Executives must constantly search for ways to improve performance at work, and they’re always looking for new strategies to inspire their teams. One of the most powerful ways to accomplish this is through impactful storytelling. Sharing pivotal moments with candor and describing times that shaped you into who you are today can inspire others to perform at their best and exhibit similar character qualities in their own lives. But there’s a right and a wrong way to share, and almost all of us can recognize the wrong (the stories are boring, have no main point, are too long, etc.). Leaders who invest time in learning how to tell compelling stories are rewarded with a strengthened presence.
Here are four ways executive storytelling can boost your appeal at work:
It can engage employees: As long as it isn’t in a narcissistic way, sharing personal stories with employees can create stronger bonds and inspire them to be themselves as they strive for more. It can also create forums for executives to have better conversations with their employees.
It can reveal personal character: Most of us can tell a good story with close friends or when it’s our turn at a dinner party. But telling these stories at work can be challenging because you don’t want to divulge too much personal information about your work history or personal life. However, sharing your past often helps you connect with employees by showing them that you’re not perfect and that you’ve had to overcome many obstacles to achieve success. It makes you relatable—and employees are drawn to relatability from their leaders.
It can make you appear more human: Executive storytelling can show that you’re vulnerable and human, two traits not usually associated with executives. Sharing moments where you felt frustrated, hopeless, hopeful, or even lost can help others feel a connection to you, making it easier for them to open up to you about their own struggles and challenges at work.
It can help strengthen your brand image: People tend to remember stories better than facts and figures. Telling them about moments in your life when you overcame adversity makes them more likely to remember you in the future. They will also be more likely to associate positive feelings with your personal brand when they think about you—meaning they’ll be more inclined to trust and listen to you again in the future. Over time, that built-up trust can turn into sales, whether it’s selling an idea, product or service.
Most executives understand that storytelling is powerful, but many don’t dedicate the time to become better at it. Or worse, they don’t evaluate the effectiveness of the ones they’ve been telling, thus continuing to make unnecessary mistakes (and to lose listeners).
Try these tips to make your story stand out:
Tell a story with a beginning, middle and end. This sounds obvious, but many storytellers miss this most basic structure. Think about the next story you’ll tell, whether as a part of a presentation or just in general; does it have an easy-to-identify structure?
Don’t ramble. You can tell an impactful story in just a few minutes if you put time into developing it.
Be genuine. No one believes that everything is perfect in your life all the time. Be honest enough to share when things didn’t go the way you wanted and how you took control of the situation.
Include life lessons. Share what you learned, who taught you and what that lesson means to you today. How did it change things for you?
Focus on the emotions of your story. A story without emotions is boring. Make sure your listeners understand how things made you feel. Be vulnerable.
Make it memorable. Learn new storytelling techniques to ensure your audience remembers the key points of your story. From strategic repetition to planning the structure of your story to using metaphors or analogies, there are many ways to keep your audience engaged and make your story stick in their minds.
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