The Power of Persuasion
About This Episode
The power of persuasion and storytelling is driven by our shared humanity and human connection to each other and the world around us. Storytelling leads the power to persuade others, professionally or personally, and innovative thinking creates a world of opportunity for how storytelling drives our actions.
We explore this topic deeper on this episode of The Edge with Neal Foard, President of the Passion Logic Project and master storyteller who has leveraged the art of the story throughout his career in advertising and his fame as a TikTok influencer. Together, Neal and host Michelle Boockoff-Bajdek chat about the power of persuasion, and the most effective way to persuade through storytelling.
Interested in learning more?
Michelle BB 00:00:07 The views expressed by guests are their own and do not necessarily reflect the views of Skillsoft. Welcome to the edge, the Skillsoft podcast, where you'll find stories about how transformative learning can help people and their organizations grow together. I am your host, Michelle BBB. My pronouns are she her and hers. And if you're new to the edge, welcome. And if you've been following the edge for some time, welcome back. This is season three. And in the dozens of enlightening conversations we've had so far, we've addressed topics like the human revolution, skilling for the future diversity equity and inclusion, leading a distributed workforce, digital transformation, and so much more here at Skillsoft. We propel organizations and people to grow together through transformative learning experiences. We believe that learning has the power to unleash human potential and accelerate careers. And when we talk about learning, we often focus on those hard, durable job skills like coding or data science or project management, but just as important, especially these days are things like leadership and power skills, resiliency, agility, and clear, persuasive communication.
Michelle BB 00:01:25 In fact, my guest today has built a business around the power of persuasion. Neil Ford has spent three decades in advertising and marketing, creating award-winning campaigns for global power brands like Budweiser Lexus and Sony. He has conducted clinics on storytelling, creativity, and innovative thinking for fortune 500 companies and universities. And he is been a featured speaker at TEDx. Most recently, Neil has gained a significant following on social media, his riveting videos about the kindness of everyday people are a TikTok sensation. He is currently president of the passionate logic project and through the art of storytelling, Neil teaches professionals how to use the power of persuasion and empathy to succeed in their day to day business. Neil, thank you so much for joining me on the edge. Welcome. I am so excited to have you here. You have reinvented yourself over the course of your career, but between your success as a creative director, your popular social media presence, and now the passionate logic project, there is a common thread that I see, and that is storytelling. So why is storytelling such a powerful way to communicate? And, and what is that? What is that value of storytelling in business?
Neal 00:02:45 The, I, I think the reason that it is so useful and so powerful is it's so primitive mm-hmm, <affirmative>, it, it was the, is the most ancient of the art forms. Once we became verbal at, at it added meaning to our lives and we understood our place in the world and we invented history and it's no accident that Dramatists, you know, are such celebrities because it's such a primitive thing. You probably have noticed this in your own life. You know, when you, when something is a choice between what you ought to do and what you want to do, what you want to do is often the, the winner. Mm. And I think that the more primitive something is the more primitive a need, the more hardwired into you than it is, the more powerful it is as an impulse. And there's this wonderful Stephen Pinker quote, where he says the cognitive psychology is shown that the mind best understands facts when they're woven into a conceptual fabric, like a narrative or a mental map. Mm. And if you just cite facts at people, those disconnected facts in the mind are like, they're like unlinked pages on the web. They just might as well not exist. Right. So I, I think that's, my storytelling is so incredibly powerful and useful.
Michelle BB 00:03:58 What do you think about in business? I mean, does it still have application in a business setting? Because I think, you know, you're right. We look at celebrities and I think it is one of the reasons that we are so enthralled because they're just such powerful storytellers, but how does this apply in like the business world?
Neal 00:04:18 Anytime a leader has an agenda that they wanna sell any kind of vision. Mm. They have to, they have to create in the minds of their, the people that work for them, their team, the same level of understanding. And they have to picture the end game. This the state that does not yet exist. They have to portray it real, real enough to where people believe it's going to happen. You know, they, one of Steve jobs, the, the criticism you'll often hear is that he would create a reality distortion field. It's what he wasn't being real. But that is also praise in the sense that he could take something that didn't exist except in his own mind and make it sufficiently real, that it would seemingly bend the rules of physics. And that's just how you create great things is how you go places. Other people haven't gone is by being able to communicate those things, which you just don't do that with bullet points. You do that with something that comes to life in the mind of the listener. And I'm often astonished that people haven't recognized this power before. Right. You know, great leaders can paint you a picture. They can create a future in your head out of nothing.
Michelle BB 00:05:29 Yeah. That's, you know, it is amazing because it is your job as a leader to provide that vision, but really to sell that vision, you've gotta do it in a way that, that, that people can see, they can see the path, they understand where they're going and they understand why they wanna be on board. All right. So I'm just gonna put it out there right now. I'm a huge fan. We'll get to why in a moment.
Neal 00:05:57 Oh, bless you.
Michelle BB 00:05:59 <laugh> look. I consider storytelling to be part of my role. And I am riveted by the stories that you tell they are so powerful. And perhaps the thing that I appreciate the most is that your stories are about regular people, not people who are usually in the spotlight, the celebrities that we talk about, but really the small acts of kindness that are usually central to the things that you talk about. Why do you think these stories resonate with so many people?
Neal 00:06:29 Well, there's a, a number of ways I could answer that. I think that there's a, there's a certain power in that it, anything that comes out of my life, I know is going, going to reflect a sense of reality in other people's lives. In other words, the stories that I tell those happen to me, those things happen to me. And because they happen, other people see the reality of it and they can create an analog in their own life. And the, the stories, because they come from personal experience and not the news they're they have an advantage, which is the news is sensational. It is you, you hear this term like reality TV. And the one thing you can guarantee, it's not, it's not reality. It's they use that word, right? That's not reality. It's it's it has been manipulated by a producer in order to pro in order to produce an emotional train wreck.
Neal 00:07:22 And in, in my case, I'm just trying to reflect that my own personal experience disagrees with the news. The news is trying to communicate that there are all these problems in the world. Those are your problems too. When what I'm trying to do is simply say in my personal experience, people by and large are awesome. They're, they're wonderful to each other. They're sympathetic. Yes, of course they have temper tantrums and they lash out and they have flaws, but you know what? We forgive each other because we're all human. And I think that what's resonating is the idea that we're all on this journey as human beings, and we need to grant each other, some grace. And if you think about it in a way, the stories are kind of antidote mm-hmm <affirmative> to the bile that you see elsewhere. I think that might, might be some of the popularity. I do have to point out, you know, it's I have a following, but it's not very big. It's Ty, it's microscopic in the sense of media. So it's resonating with certain kinds of people. And I, I think that, uh, I'm just enchanted by the people that like the stories, we're all sort of, part of the same tribe of optimistic travelers, you know, that, that we actually think that people are okay and I wish it were a bigger group, but you know what, it's, it's a great group.
Michelle BB 00:08:41 So I love that. I, I think you're being modest to be, and I know in the, in the grand scheme of media, but you know, something really sticks. And, you know, at Skillsoft, we talk about leadership a lot. We talk about servant leadership. We talk about inclusive leadership, but what I've heard from some of the stories that you tell, and even what you just talked about and something we believe in is that leadership isn't really about a job title. It's not where a person sits on an org chart because leaders can be found anywhere and everywhere, um, within an organization or even in your own lives. There are people who step up and show up, even when times are difficult, they are making an outsized contribution regardless of their role. And I think that's really powerful. I mean, is that something that you see in, in, in these stories and in these people that you come across in your life?
Neal 00:09:32 Yeah. Oh, wow. That's a great observation, actually, that it it's leadership isn't necessarily a title. Mm-hmm <affirmative>. I, I had a boss once. I just loved this guy and he was ambitious, but he wasn't ambitious the way that a lot of people are, a lot of people's ambition has to do with them seeking, you know, money and power for the purposes of, you know, to protect themselves. They're sometimes they're doing it on an insecurity. Sometimes they're doing it just because they, they wanna dominate, well, this guy, Scott, he had this knack for leadership, but it was <laugh>. He confessed to me once that he wanted so badly to be a leader, to keep his people out of other people's hands, that he, that he didn't want anybody getting thrown under the bus or manipulated or, or misled or ill taught. And he had such a, he had such a, uh, drive to improve the lives of his folks.
Neal 00:10:28 He was always trying to get them to take on more training or more responsibility. It was always urging us to get outside of our comfort zone. Not because he wanted to meet some quota or target or quarterly goal, but because he wanted to see us succeed, he, he had in his mind that the legacy he wanted to leave in the world was that I protected my people from ha ha, have you ever heard this phrase? You'll see it, especially on reality TV or somebody will say I'm not here to make friends and mm. When as soon as I hear that, I think to myself, if we were in a tribe of 80 people, you wouldn't make it through the week. <laugh> because you're not, you're not here to make friends. Yes, you are. You can't, you can't succeed in a grand organization without allies and people that want you to succeed. They would ingratiate himself with people, but because they would, they would look at him and think what a good egg, what a good dude. Right. Um, he, I know he's trying to help me. I know what he's really has as a goal is to make the experience of his people. Awesome. And that to me was by the way, uh, great storyteller himself, he would often use metaphors and, and try to bring people along by explaining things that had happened to him.
Michelle BB 00:11:47 You know, it sounds to me when you talk about Scott and, and boy, do we need more Scott's in the world, but you know, this is somebody who thinks first of his people before himself. And what's really interesting in some of the research that we've done, we know that people don't leave an organization just because of compensation. Okay. They lead largely because of their manager, because they're not getting what they need because they are not earning the respect or, or, or receiving the respect they deserve. They are not seeing the internal mobility, um, the growth that they desire. And so leaders, inspirational leaders make or break an organization. And I just think it's so important to have more SCOs in the world.
Neal 00:12:43 Well, yeah, my experience was that they're quite rare, but when you find one, you sort of grab their belt loop and try to hang on. And, uh, I have to say that, uh, the, that Scott was most famous, uh, for everybody staying in touch with him long after they'd left the company. Mm. He was, he wound up, uh, he wound up running sort of habitat for humanity in a, in a mountainous region of Colorado. And he was instrumental in helping their, uh, reorganization and so forth. And he taught at this little community college after he retired just a little thing, but they were always having guest speakers were just a row of big hitters from the advertising industry. <laugh> he would get these big shots to come out and teach at this community college. I'm not sure that these community college kids understood what was happening. It was like getting David Ogilvy to come in, speak to your class, you know, and you're in like, <inaudible> what the hell? So, oh God, he's left behind a leg. His number one legacy was leaving behind people that loved him.
Michelle BB 00:13:46 Oh, I love that. Leave behind people who love you. Um, alright, Neil, I, I I've waited long enough and I have to ask you about TikTok. Now I have to ask about TikTok. So yeah, you, I know you don't think you have a big scholarship, but 200,000 sounds pretty big to me, more than a million likes your postcard from 1969 has been viewed 2.6 million times, by the way, 1969. Great year. So my question to music, <laugh> great. Yeah. How did you find yourself on TikTok and, and what should others, you know, learn from sort of this, this incredible organic success that you've had there?
Neal 00:14:26 Wow. I've got a million ways to answer that question. The, I really wish we had like hours and hours.
Michelle BB 00:14:32 I know, I know
Neal 00:14:33 We could dig into it, but okay. So the, the first thing about TikTok that strikes me as, um, why it, it is thriving is because the algorithm is spectacularly good at feeding you what you like. Mm. And it's in that way, it is incredibly revealing because if you are a positive person and you're seeking to learn, it will feed you. Things like that. Mm-hmm <affirmative>, if you are, if you are, uh, fixated on dancing, it will feed you dancing. If you love air fryers, it's gonna give you air fryers. Eventually, eventually watch it long enough. It's gonna feed you exactly what you like. And in that way, it's a kind of a mirror. And what happened was that I was doing small videos, little three minute, two and a half minute videos to advertise my company within on LinkedIn. And typically, you know, how I, I, I'm sort of repulsed by people who use LinkedIn as a, as an advertising platform or, or, or they go on there and they humble brag, you know, and I it's re I find that repellent.
Neal 00:15:39 So what I thought was, I don't wanna be part of that noise. So I'm going to just put on thoughts that I think are relative or are relevant to business that will broadcast to the world, that we are a certain kind of person. You know, this is who we are, is somebody who wants to share goodness and positivity and interesting facts that might help you in business. Well, that's where it started. Mm-hmm <affirmative>, but one of them, this postcard from 1969, my, my daughter was quite fond of the story for a couple of reasons. My, my daughter never met my father and nor he her, and, you know, he had died before she was born. And it was just the great tragedy of my life that they didn't know each other because he, they would've loved each other. Um, and that story in particular was very indicative of the kind of man that he was and how we related to each other as father and son.
Neal 00:16:30 So she thought it was a wonderful story. And she said, you know, we ought to put this on TikTok. And we were out to breakfast together at this little diner. And so she puts it on TikTok. And while we are sitting there, it's just surging. I mean, a number of hits. And she goes, you know, about the time that the, uh, pancakes arrive, she goes, Hey, dad, I think you just went viral. And I'm like, oh wow, you think we got like a hundred hits? And she goes, no, it pop. I think we're at 60. Wow. A couple of, and, and then, you know, after, after we left the diner, we went home and we were watching the, the progress of it. When the two of us were Huling all day going, I think we might make a million. And, and it was, oh my God, it was such a bonding moment.
Neal 00:17:12 It was so funny. Anyway, ultimately it, it did score in millions. And then what happened? Was it bounced over to Facebook? I didn't put it there, but a bunch of people had put it on Facebook. And, and my sister Trish calls me in the late afternoon. And she goes, well, somebody just sent me your stupid video. And they said, you really have to see this <laugh>. And I watched, I said, yeah, that's my brother. And they go, no, no, no. And she goes, no, really that's my brother. And I got a call from, uh, two of my sisters. They both had people had sent in the video and said, you must see this young man he's, he's got he's, you know, it's great. It's great message. And they go, yeah, we, I know. And don't, he's not that great, a guy <laugh> and he's not young either. So by the way, that's my tribe over 50. Oh, over 50,
Michelle BB 00:18:08 You know, I, I think the thing cuz like TikTok is this it's scrolling. Right? And so it's, it's it's yeah. It's I it's ear candy and, and you scroll through, but ever so often something makes you stop. And it was postcard from 1969 that made me stop. And I, I don't know why, and I don't know what, but then you started showing up in my feed and I think that what really struck me was what you indicated before. There is so much disruption and uncertainty and calamity in this world right now. And these stories are about hope. They're about inspiration. They're about really good people just doing their everyday thing. And they just show up and make an outsize contribution. And, and for me, you know, look, I have two daughters myself. I have one in college, one in high school and I don't know how to tell them about this world that we find ourselves in. But I love that I can show them that there is still goodness. And by the way, I do credit them with keeping me up to date on what's cool. They introduced me to TikTok. I refuse to do Snapchat, but I do love TikTok.
Neal 00:19:21 Yeah. I I've had a very positive experience with it. And uh, I, I wanna go off on for a minute on, on the type of feedback I get, which is please I wanna return. I do. Let me, I wanna cycle around, back to your daughters again. Mm-hmm <affirmative> cause this is a highly important issue for myself because I have kids and, and you, and, and the rest of the people that might have kids that are, you know, so we will return to that. But in the meantime, I just, I wanna talk about the feedback that I get, which is, you know, that the there's a Gary Vayner check sentiment, which is don't, don't read the comments, right? Because you know, don't read the comments for the, because the negative ones will, will send you into a tailspin and the positive ones you'll get addicted to.
Neal 00:19:59 And then you're stuck and I'm thinking, no, Gary, it's too late. I'm addicted to the positive comments. I, I love hearing back from people who say the sweetest and nicest things and the ratio of haters to positive comments is so small. Mm-hmm, <affirmative> the number of people that don't like, what I'm doing is so small. That to me, it's sort of symptomatic if you will, of, of the way that the news media tries to Overin inflate, how bad things are now, things are actually not that bad. I know it sounds like it. But the reason that think, you think things are bad is because you are being pummeled from all sides by media, whose job is to rivet your attention. And the first way they do that is through kind of crisis. They, they try to make you feel as though you are a victim of something that's coming to get you.
Neal 00:20:55 And this, this perpetual drumbeat of negativity is something I'm trying to be an antidote for. If you go through, if you in your life today, you may run across one or two very negative people. And unfortunately they can, they can ruin your day mm-hmm <affirmative>. But if you just were to really be objective, you would also recognize that there are probably hundreds of small courtesies that are going to be done to you today. There are little things, a nod. Somebody opens a door for you, somebody unbeknownst to you has, uh, kept your phone from falling off a table <laugh> or right. I mean, this stuff happens all around you and you know how I know that happens. Cause I do it. I don't ask, you know, for thanks to open a door for someone or try to, you know, remind them that they left their wallet on the table or, or pick up papers with them when they blow on the street. Um, you know, they, people stop and help and we just are not being the news. Isn't beating us to death with the fact that how good people are, because in fact it's not news because it's so common.
Michelle BB 00:22:04 Right, right, right. And
Neal 00:22:06 So when for, for, if we were to return to the idea that, you know, I I'm just trying to be an antidote to this negativity. Mm-hmm <affirmative> then in fact, if, if you simply can point out to your own daughters, you know, there's so much goodness that social media is a weapons platform for negativity. Mm-hmm <affirmative>, it is a, it's a technology that in the wrong hands can be turned into a negative tool in the right hands. It can be also an astonishing, the, um, positive thing in the, in the spirit of the Gandhi quote, you know, just be the change you wanna see in the world. If you are getting a lot of negativity and you're feeling inundated, be the opposite, get out there, use that tool for the opposite. And if a teenage girl is being hyped on by, you know, friends or picked on, they can be a shining light of the opposite. And they might find that sending that signal into the world, finds fans and a tribe and a tribe that isn't fixated on how you look or what you own, or how much money you make. We're on a journey together. And you can learn a lot about some, about somebody by how they travel. They can either fixate on all the little annoyances or they can celebrate the fact that it's a trip. It's fun
Michelle BB 00:23:30 And going somewhere. Great.
Neal 00:23:32 Yeah. There you go.
Michelle BB 00:23:34 You know, I, I thank you for that. And Ray Videk, if you're listening that one was for you, um, you know, stories, Neil are so engaging and entertaining, but I'd be remiss if I didn't talk about the fact that I work for a learning experience company. And because we do that, I honestly, I have found TikTok to be a powerful teaching tool. There is a lot you can do in a minute, three minutes. And I love the fact that you can actually learn on TikTok. Now I'm not saying I'm an ER doctor, but I do learn things from an ER doctor. I follow. Yeah. But at its, you know, at its best, what I like about the platform is that it combines this human connection. Cuz you, do you feel connected to the, to the people who are staring back at you on the screen? Cause most of the times it's right there and there's quality content there too. Again, I mean there are experts, Neil Degrassi, Tyson, Hank green. Yeah. There are real experts that you can learn from for free on this platform. And then it gives a learner and I, I recognize the algorithm is gonna serve up what, what it thinks you want to see and probably what you do wanna see, but you do have seemingly infinite choices. So how do we create more learning opportunities with this platform?
Neal 00:24:49 Well, the, the first thing is to take advantage of looking stuff up. Mm. What, what we will often do is we'll scroll sort of, because it's easy, you just flick. Right? Right. But you can actually use a little magnifying glass and you can look up people that you like authors and, and podcasters. And they will often, you know, you can even look up programs like I, I'm a big fan of Peaky blinders and you can often find quotes or clips from it. And you Neil Degras Tyson. There's a really good example. You can just search him out. Yeah. In other words, it's, it's not completely passive. You can actively try to find stuff between, uh, TikTok and YouTube. It is astonishing. Uh, let's let's compare the two media. So YouTube is definitively. If I wanna learn how to, uh, change the oil filter on my car, mm-hmm <affirmative> it will teach me that particular model.
Neal 00:25:37 It'll tell me how to do it. I mean, it's amazing. It is the new, how to manual for pretty much everything. Mm-hmm <affirmative> mm-hmm <affirmative>. And so I, I use it the way I use it in encyclopedia. Um, I won't even, I won't even go to the FAQs or the, or the community things on, on apple anymore. I just go right to YouTube to get my Mac problem solved. But, but TikTok is more like this. It's more like wandering down a, the aisle in a library mm-hmm <affirmative> and seeing what catches your interest. I used to love to do that. I would go into the public library and I would just cruise the stacks, looking for a book that caught my interest. And I used to do it, especially in the history, um, sections mm-hmm <affirmative> and the, um, way, way back when they did, uh, audio tapes, as you know, books on tape. I used to go in there and just, I started at the left and I marked my way to the right and, and, uh, in the history section and practically got a graduate degree in history. I'm pretty sure, especially in Russian history and literature, but, but anyway, back to TikTok as a medium, uh, I think people are under utilizing the fact that they can seek stuff out.
Michelle BB 00:26:45 So Neil, I'm really curious. I love the name. Tell me more about the passionate logic project. What is it and why should people care about it?
Neal 00:26:57 Um, so I started, uh, doing it when I was at Sachi and Saji, I, I used to be their worldwide head of creative learning. And really, it was just a glorified title for somebody who was doing a, a sort of advanced unit in the management training program. But we were in the persuasion business and it was a way of tuning people up to be more persuasive. Like, I'll give you this example, suppose I was a magic Janie. Okay. And I could grant you one of four superpowers. You just have to pick one. I could give you super strength. You could lift rail cars like they were styrofoam, or I could give you the power of flight. You could leap into the sky on flat, fast as a jet or invisibility you would disappear at will and walk amongst us humans unseen, or you had the ability to change people's minds, which would you pick?
Neal 00:27:48 And if you had the ability to change people's minds, you would not need the other superpowers because you could get anything you want. You could go anywhere you want. You just have to ask. Now industry, I came from advertising it's stock and trade is persuasion. And the reason billions of dollars are spent on it every year is because you really can change someone's mind if you just say the right words and the passionate logic project was applying the lessons of advertising and making people more valuable by making them more persuasive. So that's it in a nutshell. And, um, I have, I I've actually been doing it very much, a sort of C-suite one on ones. Um, it was kind of a, it was kind of a hidden tool that was being used by a lot of senior executives. And only now am I starting to do it on a sort of larger scale and getting out there into, into the world and, and teaching people some things.
Neal 00:28:51 And if you don't mind, I'd like just like hit on one sort of topic that sure. Uh, on that score that I think people often underestimate, um, when people do say presentation skills. Mm it's. It's not the same thing. Persuasion is different from learning how to present. Well, yes. Typically when people learn, take presentation, skills, seminars, and so forth, you know, they learn how to stand and how to project and all those things. And they, they try to turn themselves into slick presenters, but I'll, I'll tell you a story that I think illustrates the difference between being a slick presenter and being effective. So I was in a room of 12 business women who were all there as potential customers for this salesperson who, who was introduced, who got up. And then I'm not kidding, pulled his speech from his pocket and read it word for word, looking up goodness up only once.
Neal 00:29:42 Okay. And then very nervously folded the paper back up, sat down. No call to action. No under, no guess about what the price was. Just sat down now from a, from that description, you might, it would be reasonable to say, well, I doubt that he sold anything, but in fact, he, he sold out his entire inventory and often the women would compliment him on what a great presentation it was. So really you're thinking what, what the heck? Well, because the salesman was seven years old and he was trying to sell cookies so that he and his could go to summer camp together. Okay. So what I'm, if, if that had been a really slick presentation, it might have actually been a little creepy. The, the women weren't reacting to the sales pitch, expecting it to be a great sales pitch, that they didn't even need the cookies.
Neal 00:30:33 They're responding on a completely different level for a different reason. Now, what companies often do, what people do is they try to be really sharp and professional and slick and polished. But what they really need to be doing is be genuine. If your presentation is maybe a little rough around the edges, that is not a crisis what's most important is just, are you there to help? If you're there to help just be sincere and be genuine, and you're going to be a lot less nervous. And it, this is where we're at in the passion logic project. Just trying to explain the difference and try to make you more persuasive by making people want to buy from you. They, you can't change someone's mind if they don't wanna change it. So there is a very sophisticated art form to trying to turn that trick of making people want to change their mind.
Michelle BB 00:31:25 You know, I think it's interesting because I guess I would've assumed and maybe other people do as well that either you have that skill, right. You can be persuasive or not, but it sounds like it's something that can be learned or taught. Oh, of course. And you know, I love this idea about authenticity or just, you know, really just being yourself and not trying to put on a show it, you know, with, without, without giving everything away. What, what are some of the other ways that you think people could improve their ability to be more persuasive? What are the things that you need to know?
Neal 00:32:03 Oh, I'll give you a good one.
Michelle BB 00:32:04 Oh, good.
Neal 00:32:06 Um, people underestimate the power of listening. They and being present right there and responding to questions or body language or expressions when you carefully listen to someone that is communication and giving people, the opportunity to be heard is incredibly powerful for them wanting to like you, there is nothing quite so, you know, um, men are sometimes quite bad at this, you know, because, because men are solutions oriented. So you describe a problem. They try to leap immediately to the fix and they get impatient when somebody is speaking slowly or perhaps is trying to work something out mentally. And in that sense, I, I think I could do everybody a big favor if I just said, look, pay attention when somebody is speaking, or when you are making a presentation, if you can tell from the body language, the expressions or some other subsonic mechanism, if you can tell it's not going over very well, allow yourself to stop and say something like, as I'm speaking, I'm looking at you. And I don't think it's being received as, I mean it, can you tell me what, where am I going wrong here? And you know what, it, it brings you into a moment where people engage with you and understand you are paying attention to them. And I've got a little anecdote about Tim Tebow if we have time for it. Sure. Because I think it's instructive. Uh, when I was working at TiVo as their head of creative marketing, uh, we, we did some commercials with Tim Tebo. You can understand why Tevo Tebow. It was
Michelle BB 00:33:41 Mm-hmm
Neal 00:33:41 <affirmative> OK. So, uh, we had this commercial that involved him with a bunch of children and he was absolutely glorious and kids loved him. But here was the surprising thing that I didn't know about him. When I would speak to him, he was completely and utterly paying attention to me. In other words, he has those great eyes and he was looking right at you. He was not distracted. Despite the fact that a thousand people wanted his attention at the same time, he was completely focused on you and was listening to every word. And I was startled at how intensely satisfying that was. I was like, wow, he's a big celebrity. Everybody wants a piece of him. I'm trying to help him hear it. And I'm giving him some instruction and he is completely riveted by what I had to say. And it, it makes you feel wonderful. You feel complimented it. It gives you the sense that you are worthwhile and that makes you love this guy. His personal charisma had a lot to do. I believe with how much attention and energy he would focus on the person he was speaking with. And that for your audience, I think is one thing they could walk away with that I guarantee you is going to be powerful.
Michelle BB 00:34:55 You know, I agree. I, I interviewed, uh, Leslie Odom Jr. Once. And, and, you know, I just Dred him in Hamilton and I had the opportunity to, it was via zoom, but still, you know what he did, Neil, very akin to what you just described with Tim Tebow. He said my name throughout the conversation. Yeah. Michelle, let me tell you about, or Michelle. I, I love that answer. And it said to me he was paying attention. That's what I took away from. It was that he was listening to me. He knew who he was talking to and was really gracious about it. And that has struck me as another tool, Neil, for creating that important communication that you have with the other person, it shows that you're listening, it shows you're acknowledging them, and that you're res you respect what they are saying. And so I, I will always remember that, but it reminded me so much of what, of what you just said about Tim Tebow, that, that conversation, because I will, I will never forget that tool.
Neal 00:35:58 That's the old Dale Carnegie thing. He would say that the people's names is like music in their ears.
Michelle BB 00:36:04 It is, <laugh>, it, it, it is. It is, it is wonderful when people acknowledge you. And I think that from a, a communications perspective, that's, that's one tool. And I really appreciate this discussion in particular about how we can be more effective, because I think we need it now. I think there's a lot of noise. I think we tend to talk over people. I think we're not always listening. And I think just taking a step back. And so when I sort of think about this conversation as a whole, I'm taking away three things, I'm taking away the importance of learning persuasion, and that's not necessarily to sell somebody something they don't need, but to be more persuasive in your communication so that perhaps you can have a better dialogue. The second thing, clearly, the power of storytelling, cuz when you tell a story it's riveting. And I think that it, it, it comes from the authenticity that I hear in those stories. And then the third, and this is the thing that I think your stories do so well is they tap into our shared humanity because we need feel good right now. So creative director, entrepreneur persuasion, coach TikTok star, and you are TikTok star. So I have to ask what's next for you? What, what do you have next on your agenda?
Neal 00:37:27 This was a very unexpected thing that, uh, happened recently, which is because of, uh, on, on TikTok, a frequent comment that I will get is, Hey, if you're ever in Athens, Georgia, look me up, I'll buy a beer or Hey, if you're in Terre Haute or if you're in, if I got one the other day from, uh, Rhode Island and uh, and I thought, oh, I started putting pins in a map just to say mm-hmm <affirmative>, you know, it would be kind of cool is to literally is to just go, you know what I'm out for today. I'm just gonna jump in the car. I'm gonna head east and I'm gonna start meeting these people and having coffee with 'em. And I was sort of surprised at the, I suggested a couple times in the comments that I might do that. And I was surprised at the appetite that people had for that mm-hmm <affirmative> they really did.
Neal 00:38:10 They thought, oh man. Yeah. If you're in Phoenix, by all means stop in, in fact, I'll tell you the restaurant, we can go here. And so we're gonna, I, I got a couple of pals that I met courtesy of TikTok, um, out in Wyoming, these boys up in Sheridan, uh, they have this company called, um, go fast. Don't die. It's sort of motorcycle accessories. Oh my gosh. And one of these guys, I had a story that I had told where the sort of punchline to it was that is no tiger. And one of these young guys got a tattoo that said there is no tiger. And he, and he posted it for me and I'm like, dang, I gotta get to know you guys. You take, you take these things seriously. So anyway, so we have crafted what we're calling the run from regret tour, which is we're gonna get in the car and I'm gonna get this motorcycle escort and we're gonna go place to place and meet with people that have reached out on TikTok. And we're just gonna have some coffee and have some conversation and we we'll probably wind up filming it and recording it. Sure. And, and turn it into a podcast. Um, but really honestly, it it's just, it's just so that I can bask in that friendship, you know, so that we can meet and connect with people cuz we're all in this adventure together. And it would just be the coolest thing to just connect.
Michelle BB 00:39:31 That sounds amazing. And I will say if you're ever in Boston, there you go. Love to buy you coffee. Um, look, I, I think the tour's gonna be amazing for you. You're you'll have a whole new wealth of stories yeah. To share, which I think is fantastic.
Neal 00:39:48 Ought to
Michelle BB 00:39:49 <laugh>. Yeah. So look Neil, when the pandemic hit, we started this podcast and the, the reason that we started it was to build connection and to give people something, to listen, to, to learn about, to grow with as we went along and then we found that there was, you know, people really were interested in the guidance and the advice of all of our guests. It's been an amazing ride. We're in season three. And I've asked this question of every guest since we started the podcast. So it's a three parter. So I guess that makes it three questions, but still here goes and I, I, I, I hope you'll, you'll do me the honor of answering. So, so one is what are you learning right now? Or what have you recently learned? That's had an impact second. How are you applying that? Learning whether it's in the, the flow of, of life work, passion projects, and third, what advice would you share with others? So what are you learning? How are you applying it? And what advice would you give?
Neal 00:40:53 The number one thing I'm learning is to try to, um, try to let stress affect me less. I, uh, I, by nature, I'm a kind of stress monkey and the, the, what that does is stress creates all kinds of artificial pressures and, and it, it, flumoxes your ability to go out into the world and do good things. Mm-hmm <affirmative> um, instead you react the way that a wounded animal would react is that every comment, every attempt to help you and so forth yeah. Creates this, this, you know, this reflex right. Of negativity. And so I'm, I'm, I would say that what I'm learning is to try to use meditation to, to calm that instinct, to just calm down that everything's gonna be okay. And, and, uh, if you will sort of, how am I applying that? I think what I'm trying to do is I'm trying to say, look, if you're having this reaction, if you are a stress monkey and you're, you are letting the world's stresses, bother you to the point that you are being negative, then apply this, go out in the world and try to be that meditative calming, reassuring presence.
Neal 00:42:07 Try to be that person that helps somebody else feel like, you know what it's gonna be. Okay. It's not as bad as they're telling you. I guarantee you, it's not as bad as they're telling you. And in that sense, uh, what I'm finding is that by trying to be that solution, I'm also calming myself down. <laugh> I like that. You know, it, it turns out that when you're helping others, it, it tends to make you feel better about your own mission. And then what advice about learning would I share with others? I, uh, if, if there's anything that has been useful for me, it's that just remember that every day is an opportunity to learn something new. And that sounds so trite. I know it's it's if I don't learn something every day, uh, I think I've wasted the, the opportunity look, look all around you, between YouTube and TikTok and every available resource online, you know, Wikipedia and whatnot.
Neal 00:43:04 There's always some new fact to be gained. I, I do find that podcasts are a magnificent source of learning. Mm-hmm <affirmative> perhaps better than any of the other venues and genres. And I'll tell you that it's because you can do other things you don't feel as though it's a waste of time. You can, you can drive and listen to podcast. You can exercise and listen to podcasts. You, you know, whether it's a hike or gardening or painting or, or working on something that doesn't require you to really think about it. Okay. So what does that mean? It means that every minute of the day that you have downtime, this is a chance for you to hear other philosophies and learn other facts. Your podcast is a great example of the type of thing that I would listen to, um, to enrich my life and increase my skillset and the burden, the price tag for it is virtually zero. Since I wouldn't be doing anything else out, otherwise I hope that helps.
Michelle BB 00:43:58 Oh my gosh. I love that. And I, I am a, I'm an avid podcast listener as well. I, I tend to take things in better when I'm listening to them. Yeah. And audio. Yeah. And I, yeah, I, I, I love it. And thank you so much, Neil, this has been a phenomenal, phenomenal experience for me as a fan, as a fellow storyteller, as a podcaster. So I wanna thank you so much for joining us today.
Neal 00:44:27 I wish <laugh>. I was just gonna say, I wish it went on longer. I know Michelle cause the, um, when the, what your audience doesn't know is we had a conversation before this yeah. This podcast and it went on and I'm mean it could have gone on forever. And it's, it's quite sad that we have to stop now. <laugh>
Michelle BB 00:44:44 I know, but you know what, here's the thing
Neal 00:44:45 There's plenty more to talk about.
Michelle BB 00:44:46 You're gonna come to Boston and we'll sit down we'll Pivott and we'll have a good time.
Neal 00:44:51 Probably why we'll wind up in Boston.
Michelle BB 00:44:53 I think that, I think that would be wonderful.
Michelle BB 00:44:58 Neil, thank you so much for joining us today and to our listeners. Thanks as always for tuning into this. And every episode as we unleash our edge together, you know, I said this before at Skillsoft, we propel organizations and people to grow together through transformative learning experiences. And those learning experiences include things like power skills, agility, resilience, communication. Now I hope you've found Neil's stories as enthralling as I have, because storytelling is one of the most powerful means of communicating and of building meaningful connections between people and Neil has certainly made a very persuasive case for the power of persuasion. I encourage you to watch summer or perhaps all of Neil's stories on talk, if you follow and you can also find his Ted talk on YouTube. Thanks again. I'm Michelle Bebe. This is the edge. And until next time, keep learning, keep growing and be well.
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About Our Guest
Neal Foard has spent three decades in advertising and marketing, creating award-winning campaigns for global power brands like Budweiser, Lexus and Sony. For his work on Toyota in the early 2000’s, Neal ranked among the top ten most awarded creative directors in the world. He has conducted clinics on storytelling, creativity and innovative thinking for Fortune 500 companies and universities, and been a featured speaker at TEDx conferences. Most recently, Neal has gained a signficant following on social media for his inspirational videos about the kindnesses of everyday people.
About Our Host
As Chief Marketing Officer, Michelle leads a global marketing organization, focused on transforming today’s workforce for tomorrow’s economy. Since joining the company, she has been responsible for Skillsoft’s global marketing strategy, which includes generating awareness, driving preference, and building affinity for Skillsoft. Additionally – and perhaps most importantly – Michelle serves as the company's brand evangelist, helping to build a vibrant community of passionate learners.
With more than 25 years of marketing, branding, and strategy experience, Michelle has made it her personal mission to support the advancement of women in business. Prior to Skillsoft, she served as Chief Marketing Officer of IBM Watson, where she was instrumental in developing the first “Women Leaders in AI” program, which honors women who put AI to work across industries and around the globe. She also served as the global head of marketing for The Weather Company, an IBM Business, helping companies understand how to anticipate, plan for, and ultimately make better decisions – with greater confidence – in the face of weather.
Michelle is a prolific speaker on a range of topics, including the war for talent, digital transformation, and marketing in a post-pandemic world. She covers these topics and more as the host of Skillsoft's podcast, The Edge, now in its second season. She has authored countless papers covering a range of business and marketing topics, was at the center of Skillsoft’s leadership role in DEI through free “Leadercamps,” and has taught two Percipio courses on the Pink Pandemic and Public Speaking.
Michelle is also a founding member of CMO Huddles, a group dedicated to bringing together and empowering highly effective B2B CMOs to share, care, and dare each other to greatness. Michelle holds a Master’s degree from Simmons University and sits on the pro side of the Oxford comma debate.