Several years ago, I uncovered some data about storytelling that’s important for any leader who is trying to persuade others. Look at these statistics on the impact of each of these persuasive tools on the listener:
Statistics = 18%
Examples = 23%
Stories = 47%
So what is it in stories that we find so appealing? The answer may lie in the way a good business story is constructed. First, it starts with a description of the characters and the setting:
The next element in good story telling is to have the character(s) face a challenge, whether one that is personal or as a group. The challenge must be real and cause the character to question his or her decision.
“As she shared her decision with others, she assumed they would be as excited as she was. Didn’t striking out on one’s own sound like an adventure worth exploring? Every person but one said no. In fact, it sounded more like, “You’re nuts to think that you’ll succeed as a woman-owned consulting business in Vermont. You won’t last a year!” Maybe she was making a huge mistake; after all there were bills to pay and what did she know about being a consultant. Nothing in grad school had prepared her to be one. She would be taking a huge risk.”
We can see the challenge she’s facing and, even though this was years ago, it’s still relevant today. Every time we introduce change, there are usually more naysayers than change champions. We begin to doubt ourselves, our capabilities and our resolve. We second-guess our decision and question the risk-taking.
“To convince herself she was starting her first day on her new job, she dressed up in a suit, heels and even pearls and marched into…. the spare bedroom. No, it wouldn’t be easy to be on her own starting from scratch, but whatever was built would be her own – and the journey would be worth the effort.”
The real test of a good business story is the ability to add at the end – has this ever happened to you? Have you ever taken a substantial risk and walked into the unknown because the journey itself would be worth the effort? And then encourage the listener to take an action. Perhaps during the holiday season, you might share a personal story of your own to encourage, inspire or challenge others.
I believe we all have amazing stories to share of the challenges we have faced, the days of overcoming frustration and disappointment on the job, the time when something exciting and unexpected occurred – even a good laugh at our own humanity. Stories have always been our way of sharing history – whether in our families from generation to generation – or in our work. They are the most powerful way to share vision and values, to capture imagination. Don’t hide your stories; make them a powerful tool in your leadership toolbox.
P.S. You probably figured out that the woman in the story was me. I recently shared my story at the Albany Chamber Entrepreneur Boot Camp – to encourage those just starting out that the journey is as important as the ultimate success (click here to view pictures on our Facebook Page, don’t forget to become a fan!)
If you liked this, you may want to read these: