I remember when I walked out of the conference room over a decade ago, I took a deep breath and thought, “okay, we got this!”. I had just led a meeting for a global initiative with a group of 11 men and women and thought for sure we were all on the same page. They seemed motivated. I mean they nodded their heads yes to the PowerPoint, so that must have meant they were ready to GO! But then there were crickets. I spent the next couple of weeks scrambling to get the results we desired. I was exhausted. Everyone was exhausted.
My leadership shortcoming at this stage of my career (one of them) was my reliance on logic to motivate others. I had all the facts, information, analysis, and reason summarized in beautiful presentations. People were informed, but they were not driven.
And then I tapped in. Way back when, I studied communication as an undergraduate, focusing on interpersonal and public communication. I lived for rhetoric and social constructionism! Yes, yes I did. I was fascinated. And when I realized I was not as effective as I hoped to be in gaining “buy-in” during my meeting, I remembered from my research another way of consciously communicating. This was a process that would require me to be more vulnerable and less scripted. I would need to dive in deep, become more self-aware, and let go of the doubt. But I was ready to show up differently. I desired to be a more versatile (and effective – let’s be honest!) leader, so I dove into the art of storytelling.
While we can use logic to motivate for the short-term (sometimes the very short-term), we can use stories to drive our people and our message for the long haul.
And here’s why.
Facts are a piece of the truth, but they do not tell the whole picture. When you present the facts and no back-story or potential obstacles, your audience knows there is more than meets the eye. They disconnect. Your story brings emotion, energy, and more reality to the conversation. It allows people to anchor into your truth and connect to why your message is important.
Stories bring humor to the situation.
People want to laugh. They want to feel light-hearted. Your stories alleviate anxiety for tense situations and also from the busy and overwhelming lives of your audience. They can be humorous and strategic.
Your audience desires to be part of something bigger. They will see themselves in you when you speak your truth and bring your energy to the table. When you tell stories about what have overcome, and are honest about where you are coming from and where you desire to go, they will feel more inspired to take action and be part of the journey.
Stories keep you aligned.
As a woman leader rising in influence, you can become quite familiar with the overwhelmed state of mind. Overwhelm happens when there is misalignment. Use your story as a way to communicate to ground you in your truth, keep others connected to your why, and to bring you and your values into the conversation. Your story allows you to stay aligned with your vision, rather than spiraling into the overwhelm.
Facts are valuable. However, they have limitations when not shared with a story that connects to the emotions of your audience. People want to connect to you as a leader. They want to connect with others. And they want to emotionally connect to the outcome.
Connect with story.