I bet you remember the story of two young engineers in a garage and how they created Apple. I bet you can even picture them, remember the names and have tied some characteristics (like innovative, outside the box and creative) to this story. That in a nutshell is proof of the effectiveness of storytelling in a business context. And that is why you need storytelling as a leadership ability. You need to be able to lead with stories. And you need to know how to do that.
What stories can do for you
Why? Because stories have existed since the beginning of mankind and are still used to give meaning to everything that happens around us. And most importantly: stories create emotional connections to events and meanings. They “draw you in”. How many times have you heard complaints about how people are not engaged in their workplace? How they lack connection to their bosses and how they can’t see the big picture? Maybe try a story!
How much more powerful and inspiring is the story of how you learned a valuable lesson in your career than just inform about the lesson you learned and how people should stick to that rule. Stories make them understand and make them connect with the lesson much deeper than with a percentage or chart. If you want people to be engaged, you need to engage them. Sounds simple? Not so simple to actually do!
In executive positions you have a lot on your plate and might not find it appropriate to add “telling stories” to it. But look at it this way: stories can save you a lot of time, serve several purposes at once and make you more efficient. Stories help to give your objective a context, make it easier to understand and relate to your messages. Try to form them as relatable as possible, put them in a “human” context and add characters, places, obstacles and challenges to it. Every story needs a beginning, a middle and an end.
And especially in an executive position – or aiming for one – you have so many reasons to use storytelling to your advantage. After all it’s not exactly by chance that market leading companies like Apple, Nike, IKEA, and Lego have powerful business and leadership stories. It’s because they are using storytelling to create a context of human connection and they create a sense of identification and a shared purpose. It’s all about connecting yourself and your employees to your company’s value and ultimately to your company’s story. As an executive you of all people can (and should) create an executive story that speaks to your board, your employees, your partners, and your customers.