Engaging Leadership

The Power of Storytelling and Authenticity in Business Strategy

Padraig Hyland, CEO of The Core Story, joined Down to Business with Bobby Kerr on Newstalk this week. He discusses his transition from stand-up comedy to business strategy. Padraig highlights the crucial role of storytelling and authenticity in effectively engaging employees and driving organisational success. By sharing his experiences and insights, he explains how leaders can transcend traditional methods to foster a more connected and inspired workforce. From utilising the “Heart Compass” to addressing workplace dissent, our innovative approach provides valuable insights for today’s leaders.

Click here to listen to the full interview.

Points discussed:

  • Padraig's transition from stand-up comedy to business strategy
  • The crucial role of storytelling in leadership
  • The importance of authenticity in engaging employees
  • How to align strategy with organisational values
  • Addressing workplace dissent and fostering a connected workforce

Full transcript below.

Bobby Kerr: Now, over the years on Down to Business, we’ve heard a lot of people talk about the term “business strategy.” My next guest thinks that all managers should have one, but he believes it’s all about storytelling and having a smile on your face. Delighted to welcome Padraig Hyland, the CEO of Core Story, to the program. How are you, Padraig?

Padraig Hyland: I am great, Bobby, thanks. Good to see you.

Bobby Kerr: Now, tell me a little bit about yourself because I think you’ve had an interesting career. You’re a comedian, a storyteller, and you work in business strategy. Just maybe tell me a little bit about how all this happened.

Padraig Hyland: Well, I took a few meanders, shall we say. I worked in business for about almost 20 years. I worked 10 years in Asia and the Middle East with big corporates. I worked in America for years, and a lot of it was within the space of driving change and transformation. I got a bit worn out just after Y2K, if you remember that.

Bobby Kerr: The company you were working for went bust?

Padraig Hyland: No, no, no, thankfully not. As hard as I tried, but I took a bit of time out and just did what you do to relax. I ended up doing stand-up comedy, and then it just became a thing. I became a professional comedian in the end. I was based in London and did it for several years. Interestingly, I got married and had a family, and I realized I used to make a lot more money when I was in business. Maybe the realities of life were kicking in, but when I went back into business, I realised that what I learned in comedy was really beneficial.


Bobby Kerr: What did you learn from comedy that you brought back to business?

Padraig Hyland: I learned a lot from comedy, but the main thing I came away with is that if you want to engage people, you need to be doing two things: speaking with an authentic voice and telling a story that engages. If you do those two things, you will engage people and build trust. If there’s a lack of authenticity or the story isn’t from their perspective, you’re going to lose your audience.

Bobby Kerr: Would it be true, and I don’t mean to generalise, that a lot of stand-up comics have to develop other skills to make ends meet? Maybe media training, acting, or other related fields?

Padraig Hyland: Absolutely. I got to a place where I was earning enough money to pay the bills, but not enough to plan for the future. As a comedian, you’re always looking for other ways of making money. In my case, I was totally committed to comedy, but then I decided to make a change and come back into business. I realised that it was much harder to engage people in business. Leaders need to up their game. You can’t just roll out the usual humdrum vision statements and values; you have to engage people authentically.


Bobby Kerr: So, in the last 10 years, what has your business been focusing on?

Padraig Hyland: We’ve spent the last 10 years evolving this business. We’ve done a lot of research with our clients, big multinational companies, in areas of inspirational leadership, strategy, and culture. We help them drive change.

Bobby Kerr: Would a typical project for you be to humanise the strategy and vision so everyone in the organisation can understand and feel relevant to it?

Padraig Hyland: Absolutely. We differentiate between smart strategy and heart strategy. Smart strategy is the organisation’s resources and plans, but heart strategy is why anyone should care. It’s about connecting with people at all levels of the organisation. We developed something called the Heart Compass, which helps organisations understand what people care about. This guides the smart decisions and makes the strategy more effective.


Bobby Kerr: How important is humour in humanising a strategy?

Padraig Hyland: It’s very important. The key thing is clarity and authenticity. We have something called the Core Story, which is about getting to the essence of what engages people. For example, we had Ken Allen, the former CEO of DHL International, who used humour and storytelling effectively. He was known as the “singing CEO” and used stories and music to engage his team. Successful strategy execution is all about engagement.


Bobby Kerr: How do you deal with cynicism around strategy and business commitments?

Padraig Hyland: It’s common to encounter cynicism. Often, leaders communicate but don’t connect. You need to show people why you care about the strategy. There’s always a story that can connect people to the strategy, but it takes effort to find and tell that authentic story.


Bobby Kerr: How do you handle hecklers in comedy versus dissenters in the workplace?

Padraig Hyland: Embrace them and never lose your audience. In comedy, you represent the audience and keep them with you. In leadership, it’s about listening and taking feedback. Successful leadership involves engaging with dissenters constructively.


Bobby Kerr: It’s a fascinating space you’re working in. My guest was Padraig Hyland, CEO of Core Story. Thanks for joining us, Padraig.

Padraig Hyland: I enjoyed our conversation. Thank you, Bobby.


Contact us to see how your organisation can use story to connect people to strategy in a way that drives ownership.

The Core Story are innovators in the transformation of business performance enabling leaders to engage hearts and minds and bring strategy to life for everybody, everyday. We are an imaginative force transforming leadership. Specialising in human centred leadership and strategy, we partner with clients to establish their strategy story and bring it alive throughout the organisation.

[email protected]

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