One of the most important responsibilities a founder and/or CEO has is to be the Storyteller-in-Chief. Yes, storyteller.
We have all listened to speakers at conferences and TED Talks, and some have grabbed us more than others. If we care about the topic, the presenter can be boring yet keep us engaged because we connect on a deeper level. If we have never heard of the speaker and they are funny and charismatic, we are often most enthralled because we are learning!
Most definitely as a founder, but also as a non-founder CEO, your job is to be a storyteller. Like any good speaker, you have to know your audience. The librarian reading stories to the kids in third grade isn't reading War and Peace. The story you tell and why you are telling it needs to resonate with your staff. You are a leader of people. You are paying people, and people are choosing to work for the company you lead.
Today, transparency exists at almost every level. People can Google information or buy reports. If they care to know, they can find out. It's not a matter of giving directives to your employees. It's explaining the "why."
You may have tried a different way to make your widget or sell your service, and it failed miserably. You know it doesn't work; however, if the employees weren't there when you tried it, how would they know? You have to tell the story.
Salespeople want to hear about how a client was sold. How long it took and the objections that were overcome.
Your entry-level accountant wants to hear about the time you were there until midnight to make sure the books were closed and reports were sent to the bank.
The customer service person wants to know that you've done that job and stayed on the phone for an hour with a customer to help resolve a problem.
The IT person needs to know that you were working over the weekend on a project, details on the project, and how you did it. When they know that, it makes what they do to help you that much more impactful.
"I'm not much of a speaker."
"I don't like talking in front of large groups."
When you start to make excuses as a CEO, you are doing what you would fire employees for doing. Challenge yourself. No one is saying you need to become Tony Robbins (one is enough anyway :)), but you can work to become better. Whether it's taking a Toastmasters or improv class, there are many things you can do to become a better storyteller.
Remember, reading a book out loud without emotion is not the same as reading the book with passion. You aren't telling the story for you; you are doing it for your employees. Make it quick, and know the point you want to get across...and make eye contact if you can.
People want to be led. We all do. However, we also want to know the experiences of our leaders, and this applies to managers at any level, not just founders and CEOs.
One last piece of advice: They don't want to hear you simply say, "I used to have this job." Anyone can lie and say they did something once or twice. When you tell a story and share an experience, it creates empathy. It's powerful.
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