Anthropologists will tell you that the art of storytelling has brought tribes and communities together since the early days of our species' development. They serve to communicate societal norms, spread moral principals, and promote collaboration.
Even today we're brought together to laugh, weep, hope, and cheer at the latest Netflix series or Disney movie. Stories have the power to move, to inspire, and to guide. Too often, however, they're absent from our teams and organizations.
We're often told to leave our emotions at the door and rely on the data. Both of which can lead to a cold, unfeeling and often uninspiring workplace atmosphere.
Building narrative and storytelling into your leadership can do wonders for you and your team. It creates meaning, it humanizes what you do and can be used as a tool to develop your people. Here are some simple ways to integrate storytelling into your leadership.
1. Think about your narrative arc.
Every good story follows an arc, a flow. In fact, it's been said that there are only seven stories worth telling; overcoming the monster; rags to riches; the quest; voyage and return; comedy; tragedy; rebirth.
Regardless of the type of story you want to tell, each one takes us on a journey of challenge, growth, and success. The next time you're facilitating a team meeting, I'd encourage you to think about the journey you want to take your team on. What's the challenge, growth, and success you want to share? What's the beginning, middle, and end of the story, and what are the key lessons you want to take away?
2. Make your people the hero.
I've written before about the folly of heroic leadership. When you make yourself the hero in your team's journey, you make yourself the bottleneck, and you put a cap on their growth and development.
Instead of setting yourself up as the hero in your team's journey, make it clear that you're giving that role to them. You're looking to them to step up and make the diving catches rather than relying on you to do it. Where does that leave you? Well, every hero needs a guide; Luke Skywalker had Yoda, Katniss had Hamitch, Frodo had Gandalf. So take the role of the guide, and support your team to success rather than stepping in to save the day.
3. Ditch slides for flipcharts.
Nothing drains enthusiasm for a meeting than a data-heavy, poorly-designed slide deck. They operate as a crutch for the presenter and give everyone in the room the opportunity to glaze over.
Breaking the cycle of 'death by powerpoint' is simple. Instead of bringing a slide deck for every agenda item, restrict yourself and your team to a pair of flipcharts. Encourage them to get creative in how they use imagery to tell their story and watch as the audience stays engaged for longer.
When you integrate story into the way you lead you'll find that you're people stay more engaged, more enthused and more inspired by your message.