Right now, the world has been turned upside down. Your industry has most likely been impacted as mine has. Many are confused, some are paralyzed because of fear and others are pivoting to the new normal.
In this time of change, one of the most important skill sets for leaders and influencers to develop and employ, is the skill of storytelling.
Stories help us make sense of situations. They paint a picture and cast a vision. Neurologist Paul Zak at Loma Linda University found that stories increase levels of Cortisol and Oxytocin. Cortisol controls focus and attention. Oxytocin, often called the trust hormone, increases empathy and emotion. So stories cause the listener to focus and emotionally connect to the message.
Gary Vaynerchuck said, “Storytelling is by far the most underrated skill in business.” And while I believe that is true in normal conditions, it becomes an absolute truth in times of challenge and change.
I have taught leaders for years that an influential story follows a model of 'struggle to solution'. You engage people with the struggle and then you help them with the solution. This model works because when the struggle is relatable then the solution becomes credible.
But here is what leaders need to understand about this model.
When we are sharing stories that cast a vision about the future - the solution is not positional - it is directional. Meaning we don’t have to have arrived there to present with confidence. We need to present clearly articulated struggles so that our people understand that we get it and relate. Then with confidence, we need to cast a vision of the direction we need to go to arrive at the desired solution.
The right 'struggle to solution' story may be exactly what is needed at this time of turmoil. There is a power in storytelling when it is developed as a skill and employed as a tool to engage and inspire your people.
Our world has changed psychologically, and specifically because of social media. What do I mean by that? Go back with me twenty years ago, before social media existed. There was a cultural understanding that if you were sitting in a room and you did not hold a position of leadership, you did not have a say. Generally, we were okay with that. We understood that. It's just how the world worked. But today, that's not how people think.
Everyone, especially the younger workforce, because of social media, has a voice and a platform for that voice. They're used to being heard and therefore they think they should be heard. If you hire an eighteen-year old intern today they think they have a say tomorrow. You might not agree with that. You might even think that's really stupid.
That's the problem.
We want people to be committed at the point of implementation. If you think that commitment happens to the point of implementation, you're missing the boat. Commitment actually happens at the point of creation. People need to be involved. They need a sense of ownership. The pushback I get from leaders is that it takes too long. I agree with you. It does take a long time.
I'm not saying that in your organization, every single person needs to be involved in every decision that is made. But what I am asking you is, do your people feel heard? Do they feel like they have a voice? Do they feel like they have a say?
I’ve heard leaders say they want people who have independent thinking, I agree with that. But if that independent thinking is never listened-to or acted upon, that stifles that independent thinking pretty quickly. People support what they help create. We have to create buy-in by engaging and involving our people. The best leaders understand how to do that.