Tuesday, December 15, 2015
Storytelling & Leadership
Weaving a tale that interests others is as good a way to get a point across as one might find. The importance of making an interesting point and backing it up with factual references always worked for me throughout my career. I had the great opportunity to have worked with, for and alongside the quirkiest of characters that anyone could imagine. They always lived up to the challenge of providing me with cannon fodder to use as teaching and motivational points later in my career.
"They say I tell a great many stories; I reckon I do, but I have found in the course of a long experience that common people -- common people -- take them as they run, are more easily influenced and informed through the medium of a broad illustration than in any other way, and what the hypercritical few may think, I don't care."
The above quote comes from a conversation between Abraham Lincoln as told to the Hon. Chauncey M. Depew, President of the New York Central Railroad. The excerpt is originally from “Reminiscences of Abraham Lincoln by distinguished men of his time”, written by Allen Thorndike Rice and published by North American Publishing Company, 1886 - 668 pages, Chapter XXIV, pgs: 427 – 428. It’s one of my favorites, so much so that I included it in my recently published book: “There’s a Moose in the Guard Shack”, Oct 2015, Infinity Publishing.
I had (and took) many opportunities to tell stories from my past when specifically challenged by a situation that made them extremely relevant. This always seemed to be the case. When appropriate, I would say: “Guys, let me tell you a story.” After doing so, I would open up the conversation of the salient points, often directing them toward the like points in the trouble or problem currently tying up our situation. The managers and supervisors (and sometimes my peers and top management) would find solutions that had up-to-that-point escaped them.
Excerpt from “There’s a Moose in the Guard Shack”:
“Didja ever hear ‘bout…, or ya ain’t gonna believe this s*#t, but…
I searched for years for guidance that represented a better approach to solving the day-to-day problems consuming a leader’s time. Eventually, I realized I possessed the answer.
During a staff meeting the light came on; I had experienced situations like the one being discussed—plus many we had previously encountered. I began to use my experience to solve new, but similar problems. Throughout my career in the military and manufacturing, when presented with a troublesome situation, I gathered my staff and direct reports and said: “Guys let me tell you a story.” I would then relate the facts, details and circumstances from one of my experiences. Then we, as a group, would discuss it and our approach to solving our problem.
“There’s a Moose” is exactly that—stuff happens and stuff gets solved—a common sense approach from my experiences over a career in leadership.
The adventures inside are all true. I know because I was there when they took place and often was the one to whom they took place.
These are just some of those stories, what I learned and what I took away from them.”
The next appropriate opportunity that presents itself, give Storytelling a try. It just might be the answer you’ve been looking for also.
Here’s another source on this subject from John Baldoni @JohnBaldoni. Give it a look also.
“Effective storytelling can serve anyone in leadership who seeks to persuade others to his or her point of view… a careful blending of rhetoric and facts, woven into the right story, can change minds.”