Draw On What You Know to Problem Solve for Clients

195244498_01fbb73234_b Shawn Callahan is Founding Director of Anecdote, a consulting firm in Melbourne Australia that focuses on bringing strategies to life using the natural power of stories. To keep him on the edge, Shawn focuses his attention on the topics of change, business storytelling, collaboration, leadership development, and running businesses.

To keep him fresh in these areas, Shawn is a big reader. He is always buying books and has a large library. At the moment, he is reading Immunity to Change by Robert Kegan and Lisa Laskow Lahey, and to reinforce his reading, Shawn tries out concepts and models from the reading with his customers. Just yesterday, he tried out a diagnostic technique from the book and watched the feedback from the customer. “It reinforced what the model means to me. It gives me something to hang off it after I have used it a couple of times,” he said.

Shawn is a great conversationalist. Starting with his business partner, Mark Schenk, these conversations have no particular format, they just start and things jump out. In the conversation, things come up that both already know, yet the conversation makes it fresh again. Shawn also helped establish a network of story practitioners from around the world through Worldwide Story Work (http://worldwidestorywork.ning.com) and is active in a number of other professional communities. Shawn says, “You get to know the people’s areas of interest and if I ever get stuck or need a new perspective I know who to call.”

A lot happens when doing engagements with customers. “Trying to solve the problems at hand, you draw on what you know and what the customers know – which is a great deal. These experiences are great teachers,” says Shawn. And he keeps his eyes open all the time. Even when he fails, he looks for the signals that he can watch for in the future to prevent another failure. Part of this ‘watching’ comes when he writes his blog. “I write it, I do it, I talk about it, I do it, I talk about it, and I do it again.” Shawn constantly seeks the deeper meaning of things through reflection.

So far, we talked about things that can feel easier to manage as you have some control about when they happen. But what about the flow of information that comes through the virtual social spaces? Facebook, collaborative spaces, Twitter, texting, and more. As Shawn tells it, “I used to work for a company that had morning and afternoon tea. (Remember this is Australia.) So, at 10:30 and again at 3:30, people gathered to have a cup of tea together and chat. These were great social times where a lot of information was shared informally. Today, I use the same times to sign onto Twitter, Worldwidestorywork.ning.com, Facebook, and other such virtual sites. For a half hour, I read or write in these spaces.” So, for two ½ hour slots during the day, Shawn has ‘tea’ with his networks around the globe. The interruption is planned, limited, and productive. What a great metaphor, Shawn!

Photo by Bright Vibes