Once upon a time?
We are all delighted with a great story told well - be it a vivid sci-fi, a spine-tingling thriller or an inspiring autobiography.. to name a few.
Harnessing the power of storytelling has always been a ‘secret sauce’ for top business leaders; disappointingly the heights reached by Shakespeare and Spielberg are rarely matched in business, with many executives constraining this power within the limitations of presentations and speeches.
We find a lot of leaders today are becoming overly reliant on logic and rational commentary. They are missing out on how powerful stories engage minds and build feelings that can change attitudes and behaviours in colleagues and consumers, (and even society e.g. Greek mythology!?)
So stories can and do make change happen. How can we use stories to inspire change, when all our imaginative ideas and creative juices have been removed by surgical logic and ever-increasing pressure to get results year after year?
Well we need to start somewhere…Ask yourself how would someone like David Attenborough explain your design, your plan, your product or even your culture to your team; AND ask yourself how would a customer explain these things to a friend?
It does feel a bit strange departing from rational logic to weave facts into a narrative, but when we see engaged faces, decreasing resistance and heightened memorability we tend to warm to it.
We can even experience and build greater trust collaborating with team members in sharing individual stories by surfacing values, personal experiences and interests.
And countless studies show an ever-increasing trend of customers’ purchasing habits being influenced more effectively by good stories about people and brands than by impersonal systematic communication when it comes to selling anything!
When it comes to increasing our effectiveness as leaders…
If using the narrative is something you seldom do, then the first step in becoming an effective leadership storyteller is to use our personal experiences. Here are some tips to get started:
1.Draw a timeline (a vertical straight line) on A4 paper and mark your age from birth to today on it. Annotate the time-line with any experiences that you can remember and what lesson or knowledge you gained from each. E.g. something a mentor or teacher said to you, what you learned from failing an exam or an unsuccessful job application/interview.
2.Select three notable events that you are comfortable sharing, (without boasting!).
3.Shape the event into stories following these 5 steps:
a.Introduce the characters
b.Begin the journey
c.Have an element of surprise or a ‘light bulb’ moment
d.Round up the story.
e.Conclude with what you learned as a result of the experience.
4.Think about themes thateach story could apply to. E.g. team work, resilience, humility etc
5.Be succinct. A few minutes for each story.
6.Bring it to life with feelings. Share the emotions experienced by the characters involved.
Once you get used to sharing your own narratives, you’ll be ready to apply what you’ve learned to telling stories that can inspire people and invigorate your company vision, strategy and values.
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