WE KNOW GREAT STORIES are the foundation of great communication. It’s not the idea but the story about the idea that begets followers. The question is, are you telling the right story?
A leading expert in organizational storytelling, Paul Smith advises us that more important than how we tell a story is what story we are telling. And by story, he means “a narrative about something that happened to someone.”
As such, it will include a time, a place, and a main character. That main character will have a goal, and there will probably be an obstacle getting in the way of that goal—a villain, if you will. And there will be events that transpire along the way that hopefully resolve themselves in the end.
On the pages of The 10 Stories Great Leaders Tell—a book designed to be read in about an hour—Paul Smith reveals the ten most important stories a leader needs to tell and how to begin to craft our own unique story. Each story has a specific objective. These stories tell us why.
The first four stories are about setting the direction for the organization:
Story 1: Where We Came From (A Founding Story)
“Nobody ever quit their job and started a company for a boring reason.” This story is about why you started the company and gives people a chance to be part of the larger story.
Story 2: Why We Can’t Stay Here (A Case-for-Change Story)
Change can be uncomfortable. This story shares why we need to change and the human impact of the change—the benefit.
Story 3: Where We’re Going (A Vision Story)
“A vision is a picture of the future so compelling, people want to go there with you.” More than a brief vision statement, a story captures the emotion of the vision and connects people to what life will be like when you get there.
Story 4: How We’re Going to Get There (A Strategy Story)
This strategy is the journey. How you’re going to get there. When presented as a story it clarifies, connects, and consequently helps the listener to execute.
The next four stories are about who we are as an organization:
Story 5: What We Believe (A Corporate-Values Story)
Values are platitudes until they are tested. A story about a choice to be made over a value makes it come alive. The story defines a value in a down-to-earth, practical way and highlights the consequences of acting on a value—the why of the value.
Story 6: Who We Serve (A Customer Story)
Sharing a story of the impact of what you do on a customer—how they are served by what you do—gives meaning to all who hear the story. Not everyone in your organization can see these things from where they sit, so finding and sharing these types of stories is critical for people to understand why you do what you do.
Story 7: What We Do for Our Customers (A Sales Story)
This story is about how we serve our customers. It is a good story to share both inside and outside the organization.
Story 8: How We’re Different from Our Competitors (A Marketing Story)
It should be clear both inside and outside your organization how you are different from your competitors. Nothing drives the point home better than a that shows how your differences made a difference in a real situation.
The last two are about you as a leader:
Story 9: Why I Lead the Way I Do (A Leadership-Philosophy Story)
Better than a description of personal values, a story of your leadership in action or a situation that became the crucible for your leadership philosophy, creates a lasting and memorable impression on the listener. Think about sharing why you are the way you are.
Story 10: Why You Should Want to Work Here (A Recruiting Story)
Every company says they are great to work for, but a story about why it’s great to work for you is persuasive in a way that no list of great qualities could ever do. This story serves a double purpose as it not only helps to get recruits to join but also gives current employees a reason to stay.
Smith has also produced a workbook to accompany this book to help you begin to tell the stories you need to be telling. Good examples accompany each of the ten stories. In conclusion, Smith offers an outline in the form of eight questions to help you to organize and structure the ideas and stories you have collected. Equipped with stories like these, you will become a more effective leader.
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Posted by Michael McKinney at 12:44 AM
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