040: Storytelling is Dead! Build Your Strategic Narrative with Guillaume Wiatr

Let me tell you a story about the day storytelling died. Once upon a time in your engineering career…

Wait, WHAT?  Isn’t storytelling timeless?

In this episode, global strategist and leadership coach, Guillaume Wiatr, will show you the importance of building strategic narratives. He is the Founder of MetaHelm, a consulting firm which guides CEOs and Founders to align people and accelerate innovation adoption.

For Guillaume, traditional business storytelling is dead. Innovation happens when you build a new narrative instead.

As he says, “people will pay for a story, but they will die for a narrative”.

We explore his custom 4-dimensions framework leveraged by senior executives of companies like Alaska Airlines, The Gates Foundation, AIG, L’Oréal, Google, Microsoft, and the US and French governments (to name a few).

And you can apply it to building your career.

So press play and let’s chat… How do you like that story?


The Happy Engineer Podcast




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Business storytelling is dead. Or in your career, you could say personal brand storytelling is dead. 

Build a strategic narrative instead.

The last decade, maybe even two decades, the constant message is to tell a story. You are told to learn how to tell stories in interviews, tell stories in presentations, in meetings, in your elevator pitch, everywhere.  Tell a good story, and people will listen.

Guillaume Wiatr showed us that the honeymoon phase of storytelling is over. It’s time to look at this through a new lens of strategic narrative. How does storytelling underpin and support the strategic narrative that I’m creating for my own life? My career? 

There’s so much here to unpack. This conversation would have cost us tens of thousands of dollars in a consulting deal with Metahelm!  Ha :))

Let’s recap the four frames of strategic narrative.

  • Origin 
  • Opportunity 
  • Perspective 
  • Product 

Take some time to go back and re-listen to this episode. Put down some thoughts about where you stand personally on these four frames right now. 

Do you have a viewpoint? What is the narrative you currently have around these four frames? Where is the gap? Where is there clarity? Take some time and write those things down. Get some clarity by reflecting and being curious around these key questions.

Here is my biggest takeaway personally, and I think it relates directly to what you may be facing in your career. Guillaume mentioned the distinction between having an audience, having followers, and having participants. This is really powerful, and I am guilty. When I talk with other coaches or with other marketers out there, we talk about “how big is your audience?”

But an audience is passive.

You can picture it… They’re sitting with their arms crossed, taking it all in. That is not what we want in our careers! To simply have an audience for our vision, for our projects, is not good enough. That’s certainly not what I want at OACO or for The Happy Engineer Podcast.

“Followers” is a little better, right? At least there’s action. There’s activity associated with the idea of a follower, but the follower is simply taking what the leader says and goes along with it. If all you’re doing is following, then that’s still a one-way action.

We want to create a MOVEMENT.

Create something you’re passionate about and that others rally behind. This is about participating. 

That’s what we want to create here at OACO. That’s what The Happy Engineer Podcast is all about. I want this to become a movement, meaning you participate in helping cure this culture of burnout, helping to show leaders what balanced success in career and life can look like! 

Be an active participant, asking questions that we can then answer. Sharing your opinions and perspectives and not just taking what you’re given and assuming that is the truth. Challenge ideas and really be a part of what we are doing.

It’s a two way conversation. It’s something that people get excited and passionate about and say, “Hey, I want to be a part of that too. I want to see you succeed, because when you succeed, it brings me into that with you in a way that adds value into my life.” 

So get excited because we’re going to start doing some new things. You are going to be involved in asking the questions and shaping the conversation on The Happy Engineer Podcast. I don’t want you to be an audience. I want you to be a participant in creating the career in life that you desire. 

And I want to be a part of that journey with you, giving you exactly what you need to get there. I’m excited! So stay tuned. We’ve got some new episodes coming that are going to address this directly.

Get out there, keep crushing comfort in your life and career. 

Create courage, and let’s do this.

Previous Episode 039: Conquer Your Fears and Build Resilience with F-16 Pilot Waldo Waldman




A strategy consultant and leadership coach, Guillaume Wiatr guides CEOs and Founders to align people and accelerate innovation adoption. He is the Founder of MetaHelm; a consulting firm focused on building strategic narratives for established companies.

For Guillaume, traditional business storytelling is dead. Innovation happens when you build a new narrative instead. As he says, “people will pay for a story, but they will die for a narrative”.

After helping to save a 20M euro venture during the dot-com boom, Guillaume went on a mission to turn every company into a source of inspiration that few can resist. Since then, he’s been working with startup founders as well as senior executives of companies like Alaska Airlines, The Gates Foundation, AIG, L’Oréal, Spencer Stuart, GAP, Google, Microsoft, and the US and French governments.

His commitment to education led him to become an instructor and a mentor to young entrepreneurs at the University of Washington, the School of Visual Concepts, and EMLyon international business school in France.

Guillaume publishes daily insights in his newsletter–The Next Narrative–where you can find a canvas he designed to get you started with your strategic narrative.





Please note the full transcript is 90-95% accuracy. Reference the podcast audio to confirm exact quotations.

[00:00:00] Zach White: All right. All right. Welcome back, Happy engineers. I’m really excited for today’s conversation. Guillaume and I just met not long ago and the work that he’s doing as a consultant and leadership coach really struck me and just pumped me up. Let’s get into the meat of this, but first, just tell us about Metahelm, your organization, and what you do.

[00:00:25] Maybe set the stage for our listeners who don’t know you and your work. 

[00:00:28] Guillaume Wiatr: It’s a pleasure to be here for your listeners. I run a boutique strategy consulting firm called Metahelm here in Seattle. I guide business leaders, whether they are a CEO, founder, a business owner, or an aspiring entrepreneur to build a strategic narrative.

Expand to Read Full Transcript

[00:00:53] And the result, the outcome of this work is to from the get-go. If you have a, um, uh, an established company is to create better alignment internally and outside your company. And most of all, to accelerate the adoption of new product and innovation. 

[00:01:10] Zach White: So there’s some terms here I’m so excited to dig into and specifically a strategic narrative.

[00:01:17] And the statement I’m going to just read this because when I saw it in. Your, your bio and your work? I, it just captured me immediately. It was the business storytelling is dead. Build a strategic narrative instead. everybody’s talking about story, story, story. Storytelling is where it’s at. It’s a really hot topic.

[00:01:39] And then here you came along and said, business storytelling is dead. Let’s aim at a strategic narrative. So can you unpack for us? What is a strategic narrative and how is it not every other story and all this. I know there’s a lot here. So just start taking us down that road. Now, what is this strategic narrative?

[00:02:00] Guillaume Wiatr: Well, I’ve been helping my clients and business owners for over 20 years. Uh, doing the, what I just described better alignment, acceleration of innovation. Storytelling came on my radar 15 or so years ago. And it really became a phenomenon. There’s been countless books now written on this topic and I got on the movement as well, because I thought this was really, really compelling.

[00:02:25] And I think it is to a certain extent. But what I mean by business storytelling is dead. Is that. I believe we have arrived at the end of the honeymoon phase of that movement. We’re all excited about it, but I’ve practiced it for many, many years. And I came to the conclusion that. It could be, uh, improve the way we approach it.

[00:02:48] It could be, it could be really improved. And, uh, for a few reasons, one, we think of business storytelling, mostly as marketing. I mean, do the test. And I do that test everyday. I teach a class at the university of Washington. That’s the first question I asked in my introduction to my class. What is business storytelling for you?

[00:03:05] Most people will point to marketing, to creating a hook just as if you know, people are. Where fish, but what if the fish is not hungry? Right. And so we think about it is a, is a, is a, uh, you know, at first glance, there’s something magical that will come as the really nice wrapper around your business and make everything looks, uh, much shinier much predator is going to make your marketing look.

[00:03:29] Uh, awesome. Really? But I think it’s something that a lot deeper than that. And so, uh, I compare, you know, where we are in the world of business, starting in leadership, um, to the first year, uh, introducing synthesizers, uh, into music and bands. You know, if you listened to the first bands trying to use synthesizers, there’s some good ones.

[00:03:48] And then it’s sort of pre. Bad ones. And over time we learn new abandons, learn how, what to do with this thing, with what to do with this machine re discovered things you should do and things you shouldn’t do. And I think that using business storytelling is using storytelling in business is transitioning right now to that phase.

[00:04:11] First of all, if you have never, you know, if you have never thought that storytelling for your business or your career. Matters. I think you should really getting to in to that question very quick, very quickly. It does really, really matter now. Where, where am I taking this stack? But along the along this journey, I discovered that one more story is not going to fix your career or your business.

[00:04:29] What’s really going to make a difference. Is the narrative that you operate with. So I ma I do make a difference between a story and a narrative, and I don’t make the sentences. This comes from the, the, you know, pick up any good dictionary. You’ll see that tiny cell difference, except that I explored it in my context very, very far, very deeply.

[00:04:49] The story is. is a recount of events. In fact, that happened in the past. So it’s, it’s, it’s, it’s usually typically past, it happened in the past, even for Spotify. It’s, you know, things that could exist in the future, but it’s been a written in the past. There is a beginning, there is a middle, and typically we expect an end, right.

[00:05:06] And Hollywood uses storytelling with, you know, with that cycle. Joseph Campbell wrote books about it. Most book on business storytelling, a pie, that same model. Try to differentiate a little bit. The basically that’s the bit, that’s the big framework right there. Narratives on the other hand are open-ended they have the beginning, they have a middle, but they have no end.

[00:05:26] Why is because the narrative is a modus operandi. It’s the way you think, the way you view something. So the definition of a narrative is a, is a viewpoint. He’s a perspective on reality and a narrowly happens right now in that moment, like you and I are having a conversation. We’re recording a podcast.

[00:05:45] What’s the narrative, your own podcast. I’m asking you these questions. Why do we do 

[00:05:49] Zach White: podcasts? Great question. So we have an intention. To create a conversation that can be in service of some listener, somehow taking our ideas, our thoughts, our wisdom, our experiences, sharing them in a conversation that we hope will create value for someone outside of just the.

[00:06:12] Okay. 

[00:06:13] Guillaume Wiatr: Great. And so that’s the narrative right there. That’s the narrative vice chair. Two, there is very strong overlap. That’s why I thought, you know, coming on your podcasts would be good. We share that belief. And so we can now collaborate and we can produce something together. So narratives are at the heart of human collaboration.

[00:06:32] Because narrative connect to myth to imagination. We, we aspire. We desire you and I in this moment, Zack, to create something of value in the future. When this podcast gets released. we operate on a set of assumption. We operate on a set of beliefs, that’s our culture. And, and, and, and we don’t even challenge to the assumptions.

[00:06:53] Right. You know, we, we got to know each other. We connect on the, you know, through our digital media here, we record this, we create, so it all flows. So narratives are exceptionally powerful and important for any human activity because you reduce this level of stress. Now. Yeah. 

[00:07:11] Zach White: You see, let me jump in. I want to, I want to make sure that I am following you because I’m, I’m as intrigued by this, you know, as I hope the engineering leader listening is because it’s the first time I’ve really unpacked it with you.

[00:07:20] This distinction of story being the, the complete container, you know, the hero’s journey, whatever loop we look at recounting events of the past, and a key part of the definition. There’s an ending happy, sad, or otherwise there there’s a. Where that story comes to a conclusion and the strategic narrative or the idea of narrative in general, being that a it’s open ended.

[00:07:43] There is no end. It’s a viewpoint. It’s a thrust. It’s a, direction. Yeah. I love that. And the, so in a way, the tense of the narrative is. With a look forward in terms of future. So the narrative is now, but leaving me to explore what’s to come, is that. It’s 

[00:08:02] Guillaume Wiatr: perfect. It’s exactly. It’s exactly right. So stories are great too.

[00:08:05] I mean, I, I want people to, to understand I’m not against stories. When I say I started this, I started his dad. I’m not saying don’t do it. I’m saying, do we smarter? Understand what the difference more intentionally just, don’t just don’t stab the shallow level here. So, so, uh, again, back to our own example here, why do we believe in this narrative that the podcasts are using?

[00:08:26] Uh, and that created value because we heard stories that happened in the past. We heard about that post about that guest, because we were on other podcasts and all of these come in as proof that this narrative is valuable. So that’s until that’s until another narrative shows. The better idea shows up, who tells us that in the next five, 10 years, podcasts is going to become, you know, is going to stay so great.

[00:08:53] And that’s, that’s, that’s the fate, that’s the, the nature of our civilization. We work, we operate in constant evolution and we bring in innovation, all the. Right. So an example, one example that I like to put with, uh, with people, because everybody knows it is driving your car. The first thing you do when you’re driving a car is you sit that on, right.

[00:09:12] And we don’t even chat. We don’t even think about it. We don’t even it. Well, sometime we freeze, we may forget, but cars are now awfully good at reminding you, but it’s something that is commonly. Accepted let’s let’s, let’s not go into, uh, another debate, but this is soon it’s, you know, I think we could agree.

[00:09:21] It’s okay. Cool. But 60 years ago, it wasn’t the case. Volvo invented the three point seatbelt. There were some, two points he built in some cars, but when they, when they came to moment that they decided to bring in an innovation. They had an invention. They did not have innovation yet.

[00:09:38] They had an invention. They, they, uh, they brought in an engineer, um, to develop that system. They did some tests and some research and the results were just so amazing that they thought were going to save millions of lives with that. But what they were up against is the former narrative, which was, Hey, cars are, are about speed and fun and freedom.

[00:10:01] We don’t want any of your seatbelts here. This is going to kill us. You know, this is our, this is against our freedom of choice and we don’t want to. Right. And it’s, by the way, it’s kind of uncomfortable a little bit. And what if the car crashes and catches on fire, you’re going to, you’re going to get stuck.

[00:10:15] So, and let me pull some stories to prove that to you, that was the enchant narrative, the new narrative that Volvo needed to establish in their market to bringing that innovation was radically. So it took them six year before the next, um, auto manufacturers decided to also install the system. So as an example, we all know, but if you look around every everything you do, every product you touch is based on a set of beliefs that I call in narrative.

[00:10:43] And when you, when you are, when you, when you own a business, when you start a business, even when you are working on a set of features for. You need to recognize that you don’t just do things randomly it’s because there is a narrative. And if you don’t pay attention to this, you don’t that you should Don’t orchestrate it strategically, right? You’re going to, you’re going to be up against major hurdles and you’re going to want to work hard and that’s when you burn out. 

[00:11:08] Zach White: So Keon, this idea that stories, support, or create evidence. For or against a given narrative? Um, that’s really interesting to me because.

[00:11:22] would have considered these maybe two different forms of communication, but really what I’m hearing you say is yes. And a narrative is actually maybe hierarchically more important to the set of beliefs, the thrust, the viewpoint, and what I’m doing. Subconsciously every time I hear a story is I’m either logging that as evidence.

[00:11:44] That the narrative is true, or it may go against my viewpoint and the narrative that I believe today. And I have a choice to make, am I going to start to shift or open up my mind to that new possibility? Or maybe I’ll be closed to it, but either way it challenges the narrative that I’m living under today.

[00:12:03] Is that an accurate way to frame that? Yeah, that’s right. So if that’s true, I’m curious, how would you connect this set of concepts? Which I really love is just beautifully crafted how you set the distinction here with this idea of personal branding. You know, we, we here in career. This idea, Hey, you need to have your personal brand in your career.

[00:12:29] And I think most people associate that with story, um, in an interview, can you tell a good story to a behavioral interview question? Or if somebody asks you, what do you do? You can give a nice, clear, concise one-liner of the value that you create and why or whatever. So can you maybe help us understand how would you describe that idea of personal brand in the context of story and.

[00:12:54] Guillaume Wiatr: I think a personal brand relies on. focus, you know, a big idea. Uh, if you’re a personal brand is all over the place. It’s, you know, you do a little bit of this and a little bit, there is no, no connective tissue in your, uh, in the, in what, what you do as a, as a, as a job, for instance, your brand. And I’m not a branding expert, I’m a strategy expert, but I know a little bit about enough about brands to be dangerous, to understand that your brand is gonna be.

[00:13:17] Fuzzy people are going to have a hard time understanding what you stand for. And if they’re trying to hire you, they’re going to be confused and they’re not going to be, it’s going to be hard for them to pick you and see where you could be most happy, ineffective. And so you have to think about it as thread.

[00:13:34] And what’s, what’s my brand means what’s my thread. What, what’s my focus here. I want to take my example. When I came to the United States in 2008, I came with a story, right. Everything that happened to me before was my, I had an, I had a bunch of stories and I came to a new environment, a new context, you know, you could say, Hey, I was an innovator.

[00:13:50] I was a new thing in a, in a, in a, in an existing context, which is the United States. I landed in Seattle and in 2008. And the thing, the first thing I wanted to do is find a job. Right? So 2000. Oh, sometimes, I mean, to find a job for a French guy who barely speaks English and doesn’t know anyone super hard.

[00:14:07] Right. And I’m being sarcastic with myself and what do I do? I, you know, just like any engineer or business person in their mid career, I put a resume together and I put all my. You know, experiences and companies and degrees and so on. And I translated in English and I start showing it to people and people are looking at me with Google eyes and they don’t understand.

[00:14:27] So my stories don’t translate. And what I found out years after is they’re trying to decode what is my brain? What the sky, what is this guy about? And so OT, mainly I found my pathic and in consulting, by understanding that people were not interested in my stories because they couldn’t make sense of them.

[00:14:45] What they wanted to know was what was my narrative? How do I function? How do I operate? And in the face of adversity in 2008, with a difficult economy, how did. And so what did I do at the time? Well, I went to the, for our jobs, you know, I had the family with one kid. I had bills to pay and just, you know, became a landscaper.

[00:15:04] I just, I found a job as a painter, you know, like a janitor in a, in a pharmacy, all sorts of stuff. I had no idea what the connection between the stories where’s going to be until I realized that what people were most interested in is finding out how I survive in a tough. That was the narrative that they were after.

[00:15:24] And then I was able to understand that and ready to connect those dots and look at my carrier and say, oh, I see, I, I know now how I can organize those stories. I’m not going to make up stories and make lies. I’m just making better sense of them. That’s what a narrative is about. And so when you have, when you have a.

[00:15:44] When you have a company, where are your stories? First of all, you know, there’s always this thing that Kay, let’s tell our, our story. What’s our story, guys. You don’t have a story. You have thousands of stories and look around, you got stories on your websites. You’ve got maybe a strategy plan, a business plan.

[00:16:00] You have a, I don’t know, you’ve got the operations manual and. Do the exercise pulleys. I liked when I worked with my clients, I’d like to print them and I put them on the table and I see what do you guys see? And they go, well, we see stuff from 50 different companies. Let’s say. All your stories are completely unorganized and we need to make sense of them.

[00:16:20] Like, what is this company trying to do? Where are we? Where are you guys headed? Where are you coming from? And so that’s why I think of stories as a system, first of all. And that’s why I like to recombine them. So back to your question, you know, as far as personal branding, I think the first, one of the first thing I would encourage people to do is start looking in the past.

[00:16:39] Where are you coming from? What were some of the key decisions you made? What were some of the moments where you struggled and why? What were some of the successes? So I’m going very, very fast here, so that’s good though. I really just stop me, but, um, and then, and then same thing for the future. So one of the, one of, uh, one exercise.

[00:16:58] Uh, I like to, you probably know it is to write yourself a one year from now letter, you know, a, you know, a year that’s you, you right now that you will read at the end of the year to, um, uh, to go back to what you committed in, you know, to doing. 

[00:17:10] Zach White: It’s really good. So let me, yeah, I will jump in. I want to share what’s striking me and, and really, how do we put this into practice and then where do we go from here?

[00:17:20] But this idea that, Hey, you don’t have just one story, really like duck kind of seems obvious, it’s kind of stealthy how we fall into that trap of, of trying to craft the single story that covers everything. And I mean, talking to. Yeah, a group of engineers, a systems mindset towards this would make a lot of sense.

[00:17:41] You know, you have a system and network of stories from all different domains of your life. And how do you put these together into a single. Thrust a single viewpoint that takes you towards your vision, your purpose, your intention, as a Meredith. I think that’s a really powerful way to frame that. And I think what you just shared, it’s really aligned in some ways with how I coach my engineering clients as well.

[00:18:06] Let’s go to the past and recount the stories that matter. Let’s find the highlights, the low lights, the places that really shaped you understand what we can take away from those stories, but then put together a vision and a purpose, the thrust towards where we want to go in the future and let that be the actual summary that, that drives us.

[00:18:30] And I think this is. Verb, you know, really kind of exciting to me how well it aligns and I’m seeing some dots connect. So can you tell us whether you’re an entrepreneur looking at your business, if you’re an individual leader looking at your life, if you’re a director at a big organization, looking at, you know, your engineering team seeking to start putting this into practice in some way, what are the components of.

[00:18:55] Narrative. How do you know if you’ve actually created something here that’s going to lead to the outcomes. You mentioned this alignment and acceleration of adoption. 

[00:19:06] Guillaume Wiatr: I like to talk about. And I, I hope, and I think it will resonate with engineers here. And in fact, I have a model. I, I have a visual model that looks like a, you know, a two by two, and there are four frames in that model.

[00:19:17] And I are organized based on, I organize those frames based on two dimensions. One is internal versus external individual versus collective. So these are universal dimensions. You will always look at whatever you do as you know, you’re doing it personally. And then you do. And you do it for yourself to get your internal roles, what you feel in your, even in your mind, your body and what you show in mean in the outside.

[00:19:40] So these that’s, that’s the map right there to make your decisions in, terms of the. And so what I’d like to invite people to do is reflect on those four frames. The first one I call the origin frame sometime I will call it also the origin story, but just to be clear here and not confuse people, I’ll just call it the origin frame.

[00:19:58] The origin frame is really what has happened in the past. That motivates you to do something you’re doing now that you aspire to do. Typically when I work with company founders, it’s the origin story. And you’d be surprised because I thought, you know, any founders know their origin story. I don’t need to rehash that.

[00:20:15] Right. You’d be surprised how helpful it is to them to recount it again and really try to dig into real, I mean, the, the additional reasons why they started the business. have a client in France who has a sales coaching business. It’s he’s been in business for 15 years now, 15 years. And he just, they just pivoted and, um, address.

[00:20:34] Now they’re addressing a different market. And one of the things he never told his team is how he started, why he started this company. He said, yeah, I started it because I thought he was important. And I, and I, and I poked on this. I pushed his thinking until he managed to tell me that. He used to be a competitive athlete, volleyball athlete.

[00:20:52] He was massively coach. He was very supported by his team and he was at a professional level. And then at the same time, so that was part time. And then the other part of his time, he was a sales guy selling, uh, products to the two, a supermarket chains know grocery stores. And he, he, he got into a difficult situation selling his products and never, and he was working for it for a very large American corporation.

[00:21:14] I think it was union deliver or something and never got any sort of sales training, coaching. And he’s thought, okay, this based on that experience, that, that kind of revolted me, there was a very strong passion for this. I’m going to start looking into this, but then 10, 15 years later, he forgot about it so long ago.

[00:21:33] The origin frame, I’ll go quickly on the three other 

[00:21:35] Zach White: ones. And the origin frame is the personal internal, is that correct? 

[00:21:40] Guillaume Wiatr: Yes. First internal point of view of why? Why is it that you’re even decided to say you work at a big tech? why did you join this team? What, what triggered you?

[00:21:50] What excited you, you can’t sell anything. You can’t create any progress if people, the why you’re excited in the first place that this is our teammates. Uh, for success. It’s, it’s, it’s a number one thing to dig in. So if you do it, if you do something like this in your coaching sessions act, I applaud you because that’s, to me with my narrative approach here, that that connects resonates very well.

[00:22:11] The second frame, ready to go to the second dimension, the second frame, I call the opportunity frame and I moved to the opposite direction of that quadrant, which. For the collective aspect of what I do and the outside, what am I trying to do? What am I, what kind of impact am I trying to have? So earlier on in this conversation, I mentioned Volvo, the opportunity there after is of course create a better company, probably be more profitable, reposition the company.

[00:22:45] But one of the things is that they were really serious about was to save. Yes. Reason came from the fact that the president had lost the relevance was in a car crash a few years before. So it was very, very important to him and they realized that they were pretty much the only, uh, car manufacturer with that mindset.

[00:23:03] And they carved out the plates in the market and the rebrand. Based on that opportunity. So most when, when you say the word opportunity, most people think that I’m talking about the opportunity for their company. Like we want to be number one, we want to be it’s all about the company about us, about, you know, we, we, we, we, no, no, no, no, no, no, no.

[00:23:22] In that’s in that frame. I want you to be thinking about other folks, like what is outside, what is much bigger than what you do if you’re, you know, working in tech industry here in Seattle, I’ll say maybe you want to, you want to have an impact. Uh, security, uh, privacy, maybe it’s about the environment sustainability, and these are the hot topics and the hot narratives that are around us, but maybe you, maybe you have your own choice and opportunity that people, other folks didn’t didn’t consider that is completely overlooked.

[00:23:53] Zach White: Yeah, this is really good. And a lot of examples are popping in my mind. This idea of making sure that you don’t frame opportunity in the context of yourself, but in the context of what are the people who you want to serve looking for? I think that’s a really important distinction. And, uh, how you carved that section out.

[00:24:12] Yeah, I love it. 

[00:24:14] Guillaume Wiatr: The, the underlying idea here is that I noticed that, um, once you, once you go with that type of message, what you create is people who start looking at you as a movement build. They start believing in the coast that is bigger than you. And they see that you have an intent to improve your community.

[00:24:30] So what do, what do they want to do? They want to join you. They want to help you. They want to see you succeed because in the end we understand that this is coming back to us. Yes. So I can, I can then countless companies here who have, who started with that mindset in that model, we have more pizza here in Seattle, probably femininity in the United States with my pizza is a.

[00:24:49] Fast-growing um, pizza chain open there, 500 restaurants this year. They’re about to go public and there’d be a long night idea, you know, the same thing. They started in 2008 and they, thought, do we really need another of the chain? We have so many already, but we would need a pizza chain that create more job opportunities that create more equity in the job market.

[00:25:13] And we want to treat our employees employees better. And so making pizza as almost like an excuse is what I call the OB. Thank you. You’re shooting for something that is not your end goal. And so the whole premise of this company is the opportunities story, and that’s why they do very, very well these days.

[00:25:30] Okay. They also know how to do really good pizza. Of course, I 

[00:25:34] Zach White: still need a great product, but it terms of creating the narrative. That makes a lot of sense. The thing that’s popping in my mind right now, I’ll just share it. Yeah, for an engineering leader. This is relevant. When I was in my career at a, uh, at Whirlpool Corp, there was this HR human resources phrase about your ability to build followership.

[00:25:56] And I always heard that word like followership, okay, you want to be a leader? So people have to follow you, or you’re not a leader, you know, if you’re, if you’re just going by yourself, you’re taking a walk, you know, if nobody’s following you, but I never really understood. That concept while it was in my career.

[00:26:11] What do you mean by followership and how to create it? I thought it was an interesting concept, but poorly taught and trained. And this what you just said, how it creates movement. Like that’s what popped into my mind. Like, yes, this is quadrant where the people I want to follow. You know, I noticed that they, this is part of the narrative and if this is missing, then I don’t, it doesn’t create followership.

[00:26:37] Okay. 

[00:26:38] Guillaume Wiatr: Well, I’ll go even one step further. One step further than followership. Um, Photoshop to me is, is a, an active word. So that’s good. Um, but I tend to think that stories have an old. And brands have an ordinance. We say, Hey, well, it’s our audience. She think about an audience. You know, I picture somebody sat down with their arm crossing very passive and I’m taking on a message.

[00:27:00] I’m I’m, I’m consuming a message, but it’s, it’s very passive. followers are already active. So that’s, that’s great. I like to talk about participants. When you’re participating into movements, have participants companies should have participants. We’re seeing now. This, um, uh, movement of companies that think of people, not as cognitive wheel anymore, not just as numbers, but participants, they let, they empower them.

[00:27:25] They want to give them. Um, uh, options of 30 higher hierarchy is re is completely, uh, thought differently. There is a whole movement started by a, uh, , uh, uh, consultant called , uh, with this idea of teal organizations. I don’t know if you’ve ever heard of that, but he wrote a book five or six years ago on this.

[00:27:44] Zach White: Okay, man, I want to dig into it so much, but I’m not super familiar. Give us the cliff notes. Cause then I want to make sure we cover your other frames. 

[00:27:52] Guillaume Wiatr: Cliff notes is that the next, the future of organizations is, um, not as thinking as an organization, as a machine with a hat at the top of the pyramid, but more as a treat.

[00:28:03] So upside down, 

[00:28:06] Zach White: I love that we’re going to have to do, we’ll have to do another episode to cover, cover that topic, our organizational development episode, but ah, okay. Super excited. Well, we’ll put a reference to that in the notes, but sure, sure. So opportunity one, the origin. Two is the opportunity frame.

[00:28:22] And we went diagonal, which is number three. 

[00:28:25] Guillaume Wiatr: Number three is the perspective, because if you could hear you knowing the way I’m describing this, there is a start and there is an aspirational direction, not a destination, but because we don’t know there is an aspirational direction. Now the question is, how do we get there?

[00:28:42] What’s our perspective on this? And. went to Google a few years ago, I was in, uh, here in Kirkland in a suburb of Seattle. I was invited to do some work and do meeting and I’m waiting. And in the, in the, in the lobby, there’s this big neon sign that says focus on the users and the rest will follow. And that became a statement that is, that fairly popular now in the tech industry.

[00:29:04] And, um, This is one of the 10 Google’s commend managed to type, uh, Google, 10 things we know to be true. You will come across a document that was written by the founders of Google many years ago. And this is a piece of their perspective. They, they believe Google believes, at least he was very, very true for.

[00:29:22] at least the beginning, cause now there are so many products. It’s such a giant company, but it’s what started the company with this idea that, Hey, we’re going to be focused on the user because they will tell us where to go versus us, trying to tell our users or what to do. So that’s, that’s an example of what a strong perspective is, but if you want.

[00:29:40] Generated buy-in generates success in your career. You got to start forging your own perspective on things. And the number one enemy that I, I came across was imposter syndrome. Like who am I to have a perspective and an opinion, and then take them things I’m not qualified enough. I mean, you know, the usual chatter we all have in our head.

[00:30:01] And so going into that frame is just such an essential exercise. Figure out what is going to be the path you recommend. So back to the Volvo example, how could I, how could, how could Volvo have reduced the number of deaths save lives? They thought engineering was their strong suit, their, their, their thing.

[00:30:21] So they came up with an engineering solution, but they could also have said, Hey, we want to move on to lobby for a better in forest, uh, driving rules. That would have been another perception. This perspective could have been called, um, authority, this frame, Griffin Munich, or 30 league legal something right?

[00:30:39] Putting regulations. Another perspective could have been, ah, we want to teach people how to be better. That’s how we’re going to go about this opportunity, but maybe they did that at some point, but first they they’re strong. They’re a strong person. We’d like better engineering. So, so, so looking at your career start document.

[00:30:59] Start in your, within your team, like start writing down, um, maybe it’s small manifesto of the 10 things you believe to be true. Uh, if you like Jimmy Jones sandwiches, I do like Jimmy John’s sandwiches, um, on the, on the diagrams 

[00:31:10] Zach White: Zack, I do, I do. I mean, they’re, they’re freaky fast. How can you not like a Jimmy John’s sandwich?

[00:31:17] We digress. We 

[00:31:19] Guillaume Wiatr: digress. They have, they have this Creek manifesto and it’s, it’s not there’s, I think it’s Warren Buffet’s rules or something like that, but it’s, it’s there, it’s there and it just shows you what their 

[00:31:27] Zach White: family, I think this is great. So perspective. It’s the, it’s the personal, how I relate to the external and having.

[00:31:34] Guillaume Wiatr: that, that will be collective. 

[00:31:37] Zach White: Oh, it’s the, it’s the opposite corner. Collective and inter, okay. So, okay. Sorry. So I was looking at it from the wrong lens. Um, on the opposite side there, I’m glad I asked, I just wrote it in that bucket. I sent a confirmation bias. I wrote it on my paper there and then just assumed without even asking.

[00:31:51] So what I relate this to is the idea of, uh, in, in my work now I would love to be able to just coach all the time. But I also need to go do marketing and share with people, my narrative and my coach has repeatedly telling me, Hey, Zach, makes sure that you have a point of view, stand for something, actually hold a belief strongly enough that it polarizes people.

[00:32:19] Because if everything you say everyone can agree with, then you haven’t actually stood for anything. You know, don’t be wishy-washy in your message. So that way the people who are. Need, what you have to offer are clearly attracted to it. And the people who really are not a fit for you will clearly be taken away.

[00:32:36] They’re going to be repelled by it. And, um, I thought that was, you know, for me really challenging as an engineer and, and a person who likes to be liked by everyone. And didn’t want to do that at first, but this idea of perspective and holding a point of view is, is coming together for me. Is that a fair way to say how that comes to life?

[00:32:52] Guillaume Wiatr: Yeah, you could also call it point of view. So point of view is a term that is very, uh, I have, I call it, I have a point of view. I mean, we’re talking to my, my point, my point of view mustiness and so consultant coaches, um, uh, services business have have a point of view. Um, I think, uh, product business also have a point of view.

[00:33:09] You should have a point of view. Um, I like to, I like to position the perspective of a company on an ax is going from. Um, on one end, you could optimize something that already exists on the other end of the other extremity of the, of the access would be, how do you transform? How do you disrupt something?

[00:33:26] And I think that disruption has been a little bit misunderstood as something that you must do, that you need to transform everything that otherwise our company is not going to differentiate and not, you’re not going to survive. You know, there is some truth there, but if you feel too much pressure, if you don’t think that you have.

[00:33:43] Um, next revolution in engineering or in manufacturing it’s okay. Well, what about optimizing something that already exists? And I I’m working with, uh, with the company right now that, that, that has had this dilemma forever until we really explored ways that. We could feel, they could feel good about optimizing something, um, that, that actually already exists, not just, not, not turning it upside down necessarily just for the sake of turning it upside down.

[00:34:10] Yeah. It has to be something that makes sense to you. Uh, I know Zach that. Point of view is that, um, work and personal lives shouldn’t be disconnected. That means that’s one layers of your point of view. You have many other layers, but that’s one that kind of struck me. That was, I got me interested in, in going into your podcast.

[00:34:27] And so you’re not coming up with something completely, radically crazy and out there, you’re just bringing back meaning to this. Right. And so. some, some aspect of your point of view are transformational. But what I like personally in your point of view is that it’s also very much on my access.

[00:34:44] It’s very reassuring. It’s very refreshing to hear that. Hey yeah, you can be human too. 

[00:34:51] Zach White: It’s okay. Right. 

[00:34:54] Guillaume Wiatr: You don’t have to burn out. So, so, so there is a lot there in a perspective, and I think that most teams, most people, um, don’t give themselves enough time to slow down and say, Hey guys, what are tennis here?

[00:35:04] Like any doesn’t take two months to do. You could do it could be an iterative process where you spend 30 minutes to an hour as a team or known and write down in your 10 commandments. At first, it might not be perfect, but as you go, they will improve. 

[00:35:20] Zach White: Really awesome. So take us to the fourth and final.

[00:35:23] Guillaume Wiatr: Well, okay. So, um, somebody smart one day said, Hey, the purpose of a company is to create clients. I agree with that to create a client, you have to have a product or a service, right? So the last frame is the product frame or the product story. And I like to bring it last. Um, you know, if you divide my model into four it’s, twenty-five percent of the narrative here, because it’s the opposite of.

[00:35:49] All pretty much all engineers will do. They will only talk about their product and features and how it all, some it is and how it works. And they will geek out for you for hundreds of hours. I am a little bit of an engineer engineering. What I do, you know, I built a model and I can tell you, I can talk about my model for hours and days and days and days, but this is useless.

[00:36:07] If people don’t count, put your product into a context. So the. Um, frame has to be very simple and has to be, has to come almost at the end when people understand the context, whoever created the wheel probably, or who or the, or the, the, I talked about Volvo again, I’m going back to that example. They have the best product awesome product, but it took people years to understand.

[00:36:29] It was awesome because if they didn’t have the context for the product story should do three things. Well, what the product is, what is that? And how to get it. Yes, 

[00:36:39] Zach White: really good. The thing, this that’s so interesting with engineering leaders, who I coach is that obsession with engineers to talk about the products and I get it.

[00:36:51] We love it. You know, this is all we geek out on all day, but it shows up in key moments as a unexpected derailer because. All you’re doing in that situation. Uh, take that interview context, for example, you know, your only thing that you can share with the interviewer is your product. Part of the frame.

[00:37:13] You’ve basically categorized yourself with every other engineer on the planet who has that exact same set of skills and product capability that you have. why would I hire you? What, what is it about you that’s actually. Differentiate anything on, on the team. And so I think this is super important that you put it last.

[00:37:31] It’s a great reminder for everybody that it’s really important. You do need one, a product or service, but without these other three pieces of the narrative, you haven’t actually given me a reason to. 

[00:37:45] Guillaume Wiatr: Precisely. Oh, I have this. So I show that visually on my, diagram. And, um, I have the the way I represent this is that I’ve got the three first quite renders, very, very tiny or disconnected.

[00:37:55] And then this product that gets so big that it actually bleeds outside of slide. And most people, when they see the smile, they laugh at it and they go, yeah, I see what you mean. That’s us. Yeah. Yep. So the idea is to balance this out and people always ask me, so should I always talk about my origin story and my opportunity and my perspective before I do demo my product and I say, well, it’s situation.

[00:38:18] No, you know, it’s not a script. It’s not, if you have, if you have 12 minutes, it’s not three minutes each, uh, it depends on the situation and it’s something you need to, it’s, it’s a, it’s a skill you need to build to develop which one you, you will address. Uh, but I’ve seen, you know, very, very good, um, entrepreneurs navigate this really skillfully in like a, like an interview, uh, you know, the.

[00:38:38] Uh, the, the, the, the journalist was we’ll jump into the product so they know it’s a trap. And so they have to answer to the question, but also start giving people some context, talk about what’s going on around, you know, what has changed in the world. Uh, that is inevitable. That is that they have to pay attention to.

[00:38:53] So, uh, it’s not very science. It’s also an art, just like music, you know, you’ve got your sheet notes, but then there is interpretation. And that’s what I teach my, uh, the words of people, 

[00:39:03] Zach White: you know, my, I have a hundred more questions and I can imagine the engineering leader listening is going. I want to know more and like, how do I now put this into practice?

[00:39:12] What do I do first, et cetera. But I want to be respectful of your time. I know you’ve got a client who’s going to be waiting for you shortly. And, uh, we may have to, deschedule a part two at some point, but. Just in the spirit of, we got this frame, we’ve talked about narrative, the four quadrants. If you were going to give one or two action items, something really to help a beginner to get started.

[00:39:34] And we mentioned a couple throughout the conversation already, but just kind of zooming out from the whole thing. Where would you recommend somebody focus first? If they want to begin getting some value from this discussion?

[00:39:47] Guillaume Wiatr: I would say start by writing and journaling and you need to create material that you can dig through to answer this questions. Do not try to go into so typical, typical thing people will say is, oh yeah, we need a mission statement. We need a, we need five values, five words, and then a. Yeah, that comes at the very end.

[00:40:11] It’s like putting a title on a book. First, your ride, the book. And first, before you write the book, you write a lot of bad writing and drafts and you’re throwing it out in the garbage and you explore really what the meaning is for you. And then at the very end of the process. Maybe you start thinking about titles and then the very end of the process, you decide on a title.

[00:40:31] The metaphor is, the same for you guys. Don’t start, don’t give yourself leeway space to really explore those, uh, these four frames. Don’t try to just, uh, summarize it right away in one sentence. I see people, um, And th they are very common, uh, very good also templates. And they are like mad leads, you know, um, for our clients who are filling the blank, uh, you know, this product is fitting the blank.

[00:40:55] You do that at the very end. So first of all, start journaling, start writing, start documenting, record yourself and look back and look in the pile of stuff you created. What stands out, what stands out. Beautiful is 

[00:41:06] Zach White: that practical? That’s a great practical place to start. Just get, get that repertoire of content, exploring these four areas in your own life.

[00:41:14] If you’re an entrepreneur in your business, if you aspire to be a founder of your own business, one. This is work. You can get a headstart on before you hire metal Hellman team to actually help you put this together. So let’s, let’s land the plane here, man. I really loved this and I appreciate so much you given us really a huge amount of value in terms of your framework in the content, but ending in the same place I always end.

[00:41:39] And I’m excited to hear your perspective on this as a coach and consultant yourself. You know, questions, lead and answers. Follow-up, you know, great engineering and great coaching have that in common. And so for that engineering leader, who’s been listening today who wants to create a great Meredith who wants to experience success and happiness and all these rewards in their life.

[00:42:02] What would be the best question you would lead them with today? 

[00:42:05] Guillaume Wiatr: It’s a question I’ve asked myself for many years. I still ask my. It’s an ongoing thing, but here it is. Why is the world a better place or why is the world better off as a result of what you do

[00:42:19] and what you do could be understood as what you do in your job, what you do in your life, what you do with your business. You, you, you can interpret that last piece yourself. 

[00:42:29] Zach White: I love that. Why is the world better off? Because I’m in it and what I do. Awesome. Awesome. Thank you so much for being here. I know everybody’s going to want to explore metal helm and this work and hire you immediately.

[00:42:45] How can they do that? 

[00:42:47] Guillaume Wiatr: You can go on the internet. Uh, 

[00:42:51] Zach White: this thing, this invention called the internet, tell us where, 

[00:42:55] Guillaume Wiatr: and we still don’t understand that you can type, you can go to strategic narrative.com, strategic narrative.com and you will end up on my website and there you have a choice of options, uh, such as, uh, sign up to my.

[00:43:11] Uh, emails that talk about this topic and that will probably Provac hopefully something good thoughts for you. And I’m about to release an ebook in the coming days. So it will be available as a free download free download to really solidify this understanding of one of the strategic 

[00:43:27] Zach White: narratives. Amazing.

[00:43:29] So, well, again, like always put those links in the show notes help everybody get access to you and can’t thank you enough. And truly for everybody, listen. Cannot recommend highly enough that you put some energy into this thinking and this work that is talking about with strategic narrative, because it really is applicable no matter what your goal is, if it’s to one day be CTO, or if it’s to be a technical co-founder honestly, especially for the technical co-founders out there.

[00:43:59] Very notorious. You’re the product guy or girl, and they look to someone else for all these other three key areas. And if you can bring a well-rounded understanding of this to the table and work with someone like yum, it’s going to be a huge leg up for you. So please check it out and give him thanks again for making time.

[00:44:17] Well you were, when 

[00:44:18] Guillaume Wiatr: it comes back, your, your podcast is awesome and it was, this was thrilled to be here today.