Stories have been an integral part of human communication for centuries because they engage both the rational and emotional aspects of the brain. A well-told story can ignite passion, build trust, and foster a sense of purpose among team members, but it needs the right components.
Every story needs a clear and concise purpose, whether it is to motivate the team, illustrate a point, or share a valuable lesson. Leaders must align the story with the intended message to ensure coherence. They need to know the purpose first and draft the story accordingly (know your audience).
2) Emotional connection
Great stories evoke emotions. Leaders should learn how to connect with their audience by applying authentic reflection and incorporating empathy, inspiration, or humor into their narratives. Focus on stories that team members can relate to, which include situations they may find themselves in from time to time. Reach out to them on a human level within the business context. Find and share stories of a team member overcoming conflict or barriers to achieve success. Work in “inside jokes” of the department to build humor and camaraderie.
If not focused and prepared, it is easy to take a great theme and turn it into a ramble. An effective story typically follows a structure, including an introduction, a conflict or challenge, a climax, and a resolution. When leaders focus on structuring their narratives, they maintain engagement and interest, avoiding wordiness and rabbit holes.
Authenticity is key to building trust. To create genuine connections with their team members, leaders should be encouraged to share purposeful leadership stories, including personal experiences and insights. These can come from stories of their own growth within the organization, a department, or a specific position. They are not “back in my day” type lessons, but more focused on situations where the storyteller grew and learned as a result.
As with any skill, storytelling takes practice. Storytelling workshops teach leaders the art of crafting engaging narratives. Inviting experienced storytellers or communication experts as coaches can provide valuable insights and feedback.
Encourage leaders to practice storytelling through role-playing exercises, team meetings, or presentations. Providing a safe space for them to experiment and receive constructive feedback can be beneficial.
Analyzing and deconstructing powerful stories from various sources like TED Talks, famous speeches, or books can help leaders learn from storytelling masters and identify successful techniques.
Leaders should be trained to adapt their stories to different situations and audiences. Understanding the unique company culture, including the team’s interests, concerns, and aspirations, can help them tailor the narratives for maximum impact.
In addition, incorporating technology into storytelling can enhance effectiveness and engagement. But you must be careful. Technology should only be used to enhance the story; it should not become the story. What this means is that the story does not get listed out in bullet point fashion as a reminder to the storyteller—or “death by PowerPoint” as it has been called. But if a picture can be added to help take the audience to the place and time, that is a great thing.
Becoming a skilled storyteller requires practice. Leaders should be encouraged to seek feedback coaching from their peers, superiors, and team members. Organizations should also look for opportunities for further development, including peer group practice sessions, offering classes, or starting a Toastmasters or other speaking club.
Storytelling is a powerful and effective leadership skill that can transform senior-level employees into influential and empathetic leaders. Through purposeful training, practice, and embracing technology, leaders can learn to craft compelling stories that inspire, engage, and create a lasting impact.
Embracing the art of storytelling will undoubtedly elevate leaders’ communication and foster a more cohesive and motivated workforce, leading to the overarching goal of a best-in-class customer experience.
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I really enjoyed this author’s message and could not agree more. The power of storytelling is compelling and easy to see the results.
I am in technology so adding technology is a good thing. But like the author noted, it should enhance the story, not be it. How many of us have seen presentations where the page is full of text and the speaker just reads it? Boring (aka, Death by PowerPoint). What I do is use a slide deck with visual images to stimulate the thinking as I present the story. This way they visually see something they can relate to and remember as they listen to the story.
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