You’d have to have been hiding under a rock if you weren’t aware of the power of storytelling in business. EVERYONE seems to talk about it now. Well, it’s for good reason. Storytelling captures people’s attention, engages them emotionally and therefore helps to cement the messages you’re trying to convey.
The thing is though, I don’t want you to think that you have to have a big sweeping hero or rags-to-riches story to be an effective storyteller. This is a common misconception, born out of the umpteen conferences we attend in our corporate lives, where paid speakers trot across the stage, tug on our heart strings then leave, and the myriad trumped up entrepreneurs we hear on virtual stages across the world delivering talks to make money.
When most people think of storytelling, they think big, elaborately crafted stories like we see in movies or perfectly designed TedX talks. The ones that use techniques like plot structure, character, and scene design and usually either a bunch of comedy or tragedy.
There’s certainly plenty to learn from that kind of storytelling, but it’s not practical for everyday use in business.
The truth is you don’t need a BIG story to have an impact as a business leader.
Instead, what is needed is the ability to use ‘everyday moment storytelling’. This is the ability to identify the value in the little moments of your day; the ability to communicate the anecdotes concerning real-life experiences that come out when someone asks you how your day was. These are the conversation starters, the funny moments over dinner, the chats at the school gate or around the water-cooler. In fact, there’s research to suggest that when we talk informally, 65 percent of what is said is storytelling.
You just have to learn to listen for them. And then know how to translate them into useful communications for your audience.
For leaders, small stories have big power. When told consistently, these everyday stories help employees and followers to better understand the actions required to make a change, the value that the leader offers and how to implement the lessons in their own lives.
So how do you use small stories in your business?
To begin, you’ll need to understand the characteristics that make up a good business story. Because once you can identify stories, you’ll discover that they’re everywhere in your business.
- Time. Stories occur at a particular moment. “Last week…”, ‘Yesterday…’, ‘In the Monday meeting…” These are indicators that a story is beginning; keep your ears open.
- Place. Every story has a place. “At the gym…”, “At the conference…”.
- People. Stories need characters; relatable people who things happen to. Your audience needs to be able to identify with a character to increase the impact of the story.
- A series of events. Stories describe what happened first, then next, then after that. And the best stories have built-in tension, a climax, then a resolution.
- Surprise. This helps to give a story impact. A story doesn’t have to offer earth-shattering insight, but include something that is unanticipated.
- Relevance. The best business stories provide context that supports the lesson being delivered. It must be relevant to your audience otherwise it won’t land.
- Emotion. Don’t just describe what happened. A powerful story helps the audience ‘feel’ what happened. You need to make an emotional connection.
Great, impactful storytelling doesn’t happen without practise. But it needn’t to be rehearsed either. And you certainly don’t have to have a life-altering backstory to have something to say. We all have the ability to tap into the everyday moment storytelling techniques that I love so much. As a leader you should always be on the look out for times when you can make a point, then use a story to illustrate it, thereby reinforcing your message. You’ll no doubt be pleasantly surprised at the response you receive.
I bet that if you were asked to describe a friend in just three words you could do it easily. You might say he was kind, generous and loyal. Or that she was fierce, driven and creative.
But would it be as easy to describe your business’ characteristics in the same way? Could you summarise your story in three words?
As entrepreneurs and business owners we invest SO MUCH TIME and effort in raising our profile, being seen, and becoming known …..without actually clarifying what we want to be known for. Continue reading
What is leadership storytelling? Why is it important to understand this concept?
Let me give you my opinion on this…because that’s what ‘thought leadership’ is….giving your opinion, offering your original thought around a articular subject.
Leadership storytelling is the intentional assertion of your point of view.
The key word in this sentence is intentional. Deliberate. Purposeful. Planned. You intentionally take a stand on a particular topic and then illustrate that stance via a story. The story gives the stance context. It offers the listener/reader a memorable framework in which to concrete the lesson.
Used well, this under-utilised leadership skill will create cut-through, will inspire your tribe, and will elevate your standing in your niche/community/industry.
But how do we sharpen these business storytelling skills quickly?
Let me share my top tips to getting started with leadership storytelling, inspired by 5 great quotes.
- “Given the choice between trivial material brilliantly told versus profound materials badly told an audience will always choose the trivial told brilliantly.” (Robert McKee, author of Story)
You don’t have to have invented a cure for cancer, or created the next Facebook to have the right to tell your stories. Your life, your experiences are more than enough fodder to illustrate your value. You do need to have the right tools however, and you do need to practice intentionally and you do need to solicit feedback that will help you improve.
- “People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” (Maya Angelou, poet and civil rights activist)
Your audience is the most important factor when it comes to business storytelling. This is where most so-called leaders fall down. Don’t get wound up in your own importance and brilliance. When delivering your story, it must resonate with your audience. Tell it from their point of view. Always be thinking: ‘how do I want to leave my audience feeling at the end of my story?’ Continue reading
Listening is one of the key areas of leadership I discussed in last week’s blog about 3 Simple Ways to Elevate Your Leadership. I had some interesting reactions to this so wanted to dive a bit further into the notion of truly LISTENING and its ability to make your leadership soar.
I’m sure there has been a time in your life when you’ve had a conversation with someone and knew for sure that he or she wasn’t really listening, right? And it’s pretty easy to tell when it’s happening too….usually through lack of eye contact, facial expressions, or the loathed phrase “What did you just say?” Unfortunately, unless you’re an angel, chances are that the shoe has also been on the other foot and you have been guilty of the same behaviour (guilty as charged – particularly with children who take forever to get to the point!!!) People know when we’re distracted and not actually ‘present’.
So I’d like to discuss the lost art of listening.
I asked a question in my Facebook group, The Content Couch, a few weeks back about leadership. I wanted to know who they considered a leader in their field and, most importantly, why.
The overwhelming reasons for ‘why’ people were considered leaders were these:
– great content
The thing is that it’s easier to appear to be a leader in the digital age than ever before.
Just talk more, talk louder, be more places, offer more things.
Be funny, be everywhere, be everything.
The problem with many so-called leaders in entrepreneurial land is that there is a lot of smoke and mirrors. You may talk the talk, but can you actually waltz and jive and floss the walk too?
In my opinion, great leaders aren’t necessarily born leaders. They also aren’t created overnight. And they most certainly aren’t created by having the biggest social media following or most expensive program. Leaders rise up as circumstances appear, but it takes work and a willingness to grow to become a GREAT leader.
And, of course, growth doesn’t happen overnight either. However you dno’t need more training or an MBA to improve your leadership.
Take 3 simple steps, TODAY, to elevate your leadership quickly:
Serve your team both internally and externally. Meet their needs personally, but also lead by example in serving those beyond your business, into the wider community. The younger workforce are increasingly interested in how a business can give back and make a difference; a social conscience is a huge selling point as an employer.
Great leaders listen more than they speak. Never ask questions if you’re not prepared to hear the answers. Listening is a powerful way to engage people and it makes you more intelligent about your team, your customers, your processes, your community. Two ears, one mouth.
3. Seek discomfort
This may sound odd at first, but getting uncomfortable is the only way to grow. Push your boundaries and be alert to areas you can improve. Be delighted by discomfort so that you can be purposeful when it arrives and then quickly move through change phases. If you don’t embrace change, you limit your life to that which is already known.
By listening to your team and your followers you will naturally serve them better, increase your likeability and also do wonders for your credibility. By embracing change you will become more visible, by necessity you’ll be more organised, and you’ll also generate awesome fodder for stories to share!
These 3 things don’t take a university degree to figure out, they don’t require money to do and they aren’t time-consuming.
Make a shift in your perception of leadership, and create some simple habits, and you’ll be perceived as a genuinely great leader before you know it.
ps. We are going to be working through this leadership framework in much more detail on retreat in Bali. Will you join me? Don’t forget the Super Early Bird price of $2497 (single room) and $2197 (twin share) is on until December 31. What better Christmas present could you gift yourself? Comment below if you’re keen to find out more.