Lead With Storytelling

"The thing that I took away as an early fan from Bob Dylan was the storytelling aspects. He can tell some wicked stories." Ed Sheeran

"And [Jesus] said, 'There was a man who had two sons.'" Luke 15:11

Storytelling Is Rememberable
Storytelling is a communication tool that's more powerful than most leaders recognize. People remember stories 22 times more than they remember communication that relies heavily on data, facts, quotes, statics, or figures. This is why great leaders lean on great stories. Take Jesus for instance. Who can forget his stories of The Good Samaritan or The Prodigal Son? Even people who have never read the Bible know the general points and outcomes to these stories. These same people will also make references to them in everyday life, without ever having read them. I believe this is why Jesus told stories rather than delivering a doctrinal discourse, as others did. And thus his famed stories stuck in people's minds for the last two thousand years.

For leaders, storytelling is crucial at every level of an organization. People emotionally connect with stories and therefore remember its importance, value, and outcome longer than they will an internal memo, white paper, lecture, or company talk down. Regardless of who you lead, including stockholders, customers, cross-functional teams, or volunteers, a well-told story will communicate far more to inspire and motivate than you realize. Here are four tips for conveying a compelling story.

Four Tips Of Effective Storytelling


One | Make it real, transparent, and authentic.
Embellished stories will be quickly perceived as inauthentic. Instead, tell real stories, with real people, and real outcomes. For example, a story of an employee going the extra mile to win over a customer will communicate far more than telling them you want them to go the extra mile. Or reading a note from an authentic customer, positive or negative, will be remembered far more than training on customer service. And a transparent story of your leadership failures, shortcomings, weaknesses, and challenges will do more to unite you with subordinates and superiors than you realize.

Two | Build a problem.
Leaders love problems because they're only opportunities that need better solutions. So tell a story about the problem and describe it in detail. Maybe it was a customer desperate for a product yesterday. Or a team working against impossible odds. Or both. Remember these problems demand solutions and the heroes in the stories are those characters who figure out a way to deliver a heroic solution. Building a story around these problems requires heroes and heroic moments to resolve the tension. And these stories motivate others to become a solution provider, or a hero, in their area of influence.

Three | Sell the solution, not the transaction.
Transactions are essential to companies, and it's employees, yet are often uninspiring. But solutions provided to customers in the transaction are inspiring to companies, employees, customers, and also the outside world. In storytelling, don't focus on the transaction itself but the solution provided in the transaction. Transactions tend to recite facts, figures, statistics, processes, and thus focus on metrics, but solutions that include these metrics drive storytelling toward something emotional and beyond the transaction. Solutions are the reasons customers are loyal to your business, so don't get lost in the transaction. Prosperous companies are focused on the solutions - so sell it in your story.

Four | Refine and retell the story.
Once you have a few great stories, refine them and tell them again and again. Tell them until the story hardens into the foundation of your people and organizational culture. Stories define a culture, so your best stories are a quick way of reminding people of the culture you are developing. Consider the values of your company. Can most of your people remember them? Probably not. But what if you used stories to describe these values? Stories make them much more likely to recognize and therefore easier to live out. Attach your values, strategies, goals, and vision to stories and tell them continually.

Here is something to consider. Given the power of story, leaders ought to put as much time into how they communicate stories as they do anything else. If you want your message remembered, don't give a report - tell a story.

Vince Miller Founder of ResoluteVince Miller is a speaker, author, and mentor to men. He is an authentic and transparent leader who loves to communicate to audiences on the topics of mentorship, fathering, leadership and manhood. He has authored 13 books and small group curriculum for men and is the primary content creator of all Resolute materials. Contact Vince Miller here. His newest book is Thirty Virtues That Build A Man.