Quinessential Careers

How storytelling spurs success

December 3, 2010: 3:00 AM ET

Storytelling isn't just for old folks and kids. It can help you move forward in your career - both by showing what you've accomplished and by persuading employees to trust you.

By Vickie Elmer, contributor

Marriott International's Ed Fuller loves to tell stories. One of his favorites is set at the Boston Marriott Copley Place in 1985, where he was general manager. Just a month after it opened, catering sales were $300,000 below budget. "My career is lost," Fuller recalls thinking after a senior executive called and said, "I can't believe it. Bill Marriott is beside himself." The executive said he was flying to Boston and asked Fuller to dinner after "we deal with the problem."

The "issue," it turned out, was not what Fuller had feared. A Marriott family member had ordered clam chowder; it arrived cold, and the manager hadn't handled it well. That -- not the stumbles of a new boss -- was what Marriott (MAR) cared about. "If [the family] is treated badly, we assume the customer is treated worse," said Fuller, now head of international lodging for Marriott International and author of a book of workplace stories, You Can't Lead With Your Feet on Your Desk, due out next year.

Fuller uses that story -- and others -- to teach new managers about Marriott's priorities: serving the customer well, and serving its chowder hot. He also uses storytelling to teach about career advancement, such as the tale of how he and another senior exec started as a security guard and waiter. "They want to see actual examples," Fuller says, noting that 60% of Marriott's hotel managers started as hourly workers. "Storytelling has made me more effective in doing my job." More

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