Leadership Techniques: Using Storytelling

Story telling…is one of the world’s most powerful tools for achieving astonishing results. For the leader, storytelling is action oriented—a force for turning dreams into goals and then into results.

— PETER GUBER of Mandalay Enter Group

Storytelling has always been a powerful method for teaching and inspiring. In many cultures, it is the primary method of sharing and retaining knowledge through the generations. It is also an effective way to communicate to various stakeholders at every level of the organization.

A gifted salesperson gains acceptance by telling a story that sets a product or service up as the hero. A manager rallies direct reports to make short-term sacrifices as they work towards a long-term goal. A talented chief executive translates the company mission statement into an emotional narrative that attracts investors and partners while inspiring employees. When a problem arises, it is also a powerful technique for creating calm and inspiring hope.

Four Truths of Storytellingstorytelling

Unlike fantasy storytelling, the practice in business is built on truth and authenticity. To be effective, the storyteller must be seen as someone with integrity. According to Peter Guber of Mandalay Entertainment Group, there are four kinds of truth found in effective storytelling.

Truth to the Teller

As mentioned earlier, authenticity is critical to the success of the story. The storyteller “must be congruent with his story—his tongue, feet, and wallet must move in the same direction. The consummate modern shaman knows his own deepest values and reveals them in his story with honesty and candor.”

The power of storytelling comes from its ability to tap our emotions. Whether you are aware of it or not, most opinions are formed, decisions are made, and reactions are triggered at this level. So the secret is to get to the heart of the listener. To do this successfully, the storyteller must speak from the heart.

Truth to the Audience

Storytelling may evoke a sense of leisure. However, when using this technique in business, the storyteller must consider that time may be the scarcest resource. So a commitment to efficacy and value is the essence of this truth.

The goal of the process is to induce an altered emotional state. This requires that the storyteller build suspense and stimulate curiosity. The storyteller can take a few steps to assist the process:

• Practice on a group of colleagues who still need convincing. Study the nonverbal responses to detect the emotional power of the story.
• Identify the audience’s emotional needs and deliver with accuracy and integrity. Manage expectations throughout the story, and conclude with an unexpected twist or insight that leaves the audience convinced and delighted.
• Involve the audience in the storytelling experience. Guide the listeners to see themselves as the heroes of the story. Elicit suggestions or strategies as you guide them to your conclusion.

Truth to the Moment

Never tell a story the same way twice. Given the dynamic nature of business, as described in Chapter 1, as well as the audience, an effective story is one that sounds different each time. In addition, the more the storyteller involves the audience, the more unique the process becomes.

There is an inherent paradox here. A great storyteller is both well practiced and flexible enough to improvise. A skilled storyteller can vary the story without “losing the thread of the focus.”

Truth to the Mission

A great storyteller conveys that the mission of the story is greater than the self. To evoke a real desire for change, the storyteller has to weave a tale that advocates for the good of all. This brings passion and emotion to the group to take action.

Even in today’s cynical, self-centered age, people are desperate to believe in something bigger than themselves. The storyteller plays a vital role by providing them with a mission they can believe in and devote themselves to. As a modern shaman, the visionary business leader taps into the human learning to be part of a worthy cause. A leader who wants to use the power of storytelling must remember this and begin with a cause that deserves devotion.

The Heart of Storytelling

Technology has provided many new venues for storytelling. Beyond the physical gathering of people, stories are shared through print, radio, television, and movies.
State-of-the-art technology is a great tool for capturing and transmitting words, images, and ideas, but the power of storytelling resides most fundamentally in “state-of-the-heart” technology.

At the end of the day, words and ideas presented in a way that engages listeners’ emotions are what carry stories. It is this oral tradition that lies at the center of our ability to motivate, sell, inspire, engage, and lead.

Business Success Skills: High Quality Relationships

High-quality relationships are the lifeblood of an organization that seeks to leverage complexity and emergent knowledge. Once a set of solid communication practices are in place, relationships begin to form. To use these relationships effectively, however, the dissemination of crucial information, such as the goals of the business and the knowledge needed to attain those goals, is essential. As relationships form through effective communication practices, a culture of mutual respect will emerge.business_relationship

Shared Goals

Traditionally, goals are shared within functional teams. The overall goals of the organization, however, are less well known. In an organization with a highly interdependent framework, each member of the organization must focus on the overall goal. Since the framework is designed to allow structure and process to emerge, the shared goal of the organization is the unifying force that empowers that emergence.

Shared Knowledge

Sharing knowledge goes hand in hand with shared goals for any organization using a highly interdependent framework. Knowledge shared between teams from different functional backgrounds creates connections that foster cross-functional support while reducing competition and conflict.

Mutual Respect

Highly interdependent organizations thrive on mutual respect. Effective communication practices as well as shared knowledge and goals go a long way to create a culture of mutual respect. Within a respectful dialogue, differences in opinions unleash energy and creativity. Problems are minimized when the involved parties feel respected. This behavior is best learned by watching those in positions of power.

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Business Success: High Quality Communications

High-quality communication comes in many forms, all of which play an important role.business leadership

Frequent Communication

Effective communication is necessary to exchange information in highly interdependent organizations. Frequent communications are important for building familiarity and trust, which leads to increased sensitivity and responsiveness.

Timely Communication

Organizations that thrive on turning information into knowledge understand that timing is everything. As speed to respond has grown in importance, delays can lead to waste and increased costs. Timely communication facilitates the smooth transition of information in highly interdependent organizations.

Accurate Communication

In an information-driven economy, accurate communication is essential. However, as an integral part of relational coordination, accuracy often suffers when organizations become more complex and greater speed is encouraged. Business Intelligence systems provide a solid framework to ensure accuracy.

Problem-Solving Communication

Highly interdependent organizational processes can run flawlessly until a problem arises. However, when members of these complex organizations face problems and are not skilled in dealing with them, conflict often arises, leading to blame and loss of communication. Organizations that focus on developing communication skills will benefit from the increased contacts and depth of connection.

Come back for more business intelligence and change management focused blogs by The OLIVIAGroup! Feel free to comment with questions, insights, or additions to this post. To receive alerts when the next blog is published, click on the RSS feed to subscribe.
Visit www.OLIVIAGroup.com to learn more about Business Intelligence and hiring Olivia Parr Rud for your next conference!