Tell Us Another One:
By Suzanne Bates
go to classes, read books and try to learn from other manager’s
success, all in an effort to be a good leader.
They try to mold employees into what they perceive to be the
perfect successful worker. What
they don’t realize is that by persuading and telling people how to
behave, they are actually alienating everyone.
Instead of telling people how to behave, you can show them how
by telling a story.
One of the
best ways to influence others is through the subtle art of
storytelling. By telling
about previous success and failure, a manager will provide their
employees with subconscious clues as to how to get ahead at work.
love stories of all kinds. Centuries ago, people passed information
from one person to another via storytelling long before they could
read or write. As a result, today our brains are hardwired to listen
to and respond to stories.
manager or leader tries to communicate, whether in a one-on-one
meeting or a formal speech to a large auditorium of people, they have
two choices. They can either lecture the audience with dry, dull data,
or they can ensure their interest with a story whose characters and
message come to life, right before their eyes. If you’re like most
people, option two is probably more appealing.
use storytelling regularly as a technique to motivate and inspire
people with stories about others who’ve done a good job. This
recognition or appreciation will allow your audience to relate to the
“characters” in your story, and they will want to be the hero or subject of the
feel you don’t have any good stories to tell, but everyone has
hundreds of stories in them, and observing will bring you hundreds
more that you can use to communicate more effectively at work and
advance your career. Follow these easy steps to use writing and
telling stories as a significant leadership skill.
1. What’s Your Point? When
you’re ready to create a great story, figure out the topic, value,
or idea you want to promote. What is your reason for telling your
story? What purpose do you want the story to serve? Every story should
make a point. It may be hysterical when you tell it at a cocktail
party, but if it doesn’t drive home a business point, save it for
your social life.
Are You Talking To? Next,
decide who the audience is for your story and how you’ll include
them. The topic has to be relevant to that particular group of
listeners, or you may entertain but will accomplish very little.
Are You Talking About? Coming
up with the idea for a story can be the hardest part. Powerful
original stories reveal a lot about you as a leader and a person,
without being about you but
rather about people you know, events you’ve witnessed, or things
probably should not make yourself the hero of your own stories unless
you are relating to your audience something you felt, understood or
learned. You can also make yourself the central figure if you use
self-deprecating humor to make a point. Many leaders use humor
effectively to become one of the gang or part of the crowd. Humor
breaks the ice and sets up learning.
considering stories you have told to friends or family in the past.
What have been some of your “greatest hits?” Consider looking for
stories in the challenges you have faced, conflicts you have witnessed
or experienced, and difficult decisions you have made. Any painful
experience has many lessons inherent in it. When you have a little
distance from those conflicts, you can better understand what they
4. Where Do You Get a Story From? Storytelling
begins with awareness. Start paying attention to what’s going on
around you, and every day you will pick up at least one new story to
add to your repertoire. Other prompts for great stories include:
Startling events, historical events and major changes.
Has your group or company had new experiences, lost opportunities or
had to work hard to achieve something?
Embarrassments, awkward situations and dumb ideas that
worked. Failures, turnarounds and last-minute saves make great
story topics! Especially when you want to provide incentive, consider
this type of story.
Inspiring people, remarkable achievements, memorable
events, athletic contests, wins and losses.
Seemingly insignificant, everyday occurrences, travel
stories, interesting people you’ve met, unexpected discoveries.
Do You Use a Story? When
you know what story you want to tell, write
it down. You really must put it on paper to tell it right and
ensure that you are actually making the point you want to make. Feel
free to embellish a little to make the story work most effectively.
You can use the same story to make a lot of different points, and you
can use the story with a wide variety of audiences.
stories should always include a few colorful descriptive words to make
them real and paint a picture for your listeners. But don’t use so
many details that you slow the story down. As you write your story
imagine how you might “draw a picture” with your hands, or
“show” a feeling with facial expression, instead of saying that
you were upset, angry, or thrilled. Make a note in the margin of the
text to remind you where to pause and appear perplexed or irritated or
happy. Showing is better than telling.
6. Structure your story for maximum effect: All good stories have a
beginning, middle, and end. And whether the story is meant to be
funny, sad, serious or touching, some conflict or tension must be
resolved by the story’s end.
work on your story, read it out loud, evaluate what works, and then
rewrite and edit it. Read it again, and work on it until it’s right.
Learn it by heart, but don’t memorize it word for word. Just
visualize and internalize, so that when you tell the story, you recall
the major events and picture the people. Then you will be able to
relate the essence of what
happened while remaining conversational.
Story telling leads to career success: Not all of your stories need
to relate astonishing, riveting, hang-on-for-your life experiences.
Some will be simple slice of life anecdotes, funny or serious, that
are quick and simple to tell. As you develop a story, don’t be
afraid to “dramatize” a bit. A few gestures, facial expression,
different tones of voice, or character voices will bring it alive.
stories will become one of your most valuable communication tools. Try
a tale or two out and see where they take you and your career!
Read other articles and learn more
about Suzanne Bates.
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