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Clearview® Performance Systems brings you ... ® ... a Culture of Results & Engagement®

Here's the next in our series of weekly managerial TIPS (Techniques, Insights, and Practical Solutions)
to help you better engage your team in the activities that lead to higher performance.

CORE Bites Issue #64

Your Mother May Have Admonished You with "Don't tell stories!" but ...

Many parents, in an attempt to teach honesty, caution their children with, "Don't tell stories!" So when I advise you today that your effectiveness as a leader is directly correlated with your ability to tell stories, please don't think I'm referring to the 'stretch-the-truth' stories (and outright prevarications) we may have told as children.

The art of storytelling is a nearly universal human phenomenon, dating back throughout most of human history. Stories conveyed tradition, values, wisdom, tacit knowledge, and moral lessons from one generation to the next. So it's no surprise that storytelling has moved out of the realm of ancient society and into the business sector. Storytelling is a vital tool for leaders seeking to create compelling visions, communicate complex problems, better motivate and engage employees, and connect with difficult stakeholders.

As a leader of people, your success—and your results—depend on those key conversations that convey expectations as well as instill the qualities and values important to you and your organization. According to research performed by human cognitive psychologist Jerome Bruner (Harvard University), a message is twenty times more likely to be remembered accurately, and for a much longer period of time, when it's communicated through a well-constructed story than when it's based on facts alone.

This may (partially) explain the popularity of the TED Talks which use 'story' as the main ingredient. We connect with stories emotionally and a story that has had an impact on us will be easily recalled long into the future.

Management is frequently defined as "getting things done through other people." This requires strong communications that engage and inspire. By enhancing your storytelling skills, you can raise the effectiveness of your communications to another level. Ready to take the next step?

High Value Activity (HVA) Action Steps

Stories can be used to shape vision, to pass on knowledge and wisdom, and to shape individual identity and organizational culture. This week (starting today), look for those occasions where a metaphor, an analogy, or some similarly-crafted 'story' might be utilized to generate an emotional connectedness to the work an employee is doing. Here are a few HVAs to help you in that journey:

  • What Is the Message That Needs to Be Heard?: Every story, metaphor or analogy needs to begin with an understanding of the message you're trying to convey. For example, if an employee has made a mistake and is now beating himself up, you might want to impart the (compassionate) message that failure is one of life's best teachers. If you first focus on your ultimate message (the "take-away"), then you can figure out the best way to illustrate it.
  • Mine Your Own Life/Work Experiences: Effective storytellers look to their own experiences for ways to illustrate a message. Many times these experiences may be mistakes or failures or lessons-learned through an experience or through a mentor. Showing your vulnerability is a powerful way to connect with your employees—and there's nothing like sharing a challenge, struggle, or barrier you faced to be seen as more authentic and accessible. These types of struggles can be interesting emotional entry points to a story. [Note: If you want to connect with your audience (and you do!), don't make yourself the 'hero' or the 'star' of your own story. You can certainly be a central figure in the story, but the ultimate focus should be on the lessons you've learned. If possible, see if you can craft your story to make the employee the hero.]
  • Less is More: You're not creating a Hollywood movie script. Keep your stories simple—not every story you tell has to be an edge-of-your-seat epic. The guiding principle should be uncomplicated and straightforward to better connect with your message; needless details will only detract from your core message (and, potentially, confuse).
  • Practice Makes Perfect (or, at least, "Much Improved"): Storytelling is an art form that doesn't necessarily come naturally for most of us. Find a safe forum where you can practice. Pretty much every city, and many larger organizations, have a Toastmasters club available that provides a comfortable way for you to hone your craft. I've learned a great deal going to Toastmasters and not just from my own practice; hearing and seeing other people practice has provided many great learnings as well.

I'd love to hear how these HVAs work for you!

Neil Dempster, PhD, MBA
RESULTant™ and Behavioral Engineer

Quote of the Week

"The purpose of a storyteller is not to tell you how to think, but to give you questions to think upon."

— Brandon Sanderson —