By Peter Jeff
The Leadership Mints Guy
Here’s an idea to capture the imagination of your followers. Reading time: 4:16
The story teller had captured the boy’s imagination.
The words painted a picture in his mind. The story teller’s engaging tone and exciting inflection tuned her voice into what seemed the surround sound quality of a theater. Only the popcorn seemed to be missing from the boy’s “movie” experience.
With that attention-commanding sense of relevancy and influence, it’s no wonder story-telling is a key leadership skill, according to Harvard professor Howard Gardner. In his book Leading Minds, Gardner observes that “leaders achieve their effectiveness chiefly through the stories they relate…through their ability to hold the attention of others.”
Story-Telling Sells More Than Tells
Capturing attention and garnering the hearts and minds of listeners, stories are more convincing than facts, according to research conducted at Stanford University.
Why? Stories get to the heart of the issue first and foremost, according to Noel Tichy, the author of The Leadership Engine and a professor at the University of Michigan.
Stories “engage listeners on an emotional and intuitive level that is rarely touched by the purely rational argument,” Tichy notes. “Stories create real human connections by allowing others to get in our own minds and our lives.”
Stories in fact sell more than simply tell. The most effective leaders know that stories share an experience with which other people can more readily identify. Anthropologist Margaret Mead called story telling a “perpetuated experience” that truly distinguishes human groups.
Stories can be more of an antidote than simply an anecdote. They can clear up a toxic situation, personalizing the issue and mobilizing the necessary change in behavior.
That’s why the most effective leaders know that sharing stories can influence the company’s commitment to improved customer service in particular and operations in general.
With that kind of influence, story tellers have always been held in high esteem. In fact, during the Renaissance story tellers attained greater status than Lords, the property owners.
These story tellers were so revered they earned the right to wear special 6-color Honorary Costumes – one more color than the Lords, two more colors than the Governor and four more colors than the soldiers and only one less color than the King.
These colorfully costumed Renaissance story tellers –known as bards — played music and told stories as they traveled the roads. They were in effect the first news correspondents who spread tales around to isolated communities.
Their stories cemented the community and brought people together to more effectively share greater meaning and insights. Their 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.
With stories, leaders unveil 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 a greater sense of loyalty, of belonging, of making a difference.
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 even more powerful emotional bond than pictures on television. “It’s your ear more than your eye that keeps you at your television set,” said Don Hewitt, the creator of CBS-Television’s 60-Minutes. “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.
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