BUSINESS By Gabrielle Dolan
As humans we have been sharing stories since the dawn of time. Whilst storytelling is
The power of
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not new as a form of communication, it has taken the business world a while to catch on. Not surprisingly, storytelling in business has emerged as a critical influencing and communication tool as well as a key leadership competency. The reason for the rise of storytelling is threefold.
1. People want meaning and relevance Information overload is not new and it is not going away. Consequently, people do not want more information; they want to focus on the material that is relevant and meaningful to them. Successful storytelling that shows consideration for your audience is a perfect way to do this. 2. Employees are looking for real leaders Generation Y will be the most dominant generation in the workforce by 2020 and they aspire to be led differently. They are not looking for leaders who are perfect and have all the answers; rather they seek out leaders who are authentic and prepared to show vulnerability. A personal story has the power to show vulnerability and emotion in a safe and structured way. As a result, leaders who are prepared to show vulnerability through personal stories gain commitment and credibility as well as increase their ability to influence. 3. Emotion trumps logic Great sales people have known for a long time that humans are emotional beings and that we buy on emotion and justify it by logic. In comparison, business people have been trapped for decades by the premise that logic will build credibility and influence others. Sadly, what they fail to realise is that logic just informs people. Therefore logic alone will not change behaviour or mindset that is often required for successful leadership. Good leaders understand the importance of emotion when managing people by demonstrating the courage to share authentic and relevant personal stories.
“Two years ago I lost my husband in a tragic paragliding accident. In our time of dealing with this loss, my youngest son Billy said to me that his greatest fear was, ‘If it could happen to Dad, it could happen to you’. As a parent, this is a tough one to respond to—there are no guarantees in life. Ten months later I was involved in a car accident while driving home from work. I had stopped at the shop on the way home to pick up some groceries and rang my eldest son Jackson when I was about five minutes away to get him to meet me outside to help with the groceries. Two minutes from home I was hit and instantaneously six airbags deployed and I pulled up just before I ran into a power pole. The only thing that was going through my mind at the time was the memory of Billy saying, ‘If it could happen to Dad, it could happen to you’ and thinking that at that moment Jackson was standing outside at home waiting for me — and I was not going be turning up anytime soon. I rang Jackson and he immediately ran across the park in his school uniform and socks to find me. As you can imagine, I was pretty upset and I just said how scared I was of what could have happened. Jackson gave me a hug and calmly said to me, ‘Mum, you can’t think of it like that. You need to think of it like this—you drive a safe car and the airbags worked.’ I just hugged him with pride about his perfect, powerful and positive response.
Storytelling in action
I am sharing this with you because every day when I am faced with the challenges of running this business, I often ask myself, ‘How would Jackson reframe this?’ “
Cindy Batchelor, an Executive General Manager at the NAB, understands the power of storytelling and has spent years polishing this skill. Cindy shares the following story with her team to reinforce the message of how important it is to be positive and to ‘reframe’ any situation:
I spoke to Cindy about how and why she used such a personal story. She said, ‘Not all stories need to be this personal but this story has had the most incredible impact on my business and the way I connect with my people. There is a real strength in showing vulnerability as a leader.’
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