Leadership: The Art of Storytelling & Influence

Leadership: The Art of Storytelling & Influence

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african american man speaking to audienceStorytelling is not just a tool for speakers to help captivate audiences and win rock star fans. It’s embedded in company mission statements, chorused by recruiters and belted out in everyday work tasks. It can be used to draw out employee engagement, strengthen teams and ensure timely execution of projects. Unfortunately, it is also one of the most overlooked career tools that has a huge impact on individual and company success.

Kahler Slater, a global architecture and design enterprise, has studied for several years the physical environments of the Great Place to Work Institute’s recognized list of best companies to work. In Kahler Slater’s research, the clear commonality found between all companies was that employers had a great understanding of how to engage employees into their mission, culture and celebrations through authentic storytelling.

“From prehistoric caves to modern workplaces, places tell stories and bring cultures alive,” says Tony Laporte, head of culture communications at Kahler Slater. “So, in your own workplace, don’t let storytelling be overlooked.

It is not about regurgitating facts, which usually don’t resonate with audiences (ie. clients, supporters, funders, senior management, employees, etc.) but developing a narrative that takes your audience on a journey. In storytelling, you must articulate through varying forms of communication and media your story. When communicating with individuals, studies have shown that facts are more memorable when it’s associated with a story.

Use storytelling within the workplace to:

Inspire a Shared Vision: When we inspire a shared vision, we’re better equipped to enable people to act. This is crucial when working on team projects and meeting deadlines within the workplace. In staff development meetings, sharing a story that resonates with the values of the company as well as employees can be refreshing. It is important that the story is associated with the company and highlights its core values. After sharing it, refocus the team on the future while keeping the expectations of the company in mind. Your team will feel much more motivated to fulfill your company’s purpose and morale will improve.

Manage Conflicts: Mentors within the workplace who share their stories with new employees benefit from allowing new employees the opportunity to navigate through potential challenges better. For example, a senior manager may give insight to a time he/she was faced with an ethical dilemma. The new manager will be able to recall how to arrive quickly at a solution; when finding themselves in a similar situation.

Draw Interest in Projects: Keeping morale up and employees engaged is top priority for most managers. Being able to narrate for team-members upcoming projects with enthusiasm, while detailing expectations, failures, goals and results from past projects— can allow colleagues a chance to envision for themselves what they’ll be doing to excellence.  This is also an opportunity to engage staff that may be disconnected from the group.

Recruit Diverse Talent: If a company wishes to bring in diverse talent, they should highlight authentic stories that reflect the shared values of their ideal candidates.

How do you use storytelling in your work? #Soundoff and follow Amanda Ebokosia on Twitter @Ebokosia.

Amanda A. Ebokosia is a freelance writer and founder of The Gem Project Inc., a not-for-profit organization that creates educational enrichment programs for youth and young adults. She is also a professional leadership consultant, who offers services and seminars for corporate and professional clients. A sought-after speaker and writer on topics of leadership, education, and empowerment, Ebokosia has spoken and led programs at educational institutions and companies including Rutgers University, New Jersey Institute of Technology, AOL Patch NY, Montclair YMCA (Teen Travel Camp), United Way of Essex and West Hudson and more.