“Scratch the surface in a typical boardroom and we’re all just cavemen with briefcases, hungry for a wise person to tell us stories.” — Alan Kay (VP Walt Disney Company)
Storytelling defines people as … well, people. Before the written word there were stories to pull people together within a common understanding. With my focus on the history of people through Anthropology, I sometimes wonder if we have forgotten more than we have learned. The power of storytelling is one such item that seems lost in our modern business environment. We use written communication through email, instant messages, text messages, tweets, Facebook entries, and yes … through our blogs.
We overuse PowerPoint as a communication tool to provide information vs. talking and telling a story to truly reach people in the audience. So many business leaders would do themselves some good if they turned off the PowerPoint presentation and connecting with their audience through telling a good and insightful story. While senior business managers may not want to build an emotional connection with their audience, I say that is exactly what they need to do. Storytelling at its best builds an emotional connection with the audience that gives it lasting power. We simply remember stories.
When you tell a story assure you have it well thought out. You need to have structure as in a good start, the middle and a memorable ending. As we listen to your story we may not know where it is going, but when you get there … wow, we get it and see the point. Your meaning is clear and you touched the audience as a leader.
Storytelling is a verb. There needs to be action through your words and your movement. Stand up and move into the group or audience listening to your story. Your storytelling needs to come from all of your being, not just the voice. Use your body movement and emphasize key points through how you move your hands and even pause and stop speaking for a few moments. When you re-engage your audience, you have them at the edge of their seats.
As a leader one of the most powerful stories you can tell is “This is who I am. I want to tell you my story”. Even more powerful for the leader is “Who are you? Tell me your story”. This is a powerful leadership practice to get to know more about those you lead and find common ground (it is always there) and a means to work together and move forward.
The next time you as a leader need to reach out to your employees and gain focus on an opportunity or even dealing with an adversity, find your story to tell.
Maya Angelou once said, “People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” The power of storytelling gets you there to the deeper connection with people. Storytelling has been part of humanity from the beginning. Let’s assure as leaders we keep it alive today and as we move forward together.