Building powerful bonds between a company and its people is one of the most crucial tasks of a modern-day leader. With the help of a simple but effective tool, leaders can not only achieve this objective but ensure such bonds last forever.
The tool is storytelling.
Dufter.in Founder, Akhil Kakkar, is an adherent of storytelling and believes it yields numerous benefits for leaders the world over. In an article for YourStory, he writes: “Through the method of storytelling, leaders can emotionally connect with their colleagues, inspire their organisations, set strategic visions, and teach important lessons.”
All this and more can be done with the help of stories. That’s why, from the time we are born, stories have been a constant in our lives. We’ve been told stories that teach morals and simplify math, stories about courage and valour, and stories that make us buy products. Stories have, and will always be, a part of who we are.
Here’s why leaders should be good storytellers:
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Stories inspire and motivate people.
Numbers and facts don’t inspire people as much as stories do. This is because stories speak to the heart and leave an imprint. They push people ahead and act as catalysts to a whirlwind of imagination, change, and growth. Kimberly-Clark’s ex-CEO, Darwin E. Smith, wasn't a typical CEO. He wasn’t flamboyant like most leaders we see in the news today. He was always down-to-earth, comfortable with his field and factory staff, and extremely humble. Yet, he was the CEO that grew Kimberly Clark’s share prices 4.1 times and continued to lead for 20 years. Such stories are not only inspirational but also encourage and motivate teams to grow.
Stories elicit emotion and energy.
Information presented in the form of a well-knit story is much more relatable than a data-driven PowerPoint presentation. Without a story, you’re competing against the audience's intellect, experience, and statistics. Or worse, you could be boring them. Only a story has the power to cross these barriers and elicit strong emotions and energetic responses from your audience. Why would 10,000 people join you in your mission to design and create running shoes? Because your story of athletes running on a track showed them the potential of humankind and how they can contribute to humankind's evolution. Therefore, using stories, you can inspire your team to hop on with your vision.
Stories help your audience imagine a positive future.
Projecting and planning for the future is an important task for all leaders. That and motivating teams to realise the vision of the future. And what better way to draw a picture of the future than with a story? As a leader, you can create scenarios and events to express how you see the future shaping and how your team would be instrumental in making it a reality.
Stories help people work in teams.
Nothing forms more powerful connections than a good story. When your audience see themselves as characters in the story and relate to the different challenges every character faces, they realise their importance in driving the plot. This makes them do everything in their power to achieve business objectives while working along with their teams. Storytelling builds a powerful spirit of community and teamwork within your organisation. It also works in favour of the organisation, as your team gives utmost importance to organisational goals.
Stories define organisational culture and values.
Great workplace cultures are based on positive stories. Stories that tell how founders chose employees over profit, or how they always stood up for equality, give future generations a strong foundation to grow with. Organisational values that are presented in the form of stories and are celebrated regularly help form strong cultures that are ingrained in all employees.
Stories help spark creativity and unconventional ideas.
Information presented in the form of a story is easily stored in and retrieved from our subconscious minds. We always remember the essence of the story and the unusual ways heroes solve problems. This inspires us to deliver new and unconventional ideas.
Stories help lead change.
Change in tools, process, and policies can be difficult to accept. By using a hypothetical story (possibly a positive one) to convey the change and its effects on everyone, the transition becomes much smoother for your team. As they understand what’s in it for them, they quickly accept the change and even advocate it.
Stories are effective for coaching and giving feedback.
How do you tell an employee they seem defensive and closed to ideas? Not in those exact words, for sure. Instead, you observe their behaviour and tell them a story about someone who made the same mistakes and how they grew professionally by correcting themselves. Such feedback stays in the mind and changes behaviour subconsciously.
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Storytelling is not just for leaders—your sales staff, marketers, HR professionals, and all other departments can benefit from this skill. This is why employees of personal-care brand, Kimberly Clark, get to spend two days learning the art of storytelling so that they can learn ways to use stories in their presentations. P&G hires Hollywood movie directors to teach executives various storytelling techniques and organisations like Kodak, Disney, Motorola, 3M, Nike have developed a culture of storytelling. Leaders should aim to be great storytellers because stories are powerful. Stanford Professor Jennifer Aaker states that "stories are remembered up to 22 times more than facts alone."
Suggested Further Reading: 7 Storytelling Tips for Effective Leadership by Akhil Kakkar in YourStory.com.