A recent article in Harvard Business Review looks again at the importance of storytelling, breaking down what makes a good story to reveal a number of different considerations: message, conflict, personalisation, etc. One thing it touches on is a factor still too often overlooked in business circles, and that’s the importance of fitting the story to the audience.
Most business leaders will have spent time at conferences listening to other people trying to connect through storytelling. Some of these people are there as inspirational speakers; some are trying to sell things. What all too many of them have in common is that they’re not very inspiring. To be fair, a conference is a difficult place in which to make this kind of communication work, but the reason for that is telling. It’s because delegates generally attend these events from different working environments looking for different things. It’s hard to find a story that will work for them all, especially as most of them are also likely to be strangers.
Within a business team, this is different. It’s part of a leader’s job to get to know everybody in the team, to find out where their common interests lie and to build up a business culture that gently nudges them in shared directions. If there are too many people to get to know personally, things like workplace social forums and company events can be used to gather general information about what the majority are interested in.
By getting to know people and gathering information in this way, a leader can establish what sort of storytelling is going to be most meaningful to the team: what analogies will make sense to them? What values do they have in common? Incorporating these in stories can create powerful motivational tools that inspire the whole team.
Deborah Hulme, Director, Minerva Engagement
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