Storytelling: A Powerful Leadership Tool
As executives, we spend the majority of our day communicating but rarely do we take a moment to consider if we’re engaged in authentic dialogue or just quickly sharing essential information. In business, there is a tendency to downplay storytelling as part of corporate messaging as frivolous or a waste of time; however, stories often drive the most compelling discussions and are a powerful leadership tool.
Paul Smith, author of “Lead with a Story: A Guide to Crafting Business Narratives that Captivate, Convince, and Inspire” (AMACOM Books, August 2012), 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 a way for leaders to inspire the organization, share a vision, teach valuable lessons, define culture and values, and explaining who you are and what you believe through an engagement medium that audiences prefer. However, what if you don’t think you’re a captivating storyteller? We have five tips that will help you build your storytelling skills:
KNOW YOUR AUDIENCE
It’s essential to tailor your message to your audience. Who is your audience? How can you relate to them? Why is this story for them? If you don’t know what’s relevant to your audience, ask them. As the guide, it’s your responsibility to know where you’re taking your audience on the journey and what they expect in return for listening.
MAKE IT AUTHENTIC
No one wants to hear some tall tale that’s 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
A story without a challenge isn’t exciting. Give your story movement, illustrating the problem, and how you will overcome the obstacles. 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 challenging.
KEEP IT SIMPLE
Not every story has to be epic. Some of the most successful stories are relatively simple and straightforward. Avoid frivolous details that 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 just 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 appealing stories.
Storytelling helps translate dry and abstract information into persuasive pictures of a leader’s goals. Stories serve as emotional connections for sometimes communicating complex data and provide leaders a way to connect with those around them. When your next opportunity arises to share information with your team, get creative with your approach, and give storytelling a shot.
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