We humans are fascinated with stories. Oh, the genre doesn’t matter. It could be a romantic comedy, a sci-fi thriller, or an action adventure. We just like a good story. When you go to the office on Monday morning, what do you want to hear? A good story that someone had from their weekend. What is a great way to open a meeting, a presentation, or even a Sunday-morning sermon? A good story.
What is it that fascinates us with the power of story? I think perhaps it’s the awareness that each of us is in the midst of living out our own life story. Maybe you are living out a real page-turner. Or maybe your life right now seems like it could be bottled and sold as a sleep aid. Either way, you have an awareness that your own life is a living, unfolding story filled with some level of intrigue, mystery, and adventure. And the best part of your own story is that the ending is not yet written. Or, depending on your philosophy of life, even if it’s already been written, it hasn’t been revealed to you.
So how can you harness the power of story, our human fascination with story, to be a better leader?
Find the story behind your business. Simon Sinek wrote a bestselling book titled Start with Why. In it, he shares the principle that truly inspired communicators don’t just tell their audience or their prospective customers what they do, or how they do it; they share with them the why behind the product or service they offer. The why speaks to their beliefs, their values, and their motivation for doing what they do.
Consumers find this compelling in part because sharing these details often involves telling your organizational story. People want to do business with people they know and trust. Let your audience get to know you by telling them why you do what you do, not just how you do it better than the competition. That telling involves sharing your story.
Maybe you are a chiropractor who is board-certified, highly skilled, and offers great results at a fair price. Awesome…but chances are, so do fifty other chiropractors within a twenty-mile radius of where you practice. But none of your competitors has your story—the reasons why you got into helping people get well through chiropractic medicine. Tell them!
Mine the stories from your business. My wife wanted to buy a digital picture frame. She went online and looked up several options. Did she read the specs on screen brightness and memory storage? Nope. What she read were the reviews. You see, what mattered to my wife was what other people who purchased the product had to say, what their experience was. What was their story?
Your customers’ testimonials, their reviews, are their stories, their adventures, and their experiences with you, your product, or your service. So be intentional in asking for, highlighting, and celebrating the success stories from your business.
There are five core elements of every story: plot, character, setting, theme, and conflict. How can you share these with the people you most want to attract and influence? Let’s look at these five core elements in the context of your business’s story:
Plot. Where is your business going? What are your goals? If your company were a train, what would make both employees and customers want to get on board?
Character. Who are the main players in your company story? Do you allow your audience to get to know them? Are they likable?
Setting. Are you operating in an expanding market, a crowded market, a changing market? A well-known or niche market?
Theme. What does your organization stand for? What are your values?
Conflict. When something goes wrong, how do you handle it? You can’t please everyone 100 percent of the time. When you shipped something late or to the wrong address, how did you handle it? Rather than pretending things never go wrong, how can you show and celebrate how you resolve customer conflict? Let’s be honest—all stories, even Hallmark movies, have some form of conflict embedded into the plot. Without it, a story is, frankly, boring.
May you live a life and run an organization today that makes for a great story—one that generations to come will be telling!
“Storytelling is the most powerful way to put ideas into the world today.”
Story is written by David W. Welday III