Bzzzz…bzzzzz… my phone vibrates. Mentally, I’m leaving my current meeting and begin to focus on the next. I rush to gather my things, fire off emails to my team in the few spare minutes before my next meeting. I’m focused on sending out as much information to everyone before we start. After all, I’m being productive by sharing project updates, efficient by delegating tasks and checking off my own to-do list. Or am I?
We’ve all been there—running from meeting to meeting, putting out fires along the way, but never really taking a moment to think about if we’re embracing the value of true conversation, or just quickly sharing basic information. Storytelling is a main component of conversation, and in business, there is a tendency to think of it as frivolous or a waste of time. Yet, stories are the basis of everything we do.
Paul Smith, author of Lead with a Story: A Guide to Crafting Business Narratives that Captivate, Convince, and Inspire, says that:
“Stories have the ability to engage an audience the way logic and bullet points alone never could. Whether you are trying to communicate a vision, sell an idea, or inspire commitment, storytelling is a powerful business tool that can mean the difference between mediocre results and phenomenal success.”
Storytelling is more than just an essential tool to get things done and pass along information. It’s a way for leaders and managers—no matter the level—to embody the change they seek. Because we live in an information-saturated age, it’s important for leaders to communicate in a way that establishes credibility and authenticity. What if you don’t think you’re an effective storyteller? We have five tips that will help you build your storytelling skills as a leader:
Know Your Audience
It’s important to tailor your message to your audience. Who is your audience? How can you relate to them? Why is this story for them? Don’t know what’s important to your audience? Simple. Just ask them. Stories allow your team to take a journey with you, so it’s important to understand ways you can connect with your team to start developing your message.
Make it Authentic
No one wants to hear some tall tale that’s obviously only told to convey a point. Authenticity helps your team build trust. When you’re able to communicate something real, and showing some vulnerability, your audience is more likely to relate to you and trust what you say. Focusing on real situations and genuine emotions help to make your storytelling more authentic.
Highlight a Struggle
As story without a challenge isn’t very interesting. You want to give your story movement, illustrating the problem and how it is overcome. Smart leaders develop the conflict and solution in a story that causes their audience to want to be part of the journey, even if the road ahead will be difficult.
Keep it Simple
Not every story has to be epic. Some of the most successful stories are relatively simple and straightforward. You shouldn’t allow the details to detract from your core message. The focus should be on the people you know, lessons you’ve learned, or the events you’ve witnessed with enough detail that can captivate your audience and drive home your message.
Perfect Your Approach
Storytelling is a skill that requires practice and effort to develop. The more you work on how you deliver your message, the easier it will be to craft effective and efficient stories.
Storytelling helps translate dry and abstract information into compelling pictures of a leader’s goals. Stories serve as emotional connections for communicating sometimes complex information and provide leaders a way to connect with those around them.