Great Leaders Weave Stories

Conquer the World by Telling Stories

“Great stories happen to those who can tell them.” Ira Glass

Research has shown that stories enhance information retention and build a connection to the audience.  All professionals can benefit from being a competent story narrator, but for leaders, it’s a must.

In view of the amount of content personnel must process during a typical day, stories can help grab attention, create interest & increase retention that no presentation or spreadsheet could ever rival. Consider that the average American hears or reads 100,000 words every day. Studies have shown that 80% of what we learn is gone within 24 hours. 24 hours!  This mental purge makes it less likely that your message is the one that sticks. Keep in mind that we can only hold about seven things in our head at any one time. (6 for those who graduated from your team’s rival school.)

Stories by Leaders

Exchanging Ideas through stories

We must recognize the limits of sharing facts in influencing people. Facts aren’t influential until they mean something to the audience and a good narrative supplies the context that gives facts meaning. As Christina Baldwin states: “Words are how we think; stories are how we link.”  The consumer is invited to participate in the experience and to imagine themselves in the ‘mental movie’ that the storyteller is presenting.

“People don’t want more information. They are up to their eyeballs in information. They want faith–faith in you, your goals, your success, in the story you tell.” -Annette Simmons

Leaders are limiting their effectiveness if they aren’t telling stories. Narrative are a potent means of building a sense of team & community, capturing the imagination, building trust and exerting influence. Humorous stories can defuse tension and provide illustrations of successfully dealing with change.  Stories can glorify the organization’s roots or illuminate its potential future.

Sharing a good story doesn’t have to be hard as Kristi Hedges shares.

Pressed for time?  Use an anecdote, which is basically a short story. A Stanford research study showed that statistics have a retention rate of 5-10%, but when paired with anecdotes, the retention rate increases to 65-70%.

Lastly, Ms. Hedges argues leaders should tell 7 types of stories: challenge, relating, metaphoric, vision, potential, cautionary and humorous.

“People think that stories are shaped by people.  In fact it’s the other way around …” Terry Pratchett

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