By Lynne Schinella, conference speaker and speaker coach
Lynne Schinella reflects on the trials of a manager struggling to get support from her team.
Once upon a time, there was a manager called Adele who was brand new in an organisation. She was skilled in the business, having worked her way to the top and knew her stuff so the fact that she joined in a time of intense change didn’t scare her at all. She went about her new job, advising, delegating and working through issues.
And yet there was something that niggled away at her. Adele knew she was not getting the buy in from her team that she needed. No matter what the issue, how often she told them the brief and whichever medium of email, phone or intranet, she just felt that people weren’t with her.
Against her judgement, but on the advice of an incredibly smart communications coach, Adele began including stories in her conversations. She searched for stories that had relevance to the current issue; personal stories that demonstrated she had experienced the problem first hand. She found stories on the net, of courage and of change. And very carefully, she began including them, keeping them short and relevant, and making sure she chose the right times to include them. And here’s what happened.
Her authority was questioned less.
She didn’t do an introductory slide deck of her greatest achievements. Instead, Adele wove stories discreetly into her conversations, about what she’d done and where she’d worked. The stories spread, and respect began to grow.
She was able to guide people through the change.
Everyone has had times when change was forced on them and on reflection, it was a positive thing. Adele’s stories of personal change showed her at her most vulnerable, and therefore human. She told stories of unwanted change that had a positive result, demonstrating that change is often a good thing, even when it feels so uncomfortable at first.
She began to get more buy in.
As she shared stories of ideas that have worked before, Adele’s powers of persuasion increased. She told them of the twilight sail down the Seine on a timber yacht once owned by Winston Churchill. She told them about staying in the Johnnie Walker castle, wearing kilts to dinner and entering to the haunting strains of a lone bagpipe. She told them of the silver service dinner on a raised platform in a rice paddy under a silver moon.
And finally, people began to trust her.
As a leader, sharing personal stories of failure and vulnerability, demonstrates great strength, shows your humanity and automatically increases the chance of connection.
Telling stories in a business context doesn’t just work for leaders like Adele. They can work in any situation where you’re trying to move people from one point to another which, let’s face it, is most of our business conversations. And it’s not just coincidence. There’s a reason stories work. Stories cut through the clutter of a crazy, over informed world.
Good stories surprise us. They make us think. They make us feel.
They stick in our minds and help us remember ideas and concepts in a way that numbers and data just can’t. Make no mistake, we need data and we need facts. But in a world full of them we need stories to give them life, so we connect with others and then, only then do we have a chance to persuade and to influence.
Effective storytelling provokes a strong neurological response. At different times in a story we can produce cortisol (makes us focus), oxytocin (promotes empathy) and dopamine (hope).
And that’s what Adele got right when she began including stories. The right stories, at the right time, told with purpose, will accelerate connection and therefore engagement with your team.
And then we can all live happily ever after.