The talk featured Stan Slap, a corporate strategist and author of the new book Bury My Heart at Conference Room B: The Unbeatable Impact of Truly Committed Managers. (Click on the video above to watch an edited version of his “Bury My Heart at Conference Room B” speaking presentation.) One story in particular that Slap told during the webcast was powerfully emotional, and has stuck with me — a testament both to the art of storytelling and to Slap’s message about the importance of personal values and beliefs in forging a connection with people, even in a management setting.
I can’t do justice to the story or Slap’s telling. Suffice it to say that it involves a woman, Florence Taylor (not her real name), who, growing up in a small town in the deep South, was one of the first black children to attend a white school, where on her first day she sat next to a white, red-haired girl who immediately became her new best friend. During recess, four masked men rode into the school’s playground on horseback; one of them grabbed the red-haired girl because she’d been playing with Florence. Without thinking, Florence ran at the man, who dropped her red-haired friend, picked up Florence, and dragged her outside the schoolyard and along the concrete for two blocks. Florence spent five weeks in the hospital, and when she got out, she went right back to the white school. Today a successful executive at a well-known company, Florence tells Slap in Bury My Heart at Conference Room B:
“In this life I have had an opportunity to learn what is most important to me. What is most important to me is loyalty. The little white girl from that school is still my best friend today. I’m not willing to live without loyalty in my life and I’m not willing to have people I care about living without it. … If you are working for me, and you ever get into trouble trying to do the right thing… I’m coming back for you.”
I don’t think I’ll ever forget this story, or Slap’s underlying point about forging a bond with the people who work for and with you based on those things that are most important to you. So I think I’d call that a successful (Web-enabled) meeting experience.