Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Be a storyteller

I can confirm some people, sometimes, speak in a way I can understand them more clearly than normal, that motivates me, and allows me to easily remember and relay crucial points of what they are talking about. They use storytelling - and it makes them engaging, persuasive and likable.

Leaders are storytellers.

Our start-up sells a complicated technical gadget - an open source modular system for building devices. I've long noticed our CEO telling the story about how the idea was conceived: 'It was after 911, and was unable to get a hold of my wife. I wanted to know where she was and that she was ok. I called her cell phone over and over.....I thought, wasn't their an easier way? We have all the technology - GPS gadgets, wi-fi networks, etc..., to solve this problem, why is this so hard'? Why shouldn't I be able to snap these available technologies together to do what I want them to do? Ok - these aren't exact quotes and I think I've even heard the story change. But the reason the company and product exist become personal, I can relate and there is even an emotional reaction.

Anecdotes - tell a little story. The story doesn't have to be emotional, or even a good story to have impact. (I'm not saying our CEO's story isn't good :-). Just have a sequence of events, one fact leading to the other. I was driving my car, I got horribly lost, I had no idea what I would do - it feels like something is happening, or will happen. Saying 'bring a map', for example, isn't as powerful as an acedote of getting lost and finding your way again. Converting the story to meaning in our brain makes it stick.

Metaphors - I find a friend of mine managing via metaphor all the time. Instead of lecturing on process he'll say something like 'not logging the project with a Trac ticket is like a ship at sea without a map'. Ah, of course, I think. I MUST make a Trac ticket. We don't want to be lost, we need a map! Voila, this tiny story motivated me to follow process.

Do you believe you can be more persuasive and interesting using stories? I imagine it takes practice. What do you want to say? Why do people want your product? Why would this person want to work here? Tell a story. Raise questions. Create a moment of reflection.

1 comment:

  1. This is so true. At a previous company we had a series of workshops for senior people on telling stories. You could probably smell the scepticism over in the States when we first announced it, but the impact was incredible. And of course you can look back at books like Who Moved My Cheese (someone told me it was 10 years old.....No!) to see how it works for explaining even complex situations.