Storytelling – A Leadership Development Tool

Joanne took the podium

As the servers cleared the dessert plates from the banquet tables, Joanne, the vice president of sales, stepped up to the podium and the annual meeting began. CEO Jeff Carlson could feel the heat building under his neck. He dried his sweaty hands on the linen napkin and took another sip of water to moisten his cotton lips.

Joanne welcomed everyone with charm and openness. She laughed a little at a short story about the Region Three delivery truck being impounded for illegal parking. Then came the time when she introduced Jeff.

As he made his way to the podium, he felt time stop. The room was dark except for the light from the spotlight, which seemed to Jeff to be shining on his face from a heat lamp. He looked at his notes, made an amusing comment about the truck driver, and then, hands shaking almost uncontrollably, launched into his speech.

Then, when his mental acuity returned to normal, he asked his wife how she was doing. He really had no idea. It was as if he wasn’t there during the speech, at least not as the confident and confident CEO he himself knew he was.

What the hell happened to his confidence and power?

Jeff instinctively knew something was missing when he spoke in front of a group. After noting the confidence and poise of the guest speaker who followed him, he finally gave it a name: His power. In all other aspects of his life, he was a confident and powerful man. But when he stood before a room full of people to speak, he lost his connection to that power.

Does that happen to you? Do you feel the same level of confidence and power while giving a speech as you do when running your company or department? If not, it’s time to learn an important skill that will ensure you maintain your power on the platform: corporate storytelling for an enterprise audience.

Corporate storytelling in business is the answer

Storytelling is a powerful leadership tool. It puts you in touch with your authentic power so that you can motivate and inspire your audience. Professional speakers have learned to turn storytelling into an art form. They know they can connect with their audience and deliver vital messages using the power of storytelling.

Stories are the perfect form of communication that works on many levels. Because they are inherently visual and stimulate the imagination, stories engage the nonlinear right brain; because the story sequence is linear, they get the linear left brain involved. The stories are both emotional and educational, thus connecting the head and the heart. They are well received by auditory, visual, and kinesthetic learners because well-crafted stories can incorporate all modes of learning. In short, stories are the window through which audience members see their own truth.

Why then do some stories work and others don’t? The answer lies in the art of storytelling. Almost any story has the potential to be a great story. The secret is in choosing and crafting a story for strategic use.

Here are some criteria to apply to using stories in your business pitches:

Share personal stories. Audience members want to know who you are and what you believe. The stories of your life humanize you and make you more accessible. The person is revealed below the title. Research shows that people follow leaders they trust and believe. By sharing personal stories that teach lessons from his life, he reveals the source of his wisdom as a leader. Before listeners can accept what you have to say, they have to accept you. You are the message. Given that, the next question is: What is your story?

Make a point. When told in front of business audiences, stories need to have a point, so strive to match the point you want to get across with the story you’re telling before you begin. But be careful. Never attach a point to a story that doesn’t fit naturally. The point should flow effortlessly out of the story. When you know the point you want to make, ask yourself, “Where did I learn that lesson?”

Find stories from your own life and distribute them from there. Start crafting your story with your key point in mind.

Here is an example. In one of my motivational speeches, I teach the value of focusing on solutions rather than problems by telling a story about being late for a speech in Kansas City. My plane had been delayed, and to make matters worse, when I finally got to the airport, I missed the only shuttle that would have gotten me to my speaking engagement on time. So I saw a limo pull up to the curb and in desperation I asked the driver to give me a ride. The other passenger of his had just canceled so he said yes.

Focusing on the solution, I saw the limo, took action, and made it to my appointment on time. If I had concentrated on the problem, I would have waited for the next shuttle and been late. I would not have seen the opportunity for an innovative solution. This key point comes out of my limo story, and at the end I suggest that when things don’t go the way they’re supposed to, then “find the limo.”

The magic is in the details. To stimulate your listeners’ imaginations, be sure to elaborate your stories in great detail. Remember and relate each nuance, each character and each emotion. Did someone drive a beat-up old car or Chevy with spongy shock absorbers that made it roll down the street like Elvis’s pelvis? Did the waiter take his order or recite the ten daily specials as if he were auditioning for the new Steven Spielberg movie? Paint pictures with words. Use a fine brush, not a roller.

Show and tell. Stories come to life when the narrator recreates certain moments. He comes out from behind the lectern so he can “show and tell.” Go from storytelling to action and vice versa. If you simply narrate a past event, it seems interesting. If you recreate that same event, is presented as powerful and intriguing. You probably broadcast show-and-tell stories with animation all the time. Introduce them as if you were in an intimate setting with some close friends. Be natural. Anything you do “offstage” do “onstage.” And have fun.

Think about the last speech you heard. That you remember? If you’re like most people, you remember the stories that were told. You remember the sights and sounds, most of which took place in your own imagination. There is no more receptive environment to plant the seeds of a new idea or vision than the imagination.

When you tell me something, I listen and understand it, thus I gain knowledge about the subject. But intellectual understanding alone does not motivate people to action. Motivation comes from the Latin word motivationwhich means to move. A strategic story contains images that arouse emotions; “move” people. When your story has a logical point, the knowledge converges with the motivation you have created. This leads your listeners to a new understanding and desire to act.

Strategic use of stories can help you say goodbye to sweaty palms and cotton mouths. Before you know it, you’ll be having fun, making your points, and feeling your true power in front of an audience, just like when you’re orchestrating the company’s next strategic move.

The Story Theater Method for Strategic Storytelling in Business is a unique methodology to help you achieve storytelling success. It’s storytelling technology for business professionals. Learn more by contacting the author.

Leave a Reply

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *