Stories Breathe Life Into the Bottom Line
Posted by The Leadership Mints Guy on October 18, 2011
By Peter Jeff
The Leadership Mints Guy
Here’s an idea to capture the imagination and added commitment of your followers.
The children’s storyteller had just finished a 30-minute performance at an pre-school. A five year-old boy excitedly ran up to the storyteller, yanked on her hand and smiled: “Hey, thanks for the movies!”
The story captured his imagination. The words painted a picture in his mind. The story teller’s voice added the tone and inflection that served as a virtual score in a movie. The boy was impressed. The only thing missing from his “movie” experience was the popcorn.
Small wonder story-telling is a key leadership skill. In his book Leading Minds author and Harvard professor Howard Gardner observes that “leaders achieve their effectiveness chiefly through the stories they relate…through their ability to hold the attention of others.”
Story-Telling : an Antidote
More than an Anecdote
Stories can be more of an antidote than simply an anecdote. Stories can stave off the toxins of a highly competitive business climate that threatens the stability of employees, according to research conducted at Stanford University. To convince employees that their company had a commitment to avoiding layoffs, MBA students were offered four strategies:
(1) Provide statistics (pie charts etc.);
(2) Provide an executive statement;
(3) Provide statistics along with stories,
(4) Provide stories.
The most convincing: stories. Only stories was more convincing than the stories and statistics combo. Why? Story sell. Facts tell.
Stories “engage listeners on an emotional and intuitive level that is rarely touched by the purely rational argument,” according to Noel Tichy, the author of The Leadership Engine and a professor at the University of Michigan. “Stories create real human connections by allowing others to get in our own minds and our lives.”
The most effective leaders know that stories share an experience that other people can more readily identify with – a “perpetuated experience” that truly distinguishes human groups as anthropologist Margaret Mead writes.
Stories Humanize, Personalize and Mobilize
Stories humanize and personalize and mobilize. That’s why the most effective leaders know that sharing stories that illustrate the company’s commitment to the customer can influence and mobilize even greater stellar customer service. No wonder storytellers have always been held in high esteem. In fact, during the Renaissance, storytellers were held in greater status than lords. These storytellers wore costumes festooned in 6 different colors, just one fewer than the King. To underscore the significance of this costume color status, consider that story tellers wore one more color than the Lords, two more colors than the Governor and four more colors than the soldiers.
These Renaissance storytellers –known as bards — played music and told stories as they traveled the roads. They were in effect the first newsmen who spread tales around to isolated communities. Those stories cemented the community and brought people together to more effectively share greater meaning and insights. Those stories — “ballads, bon mots and anecdotes” as author Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote “give us better insights into the depths of past centuries than grave and voluminous chronicles.”
Stories Tap Into The Memory Banks
With stories, leaders tap into the memory banks, relating the nuance of an organization, its particularities more than its particulars. With stories, leaders pump blood into the corporate body, blood that feeds the bottom line, blood that infuses employees, stockholders, customers and other stakeholders with greater loyalty.
Maybe that’s why the Minister of Culture at Krispy Kreme Doughnuts Corp says customers see the company’s doughnuts more as “stories” to sink their teeth into. “People get a dreamy look in their eyes when they talk about them,” says Mike Cecil, the Minister of Culture (that title alone is a story to be told) at Krispy Kreme.
Stories are so powerful of an emotional bond between humans that ironically a renowned television news producer is convinced that “it’s your ear more than your eye that keeps you at your television set.” Don Hewitt credited the success of CBS-Television’s 60-Minutes to story-telling. “It’s what you hear more than what you see that holds your interest.” Just ask that 6-year old boy who saw a movie without ever seeing a screen.
So what’s your story? How do you share stories in organization. I look forward to your comments. Use the Comments section below.
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