How to Use Stories to Lead, Teach, and Inspire—Mark Carpenter, Chief Storyteller, Master Storytelling

Have you thought about using stories to lead, teach, or inspire others? Maybe you have thought of using stories in your marketing, but what about in helping you lead your team? 

Our guest today Mark Carpenter, who is the author of the book Master Storytelling and the founder of the company with the same name. Mark is a serial storyteller. Even as a child, he loved to tell stories (mainly to get attention). He leveraged that ability into a career in marketing communications and public relations, then as a college professor and corporate facilitator.

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  • Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/MasterStorytelling
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ABOUT OUR GUEST:

Mark Carpenter is a serial storyteller. Even as a child, he loved to tell stories (mainly to get attention). He leveraged that ability into a career in marketing communications and public relations, then as a college professor and corporate facilitator. 

Now, he teaches people how to more intentionally tell stories that teach, lead, sell, and inspire to accomplish business and personal goals. He is the co-author of the best-selling book “Master Storytelling: How to Turn Your Experiences Into Stories that Teach, Lead, and Inspire” and co-creator of the Master Storytelling Workshop. Leveraging a 20-year career in corporate communication, 10 years working as an adjunct professor of communication, and 15 years facilitating training, Mark couples a lively, engaging style with purposeful, impactful learning. 

When he’s not training, speaking, coaching, or creating new content, Mark is likely hiking or snowshoeing in the mountains near his home in Utah, playing the piano, bragging about his grandchildren, or writing children’s books.

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TRANSCRIPTION:

Tom DuFore, Big Sky Franchise Team (00:00):

Welcome to the Multiply Your Success podcast, where each week we help growth-minded entrepreneurs and franchise leaders take the next step in their expansion journey. I’m your host, Tom DuFore, CEO of Big Sky Franchise Team, and as we open today, I’m wondering if you have thought about using stories to lead, teach, or inspire others?

Tom DuFore, Big Sky Franchise Team (00:21):

Well, maybe you’ve thought of using stories in your marketing, it’s been pretty popular over the last several years, but what about helping lead your team? And our guest today is Mark Carpenter, who’s the author of the book Master Storytelling, and he’s the founder of the company under the same name. And I recently have finished reading his book, Master Storytelling, and it’s a great book that lays out how you can lead, teach, and inspire using storytelling.

Tom DuFore, Big Sky Franchise Team (00:51):

And Mark has describes himself as a serial storyteller, even as a child. He said he loved to tell stories and mainly to get attention. And he said he leveraged that ability into a career in marketing, communications, and public relations, then as a college professor and as a corporate facilitator, and now teaching others through his company Master Storytelling.

Tom DuFore, Big Sky Franchise Team (01:14):

So you’re going to love this interview with Mark. Let’s go ahead and jump right into it.

Mark Carpenter, Master Storytelling (01:18):

I am Mark Carpenter and I refer to myself as Chief Storyteller with Master Storytelling. And it’s a title that I can embrace. A lot of times we have titles in our lives that don’t mean very much, but I kind of like that one. So when you can assign your own title, pick one that you really like.

Mark Carpenter, Master Storytelling (01:38):

I’m kind of a serial storyteller through my life and have worked in marketing, communications, and public relations, and then transitioned into a career in facilitation and training and consulting and helping organizations and individuals really achieve their goals and be more successful in their efforts to grow and to serve other people.

Tom DuFore, Big Sky Franchise Team (02:02):

Yeah. Well I love this concept of master storytelling. It’s your title of your book too, and that’s really one of the primary drivers why I wanted to have you on the episode. And I love this concept of incorporating storytelling into marketing, into messaging, into just into communication in general. And it’s something that I do not find myself as intuitively natural for me to do.

Tom DuFore, Big Sky Franchise Team (02:30):

So one of the things that I just love for you to talk about is just how storytelling is maybe getting input into business, or maybe it always has been, and it’s just kind of more front and center. I’d just love to start the conversation there.

Mark Carpenter, Master Storytelling (02:47):

And storytelling is a topic that’s kind of increasing in momentum you hear a lot about, and I want to make the point that when we talk about storytelling, sometimes we talk about it a little differently than a lot of people do. A lot of people talk about, “Well, I need to tell the company story or the founder story, the origin story,” or things like that. And we’re really focused more on stories with a point, with a principle that we’re going to teach, lead, sell, or inspire.

Mark Carpenter, Master Storytelling (03:13):

And so it’s intentional storytelling based on everyday experiences that we have in our lives, that people can relate to, that help them make a connection to an important principle that we want to teach them on or lead change on or inspire action on.

Tom DuFore, Big Sky Franchise Team (03:31):

Well that’s really interesting. So to me that sounds kind of almost like an art and a science that’s tied into this, right? With a principle tied into it. But there’s some science in there, but there’s also this art of actually crafting around that. So I’d love for you just to talk about kind of interweaving those together.

Mark Carpenter, Master Storytelling (03:52):

Yeah. Well the science really comes from a lot of research that’s been done about the impact of storytelling. And I think this is why we’re hearing about it a lot is there’s been research done about how it connects us as human beings and how it even changes the interactions within your brains as you tell and listen to stories.

Mark Carpenter, Master Storytelling (04:12):

So that I could go geeky on you, in terms of the science around that and the research that people have done and why it connects that, that’s really the science side is that there is a specific reason that storytelling works. It’s not just because it’s fun, it’s not just because we like it, but there are actually some scientific reasons as to why stories work. So there’s the science side of it.

Mark Carpenter, Master Storytelling (04:36):

The art side of it is this is going to be different for different people. I’m going to tell a story differently than you will tell a story. In fact, I tell some stories that I’ve heard friends of mine tell, and then with their permission, I’ve used them because they teach such great principles. But I tell that story differently than they tell them because it’s just that my style. And as I teach and they coach people to tell stories, I have to fight that urge to say, “Ooh, I would do it this way.” And just let them do their own style. But with that framework of the science as to what makes a story effective.

Tom DuFore, Big Sky Franchise Team (05:13):

So is this idea, I love this concept of principles, teaching principles. It kind of reminds me of Aesop’s Fables and these kinds of things that orient around that. So would you mind sharing just a little bit more about this principle storytelling and then that’s part one, and then part two of the questions, how someone might be able to integrate that into their own business story that they’re sharing or telling?

Mark Carpenter, Master Storytelling (05:39):

You bet. Well, part of it is that we love stories because we live stories. It’s really what our lives are, is just a collection of little events that are the stories that we have. And so I’ve really got into this point about storytelling to teach principles as I got into facilitating and teaching on the business side and to help people see, “Okay, what does this actually mean to me?”

Mark Carpenter, Master Storytelling (06:07):

I can share a principle with you. Even as you get into an organization that says, “We have a culture of high integrity.” Okay, but what does a culture of high integrity actually look like? How do I translate that from the words on the wall to the behaviors in the hall so that I can see what it looks like? And stories will do that. Stories help us see what those intangible things actually look like.

Mark Carpenter, Master Storytelling (06:32):

So if I want people to understand, “This is what we mean by teamwork.” Or, “This is what we mean by integrity.” The best way to do that is to tell an intentionally crafted story that you can connect to, that you can relate to, that teaches that point.

Mark Carpenter, Master Storytelling (06:47):

So where do these stories come from? They come from our everyday lives. Those are the best kind of stories. You mentioned Aesop’s Fables, those are great, but those are made up stories that don’t really happen. You don’t really see a mouse and a lion talking to each other in real life, but you do see somebody stepping up to help another team member without being asked even when it’s inconvenient.

Mark Carpenter, Master Storytelling (07:13):

And so tell that story if you’re trying to emphasize the point, “We believe in teamwork here at the company.” And those are the kind of things that people relate to and remember so that when you’re saying, “Yes, we believe in teamwork,” they know what that looks like because they can remember this story that you told that brought them there.

Mark Carpenter, Master Storytelling (07:33):

Your second part of this question was how do you this? How do you get into this? How do you integrate this into your everyday life? And the first thing is just paying attention, it is being aware that it’s these everyday moments of our lives that can be powerful stories. The extraordinary really lives inside those ordinary moments that we have.

Mark Carpenter, Master Storytelling (07:55):

So I encourage people to take note of any time they have an experience that creates an emotional reaction with them. And that emotion can go all the way from joy to sorrow, to frustration to happiness, to pleasure, to satisfaction, whatever it happens to be. If you have an emotional reaction to an experience in your life, there is probably a lesson there that you could at some point integrate into your teaching, by telling a story.

Tom DuFore, Big Sky Franchise Team (08:28):

That’s really, really interesting. And the thing I like, of what you said here, is kind of these everyday ordinary stories. So that to me is interesting because probably like a lot of folks you talk to, I don’t feel that my story is inherently any more different or better or unique than anyone else’s story. So I think that’s a great nugget of wisdom that pay attention and there’s something great there.

Tom DuFore, Big Sky Franchise Team (09:00):

Now, one of the things though is certainly, these are easy ways to make, or an easy way to find things, is observation, just pay attention. But what about some common mishaps or mistakes that come along for these storytelling? Any examples or suggestions you’d give there?

Mark Carpenter, Master Storytelling (09:17):

You bet. And I think the big thing starts with being intentional about why you’re telling the story and why this story. In other words, what point am I trying to make with this story? Maybe I have an experience in my life that I have an emotional reaction to. And so I say, “Great, there’s a story there.” And so I start telling that experience.

Mark Carpenter, Master Storytelling (09:37):

But if I share the experience without being clear on what my intent is at the end, one of a couple things will happen. Number one is we tend to wander around the story looking for the point. I refer to that as not landing the plane. If we don’t have a destination in mind as to where the story is going, we’re going to be flying around. And so if we’re intentional up front, we don’t make that mistake. But I see people making that mistake a lot.

Mark Carpenter, Master Storytelling (10:04):

The second point is really the flip side of that is that if we’re not clear on our intent in the story, we may leave out important details that will actually help make that point. But if I’m not clear on the point, I’m not going to realize that that is an essential detail to have in there. So really it all stems from being deliberate and intentional about what’s the purpose of this story. Not telling a story just to tell a story, but really having an end goal in mind. And that will help you edit and focus those stories in a way that will help you accomplish that goal.

Tom DuFore, Big Sky Franchise Team (10:39):

Interesting. So for someone who’s maybe thinking, “All right, Mark, I like this. This is interesting, I want to give it a go, I want to try this out, with something, with my own business.” Do you have a framework or some guidelines or steps that someone might be able to take and implement in helping them through this process?

Mark Carpenter, Master Storytelling (10:58):

Yeah, absolutely. And we have a little framework that we teach in. It’s in the book in master storytelling, and it’s also in our workshop that we teach, there’s a lot of people that teach storytelling frameworks and they’ll have eight or 12 steps or seven steps. We have three. We don’t want people to over complicate it. And this ties actually to the science that we were talking, about earlier about the brain chemistry that happens when you hear a story.

Mark Carpenter, Master Storytelling (11:25):

And so it starts with creating relatable characters in a common situation. So who am I? What’s the situation that I was facing as the starting point of that story? What’s the goal that I’m trying to accomplish? And if it’s a relatable goal, if it’s a simple enough thing, you can relate to that. I tell a story sometimes about driving to the airport on a Sunday afternoon.

Mark Carpenter, Master Storytelling (11:53):

Now there’s no big, “I need to get to the moon” type of story there or type of goal. But you can relate to the fact that you’ve probably driven to the airport at times trying to make your flight. It’s a simple enough thing that we can connect to that. And so that creates a connection within our brains.

Mark Carpenter, Master Storytelling (12:12):

The next thing that has to happen in your story is there has to be something that gets in the way of you accomplishing that goal. There has to be some kind of conflict going on. If it’s a story about how everything went just completely smooth, there’s really hard to capture people’s hearts and attention in that kind of story.

Mark Carpenter, Master Storytelling (12:30):

So the example I use is I’m driving to the airport and I’ll say, “Suddenly I see a policeman behind me and the lights aren’t on, but the policeman’s right behind me.” And so what’s my first thought? “I’m going to get pulled over? This is going to keep me from getting to my flight on time and I don’t deserve to get this ticket because I wasn’t really going faster than anybody else.” And so I build up this big angst in my mind.

Mark Carpenter, Master Storytelling (12:51):

So there’s becomes the conflict section of the story. And then there has to be some kind of change you get to at the end of the story. Now, I’m not telling the complete story that I usually tell here, but the end of that story is I turned off to go to the airport, the police officer turned off the opposite direction. He wasn’t following me at all. And so I had worked myself up, not because of what the policeman was doing, but what was, but because of what was going on in my head.

Mark Carpenter, Master Storytelling (13:17):

And so there’s the lesson that I learned is that I can blow things out of proportion, and I think we all do this at certain times, and the only one that suffers from it is myself. And so it’s a simple enough story, but it has those three components in it are our current state with the relatable characters and worthwhile goal, what conflict gets in the way of that goal, and then what’s the change that teaches the lesson that we want at the end of that?

Tom DuFore, Big Sky Franchise Team (13:44):

Great. And you said this framework, someone could check out how you have this structured certainly in your book, which I’d love for you to talk a little bit about here, and maybe through your workshop. How can they find out about this?

Mark Carpenter, Master Storytelling (13:58):

Yeah, simple enough. In fact, I’d love to offer your listeners a free copy of the ebook. We have a page on our website that’s dedicated specifically to podcast listeners. And so if you go to master-storytelling.com/podcastgift, and you can give me your email there and you’ll get a free copy of the book in the ebook format.

Mark Carpenter, Master Storytelling (14:23):

So that’s probably the easiest way for your listeners to get access to it. If they want the hard copy. It’s on Amazon too. There’s an audible version that’s available as well. Or go to our website, master-storytelling.com. You can get information there about our workshops that we hold virtually or we can hold them within organizations to teach teams how they can more effectively use this skill to help accomplish their goals.

Tom DuFore, Big Sky Franchise Team (14:46):

Oh, wonderful. Well, we’ll make sure we include all of the links to the free ebook, to the Amazon link, and so on for our audience to get in touch with that. Well Mark, this is a great time for us just to make a transition here, to ask you the same four questions we ask every guest before they go. And the first question we ask is, have you had a miss or two in your career and journey and something you learn from it?

Mark Carpenter, Master Storytelling (15:11):

When I saw that question, I thought, “Wow, how much time do we actually have?” And so I’m not going to go into every miss because I think we all have misses just to make a connection back to storytelling. Sometimes it’s those misses that make the greatest stories because they teach the greatest points. We have those lessons learned from those misses in our lives.

Mark Carpenter, Master Storytelling (15:30):

I think one of my misses is that I set a career path for myself, and I stayed on it far longer than it was bringing me joy. And I didn’t realize early enough that lack of joy meant I needed to make a shift. And I kind of stuck too rigidly to a plan that I had when I should have made an adjustment to that plan and I look back and think, “I could have brought… I saved myself some misery and brought myself additional joy if I’d shifted my path a little bit earlier.” So I would say that’s one of the major misses that I can look back on.

Tom DuFore, Big Sky Franchise Team (16:07):

Yeah. Well thanks for sharing that. And how about a make or two, a highlight you’d like to share?

Mark Carpenter, Master Storytelling (16:13):

Well, one of the highlights really is publishing the book. They say authoring a book is giving birth. And I wouldn’t know, I’ve never actually given birth, but I’ve seen it close up with my wife giving birth, and I’ve raised teenagers. And so it’s kind of similar to that process too, that there’s a lot of angst and effort that goes into it.

Mark Carpenter, Master Storytelling (16:35):

And at the same time, it connects into another question you commonly asked, which is the connections to other people. It does take a village, takes a village to raise a child, takes more than one person to write a book. It really takes a lot of support from other people to make that happen. But for me, that’s one of the biggest makes is just being able to share my thoughts to have it in print and seeing other people benefit from that as well.

Tom DuFore, Big Sky Franchise Team (17:02):

Yeah. Well, the next question we like to ask is about a multiplier that you’ve used in growing yourself, your business, anything of note you’d like to point out there?

Mark Carpenter, Master Storytelling (17:15):

I think the biggest thing for me is just maintaining an abundance mentality. There’s room for everyone. Even as I started writing the book Master Storytelling and was doing some research, I ran across some other books on storytelling and my first reaction was, “Oh no, this has already been done.” But then I read their books and went, “Okay, I have a little bit different take on this.” And so just keeping in mind that there’s room for everyone wherever we are, and to not try to take that personally, but to really look for, “Where’s my space where we can be cooperative, rather than competitive, in this bigger market?”

Tom DuFore, Big Sky Franchise Team (17:53):

Absolutely. Well, and just by way of a great example, even on our podcast here, we’ve had a couple of different guests on talking about various forms of storytelling, but none with the focus and direction that you’ve described. It’s very unique in what you’re describing.

Tom DuFore, Big Sky Franchise Team (18:08):

So while from a broad topic, it sounds similar on the surface, but really this concept of principles, I really, really like that focus and attention, especially as someone I would consider at best, an amateur at this kind of storytelling thing. And even hearing how you’ve described it, it simplified it in a way that said, “Oh yeah, I get that. I think I can improve on that.” So I appreciate that with what you’re doing.

Mark Carpenter, Master Storytelling (18:37):

Thank you.

Tom DuFore, Big Sky Franchise Team (18:38):

Yeah. And the final question we like to ask every guest, Mark, is what does success mean to you?

Mark Carpenter, Master Storytelling (18:45):

I think success means, to me, this is going to sound a little bit convoluted maybe or multilayered, but success to me is helping other people to help other people. I love to be able to help other people, but the real success for me is when I can help somebody who then helps someone else.

Mark Carpenter, Master Storytelling (19:06):

So if I can help someone be a successful storyteller who then helps someone else strengthen their business or learn important principles, that to me is success. And it goes back to your comment about multipliers. If I can be a multiplier for other people, that is success for me. If I can help them to be successful in helping other people to be successful, that I think is how I would best define success.

Tom DuFore, Big Sky Franchise Team (19:33):

Yeah. Well Mark, as we kind of bring this to a close, is there anything you were hoping to share or get across that you haven’t had a chance to yet?

Mark Carpenter, Master Storytelling (19:41):

Well, I think I just wanted to react to one thing that you said about, “I feel like I’m an amateur storyteller, that this is something I’m not very good at.” And I hear this from people all the time too, “Well, okay, that’s something that’s a gift that people have that I don’t have that gift.”

Mark Carpenter, Master Storytelling (19:57):

And I just want to emphasize, for both you and your listeners, storytelling is a skill like any other skill and with practice and with direction, with guidance, it can be developed. I’m going to suggest that the first time you did a podcast, Tom, maybe you weren’t as good at it as you are today.

Tom DuFore, Big Sky Franchise Team (20:18):

Oh, yeah. Oh, yeah. Case in point, the very first episode, the quality microphone that was all invested in and so on wasn’t hooked up right. So it recorded to through the just standard computer microphone and the audio quality was terrible.

Mark Carpenter, Master Storytelling (20:37):

But you’ve learned from that and you didn’t learn by sitting and thinking about it for a long period of time and going, “Well, I’m not very good at that. I don’t understand those things.” You really learned by getting in and doing it, by getting some coaching and some direction, and continuing to practice it, continuing to get better and better and better.

Mark Carpenter, Master Storytelling (20:55):

Storytelling is just that same way. It’s like any other skill. It can be developed. So if any of your listeners are thinking, “Yeah, storytelling’s great for those people that are natural storytellers, but it’s not for me.” I want you to rethink that and think of it as a skill that you can develop to help you as you teach, lead, sell, and inspire.

Tom DuFore, Big Sky Franchise Team (21:15):

Yeah, and I would just add as a plug for you, it sounds like ways to develop that is reading your book and if they want some coaching or support along the way, attending one of your workshops and different things to that regard, is that access or ways to get in touch with that? Is that on your website? How can someone find out about your workshop?

Mark Carpenter, Master Storytelling (21:33):

Yeah, absolutely. Just through the website is the best way to get there. We also do individual and team coaching on that as well. I’m working with somebody right now who’s moving into a position where he is going to be speaking from the stage a lot, and so I’m doing some individual coaching with him on storytelling. So there’s all sorts of different ways that you can get the support. I’d love to help you if that’s a direction that you’d like to go.

Tom DuFore, Big Sky Franchise Team (21:58):

Mark, thank you so much for a fantastic interview and let’s go ahead and jump into today’s three key takeaways. So takeaway number one is when Mark said that to have stories focus on a point to either teach, lead, or inspire. And I’d never really thought of using stories in such a way, but I thought it was a great succinct way to describe that.

Tom DuFore, Big Sky Franchise Team (22:20):

Takeaway number two is when he said, “Pay attention and be aware of stories and ordinary events.” And he said, “When you have an experience,” he said, “take note of it. If it creates any kind of an emotional reaction, it could be a positive, a negative joy, sorrow, whatever it is, document it.” And in the book, he actually describes actually taking note of that, storing it in on a notepad or on your phone somewhere. And using that and saving it for that just in case scenario, maybe for some presentation or something you might end up doing.

Tom DuFore, Big Sky Franchise Team (22:55):

Takeaway number three is when he described that there are three things every story needs to have. I loved how he broke this down. So it’s number one, is that you need to create a relatable character and or relatable goals in the story. Number two, something needs to get in the way of that relatable character accomplishing their goal, essentially some type of conflict. And number three, what is the change that teaches the lesson we want to learn out of it? So what happens? How does this person transform?

Tom DuFore, Big Sky Franchise Team (23:29):

And now it’s time for today’s Win-Win. So today’s Win-Win is when Mark talked about how people relate better and remember more of a story when you use that as an example versus just sharing facts or data or information.

Tom DuFore, Big Sky Franchise Team (23:51):

So think of using a story when you’re trying to convey or relate a message, whatever that kind of message might be. And lastly, he said that, “Storytelling is like any other skill and you can develop it.” So I think that’s something for all of us to take out of it. So as with most things, when you practice it, you get better at it.

Tom DuFore, Big Sky Franchise Team (24:13):

And so that’s the episode today, folks. Please make sure you subscribe to the podcast and give us a review. And remember, if you or anyone you know might be ready to franchise their business or take their franchise company to the next level, please connect with us at bigskyfranchiseteam.com. Thanks for tuning in and we look forward to having you back next week.

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