There are many things great leaders do to be effective, but there is one little and powerful leadership tool that is often under utilized – story telling. Telling stories is one of the most effective ways to communicate with those you lead. Stories are powerful tools for creating culture, promoting change, developing vision, increasing drive, or even increasing action. In the book “Made to Stick“, authors Dan and Chip Heath write that the correct stories cause people to take action. Stories are a powerful tool. So how do leaders use stories and tell them effectively? Here are some ideas for you:
1. REGALE with Visions of Grandeur
OK maybe that’s a little over the top, but not too much. Casting vision with great stories of success from around the industry is a great way to instill culture and energy in your people. It can stretch their imagination of what is possible and provide cues to what it is that you are looking for from their daily work. Choose these stories carefully, and be sure to use only stories that will promote what it is you, the leader, would like to see as results.
2. ENCOURAGE with Stories of Success
One of the most effective ways to drive a group towards a new vision and implement change is to tell internal stories of success. Find the little corners of your organization where things are going well, where that change is working successfully, or where people have positive feedback and then share with anyone that will listen. Sharing stories of the bright spots in your organization will help create buy in from your team in times of change and will also help create a sense of building momentum.
3. REFRESH with Customer Experience
The daily grind can bog you down, and your team can get distressed and run down easily. To refresh your team and revive their energy, consider telling great stories of customer success. Tell stories of how your products or services created successful business or, if available, changed lives. Stories of life change are probably the most powerful available! If you have customer success stories, share them with your team and watch their energy rise and demeanor change for the positive.
Stories are powerful tools, and how you tell them is just as important. Remember to use concrete details when you tell stories. These details are what draw people in. Also, be sure your stories are straight forward and simple to understand. If your stories are to long and complicated than people will completely miss your point. Keep it short, simple, and straightforward. Finally, if at all possible, have people tell their own stories. You have to tread carefully here because most of use are really not great story tellers. With that said, a story will increase in effectiveness significantly if it is your own. If you have a customer who can articulate their experience well, invite them to a sales meeting to tell their own story to the staff. If you have an employee who can tell their own story about how your change helped them be more effective, let them tell it to the staff. Just be sure that they can communicate effectively, simply, and concretely. Don’t be afraid to coach them and prep them before the event. Overall, stories are one of the most effective tools available to leaders. Be sure to keep a notebook or file going where you can save great stories for a rainy day. They have a unique power to create amazing results.