Most of the successful leaders I know have insightful leadership stories to share and have become comfortable in telling them. Sharing stories is a great way for leaders to reinforce desired behavior and help people learn in a more interesting and less threatening way. When sharing their own learning, leaders are more likely to demonstrate personal vulnerability and humility, helping their listeners to relate more readily.
When I work with a client organization, I learn about their culture through the shared stories they tell. The more stories the better. Sharing stories about individual & team successes, failures, shared experiences, growth pains, and lessons learned is the way organizations communicate their history, their values, their culture, and their collective identity. Stories bind people together, serve to re-energize teams and create community.
When I come across an organization with few stories to tell, I immediately see a huge opportunity for this team to start assembling their collective stories and gaining more confidence in telling them. All organizations have stories — it is just that some teams are better at sharing them. Effective story telling helps organizations to attract and retain top talent, grow their business through referrals and strengthen company culture.
Here are some tips for enhancing your own personal and organizational storytelling:
- Take time to reflect on your leadership journey and take note of all key turning points, including your most important leadership stories.
- Do the same activity for your organization and team. Select the stories that tie to your organizational values and reinforce the best of your corporate culture. Remember, stories reveal a lot about an organization. Make sure the stories help you achieve your goals not detract from them.
- Practice delivering these stories. Keep it light, and don’t forget to use the humorous ones! If the story is not yours to tell, ask for permission.
- Add storytelling to town halls and company meetings when appropriate.
- Share a personal leadership story with your own team on a more frequent basis.
- Enjoy the process of story telling.
During my one-on-one sessions with leaders, we always discuss the critical importance of communication to a leader’s success and this includes adding personal and professional story telling when developing a communication strategy.