Article Summary: With today’s communication so fast and furious, do you have the time to really process the multitude of messages demanding your attention? Of course you don’t. As a leader who has to communicate your own vision, how then do you ensure your messaging effectiveness? By surrounding your messages with compelling personal stories. Together, they make a business story. With our easy global access to diverse cultures and experiences, your words and stories matter to those around you more than ever before. So Mr./Ms. Leader, what personal stories are you telling to inspire action? Do your audiences respond the way you intended?
GREAT LEADERS ARE GREAT STORYTELLERS – 5 TIPS TO IMPROVE YOUR LEADERSHIP EFFECTIVENESS
Copyright © 2013. The Chief Storyteller®, LLC.
Article originally written for The Latino Hotel and Restaurant Association (LHRA)
Ira J. Koretsky
With today’s communication so fast and furious, do you have the time to really process the multitude of messages demanding your attention? Of course you don’t. You pick and choose based on what resonates.
So as a leader who has to communicate your own vision, how then do you ensure your messaging effectiveness? By surrounding your messages with compelling personal stories. Together, they make a business story.
If you were to look back over your career at the leaders that inspired you, I would bet part of what makes you smile when you think of them was their ability to connect to both your heart and your mind. Truly, only through business stories can you accomplish both.
During my career, two leaders have really stood out. When I think of Mike C. and Colonel M., I smile and remember fondly my time working with each of them. They stand out because of how each treated me—they were great listeners, they were great advisors, and they were great supporters. Over 26 years later, I am still friends with Mike C. Unfortunately, I lost track of Colonel M. when I left the US Army.
Why did Mike and the Colonel make such powerful and indelible impressions? Our shared experiences. Experiences define us. And it’s the stories we share about these experiences that help shape the world around us. We live through each other’s stories. The best stories have several key characteristics. They are simple; are easily understood; have immediate resonance; are delivered passionately; and have a positive outcome or learning experience.
Great leaders are great storytellers.
Whether you are speaking at a small, informal meeting; in front of investors; or before thousands at a shareholder’s meeting, use these five tips to improve your own business storytelling.
IDENTIFY THE ONE THING YOU WANT THEM TO REMEMBER
Ensure your business story has only one key message. In the absence of a clear message, audience members will either forget what you said or create their own interpretation. Think of your message as a headline—about seven words in length. To see the potential power of a headline, try this: Type a phrase into your favorite search engine. You will be greeted with hundreds, if not thousands, of examples of pithy, short phrases all vying for your “click me” action. Which one will you click?
“TEXTURE” YOUR STORY
Use a variety of language styles. Imagine you were in an audience listening to some of our greatest contemporary storytellers. They use a variety of techniques and styles such as metaphors, alliteration, and repetition. Be deliberate in your word choices. Be deliberate in using character dialogue. Be deliberate with your rhetorical devices (by way of example, starting several consecutive sentences with the same words is a repetition figure of speech called “anaphora”).
MAKE THE JOURNEY RELEVANT
Make your story pass the “so what” test. Invite your audience into your experience by sharing the WIIFM?What’s In It For Me. Well-told stories create a shared experience, which enables your listeners to understand your business message on a personal level. Your words should crystallize common values and experiences. Be sure to answer the audience’s question of “Why is this important to me?”
ONLY SHARE THE GOOD PARTS
Edit ruthlessly. You have at most, three minutes to share your business story. Don’t think the whole story has to be shared. It doesn’t. And it shouldn’t. Instead, rethink how you tell your story in a business setting. Typical personal stories told at parties involve boring parts. Lots of boring parts, with the good parts interspersed. The good parts make your story interesting. If you need a little help identifying the good parts, ask your friends and colleagues for feedback. Or next time you tell a favorite story, listen for questions and look for favorable body language. Now edit or omit everything else. Then texture your words around the good parts.
IT’S ALL ABOUT THEM
Once you have identified your stories, think carefully about the words you are using. Words conjure feelings and emotions. The words you use and the stories you tell can elicit positive and negative feelings equally well. Words and stories have context and perspective. Many words have multiple meanings, and tone and delivery can be understood or misunderstood in a variety of ways. For example, the expression “You’re crazy,” can be playful, argumentative, or even condescending.
Leaders are constantly looked to for guidance and advice. Remember it’s all about them? It’s all about your audience. So Mr./Ms. Leader, what personal stories are you telling to inspire action? Do your audiences respond the way you intended? How is your leadership effectiveness?
With our easy global access to diverse cultures and experiences, your words and stories matter to those around you more than ever before. Be deliberate with the stories you tell and the messages you share. Follow the advice of famous novelist Joseph Conrad: “I have no use for engines. Give me the right word…and I will move the world.”
Photography Source: DepositPhotos