Everyone has experienced some sort of struggle in the past – be it with work, relationships, reaching our goals – not to mention what’s happened in the past 18 months.
I like to think of our past experiences as a collective of stories. Stories whose lessons have shaped the way we think, feel and act, and that, in turn, have shaped the way we work and communicate with others.
What if your unique story and experience could provide valuable insights for the people you deal with on a daily basis? Could your struggles and the lessons learned help shift their thinking, spark their untapped creativity and remove roadblocks?
The ability to influence, motivate and inspire is something we all need to do as leaders. And as it turns out, storytelling is a powerful tool to achieve this.
Whereas the proverbial facts, arguments and logic that appeal to the rational mind can be effective in communicating a point, storytelling allows you to connect with people on a whole different level: that of authenticity and vulnerability.
So, how can you lead and influence with a story? To illustrate this, let me share one of mine:
One of my clients, a new manager in a government agency, had been handed a team, in which one member (I’ll call her Jenna) had been labeled uncooperative and incompetent. As a result, Jenna felt ostracized, leading to festering discontent and an overall decline in productivity.
After a week in this position and of observing the situation, the manager decided to call a meeting with Jenna. But instead of resorting to reproach, logic and listing all the reasons why her behaviour was inappropriate, she decided to share her own personal story.
She, too, had once been on a team, in which she’d felt like an outcast and the imposter who didn’t fit in, and that, by speaking with her boss and asking the right questions, she’d been able to make herself understood and a valuable member of the team in the long run.
This demonstration of authenticity and vulnerability on behalf of her manager was pivotal for Jenna. For the first time, she felt somebody actually cared and related to her, and she was in turn able to share some of her challenges at work. Having that open conversation made Jenna realize some things about herself as well – things that created road blocks in her communication with the team. She was able to recognize that she also needed to play a role in strengthening team spirit and productivity – an insight that resulted in a resolution of long-standing conflict and improved work relationships.
Stories are powerful, and they’re a gateway to a more compassionate and authentic leadership style. So, the next time you have a meeting or conversation about influencing or leading change, consider a personal story to better make your point and to connect with the people you’re with on that deeper transformative level.
The results will probably surprise you.
Sylvia is an experienced leadership and communication coach. More about her work at sylvialarrass.com.