July 19, 2021

TribePod: The Fine Art of Business Storytelling with Christopher Bartley

What is the story behind your business? If you have one, does it need improving? If you do not have one, why not? In today's world of business, how people perceive your company is more crucial than ever. In this episode of TribePod, Jim Stroud sits down business storytelling coach - Christopher Bartley. In their discussion, the impact of storytelling in leadership & business is discussed. Also, why is User Experience (UX) design so misunderstood? Plus, Jim sings an old song. Figure out who the original artist was and win... nothing. Yes, this is an episode you do not want to miss. 


Christopher Bartley is a UX designer and storytelling strategist that helps professionals elegantly show and tell what they do and why they do it. He is the founder of The Bartley Group, which positions healthcare leaders to acquire more patients, deliver engaging presentations, and build executive trust with teams. Christopher believes there are three types of stories—the stories you tell yourself, the stories you tell your company, and the stories you tell your clients. He believes that these personal, executive, and brand stories give clarity, persuasion, and buy-in for leaders who care about their patients and organizations.





Jim Stroud (1s):
One is the loneliest number that you ever do. I don't know to all the words. What? I'm sorry. I'm doing the TribePod podcast flying solo today. No, Courtney. No Brittany. Just me because everyone is tied up with clients. And I'm not mad at that. I just, I just miss having my, I miss having my banter with my coworkers. I guess I have to do that some other time. Well, on this episode of TribePod, I speak with Christopher Bartley, who is a User Experience designer, and storyteller strategists that helps professionals elegantly show and tell, what they do and why they do it.

Jim Stroud (48s):
He's the founder of the Bartley group, which physician’s healthcare leaders to acquire more patients, deliver engaging presentations and build executive trust with teams. Christopher believes that there are three types of stories: The stories you tell yourself, the stories you tell your company, and the stories you tell your clients. He believes that these personal executive and branch stories give clarity, persuasion, and buy in for leaders who care about their patients and organizations. We will hear from Christopher Bartley right after this. One is the loneliest number that you ever do.

Jim Stroud (1m 37s):

Intro: Jim Stroud (1m 40s):
You are listening to TribePod. A podcast series of interviews of interest to the HR community. It is hosted by Courtney Lane, produced by Jim Stroud, sponsored by Proactive Talent, and enjoyed by you. Today's episode begins right after this.

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Intro: Jim Stroud (3m 45s):
For more information on Proactive Talent, visit them online at proactivetalent.com or click the link in the podcast description.

Jim Stroud (3m 53s):
Hello, sir. How are you?

Christopher Bartley (3m 54s):
I'm doing well. How's it going, Jim?

Jim Stroud (3m 56s):
Doing well, doing well myself. I am very curious to learn who you are and what you do, because what I hear is quite fascinating. But I want to hear from you. So, tell me, who are you? What do you do?

Christopher Bartley (4m 8s):
I’m Chris Bartley. Well, do I have to start with my name? I guess <inaudible>

Jim Stroud (4m 13s):
Go ahead. Go ahead.

Christopher Bartley (4m 14s):
My name is Christopher Bartley and I'm a UX designer and storytelling strategist. So, I'm what I do is simply help people to say what they are thinking, or what they're trying to communicate in a more concise, persuasive and memorable way. But then also on the other side, sometimes it's not about communicating something but you're trying to help your customers navigate better through a digital app, or maybe even a physical space. So that's where user experience design comes in. Which is a form of storytelling because if you don't really know how to map their journey, then the experience is going to suck. So, all in all, I really think both sides are, it's about storytelling, one side is more customer journey mapping, the other side is business storytelling.

Christopher Bartley (4m 55s):
So, but that's what I do. I just helped to create better communication and user experiences in a more, I don't know, Jim, a more exciting way and more compelling way. So yeah, that's what I did.

Jim Stroud (5m 6s):
Okay. Okay. You as us user experience. Now, that's one of those job titles that is so misunderstood. People like, “What do you? What's that? I don’t…” You know, If I told my grandmother, “Yeah, I'm a “UX user experience designer.” She like, “Okay, baby.” <inaudible> So, if my grandmother was here, right now, how would you explain that to her?

Christopher Bartley (5m 32s):
You know, I use a story. So, imagine going to Starbucks, and this might have happened to you, or a building of your choice that's aesthetically on point. Right? Looks great. It's symmetrical. And as soon as you get to the door, you push instead of pull, and you smack right into it. Right? Yeah, the development –

Jim Stroud (5m 51s):
<crosstalk> great.

Christopher Bartley (5m 52s):
There was no signal, right? There's no signage.

Jim Stroud (5m 55s):

Christopher Bartley (5m 55s):
Because apparently, the building is too pristine, right? It's too bourgeoisie for any kind of extra designation. And the problem with that, that issue is, they didn't think about the people who are actually going to use, the door. They didn't think about the patrons. And that's where user experience comes in. It's really helping you to see the, for lack of a better word, see the experience, see the process through the customer lens. And so, you do interviews, you do user research. There's so many different, you know, there's different methodologies of how you can collect that information that data. Jim, quite frankly, people lie. They say that they would do something in a particular situation, if they're on a website or an app, or you know, if it was a building, but you really don't know the truth until you take them through the process, and they're talking it out loud.

Christopher Bartley (6m 43s):
And so, as a user researcher, and that's more so the side that I'm on and user experience, is we capture that information that insight, their feedback, and then we come back and say, “Okay, let's map this out.” So yeah, all of that to say, UX if I had to explain it in three words, deals with the feasibility, like, is this something that can actually be done. The functionality, is it actually something that is functional? If you are going to describe those. But then usability.

Jim Stroud (7m 12s):

Christopher Bartley (7m 13s):
Should it, is it even useful, right? So, and with those three things combined, “I am captain <inaudible>. But it's also got to be pleasurable, you know.

Jim Stroud (7m 24s):

Christopher Bartley (7m 24s):
So something could be usable and functional, but it's, you know, you don't really care for it. So that's what the UX is. That's how to explain it to your grandma, to my grandma too. Yeah.

Jim Stroud (7m 33s):
Interesting, interesting. Now you have a strong passion for storytelling, I can tell, although this is the podcast, people are going to miss out on all the animated gestures.

Christopher Bartley (7m 46s):
You mean, they won't be able to see the <crosstalk>

Jim Stroud (7m 48s):
Actually, <inaudible> move around, or what? You always have a passion for storytelling. How did you even get into that? I mean, what was your journey from, I guess, liking stories to doing this stuff now?

Christopher Bartley (7m 59s):
You know what, we're gonna take a dark path here, “Oh, my goodness.”

Jim Stroud (8m 2s):
Okay. O-oh.

Christopher Bartley (8m 4s):
Once upon a time <crosstalk> in the world. So, I actually came to this realization, not too long ago, as far as where the passion comes from. There's a particular story narrative of mine, that still has yet to be shared in a public platform actually working on a book so that I can, you know.

Jim Stroud (8m 25s):
Oh, wow.

Christopher Bartley (8m 26s):
And with that kind of burden for not fully sharing my story for a few reasons. And many people suffer, not suffer, but they deal with this. By sharing your story, sometimes you could be in voluntarily sharing someone else's, because we're all connected in social means.

Jim Stroud (8m 43s):
Ah, yeah, sure.

Christopher Bartley (8m 44s):
And so, but you got to get to a point where you just say, my story is my story. And if you have to anonymize the other people, or, you know, going to make the situations, a little bit more generic, then so be it. So, it really came from that, how do I share my narrative in a way? Or how do I own my story? No, to the point that I can either get specific depending on who I'm talking to, talking with, or general. But I realized other people have the same problems, not because of just being shy, or you know, they don't have a confidence. But maybe it's a story that is still keeping them trapped. Maybe it is a story of shame. And so, there's this passion that I have for helping people to reframe their narrative.

Christopher Bartley (9m 25s):
So, to an extent, on the dark side, it's a deflection to I share my New York Times selling bestselling book, you know, and then I'll quit now. But so, on one side, it really is helping other people because I know what it feels like to have a narrative and not really being able to share it the way that you want to. Then on the other side, I just think I'm wired. Everything that I did, I started out as a freelance copywriter, you know. And after my internship, that's the thing that I did as far as employment. So, someone call us unemployable, right, entrepreneurs. It's just…

Jim Stroud (9m 60s):
Sure, sure.

Christopher Bartley (10m 0s):
We can keep a job, but man, we leave for one of a few reasons. Mine was typically going to the manager and saying how they could probably do their job. <inaudible> Sometimes it was helpful, in other times, like, “Who do you think you are like this is? Excuse me, who are you?” You know. So, that is how I got started. And then even in a more net meta kind of perspective, I realized that everything that I was doing was connected through this idea of storytelling. So, I went from copywriting to asking my, you know, well, more so me, but then really, then how are you using my content? Or the content that I'm creating for you?

Christopher Bartley (10m 41s):
Like, what are you doing with it strategically? So, then this kind of blend to marketing? And how does one piece of content connect to multiple pieces of content to create a bigger narrative, because really, a story is just a set of stories is a narrative. So, there is a difference between narrative, which is a set of stories, and then a story, which is one particular unit that describes the situation.

Jim Stroud (11m 1s):

Christopher Bartley (11m 1s):
So, oh Jim, we're on the same page there. Right?

Jim Stroud (11m 4s):

Christopher Bartley (11m 4s):
So um, and that's what really marketing is, right? To help people to make a decision, but then I went from, “But how is this marketing use?” So, then I started thinking about branding, you know. And so, Seth Godin, I love his example for his definition.

Jim Stroud (11m 15s):
Oh, he is a good friend. Yeah. Good Friend.

Christopher Bartley (11m 17s):
Oh, man. So, you know, his definition of what a brand is, instead of stories, memories, expectations, and relationships that causes you to choose one person's stuff, products, services, whatever, over the others time and time again. And then it went from branding to more so strategy. So, I got more and more higher-level thinking in this thing, where if I needed to, I can craft a story. But if I also wanted to, I can say, “Well, where does this story fit in your grand scheme.” So, you probably know Alexander… for Alex Osterwalder, his business model canvas. And his suite of books where he, you know, helps you to figure out the nine components of your business model, because that's really in a sense, a story too. So anyway, I don't want to deviate. But all of that to say it's all interconnected, how you build your business to the stories that you tell about that business, to the stories that you tell about yourself and your product?

Christopher Bartley (12m 4s):
Yeah, that's how I got started. And that's how I'm going.

Jim Stroud (12m 8s):
You started now. How it’s going. Wow, any, any success stories, in a case studies, you can share with us about your storytelling and how it benefited one of your clients?

Christopher Bartley (12m 22s):
Yeah, so I recently this year, embrace the fact that storytelling is my thing. Now, after all of that, that I told you, you would have thought that this is something -- and it really wasn't, I really was still focused on, you know, branding. Even when I was working in the corporate world, as a behavioral, I wouldn't say behavioral specialist, but I was in the behavioral specialist field, as a transition employment coordinator, helping individuals to chronic individuals with chronic mental illness reenter the workforce. And so, I help them with their resumes, helped to build their confidence, and also had to destigmatize these candidates for the employees or the employers to help them to realize just because they have a schizoaffective disorder doesn't mean that they're going to go postal.

Christopher Bartley (13m 3s):

Jim Stroud (13m 3s):

Christopher Bartley (13m 3s):
So in a sense, that was kind of storytelling on both sides. The story is that they, the candidates tell about themselves, so that they can actually show up in confidence and get the job done. And the other way around. So, success stories, from corporate America, I think I have those. But for me, I would say that having recently pivoted to not just being a UX designer, but a business storytelling coach. That's a term I settled on. I finish this Master's in healthcare. So, I'm now niching down to doing this in the healthcare space, even though it works for everyone. And I had a recent client who started out, and he's a coach. So, I had a recent client and his original, let’s say value proposition because a lot of it deals with and for getting technical, is your value proposition design.

Christopher Bartley (13m 49s):
Like, who are you? Who's your persona, like your customer segment? What is the value that you're bringing? What are you helping to increase? What are you decreasing or mitigating? And his original value prop was something along the lines of, you know, I help women entrepreneurs to find their best self through leadership coaching, something like that. Because he realized that a lot of his clients, his demographics, were women. So, he said, let's work with that lean into that. And let's move in. So, we did a suite of things, and I can fit them on 10 slides that we did. The first thing that we did was we focused on your customer profile.

Christopher Bartley (14m 28s):
So, who are you actually delving…? Who you actually – I was going to say delving it to? But who are you actually serving? Is it women? Or what is it that they have of those attributes that could possibly open up the demographics and not just females? So, we looked at jobs to be done.

Jim Stroud (14m 46s):

Christopher Bartley (14m 47s):
What are the specific things that they need to do? We look to the pains. I mean, you know, this, right? What are the obstacles, the frustrations, the friction that's preventing those jobs to be done? And then the gains. What are the desires that they have some things that are anticipated? Things that are required, if I get this job done, this has to happen. And then we did some value alignment on the other side. And what we realized is that as he's now beginning to align his products that he already has, like, he has methodologies and coaching already, we were able to even come up with particular theories, we’re not come up with fine particular theories that he was able to align with what they were looking to do. So, for instance, one of the gains for individuals who were emerging entrepreneurs, and that's what we landed on.

Christopher Bartley (15m 28s):
So, these are individuals who can either be in school, but maybe in business school, because they're actually wanting in the future to own a business. These are individuals who are actually owning a business, but they're not wanting to build generational wealth, you know. And then there are individuals who are in a career but want to transition. So, we then from emerging entrepreneurs, segmented it into three different areas. And then from there, we were able to say, “Okay, these three different profiles have three different desires, kind of.” Some of them overlap, but there are some overarching ones for each and every one of those. So, he was able to land on a more specific value proposition. I can't remember it right now. But it was like, you know, my broad strokes, my coaching services help emerging entrepreneurs who want to… who are high achievers, you know, by helping them reduce time wasters, and then you can talk about what those time wasters are, and then increasing productivity.

Christopher Bartley (16m 27s):
That's not it at all. Y'all pleased don’t… to be honest. We were able to take this value proposition and then insert it into an actual story. So, I want you to meet John, you know. And then we were able to talk about the kind of person John was. He was a high achiever, but he was still stuck. He had some motivational challenges. And so, it opened up the world to understand that you can be a high achiever and still suffer from having low motivation, depending on what's going on. And people like, “Oh, wow, that's a very interesting way of thinking about that.” And the way that we did this was we took his, this narrative, and I call it the Seven-Point Formula. Listen, seven point is not my, I can't trademark it. Because there are so many different methodologies and storytelling, this is one of them.

Christopher Bartley (17m 7s):
So, if you literally put in Seven-Point Storytelling, you'll see it. And so, we took John's hypothetical story, because this is a persona. He begin with the backstory. Then we start with his, the catalyst, the call to adventure. And then we hit the big event, that thing that triggers him to push him to the midpoint, like, “I've got to make a change. What's going on?” And then this is where he meets the leadership coach, so, my client. And after meeting the leadership coach, he then realizes, “Oh, wow, my problem isn't that, I'm just overwhelmed by not having the right methodology for time management. I'm actually afraid of failure.”

Jim Stroud (17m 44s):
Oh, wow.

Christopher Bartley (17m 45s):
And so because I’m afraid, my fear of failure, I'm taking on a lot of things to compensate for the fact that I don't want to drop the ball. And perhaps if I do drop the ball, at least I've got other things in the air. It's like, now you got to focus, got to pare down, because once you do, and the thing doesn't work out, you then have to face yourself and ask, “Well, am I a failure?” Just that thing didn't work out, and I can try again, you know.

Jim Stroud (18m 6s):

Christopher Bartley (18m 6s):
All of that to say, we then hit the crisis, then the climax, which is the final showdown between typically it's you and yourself. Thing that's preventing you from really finishing, and then the denouement, right? The realization, or the acknowledgment, and he was done. We got not only a story deck out of that, but he got his specific value proposition statement where he can now confidently say, “This is who I am, this is what I do, this is who I'm serving, and this is how I'm helping them.” By increasing these things, decreasing these things. And this is how I'm different from my competitors, that storytelling. But you know…

Jim Stroud (18m 42s):
Wow, wow.

Christopher Bartley (18m 42s):
You don’t really see it that way.

Jim Stroud (18m 43s):

Christopher Bartley (18m 43s):
They usually, we have to come, once upon a time there was a, you know, that's one way but it's really a strategic asset, so that you can leverage a competitive advantage over other people.

Jim Stroud (18m 51s):
I can see somebody leveraging those points, you mentioned it to an awesome pitch deck. So, somebody was pitching a startup.

Christopher Bartley (19m 0s):

Jim Stroud (19m 1s):
To a company. They would definitely be all over what you just said.

Christopher Bartley (19m 5s):
Absolutely. And you know, to keep it so succinct, you know, because sometimes one of the problems that people have is, “So tell me about your business? How did you start?” And man do they just go down this long slog of just like, “Oh, well…” People don't care about that. But if you were to keep it real pointed, you know, talked about where you started, the call to adventure, the thing that pushed you to just go all in or to have that idea that spark, and then the thing that made it almost fail. If not fail, totally, the crisis. And I think that's where people mess up. People mess up in the crisis phase, because you want to feel as if you are the superhero as if nothing ever went wrong.

Christopher Bartley (19m 46s):
And so if you put, if you tell the right crisis, to the right individual or investor, and then you talk about how you overcame that crisis in the climax, the final showdown, and what you may not have won, but you have the winning mindset, in the end…

Jim Stroud (20m 2s):

Christopher Bartley (20m 2s):
Then you won somebody over.

Jim Stroud (20m 3s):
A life and I've seen that trope in several heck movies, books, you know, it is Rocky.

Christopher Bartley (20m 10s):
Yes, yes.

Jim Stroud (20m 10s):
Couldn't be down and coming back, and winning in the end, you know. The Avengers fighting Thanos.

Christopher Bartley (20m 17s):

Jim Stroud (20m 18s):
Getting totally beat down, but they have some <crosstalk> on winning. Yeah. So yeah, yeah.

Christopher Bartley (20m 22s):
You know, more specifically, Jim, this is, a lot of it is taken from the hero's journey. And so many people who don't know the hero's journey was coined by Joseph Campbell 1949. He calls it the monomyth. Long story short, this guy has done research across periods of time, different cultures, and it’s came to the realization that all of these stories are the same. So, he did some work to figure out, what those pieces are? And the first stage is I think in his I believe it's, the call to adventure. Like the first stage is, you know, now, and here's, here's the thing, people have used the hero's journey, which has 17 stages, and they've made it more cinematic.

Christopher Bartley (21m 7s):
So, our favorite movies like Christopher Wagner, who I think his was in, like 95, or 97, or maybe 2007. Whatever the case, it's a more modern version of the hero's journey. These are where like, some of our more popular classic movies come from. Like my favorite movie of all time is the Matrix. It's just… And you know, and the reason why the hero's journey works is because you know what's gonna come next.

Jim Stroud (21m 32s):

Christopher Bartley (21m 32s):
But you still want to experience it with the protagonist. Um, so the movies that fail are the ones that or, you know, the weakest movies are the ones where they try to hold back the villain to the very end, and then the mask comes off. But the best ones, you can see either the villain the beginning, or the antihero kind of turn into the villain, and you still kind of resonate, and now you're torn. Like, “Oh, my goodness, Daniels has a good point. I was torn when he sat down at the end of the movie watching the sunrise.” I said, “Man, he really did it.”

Jim Stroud (22m 8s):

Christopher Bartley (22m 8s):
And it's like, “Man, but they just… like kill half the universe” Like, “No, I'm torn.” Those are the best movies. You know. So um, all of that to say a lot of it comes from the hero's journey. It's formulaic. But if you do it, right, people will come along for the ride, even if they know what the story is, or how it's going to end.

Jim Stroud (22m 31s):
Wow, wow, wow. This is interesting. When you were talking about stories, I initially thought this was kind of weird, I guess growing up in Sunday School for so long. So many stories in the Bible about Jesus telling the story to somebody, for him to elaborate a point to them that they can understand.

Christopher Bartley (22m 52s):

Jim Stroud (22m 52s):
So, when I write every time I hear stories, I feel like in a way, I'm sort of hearing a sermon.

Christopher Bartley (22m 59s):

Jim Stroud (22m 60s):
But a sermon, ultimately designed to make me a better person. And I think that's a lot of what your storytelling is all about. It's about making me either a better person, making my business a little bit better, or me bringing some sort of benefit to a client in some way.

Christopher Bartley (23m 15s):

Jim Stroud (23m 16s):
So yeah, I feel like I need to drop something in your offering plate.

Christopher Bartley (23m 26s):
Well, the cash app…

Jim Stroud (23m 27s):
If someone wants to hear more of your sermonizing, how can they best get in contact with you?

Christopher Bartley (23m 38s):
The website, www.bartley, B-A-R-T-L-E-Y, that's my last name, .group, G-R-O-U-P. And if they actually want to know more about the course, just put that /7pstory. And that takes you to the coaching program. And once again, when you know your story, then you can speak it with confidence. Most people have the greatest fear -- by the way, it's still the second greatest fear after death, speaking in public.

Jim Stroud (24m 2s):
Yeah, yeah.

Christopher Bartley (24m 3s):
And the biggest reason is because you're like, “I don't know what to say.” So, the first thing is, let's dig in and figure out your content. What are you going to say? And then we start massaging and refining, How should you frame it? So, we use the 7-Point Story formula, it's easy. And then we talk about delivery. You know, where should you be emphasizing? And you know, should you do, you need this much of the backstory. And you know, just kind of depending on your audience, what are they going to be most focused on the crisis? You know, maybe you need to spend more time on the big event. You know, so anyway, all of that to say, “Yeah, so they can find me there.” And everything is there. You know, I think my email is on there too. If it's not shame on me, but…

Jim Stroud (24m 41s):
But you know what, I'm gonna make it easy for the podcast listeners. I'm gonna add your information in the podcast description.

Christopher Bartley (24m 49s):

Jim Stroud (24m 49s):
So, it'll make it easier for them all around. Christopher Bartley, thank you so much for your time. Thank you for what you do. I see your servers being very valuable to this community.

Christopher Bartley (24m 58s):
Jim, it was a pleasure being on the Tribe podcast. I really appreciate you. This is fine. This is fine.

Jim Stroud (25m 17s):
You've been listening to TribePod. And as always, we want to hear from you. If you have any questions, comments, or criticisms feel free to email us. We can be reached at a Tribepod that’s T-R-I-B-E-P-O-D @proactivetalent.com. Operators are standing by. And if you have any other song requests that you want me to sing in future episodes, feel free to send those too.



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