Stories are a powerful way to convey messages to others. Children thrive on hearing and having stories read to them. In many children’s lives, bedtime stories are memorable bonding times with their parents. For adults this is no different. We equally enjoy hearing stories, which we can relate to, recall and associate with. Stories activate our imagination and creativity. They allow us to bypass our logical analytical mind and connects us directly to our heart and emotions. The question is how often do you as a leader use storytelling with your teams?
You don’t have to be an expert storyteller that uses rich, colourful and tantalising characters or plots. Everybody is able to share a story; we do it most of the day when we share and connect with others – we just forget to use it when communicating with our teams.
Neuroscience shows us that stories feed the brain’s need to make sense of situations and events. Our brains are continuously interpreting what something means and once the meaning is attached we go into action. If we cannot relate to a situation we remain in limbo and do nothing. The meaning creates movement and sets goals. And stories are a nifty short-cut method to establishing meaning, getting people’s hearts connecting and committing to a task.
Our brain requires lots of energy to process information, remember things and think of new ideas. That way it becomes attuned to being selective, in choosing what to pay attention to and what not. Storytelling is an easy energy-saving process for the brain which results in enhanced attention span, recollection and connecting with the storyline. The ultimate is if stories have relevance to the person then it is stored in the long-term memory resulting in them recalling the detail and voluntarily sharing it with others.
In Tara Swart’s book, Neuroscience for Leadership, she says that leaders would benefit greatly by using storytelling as a communication skill in teams. The key elements of a good story are the following simple ingredients:
1. A memorable, uncomplicated storyline
2. Strong characters that one can relate to
3. Plausible cause of events
4. An explicit goal for action
5. Rich emotional language
6. Consistency of how the story relates to the current company situation
7. A clear vision of what the future holds
Great stories are inspiring and influence people’s beliefs. They are easily remembered and naturally repeated which deepens understanding and communication amongst team members. They stimulate our creativity and save time in repeating the outcome.
You hear and experience stories every day. You often share an experience in the form of a story, so why not bring it into your leadership style? Use short dynamic stories to share your passion, commitment and dedication with your team. Try it for a week and observe the change for you and your team.