Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Storytelling as a Leadership Tool

"Analysis might excite the mind, but it hardly offers a route to the heart. And that's where we must go if we are to motivate people not only to take action but to do so with energy and enthusiasm."

Points need to be made in seconds not minutes to allow listeners the mental space to relate the story to their own situtations, to ask themselves questions and to provide answers.

Positive stories are often used to motivate people into action whereas negative stories help to share knowledge as people learn from mistakes. Stories which present solutions to technical problems are driven by a detailed explanation of the cause-and-effect relationship between an action and its consequence to relate why things happened as they did.

Stories help leaders to define their personality for their followers, boosting others' confidence in the leaders' integrity and providing some idea of how they might act in a given situation. The ability to tell the right story at the right time id emerging as an essential leadership skill.

A variety of narrative patterns are available for different aims:
  • Sparking Action - a 'springboard' story enables listeners to visualise the transformation needed in their circumstances and then to act on that realisation
  • Communicating Who You Are - to trust you, people have to know you: who you are, where you've come from, and why you hold the views you do
  • Transmitting Values - a story to clearly establish limits on destructive behaviour ensures that the audience understands 'how things are done around here'
  • Fostering Collaboration - 'Encourage Conversations' by generating a common narative around a group's concerns and goals, beginning with a story told by one member of the group
  • Taming the Grapevine - harness the energy of the grapevine to defuse rumours by using a story to convince listeners that the gossip is either untrue or unreasonable
  • Sharing Knowledge - communicating intellectual capital across an organisation and beyond typically occurs informally through the sharing of stories
  • Leading People into the Future - a credible narrative can help take listeners from where they are now to where they need to be by making them comfortable with an image of the future

No comments: