Storytelling revolves around conflict, perspective and resolving complicated problems. Incidentally, understanding these concepts is essential for effective leadership at all levels. While CEOs, managers and team leads need to wear any number of hats at a time, taking on the role of storyteller can truly elevate your leadership style.
Keep reading to learn 3 ways storytelling can help make you a better leader.
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A good narrative can pull on the heart strings and help sell an idea, but it can accomplish so much more than that. Storytelling seeks to find humanity in all corners of life — and that applies to the business world too. Let’s look at 3 ways leaders can use the power of storytelling.
Let’s say you’re driving home from the grocery store, and a giant pickup truck tears by, cuts you off and runs the traffic light as it turns red. Many of us might have colorful words to share at this moment. If you’re already forming an image of the driver in your mind, then you’re engaging in a form of storytelling (albeit a biased narrative, likely based on your personal worldview and past experiences).
We tell ourselves stories every day, because it helps us make sense of the world. That said, our default narratives are not always helpful. We tend to see the world through a myopic lens, where we are the main characters in this play of life. We can usually find good reasons that excuse our own behaviors, but when someone else does it, they’re a [insert expletive here]. The art of storytelling pushes us to consider events from perspectives other than our own. This, in turn, can help foster empathy and create a deeper understanding of the experiences of those around us.
Remember that pickup truck? Perhaps the driver really is arrogant, selfish and reckless. Perhaps they drive that big truck because it makes them feel superior. That’s one story. But any good storyteller looks for multiple perspectives, and a deeper understanding. What if the driver is a young woman desperately trying to get her dog to the vet after a poisonous snake bit it? What if she is trying to get her child to the hospital for the same reason?
By applying this storytelling perspective to your professional relationships, such as finding out why a certain employee always seems to run late, rather than assuming you know the story, you can become a more empathetic, understanding leader.
Stories are a helpful tool when it comes to crafting an organization’s mission statement and objectives. Rather than delivering cold, hard facts to your team, a cohesive narrative can get people excited about changes. It can help ensure that everyone is on the same page about why transformations are happening, and where a company is headed.
To help get you in the storytelling mindset, it’s important to think about the project, organizational changes or ideas you are trying to communicate, and then dig deeper into the core of why you believe it is important. Finding that all-important WHY lies at the heart of good storytelling. It also lies at the heart of doing business in a meaningful way.
Conflict is unavoidable. That said, it’s usually unpleasant. Depending on your personality and leadership style, it can be tempting to avoid conflict at all costs. As any writer who has tried to pitch a story will tell you, one of the first questions asked is this: where is the conflict?
Stories seek out human conflict. Why? Because that’s where the greatest opportunities for understanding and growth exist. I once had the privilege of witnessing a friend of mine at work. She was in charge of her company’s proprietary software during a large-scale merger. When her team merged with another, she noticed one disgruntled new employee making passive aggressive, rather rude comments to an upper level manager about the software in an email chain.
My friend could have avoided conflict by ignoring this person, who seemed unprofessional. She could have responded with equally passive aggressive comments, or she could have complained about this new employee and their negative attitude. Instead, she reached out directly and scheduled a call to hear their story. She simply asked, “What’s going on, and how can I help?”
What followed was the story of a stressed out, exhausted employee whose entire work life had been turned upside down with the company merger. This person received little to no training on the new software, and discovered problems my friend and her team did not know about. By the end of the phone call, the previously disgruntled employee felt seen and heard, had a plan of action for training and had given my friend valuable information on how the software could be improved. Instead of avoiding conflict, my friend leaned into it to find the story behind what was happening — and she became a better leader for it.
Stories are everywhere. Seeking them out helps us gain a deeper understanding of the world around us. The storytelling perspective can help you see your business in a new light and inspire you to lead with greater empathy.
From defining your leadership voice to refining your brand story, working with professional writers and storytellers will help you get your messaging right. To get started, connect with our team online today.
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