Work communication in my office encountered more than the usual amount of noise this morning, because our computer infrastructure changed over the weekend.
Our Vice Chancellor for IT is a master storyteller, and he gave us the technical information we needed in a package that made it interesting and memorable. The IT folks did a great job preparing us with updates beforehand, and when we got to work there were cloud-shaped pastries and cloud-shaped stress balls, along with detailed instructions and hands-on help for logging in the first time.
This experience got me thinking about the importance of storytelling in getting our leadership messages across. One scholar that has studied this is Nancy Duarte. You can learn more of her ideas by watching her TED talk. Here are some highlights.
Every good story has a likeable hero. That seems like common sense, but Duarte says that we should not be the heroes of the stories we tell. Rather, we should draw in our listeners so they can see themselves as the hero. We should mentor them to move into the new world we are envisioning. As she says, “you’re not Luke Skywalker. You’re Yoda.”
The hero of the story encounters roadblocks. Duarte studied the content and rhythm of powerful speeches and discovered that they move back and forth between what is and how things could be. Similar to sailing in the wind, strong stories tap into the energy of the challenges and use it to move forward.
Listeners and tellers of powerful stories emerge transformed. Duarte says that strong speeches talk about roadblocks, but they don’t stop there. They give specific calls to action. Leaders can use stories to help people envision the future, and then know what do to to get there.
Shaping our messages into compelling stories is one of the best ways to cut through the noise. The process of creating the story will help us clarify the message, and listening can engage both the minds and emotions of our listeners.
When have you heard leaders use stories effectively?