We’re throwing it back! This week we’re showcasing a guest post from Willy Steiner about the theme from his latest book, Discover the Joy of Leadership, which launched on February 6, 2017.
I thought I wanted to be a playwright because I was interested in stories and telling stories. – Francis Ford Coppola
It is estimated that by the time a child is four, they will have heard over 30 million words, many of these in the form of stories or nursery rhymes that are told by parents and family. In other words, we are immersed in stories our whole life.
The bottom line is we are hard-wired for stories; but I don’t think we recognize what a huge reservoir of insights, lessons learned, and experiences we have to share with others.
I took up storytelling as a hobby a couple of years ago and have performed around the Chicago area. Most of these are of a personal nature about my experiences with family or friends, but I really started to consider how important stories would be for my clients as key leaders in their organizations. I use stories frequently in my coaching conversations.
Stories are, by their very nature, more memorable and easier to relate to than a list of bullet points on a PowerPoint slide. You connect with people intellectually, emotionally, and even physically when you consider the style and the body language of a storyteller. Storytellers are, by nature, collaborative and giving, and can have three major choices in terms of the intent of telling their story: to inform, to inspire, or to provoke.
I believe leaders in organizations need to employ the use of stories more in their communications. The question is how do you do that? How do you construct a good story you can use as a key resource in your bag of leadership tools?
Constructing a Great Business Story
The steps are:
- Who – are you thinking of?
- What – was the issue or opportunity?
- Where – and under what context did this occur?
- Result – what happened?
- What’s changed or lessons learned – the moral of the story?
If this intrigues you, then follow the steps and begin writing your story. START WRITING NOW! Don’t worry about getting it right the first time or making it perfect. Once I develop an idea or topic, I do the outline, flesh out the idea, and work on various sections over a period of time, often while walking, and may spend 4 to 5 hours getting it right, usually over a week or so. Good storytellers work hard at their craft — and if you’re going to tell a meaningful story in your work world, it requires the same level of effort.
Final Tips on Storytelling
A couple final thoughts:
- Keep your story between 5 and 7 minutes long. Any longer than that and you will start to lose your audience.
- Less is more. Strip away any extraneous information. Interesting anecdotes or observations can actually be a source of clutter to a good story. If anyone could wonder about the relevance of any of your points, take them out. I’ve had feedback about stuff I thought was pretty cool that others could not discern the relevance. Out that went.
- A good story is NOT solely about the storyteller. You are the vehicle for sharing the insights, experiences, or lessons learned. Your feelings or the impact on you do matter, but go well beyond just your perspective.
For so many of you that I’ve known over the years, you are incredibly rich sources of stories, lessons learned, and insights to share. They should not go untold.
- Will I spend the time to develop a good story? You’re in no hurry, so you can do this over as much time as is needed.
- For each story you intend to tell, what are you informing, inspiring, or provoking others about? If you don’t know, don’t tell the story.
- Are you worried about whether or not you can be a good storyteller? Don’t worry about it, because you’ve been telling stories your whole life. You just can be more purposeful.
What personal experience could you share a story about today?