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Generating Communication That Drives Action

February 16, 2012 | Comments: 0 | Views: 156

Storytelling: A Leadership Skill

Inspired by a Valentine's Day photo of Tom and his granddaughter sharing a storybook, I was reminded of the power of storytelling as an effective means of communicating and as a great leadership skill. All that matters is what your communication produces!

Stories as told through books, movies, news media, texts, art, dance, and theater are powerful means of communication. Social media, growing by leaps and bounds, serves as a tremendous host for storytelling. In fact, Twitter just topped 465 million registered accounts; Facebook has over 850 million active users; Google+ has nearly 100 million; and LinkedIn is serving over 130 million, according to "21 Tactics to Increase Blog Traffic", January 17, 2012. The competition for winning the attention of customers, staff, peers, vendors, and prospective clients, not to mention friends and family, is fierce.

Storytelling which has existed throughout the history of time is believed by many to be one of the things that defines and connects us as humans. The ability to tell a compelling story that reaches into people's hearts and inspires them to act is critical to success.

Effective leaders are good storytellers and chances are all good storytellers probably began as poor storytellers --- they got good by telling stories. To break it down in its simplest form there are several characteristics of a good story. A good story is relevant; simple, plausible, evocative and purposeful. In our interactions with one another, we search for ways to connect. One of the best ways is by sharing stories; they provide a personal perspective and an inside look at you.

At a recent meeting, I had the opportunity to connect with someone and in an effort to become better acquainted, I asked a simple question: How did you become so established and successful? He intuitively responded by sharing a story of how his business evolved over the last 20 years to its current state. His story was infused with humor, credibility, and authenticity. As he spoke, I found myself completely engaged, connected and impressed. Isn't that the idea - to inspire and influence others?

Telling stories is something we all do; it is inherent in us as human beings and important to remember as we look for ways to connect, persuade, influence, inspire and impact those around us.

In honor of President's Day I offer a tribute to one of our country's greatest leaders and storytellers, Abraham Lincoln. Having recently read Team of Rivals, Doris Kearns Goodwin offers insights into Lincoln's political genius and highlights the president's great ability in storytelling and speech-making. Here is an excerpt from her book:

"But Lincoln's stories provided more than mere amusement. Drawn from his own experiences and the curiosities reported by others, they frequently provided maxims and proverbs that usefully connected to the lives of his listeners. Lincoln possessed an extraordinary ability to convey practical wisdom in the form of humorous tales his listeners could remember and repeat. This process and repetition is central to the oral tradition; indeed Walter Benjamin in his essay on the storyteller's art suggests that repetition 'is the nature of the web in which the gift of storytelling is cradled.'"

It is told that throughout Lincoln's childhood, legal profession, and political career, he was often found staged in the center of a crowd regaling them with humorous tales that repeatedly won the heart's and minds of those around him. Consistently, during his term as President he used the power of storytelling to allay the fears and console the hardships that many suffered during the Civil War. "The passion for rendering experience into powerful language remained with Lincoln throughout his life," observes Goodwin.

People love stories and want to be inspired; it is our responsibility as leaders to engage, inspire and empower. I invite you to master the art of storytelling as a leadership tool; there are many ways of incorporating this form of communication in to your day.

Storytelling can be instrumental as a means of:

Creating a clear sense of the "bigger picture"; Articulating a future vision; Coaching in a way that elevates effectiveness and performance; Motivating others to go beyond what they thought was possible; Breaking down silos and separatism; Fostering commitment and inspiring action; Relating and connecting powerfully with others.

As you become more aware of how leaders communicate, notice who uses storytelling as a leadership tool. Notice the impact that the story has on you as the listener; observe what you are inspired by or not, and begin to imagine how this can elevate the performance and productivity for your customers, staff, and those you communicate with on a regular basis. Practice these basic steps in crafting your story:

Be clear about your intended outcome (what is it that you wish to accomplish?) Choose a story that is simple and easy to understand Ensure that it is pertinent to your audience Provide details that establish credibility and believability Be passionate about the storyHave a clear, definable ending Practice

Whether you are a grandfather reiterating age-old tales of Aesop's Fables, a world leader, the director of a local arts initiative or the CFO a corporation, the art of storytelling remains one of the most effective tools in uniting people for a cause, even if it is simply to make them laugh.

What's your story?

Transformative Dynamics ( is consulting and coaching firm that fosters relationships that will drive new ways of seeing, thinking, relating, and behaving throughout your organization. These new insights and actions will dramatically impact results for you, your team and your organization.

Effective leaders are good at knowing when their practices and mindsets are no longer sufficient in serving their businesses. Those who are tenacious in their ability to see their practices and beliefs at play will be rewarded by having a say in how the future goes; thus, allowing for a platform of unprecedented results to occur.

Source: EzineArticles
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