Creating Engagement with Stories

Everyone loves a good story.  We’re wired to resonate with storylines, particularly when the emotional thread is compelling. Stories can motivate us to change, and illuminate paths forward in ways that feel real and doable. They’re powerful tools for motivating people to embrace development, encourage naysayers to give change a try, and build the coalitions needed to turn ideas into action.

For some reason, when it comes to changing the “soft-side” of business, people tend to resort to hard data to try to move people into action. They cite high level business objectives, display colorful charts and present SMART goals hoping that appearing “business-like” will make the change effort seem more concrete.

Have you ever sat through one of those presentations? Did all the data inspire you to join the cause? Probably not. It’s unlikely it moved anyone else into action either.

You have to win hearts first before you get the minds. Contrary to the persistent belief that our decisions are made logically, the data says, it’s not so. We decide with our emotions, then, and only then, do our minds plan the path forward.

When it comes to engaging people in any kind of change process, you need a good story that helps people “see” and “feel” why it matters to them.  They’re more likely to join you if you can paint a compelling picture illuminating how their lives will be better if they take the journey you’re suggesting.

Here are some ways to weave the power of story into your communications. Let’s use coaching-based leadership as an example:

  • Share your story or the stories of people who’ve gone through the change you’re proposing so people can envision what you’re pointing towards. Consider opening with a story to catch people’s attention such as sharing a significant “aha” you experienced when you started focusing on creating insight, rather than just giving answers.
  • Illustrating the benefits of making the change by getting people to imagine what the desired outcome would look like. You might ask, “Imagine what would be different if your people could confidently step into the conversations they’re currently avoiding?”
  • Loosely organize your presentation along a storyline. What’s the challenge? What’s at stake for the people you’re talking with? How can they be the heroes? What’s the greater good for your audience if this journey is accomplished? How can you make the journey look worthwhile and safe?  Coaching-based leadership is the optimal leadership style for thriving in times of change. We, at Cylient, would be happy to work with you to help you tell that story in a way your organization can hear.

Whether you’re inspiring a single person or an entire organization, stories are one of your best tools for engaging others to loosen their grip on the status quo and reach towards a new experience.

Dianna Anderson, MCC
CEO, Cylient

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