Storytelling is an art that leaders can use to inspire employees and teams to awaken their passion and fulfil their goals. It is that trick that can change dry numbers into an exciting picture of what the leader is seeking from the people she is leading. When a leader narrates a story- one that she too believes- it can click with the employees, leaving them inspired, creatively active and refreshed.
A story, when narrated compellingly, can invoke the right actions out of the listeners, such as communicating a change, resonating with the brand's vision for the future, encouraging them to give rise to teamwork etc. All great leaders of today who are leading multinationals and global ventures have used storytelling as a form of leading their workforce. Some of the examples being Microsoft, NASA and Procter&Gamble.
Here are a few things that you can practice to become a great storyteller:
Share real-life experiences:
A great story has the potential to feel real and magical, especially when the narrator has experienced it first-hand. A real experience makes the story interesting and the details much more real. It resonates with the audience. Similarly, when a leader shares her own experiences of endurance, survival, and overcoming hurdles, with her team, it can inspire them to do more. When Brian Chesky, Airbnb Co-founder and CEO, decided to launch Trips he did it with the inspiration he got from his picture of him as a child kissing his mother on a beach. His story inspired him to start something that can also be experienced by many. He wanted his listeners to be inspired by their real-life experiences to succeed. He says "People remember the magic of an experience." That's how Airbnb was born.
In an era of short attention spans, holding the attention of your audience is really challenging. Amidst that, if you use too much jargon or try to make the story sound larger than life when it isn't required, you may lose your audience's attention. What is needed to make an audience hang on to your story is the way you deliver it to them. Direct and straightforward narration by a leader displaying strong beliefs and conviction is sufficient to get your audience's rapt attention. Elon Musk, CEO of SpaceX and Tesla, founder of The Boring Company, has often acquired investors to invest in his business even when it involves a certain amount of risk. How? All because of his powers of being a great storyteller where he tries to be understanding of other's concerns and displaying his belief in the story.
Love the art of storytelling:
As a leader, it is essential that you fall in love with the art of storytelling to inspire your employees and others around. Without your interest and intention to encourage them, what you are about to say would make absolutely no impact. To get the right reaction and action out of them, it is essential to understand that storytelling and leadership go hand-in-hand. An audience knows when the narration is going off-board. Richard Branson, Entrepreneur, Philanthropist, Investor says, "The Virgin story — it's ups, downs, opportunities, and challenges — is what attracts people to its products and services, as well as attracting employees to join the Virgin family. We would be nothing without our story."
Impact of storytelling on the company culture
An employee spends the majority of her life at work which in turn becomes her second home of sorts. Her productivity is directly proportional to her feelings when it comes to being at work. As a leader, it is crucial to focus on the type of culture you are creating to make sure you have contented employees who are enthusiastic about working. Your work culture is directly proportional to the purpose you instil in your employees. Additionally, your work culture and the way your employees react to it affects productivity and how your brand is perceived.
Patty Mccord, Netflix Chief Talent Officer, shares her experience, "We're in the car driving, and I'm like, why is this so fun? I can't wait to get to work. I don't want to go home at night. I mean, we're working so hard. What is it about this?" The environment at her office in Netflix is not just flexible but also understanding and accommodating of their situations. They believe in their story and thus are productive as a team.
Often, it so happens that employees may seem unmotivated or not driven enough to achieve the tasks assigned. This comes from a lack of purpose which can be fixed by an excellent storytelling session from the leader. It can rejuvenate the employees to look beyond their work scope and aim towards something more significant. At the end of the day, an organization too needs to grow and thrive in this competitive atmosphere which is only possible when employees are inspired enough. Storytelling with a compelling narrative can achieve that.