Paul stood before the group and boldly proclaimed the power of letters. Letters from his mother more than forty years old. Letters of love and devotion to his now wife that were kept and cared for from four decades. Letters as a form of communication, an experience of connection and a way of sharing life. Letters written on paper, card and email, yet ultimately inscribed on our heart. Letters, write them, send them, read them.
Story opens hearts and minds more than information ever will.
Leaders who speak realise that whatever the topic, whoever the audience that a universal language we can speak, is story. Developing the art of the storyteller is a key skill for leaders who speak. Making your default position a narrative rather than content will continue to set you up to keep the mission live, fresh and vibrant as you continue to invite people to be part of your shared future.
Story can be the difference that makes the difference for leaders who speak. Here’s why.
Story engages the heart.
Story is art. It invites us into an emotional journey, not just a cognitive one. It puts skin on what the hard data is. It makes the old age ‘death by powerpoint’ a thing of the past. Story is the single best way to invite people into both the purpose and the power of your mission. Story says “come and see” without overpraising or under delivering. Story is the doorway to the adventure that leaders inspire people to participate in.
Story opens the mind.
At an unconscious level story convinces me to think about what’s being said and the implications in my own world and the word I share with others. It engages with my heart through the emotion and it opens the mind by creating space through imagery. Remember, ‘a picture tells a thousand words’ Story does just that. It creates the picture that opens up thinking and reflective processes that even if I am not explicitly told what to do, I begin to consider the options because they are there in front of me, in the story.
I’ve been an avid reader my whole life. In high school, I discovered the books that were called ‘choose your own adventure.’ As the reader I was empowered to engage with the story and decide what to do along the way. The leader who speaks looks for, crafts and creates stories so powerful that people open their heart (see point one) and mind them of possibility created by your narrative.
Story provides a place for people to belong.
It’s amazing how this works in films especially. Without being asked we place ourselves IN the story. We find a point of connection and a point of belonging. We imagine ourselves and the hero, the anti-hero, the child in need, the strong female lead. When we are invited into a story, we position ourselves into the narrative. In a tongue in cheek way, I help people remember this by declaring that “every man at some stage in his life IS Braveheart” Note the statement. Not a ‘wants to be’ not a ‘ don’t you wish you were’. I lead with the assumption that we have all placed ourselves IN the story and found a part to play. Overwhelmingly we do.
Leaders who speak want to discover and deliver a narrative that tells the mission of the organisation. Story’s that show people play their part in the mission. Helps people see and feel what courage, sacrifice, contribution, and gratitude looks like. Leaders who speak know that when they tell the story, people find their place. Trusting that allows you to keep the narrative of your mission alive, fresh and compelling.
Story invites possibility in the journey.
Similarly to finding a place to belong story invites each character to have a role. When you tell the story use it as an opportunity to deepen the imagination, demonstrate the possibility and dignify the potential of each person. A story can show people that what you are gathered to do is possible. A story can help people ‘follow the yellow brick road’ so to speak. Embark on an adventure where the big dream is clear but the journey as yet unknown. A story can invite people to team up, step up and become something they never thought they would.
Leaders who speak craft and create stories that invite people to journey toward greater potential, possibility, and adventure. Leaving room for mystery, tension, development, challenge and shared experiences that add up to, mission achievement.
Story leverages powerful application.
Story provides leaders who speak with the best opportunity to tell people what to do without telling them what to do. Story allows you to keep a wide open space in the landing, allowing the hearts and minds of your listeners to come to their own conclusions. Reflecting on the lesson, inviting the change or setting up the next step are all part of the landing leaders are looking for. The narrative does the work. The story shapes the pathway forward. When you include hope in the application, the promise and the invitation you give them all the tools required for the next best step.
A critical skill here for leaders who speak is to have compelling clarity on how you want to conclude the story. To be able to bring it to a conclusion is a way that has a sharp compelling ‘go forward’ position is what you’re looking for here, as the leader who speaks.
Leaders who speak create, discover and craft stories that help people feel, know, and fit into the shared mission. They tell them over and over again. Same message, different story, over and over. Invite people to find themselves and become themselves in that place. Story will win the hearts and minds.
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