt like the most popular kid in that school. And I think that was the first time I really [00:08:00] understood or felt about the power of stories.

Now, I would like to say that I never stopped, understood about stories, and that was the beginning of everything. It wasn’t I completely forgot about it when the bell rang, so I had to come back to it much later in life. As I was doing my own insightful investigation about trying to figure out when it started.

I think that’s the moment that to me looking back was like, Okay, this is when I really felt it for the first time. Yeah. Yeah. And 

Elisa Tuijnder: so at some point that kind of clicked in business because that was also, the power of it personally. But is there also a story linked to when you saw it the first time in a business context?

Francisco Mahfuz: So what, what typically happens. Because I got into public speaking a long time ago, and I was one of those weird people that took part in competitions, , [00:09:00] and yeah, you gotta 

Elisa Tuijnder: tell us about this. 

Francisco Mahfuz: Yeah. And every time I had any type of competition or presentation, I always did. What I think a lot of people do, which is you spend a lot of time in it and you prepare and you worry about it and all those things.

And there was this one particular competition. It was meant to be like a humorous competition. And I had what I thought was the perfect speech and I had prepared it and I had practiced and I made it that, and I was really confident. And a couple of days before they told me, Oh just to remind everyone, you only have five minutes, and I had prepared a much longer presentation than that, and I was like, I’m gonna have to bail. There’s no way I can do this. But then I thought, what could I do instead? That would only be five minutes. And then I thought of a story. I thought of the story when I went to Tuscany with my wife and she lost her keys and it was all funny.

And I was like, I’m just gonna figure out what the point of the story is and I’ll tell the story or share the point and that’ll be it. And if that’s funny, [00:10:00] great. If it’s not. And I went up there and I shared that story and everybody laughed and it was great and I had a great time and I actually won the competition.

And I thought, congrats. This is just crazy, right? Like I spent almost no time preparing this thing. It was very easy to present it. I think people enjoyed it much more than the normal stuff I do and I have to present. And it was, the easiest thing I’ve ever done. When I got, I had to present in front of other people and I just felt a bit like Neo in the Matrix, and got the pipe in his head and they’re uploading all the martial arts stuff and he opens his eyes and says, I know Kungfu.

And that’s kind how I felt like I just figured this out. That storytelling is communication. Kung fu. And I started trying that at work. Just the other stuff I was doing. And I was like what if, instead of just all this preparation, I just found the story to [00:11:00] share this point I’m trying to make.

And that started working and then I started trying to, when I helped people did the presentations. Cause I had a team of people I said okay. Is there a client story you can share here? And then it’s, I realized that, this actually works. So that I think was the more business related version of me remembering that storytelling is actually the thing to be doing.

Elisa Tuijnder: Yeah, absolutely. So is that what you also call intentional storytelling? For me, for those people listening now and later, what is intentional storytelling? What does it look like and what does it differentiate? How does it differentiate from, the normal modes 

Francisco Mahfuz: of communication? So what you might know is the opposite.

So perhaps you have an uncle, perhaps it’s a friend of yours, perhaps it’s someone at work who loves telling stories, and this person comes up to you and says, Oh, [00:12:00] I’ve got this great story for you. I’ve got this really funny story for you. And they start telling it and goes on forever. I was just about say something long isn’t, It’s great.

And it just, this happened and that happened and this other thing happened and it never gets anywhere. But that is absolutely the opposite of what intentional storytelling is. Intentional storytelling is. Something happens. You think it’s a good way to illustrate something else, or it’s a good way to persuade people about something, but before you go get anywhere near telling it, you figure out what that thing is.

What’s the point you’re trying to make? What is the, what is your, what do you want your audience to think or do you want them to feel? And before you figure that out, you don’t come anywhere near telling the story. Once you figure that out, you go back on the story and say, Okay, what do I need to keep in the story that reinforces my point?

And what are the, all these extra [00:13:00] bits that are not necessary. The story makes sense without them. I’m not changing the story if I move them out, but instead of spending five minutes telling it, I can tell it in a minute or 90 seconds. So there’s more to it than that. But in essence, intentional storytelling is you only tell stories when first you figure out what the point of those stories are, what effect you’re trying to create in your audience, and you crafted the story to make sure that it does the exact thing you wanted to do. Yeah, 

Elisa Tuijnder: I that somebody was telling me, a friend of mine was telling me a story to speak about a wedding, and he kept getting stuck into the, what the appetizers were like.

And I was like, Can you get to the point please? But he kept saying, and there was this appetizer, and then there was this, and I was like, Okay. So how’d you do that in a business contest? Is that because. I feel like that resonates with me and it resonates more on a personal level. I can also immediately [00:14:00] think about all of these personal kind of stories and that happened.

But how does it, how do we translate this in an organizational setting? 

Francisco Mahfuz: Sure. So the first thing to understand, and this is the tiniest of spoilers but the way I define story, a story in a business context is a real life example that makes a point. So there’s two elements of that. Is one the point and also the real life example?

If there is anything, any point you’re trying to make in a conversation, in a meeting, in a presentation. Is there a real life example that backs up your point? Because otherwise it’s just an opinion. It’s just a thought you had and those are fine and they have their place. But if you’re trying to say, for example, That a happy team performs better.

Okay. What are you basing that on? Is that something you lived, Is that something that someone else has [00:15:00] lived? And if it is, can you share that example? So in a sense that’s in essence that all there is to it, because if you don’t have examples when you communicate with people, you are just sharing facts without context.

People will have to come up with their own context for it. And that’s the same case for data or you just giving opinions. Now, if you know for a fact that there is another company in your same space you work in that have, they have tried some initiatives to make their employees happier, and that has led to an increasing productivity instead of just saying, If you make your teams happier, they will produce more.

You can just look for the example and you can say, Patagonia, 10 years ago this guy who was a manager at Patagonia decided to do this. And then you just share the story, the real life example of what happened, and then you make your point. So that’s one of the [00:16:00] simple ways that people can use storytelling in, in a business context.

Another one, which is one that I tend to give people when they’re so much reluctant to tell stories is say you, you just do what I tend to call a discovery story. So a lot of presentations are about a problem or an initiative to deal with a problem. So instead of just saying, We have this problem in the company.

Can you just share a very brief story of when you realized that this was a problem, or when you realized that this was a big problem? Maybe everybody knew that the sales were an issue, but you have just figured out that the problem with the sales is not the sales themselves is because customer service on the back end is messing up your process.

How did you figure that out? Did a customer tell you that? Did you found out going through the reports? Did you have a brainstorm in the middle of the night when you were watching Netflix? Just [00:17:00] share that tiny story and then get into your presentation and it’ll make the beginning of the presentation significantly more interesting because it’s a bit of a detective story.

And those are just a couple of ways that people could use that fairly easily in a business. Yeah, 

Elisa Tuijnder: I love that because it, it adds personality, vulnerability, it adds an additional layer to that and it makes it so much more you can, have some acknowledgement with it. So I was wondering, obviously you’ve been doing this for some time now, and you’ve been speaking and coaching and you’ve been coming in contact at all these different organizations in different parts of the world.

You are yourself, a bit of a globetrotter and from different parts of the world as well. So I’m curious if you’ve seen in this aspect some general trends, are there common challenges, problems that today’s leaders seem to be struggling with and can they be overcome with some storytelling or add in or how important is this [00:18:00] in these challenges that 

you’re seeing?

Francisco Mahfuz: There’s a couple of different ways of answering that question. So one is, what are the challenges that storytelling is a good answer for, And the other one is, what are the challenges with using storytelling? So do you want me to take the first one or just tackle both? Yeah, 

start with one . 

The first one is, the answer to that is essentially communication.

If in spite of what we might think, A lot of business communication can be very boring. It’s hard to make people pay attention if they pay attention they don’t necessarily remember later what they heard, and even if they remember, they might just not care. And that’s not there’s only so much you can expect that communication in a business or an organization is always gonna be exciting and memorable, but at times it a hundred percent needs to be if you’re talking to employees about a new [00:19:00] project, a new initiative, a new strategy. If they can’t remember what it was, then it’s not gonna work. If they don’t, if they can’t, if they don’t care at all about the reasons why it’s happening or what you’re trying to achieve, then it’s not gonna work.

And those are the times where better communication becomes absolutely essential. Now, storytelling is not the only way of doing that, is just one of the better ways of doing that. It doesn’t require people to be great presenters and great communicators because you can, if you can find a story that does the job for you, the story does a lot of the heavy lifting and you don’t need to be great on stage and funny and it’s but probably funny things have happened in your life.

You just need to find them and share them. You don’t need to be funny. Just the things that happen can be funny, you don’t need to be particularly brave with your communication. You just need to find a story that shows you on a less than flattering [00:20:00] light, and everybody’s gonna go, Ah, you’re being so vulnerable.

It’s Yeah, I just shared when I was struggling with something. So essentially the challenge that storytelling pace fixes better than most of the things that I’ve come across is making people pay attention, making people remember, and making people care about whatever is it that you are communicating to them.

Now, when it comes to actually using storytelling, there’s a couple of major challenges. The first one is people struggle to understand where to use it, so they go, Okay, little circle is great love stories. But they don’t quite get at what moment do I tell a story? It’s slightly easier if it’s a presentation.

But it’s okay, I have a meeting coming up. Like when do I tell a story in a meeting? When do I tell a story? In this pitch, when the, even the presentations, a lot of people don’t quite know when to tell the story. And even if you tell them exactly, okay, but this is [00:21:00] exactly where the story goes. Then the next challenge is finding the story.

Because everybody is working on this ridiculous assumption that I don’t have any stories, nothing happens in my life, and that’s just nonsense because all of us probably have anything between one and three or four stories that you could tell from every single day of your life if you just paid enough attention.

And anyone that looks up my stuff on LinkedIn, We’ll find that most of the stories that I share on LinkedIn are things that happen a day or two before with my kids, with my friends, just stuff I realized when I was in the middle of doing some work or in the middle of doing something else. So this idea that you need a super exciting, adventurous life to have stories is is not only wrong, but it’s problematic because if you have that type of life, your life is a lot less relatable to everyone else.

So you’re [00:22:00] sharing how you travel around the world and scale mountains and do all these incredible business things. Most of the people are like, Well done, I guess you sound great, but I’m not like you. So that’s not really the way to do it. So those are the main two challenges of using storytelling in businesses.

When do I use it? And now that I decided I know and I u when I use it, which story do I actually tell. 

Elisa Tuijnder: Yeah. I’m sure you go through life literally thinking this will be a good one for later. , you have a database of 

Francisco Mahfuz: them now? A hundred percent. I have a practice that I learned from another storyteller called Matthew Dicks, and he calls this homework for life.

And it’s just this idea of every single day asking yourself, If I had to tell a story from something that happened today or something I thought about today, or remember today, what would it be? And every single day I put down one or two or three things. And not of, not all of them are amazing. [00:23:00] Not all of them would make for great stories, stories do this for long enough and you end up with dozens if not hundreds of pretty good ones.

And. As your audience will see, some of the stuff I’ll share on when I do the keynote and stuff I share whenever I do keynotes or workshops are everyday things that happen to me sometimes weeks before I’ve changed keynotes, days before giving them because something happened, I thought, Oh, this is great with that theme, I would just replace this story for this other thing.

And sometimes if they make the point, I’m happy to use those real life examples. 

Elisa Tuijnder: Yeah. Yeah. That’s fantastic. Ilco, one of our community members and Management 3.0 shares this great quote from Maya Angelou, I’ve learned that people will forget what you said. People will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.

And that’s the one, isn’t it? That’s the, that’s the one that sticks. 

Francisco Mahfuz: Yeah. No, and everybody [00:24:00] loves that quote. I love it too. Even though unfortunately I found out that apparently that wasn’t Maya Angelou. Okay, great. When I was writing my book, I was gonna, I was going to put that one there and then I started doing research and apparently it’s very disputed that she actually did said it, or at least that she said first, and it was a Mormon Minister in the 19 hundreds that said it, and I’m like, This is nowhere near as exciting as Maya Angelou was saying.

Elisa Tuijnder: Has. Significance then for some 

Francisco Mahfuz: reason? 

Elisa Tuijnder: The quote itself is still very valid. But , 

Francisco Mahfuz: yes. No and it’s a hundred percent true because. People work under this assumption that we are rational and we make rational decisions. And if you like me, have more than one child, or you have, bought the latest iPhone or bought a huge car, you realize that you don’t make decisions because they [00:25:00] make sense.

Yeah. You make decisions because you like the idea of them. You like how they made you feel, you, like how you saw them would make you feel . 

Elisa Tuijnder: You like the idea of two kids and now you’re kids. 

Francisco Mahfuz: It’s a lot of work. Yes. The idea of two kids, because, cause I always grew up people telling me this, is great if you have one kid have the second because they learn how to share.

And I’ve now learned that they don’t learn how to share. They learn how to fight and how to hold grudges.

Elisa Tuijnder: It like I grew out of this with my sister, hopefully that will 

Francisco Mahfuz: happen as well for you. It only took 16 years, but yeah, it took a while, but, 

Elisa Tuijnder: Yeah. You get there at some point.


Francisco Mahfuz: 12 years to go, 

Elisa Tuijnder: we’ll get, Oh, only 12. So maybe we touched upon your keynote or you being a keynote speaker just now as well, all of us at Management 3.0 are really beyond excited to see you in Berlin and hear you talk [00:26:00] at our upcoming Forward Flagship Summit. And the title of the talk is, or you’ll be talking to us about power and lasting impact of story power changed if I got that here correctly.

So I don’t want you to spoil anything for us, but, can you give us like a quick overview what we’re gonna be expecting there? And, you don’t have to give all of your great little examples that you just said, but yeah. What are we gonna, what are we gonna learn. 

Francisco Mahfuz: So the, So yeah, so the story powered change, gain support, overcome objections, and create lasting impact.

And when we talk about, agile transformations, transformation is nothing other than a word for change. And change, like most things in business comes down to communication. And there are ways of doing it that work. And there are ways that don’t work. And even though I think a lot of people realize that a lot of stuff in business doesn’t [00:27:00] work, we don’t necessarily know why it doesn’t work, and we don’t realize how much it doesn’t work.

So what I’m gonna do with the talk is I’m gonna, I’m gonna talk about why the way we communicate in business, particularly when we’re trying to create change to persuade people of doing anything differently than what they’re current doing. Why that doesn’t work, and what’s the impact on the workforce?

Both from an online point of view, but also from how does it affect the happiness in the workplace and how people feel working in those organizations. And then I want to, I’m going to tell people why storytelling is one of the best ways of fixing those problems. What I don’t ever wanna do with any of those talks is just be very theoretical about it.

I want to fix one of the challenges that I talked about earlier. I don’t necessarily have time in that one hour talk to cover [00:28:00] all the ins and outs of storytelling. That’s what people hire me for. But I definitely want to cover the when to tell stories. So a big part of my talk is just looking at these four key areas that any organization is gonna relate to the things that happen in pretty much every single organization. And I’m gonna talk about, okay, so how would storytelling be used in this context and how does this connect to change and having a happier workforce? So I wanna get rid of one of the big challenges and some people should be able to take that and go, Okay, now I know how to use some stories. And if they’re a little more naturally inclined to tell stories, they should be able to, the next day, I’m speaking on a Friday, so not the next day , but on the Monday to go into the office and say I’ve got this thing coming up now I’m gonna, I’m gonna try to tell some stories the way I just heard share on [00:29:00] Friday.

So that’s the skeleton of what I’m gonna cover and. What, what should come as no surprise, but sometimes those with storytelling people is that the talk is littered with stories. So there’s, I be what is spoiler ? I have seen a lot of people who have loved foody storytelling in their.

Job title and their description of what they do. And then you look through their social media content and then you look at them speaking and you don’t find that many stories. I lost track now exactly how many it was, if I speak for an hour they’re probably gonna be at least, was it 10 stories in there. And they’ll go from anything from a few minutes to 90 seconds. But I do think that you need to show [00:30:00] people that show people where this is happening in real life. And if I’m not doing that stories, then what am I doing up there talking about storytelling?

Elisa Tuijnder: So for me, what I’m looking forward to the most is getting to hear these stories. This they might have not happened already. So I’m really excited , to see what happens. So for those people listening and those who are coming to Berlin, feel free to use the chat to say what you’re looking forward to the most for coming to Forward Flagship Summit, whether that be online or in Berlin.

And for those who are not yet coming, please do. We’re gonna have an awesome time and,we’re gonna be live in Berlin and we’re gonna also be online. For those who are not able to travel to Germany.

Have you ever wondered about one of the following questions, [00:31:00] How do we give people and their happiness the attention they deserve in our organizations and transformations. How do we enable change for people and not push change on people? How do we create the culture and environment we need for people to express themselves?

Of course you have, that’s why you listen to our podcast. But while podcasts are a one-way street, our summits are all about interactions. So why don’t you come and join the conversation with our kick ass keynote speakers, Sunny Grosso, Svenja Hofert, Debra Corey, and Francisco Mahfuz. Take part in our practice sessions, case study sessions, open sessions and global networking, both in Berlin and online.

Go to That is [00:32:00] For more info and tickets and as a podcast listener, use the code forwardpod at checkout. That is forwardpod to let us know you are a friend of the pod and receive some special Martie, the management monster goodies.

Let’s talk about your book for a second as well, because you, as all good keynote speakers do, you wrote a book and this one’s called Bare and what is so brutally honest about public speaking? What , how did you come up with this book and why? Why is it called Bare?

B a r e by the way, Listeners not bear. 

Francisco Mahfuz: Yeah. So I was just seeing if I had one that was, I can’t, it’s 

Elisa Tuijnder: Not doing the marketing very like 

Francisco Mahfuz: yeah, [00:33:00] should I just have it, had it next to me? So bare is another word for revealing things, right? So the cover of the book is this like superman like character just opening his shirt and there is a like graphically designed heart just showing there. And the brutally honest, in spite of what some of my friends thought it was gonna be is not you just saying stuff and not caring if you hurt other people’s feelings. It’s not that at all. It’s about vulnerabilities, about being brutally honest with your struggles, with how you actually connect with your audience.

So that wasn’t a book. That was probably, that was the first book that there would be a second book at some point. And we focused more on storytelling. But this one was more about presenting and speaking in public more broadly speaking. But the way I have always done it was [00:34:00] always through personal stories.

And I have found, initially to my surprise, because I hadn’t watched the Brené Brown’s TED talk yet. Being vulnerable is if, I would probably say that it’s essential to the vast majority of communication. It’s very difficult to talk about at least the most important things in a personal or in a business context if there isn’t some amount of vulnerability in there.

And vulnerability doesn’t need to be, death or disease or drama or disaster or any of those things. But it does need to show you in a light that’s perhaps less than less flattering than that you might like to show yourself normally. And the book is about how do you find ideas for a presentation?

How do you structure that presentation? How you use stories in there, how you use vulnerability in [00:35:00] there. And that’s, that it’s a more all-encompassing book for people who need to present either professionally or because they do this for fun. We, because there are some weirdos, who like that for fun.

But but yeah, so it’s not as focused on storytelling as most of the other stuff that I do, but it’s focused plenty on storytelling. 

Elisa Tuijnder: Plenty enough. Yeah. That’s great. So yeah, taking me back to storytelling. So you also have a podcast like we do and you host it and it’s called The Story Powers Podcast.

So Story Powers podcast. Yes. The Story Powers podcast. Yeah. How has your previous. Experience, served you in the podcasting world. How do all these all these stories that you already told, how did they all match together? And, what have you learned from doing a podcast and from speaking to all these guests all over the world about.

Storytelling story [00:36:00] powers. 

Francisco Mahfuz: It, it’s, I’ve learned a lot. I think that, because when I originally started the podcast I thought to myself, Okay, it’s gonna be for, some branding. That would be the main reason. Just get, get help, get the name out there. Show a bit of expertise and I thought, it would also be a good chance to talk to people who are doing similar things and learn from them.

I just didn’t realize how much it was gonna be the second and how little I was gonna care about the first, because the reality is that it does take a while for podcasts to start gaining traction, as you probably well know. And if you’re not taking advantage of the time you are with guests, you’re not learning, you’re not having fun, it becomes pretty, It can become pretty miserable pretty quick, particularly if you’re doing everything yourself, which was the case for me in the beginning.

But I found very quickly that the people that are references in [00:37:00] my world were the vast majority of cases super happy to come on a show that didn’t exist yet. They were super friendly people and a lot of them I not only had great conversations with but some of them have become friends and have become professional collaborations, so that was a great surprise from a networking point of view it was incredible.

The other thing was also that because of the way I prepare for podcasts, I, if the guests had a book, I typically read it. If they had done a whole bunch of podcast interviews, I would listen to two or three of those. So I didn’t want to start asking them questions from, I don’t know anything about your work point of view.

I wanted to like, Okay, I’ve read your work, but I have questions. In a sense, I treated them as, a teacher that I’ve gone through their lessons, but I have doubts or I wanna learn more. And the guests appreciated that because they enjoyed the conversation more it was [00:38:00] different than what they were used to.

And I, the audience seemed to enjoy it because it’s just a different level of conversation where if you like a guest but you listen to them in one podcast, it’s always the same interview. And I didn’t want that because I had already listened to those interviews. So I enjoyed that a lot and one of the things that it had forced, has forced me to be better at, I learned a whole bunch of technical things that I didn’t know recording audio, recording video and editing and all sorts of stuff.

But also the art of conversation. Because the problem as a speaker is that we like to speak , and it’s very easy to dominate conversations and not give people a chance to weigh in. But if you’re the host of a podcast, you can’t really do that. You have to get a lot out of the guests.

But I also wanted to have a fun, interactive conversation so it wasn’t just like an interview for them. [00:39:00] And I think I’ve gotten better. I was okay at that. I think I’ve gotten better. And the feedback I get from guests on a regular basis at the moment we stop recording is how much they enjoy the conversation.

How much it was more fun than the usual podcast they record. So that, how do I use that skill outside of podcasting? I occasionally do facilitations for events and that is, that comes very handy. But other than that, it might just make me, is slightly less self-centered. Here will be . 

Elisa Tuijnder: Hey, that’s always a good, that’s always a good plus point.

Yeah. Podcasting is also my favorite part of my role. I just get to speak to all these really cool people. It can be a lot of fun. I just get to speak to all these really cool people across the world and have a question, a conversation about something that I’m passionate about. So what’s not what’s not to like?

So I hope that everyone has something like that in their role. [00:40:00] Hey, so on this podcast, so what we always do is we wanna end on tangible practices at Management 3.0 we are big fans of tangible practices. Like you said, people, they can start implementing things tomorrow. You’re speaking on a Friday, so it might have to be a Monday, things that people can take away and don’t have to send, spend hours and hours.

Having this whole change program or et cetera, something they can do the next day. So how can businesses and or what advice can you offer leaders and others out there who want to tell their stories or to want to turn their stories into, more powerful tools for a happier and more interesting career, future 

Francisco Mahfuz: of work?

Okay, So I’m gonna, I’m gonna give you two things. The first one is just getting into the habit of looking [00:41:00] for of putting examples in anything you’re gonna talk about. You have a meeting coming up, you have a presentation coming up. Do you have examples? Has this happened to you? Has this happened to another company?

Has this happened somewhere else? And even if you try not to do that, a lot of those examples are gonna end up being stories. And if you just start putting more examples into your normal communication, you will find that people get what you’re trying to say quicker. And a lot of the times you’ll be telling stories, which means you get all the extra advantages of telling stories.

But the more you use examples in what you’re talking about, the more grounded your statements become the more context you give to whatever facts you’re sharing and coincidentally, the more interesting your communication becomes. The second thing are we gonna offer is that there’s [00:42:00] a whole bunch of stuff for people that want to start getting a little more into this whole storytelling thing.

And I have actually put together a while back, something I call a story journal, which is not only a place for people to write down some of the story ideas, but also it has a whole bunch of tips. This is how, this is where you can find some stories. This is what, this are some of the practices I recommend for you to try on a regular basis.

This is what a story looks like. This is how you start practicing it. So it’s a one pager with everything I could cram that could be useful for someone who is interested in getting a little more into stories. Anyone is interested in that. Feel free to connect with me on LinkedIn. And just say you were you were listening to this podcast and I would be delighted to send that story journal across to.


Elisa Tuijnder: fantastic. Yeah. Let’s try and add that on the on the show notes as well for the next time that can happen. And we at Management 3.0 also have this amazing tool called [00:43:00] Improv Cards, which is completely geared towards storytelling in businesses. So we’ll add that to the show notes as well.

Hey, there’s a question from Ilco who asks what is the most difficult storytelling you have ever done? 

I don’t see you quiet very often. 

Francisco Mahfuz: I’m just trying to define difficult in my head because sometimes it’s hard to find the story that I think is suitable, but, okay, fine. So this is not a full spoiler, it’s a spoiler, but I think probably the hardest story.

It’s not the hardest, but definitely one of the hardest stories I ever shared is one that I typically share on the keynote. And I have shared before on LinkedIn and it was the story of my least proud moment as a father. [00:44:00] That one was I’m not gonna go into detail because that would be a spoil, but that was one.

So I did something that I really wasn’t happy about, and it led to a whole bunch of different things in my life and just figuring out a way to tell that story in a way that, that showed the lesson I learned and why I learned it and putting it in a package. People could relate to, but at the same time wasn’t just, some random outpouring of emotion.

Yeah. That was, that took a while to, to craft and get together. But it turned out to be one of the most powerful stories I ever share because not only it is powerful, but it has a very clear point to it, and I managed to get it all done. Two minutes and bit and a bit . I have other stories that are powerful and meaningful that take me seven minutes to tell.[00:45:00] 

This one I can actually use in a business context, and do, and is often the one that people come to me later and say, Wow, that story you share, that, that really meant something to me. I can definitely relate to that. So that that, that’s the one that comes to mind is 


Elisa Tuijnder: length of the story, really important.

Obviously, like you said, if it gets really tedious and long, that’s not a, that’s not, but is it like, is there a difference between those two, three minute ones and those seven minute. Impact, 

Francisco Mahfuz: I think. I think you can tell a story that is more than three minutes long, but it has to be a really good story, and the payoff needs to be very important.

Because if you just think about it, the keynote I’m doing with you guys, I’ve got an hour now. I’m not a hundred percent if some of that hour is not gonna be used for q and a, but often some of that is, yeah, you often do 45 minutes, 50 minutes, and then you have 10, 15 minutes of q and a. So if I’ve only got 45 minutes to be [00:46:00] talking and I’m gonna have a story that is, seven, eight minutes, that is, 15, 16% of my talk is one. Now the point of that story needs to be incredibly important to justify me spending that much time on it. So I often prefer to have, 90 second stories, two minute stories.

Two and a half minute stories up to about three minutes, and then I can get a home bunch more in there because the job is usually not just tell a whole bunch of stories. It’s okay, the story’s introducing a point, or the story is hammering a point home or making you care about a point. There’s other stuff that needs to go in there as well.

So I think that people get that. Get used to telling stories in about minute and a half to three minutes. It’s almost impossible that you cannot tell a story in any context you’re in, but if you get used to telling stories that are five minutes long, seven minutes long, [00:47:00] are you gonna be able to do those in an all hands meeting?

Are you gonna be able to do those in a presentation if you’re only given 20 minutes? I think it’s less likely. So I think in general and this LinkedIn was a good tool for this because no one really is gonna watch a 6, 7, 8 minute LinkedIn video, but least most people won’t. So I got very used to telling stories that were about two minutes and it’s perfectly good time for a story you don’t need for most stories.

More than that. 

Elisa Tuijnder: Yeah. Yeah. That’s great. That’s good to hear. I think we’re gonna say, Great. Thank you so much for doing this experiment with us Francisco and honestly, I can’t wait to see you in Berlin face to face instead of via the computer screen. Thanks Nadine for coming back. How are you doing over there?

Nadine Koehler: Hello. Hello. I was very happy to see you so active and Sarah [00:48:00] kudos to both of you in the chat. And thank you both Francisco and Elisa for this interesting talk. Okay. Thank you. See you soon. See you all soon.

Elisa Tuijnder: You’ve been listening to The Happiness At Work podcast by Management 3.0 where we are getting serious about happiness. Be sure to subscribe wherever you get your podcasts, and if you enjoy our shows, don’t be shy. Write us a review. Share the happiness with your colleagues, family, or your friends. Follow us on Twitter, Facebook, or LinkedIn under Management 3.0.[00:49:00] 

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