‘Stories Trainers Tell’

Last updated on May 13th, 2019 at 02:24 pm

Consultant’s new book helps trainers excel

By Kelemarie Lyons, for SBT

After 15 years of operating her own organizational development consulting firm, Mary Wacker has embarked on a new adventure. Wacker is the co-author of a new book, Stories Trainers Tell – 55 Ready-to-Use Stories to Make Training Stick.
Wacker says her drive to write began when she worked for the City of Milwaukee.
"I was writing civil service tests and felt like I was screening a lot of people out of jobs," Wacker says. "I have a passion for helping people gain the skills they need to do their work well and live successful lives."
Wacker graduated cum laude with a bachelor of science degree in psychology from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee and later secured her master’s of science degree in educational psychology at UWM.
Working in training and development for Aurora HealthCare and in employee relations for the City of Milwaukee, it wasn’t until Wacker set out on her own that she achieved the satisfaction she was looking for.
Her firm, MB Wacker Associates, helps both organizations and individuals achieve their goals toward their vision. The company’s services include assessment, focus groups, training, coaching and other organizational development services.
She has worked with more than a hundred clients, including Northwestern Mutual Life Insurance Co., Kalmbach Publishing Co., the Medical College of Wisconsin, Wisconsin Energy Corp. and Aurora HealthCare.
Over the years, Wacker noticed the increase of storytelling in organizations as a means to shift perspective and help individuals find a touchstone of shared values. Realizing there were no books in training and development addressing this methodology, she began exploring the possibility of publishing such a book.
She joined forces with Lori Silverman, owner of Partners for Progress in Madison, and together they approached the American Society for Training and Development (ASTD).
To say ASTD had interest in publishing such a book would be an understatement. However, the organization believed the idea would be best served if they partnered with Jossey-Bass/Pfeiffer (a division of Wiley Publishing) to expand the breadth of the project.
"Everyone was so excited about it. We got the contract, and then the editor asked us if we could write and meet deadlines. It was sort of funny," Wacker says.
The book captures thought-provoking stories contributed by trainers, nationally known speakers, consultants, business leaders and professional storytellers that help make challenging ideas and abstract concepts more memorable.
The stories are organized around major organizational development themes, such as leadership, diversity, teamwork, performance and coaching, and customer service. Accompanying each story are tips and techniques for maximizing its impact and learning potential.
Furthermore, the book gives readers the tools to help them turn their experiences into compelling narratives and how to link the stories back to the training.
"As leaders and managers, we are all teachers within an organization, and one of our most powerful tools in humanizing the mission of the organization is storytelling. This book serves as a comprehensive guide to unleashing that power to create a vivid picture of the organization’s and people’s potential," says Jacquelyn Fredrick, president & chief executive officer of the Blood Center of Southeastern Wisconsin.
"I’ve been blessed," Wacker says. "I have a career in a niche that is very fulfilling, satisfying and it allows me to give back. This book is part of that."
Wacker says publishing the book has given her more visibility on a national level. She has been invited to author receptions at industry affairs, secured speaking engagements and received volumes of e-mail feedback from industry professionals.
"It has opened new avenues for me professionally," Wacker says. "I’m so pleased to have had the opportunity to work on this project. To have it succeed and come to fruition – there’s a lot of personal satisfaction in that."
Since it was published in May, the book has sold more than 1,000 copies. Jossey-Bass/Pfeiffer and the ASTD are anticipating it to be an industry top-seller in 2003.
For Wacker, the last three years have been "way out of balance" when it comes to business. She’s gone a year and a half without a vacation.
"That’s a long time," Wacker says with a sigh. "I’m looking forward to doing some gardening this summer. I’m making up for lost time."

KeleMarie Lyons is the founder of Pinnacle XL, a management-consulting company with offices in Milwaukee and Chicago. She can be reached via e-mail at kelemarie@pinnaclexl.com.

June 27, 2003 Small Business Times, Milwaukee

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