On the Power of Story-Telling

Credit:www.complicite.org

Credit:www.complicite.org

Last week during my trip to London, I was reminded of the incredible power of story-telling when I saw was The Encounter by Simon McBurney and his Complicite group. It was a transporting show and the story-telling in its most imaginative form. For days afterwards, I kept on thinking of its multi-dimensional plot set deep in the Amazonian rainforest.

That’s what a well-told story does to us: leaves us a little more enlightened, mind-blown, bewildered, reflecting and pondering, and in awe of what we heard.

Business leaders and companies understood the power of story-telling long time ago and use it effectively to advance their goals.

For instance, some of the ways you can use story-telling as an effective tool are:

  • to inspire, motivate and engage your team
  • as a powerful way to start a business presentation or a talk
  • to mobilize for and manage change
  • to negotiate effectively
  • to influence and convince your peers and boss
  • to promote your organisation’s mission, a new project, product or idea
  • to strengthen your personal brand and raise visibility, as part of networking and communication strategies
  • to promote yourself in job interviews, annual performance reviews and company meetings
  • to connect to another person and show empathy and compassion
My experience of coaching executives, managers and professionals made me conclude that we don’t use story-telling enough in strategic conversations at work, team meetings, promotion opportunities or job interviews.  Why is that?  Some of the reasons are we don’t take time to think of relevant stories, we don’t craft them beforehand (yes, best stories take some crafting and gearing to your audience), we under-value the power of our stories, doubt their impact, or we under-estimate our story-telling abilities.

Yet, story-telling is the best way to help the person in front of you to get to know you better, build trust and ultimately be able to connect to you.

Let me illustrate. Among dozens of people I come across regularly at networking events here in Paris, there was one lady. Let’s call her Diana. I saw her dozens of times over the years without exchanging more than two words; she was one of many and nothing gave away that she would be of particular interest to me. Then at one of events, all attendees were asked to give their mini bio, in a sort of elevator pitch. When it was her turn, Diana mentioned she was in marketing, and then talked about her passion for ocean life and scuba-diving and how she runs a website to promote diving in the Philippines. Suddenly, Diana was not a regular person anymore. Everyone wanted to chat to her afterwards, including me. Diana’s story revealed not just a hobby, it showed authenticity, strong character, courage and determination.

We all have stories about what shaped us to be who we are and that remind us of our accomplishments. Stories of our life and work can help us touch hearts, impress, demonstrate our biggest values and qualities, and influence people and their decisions. We first need to identify those stories ourselves, before being able to relay them in an engaging way to others.

There are stories that I enjoy telling to people who are becoming friends. Those are well-rehearsed over years and I know that by sharing them I offer a window into my character and my biggest values and traits. I also have a few stories – of fleeing Uzbekistan and advancing my career, of changing careers and finding my purpose in life  – that helped me tilt the scale to my side in every successful job interview I had.

How do YOU use story-telling in your work?  What are your favorite stories about yourself and your accomplishments?  Do you have stories that define who you are and are part of your personal brand? How do you use stories to influence, motivate and engage your team and peers?

I look forward to hearing from you.

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