How Storytelling Captivates, Convinces And Inspires Employees And Customers

Three months into my first job out of college my boss brings me into the company cafeteria and tells me things just aren’t working out.  He states a few things he likes about my work.  Then, he details a longer list of what he doesn’t like.   

I’m surprised.  Worried I’ll lose my first real job.  And, scared.  I wonder, how will I tell my parents I’ve been fired from my first job.

Then, he closes by explaining to me that he believes I have the core skills to do a good job and to deliver on the things he needs me to achieve.  And, that’s why he says he is taking the time to tell me why and how I need to do things differently – rather than just let me go.  He says, “I’m taking the time to tell you this because I care about you and want to see you succeed, even though it would be easier just to tell you things aren't working out and to let you go."

After absorbing the initial shock of the conversation, I return to work the next day and start tackling the items my boss wants me to improve.  Within weeks, he notices a difference.  Three years later he hates to see me go when I resign to grow into a new opportunity.   

Because he took the time to deliver the tough conversation to me, I had the opportunity to make a change, and ultimately I became one of his strongest team members. 

Decades later, I continue to share this story with any employee I also believe in but who needs to do something differently to be better at his job.  I tell him, as my boss told me; even though this is a tough conversation it’s more valuable for you and me to tell you what I honestly feel than to just let you go without providing you an opportunity to improve, particularly because I believe you have the ability to succeed. 

My hope, too, is that my challenged employe is inspired to make a change by hearing my first-job-out-of-college story and how a similar tough conversation allowed me the opportunity to change and succeed.

Paul Smith, author of the new book, Lead With A Story, is a true believer in telling stories. 

Today, many of the most successful organizations on the planet intentionally use storytelling as a key leadership tool,” explains Smith.    

Several companies, such as Kimberly-Clark, actively teach storytelling skills to their leaders.  And, some forward-thinking business schools such as Notre Dame and De Paul University have even added storytelling courses to their management curriculum. 

“As a leader or a manger, if you’re not using storytelling as a method to rally your troops and convince others of your ideas, you’re missing out on one of the most powerful tools you have at your disposal,” says Smith. 

Lead With A Story explains why storytelling is so powerful and why it's back in favor within the business world.  The book is packed with 100 ready-to-use narratives that show you how to connect with bosses, employees and customers.   These narratives can be used as a springboard to provide inspiration for creating your own similar stories to fit any one of the 21 of the toughest leadership challenges.

You’ll also find examples of stories from more than 50 organizations in 30 industries and from 15 countries around the world in the book. 

Two key points from Smith are:
  • Experience is the best teacher. A compelling story is a close second.
  • A story‘s structure should be context, action, result.
Lead With A Story provides the practical advice for how to craft your own story, including proper structure and six other key elements. 

According to Smith, the 10 most compelling reasons storytelling is so effective because:
  1. Storytelling is simple
  2. Storytelling is timeless
  3. Stories are demographic-proof
  4. Stories are contagious
  5. Stories are easier to remember
  6. Stories inspire
  7. Stories appeal to all types of learners
  8. Stories fit better where most of the learning happens in the workplace
  9. Stories put the listener in a mental learning mode
  10. Telling stories shows respect for the audience
Finally, Smith encourages the book's readers to share their stories via a connected, large and growing community of organizational storytellers via his website. 

Thanks to the book publisher for sharing an advance copy of Lead With A Story with me.


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