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Storytelling For Business Leader 5 tools that can help you influence others By Jim Signorelli Within the marketing communications space, there has been a growing trend to replace the word “message” with the word “story.” For instance, today, more and more practitioners, who once referred to the elements of a brand’s message, are describing those same elements as the parts that make up a brand’s story. This makes great sense. Today’s consumer demands greater brand transparency and authenticity. Referring a brand’s story instead of its message suggests the brand is more humane and less mechanical. There is a lesson here for leadership, as well. What better way to project authenticity and trustworthiness than through a personal story. However, if not used appropriately, storytelling as a leadership tool can have a boomerang effect. This occurs when stories used in a business setting are told as comedic monologues or when they become long, drawn out affairs. In such cases, the use of storytelling as a communication tool can transport the teller into what famed robotics professor Masahiro Mori refers to as the “uncanny valley.” This is where leaders, like overly human robots, do more to create revulsion than attraction. As such, in order to benefit from the ability to inspire, motivate and gain trust through the use of storytelling, leaders must approach it as a unique art form, one that has its own set of standards. As an art form, it falls somewhere between the extremes of your basic TV news story and stories delivered by performance artists. Unlike other forms of storytelling, stories told in a business context must necessarily be short, conversational, and, above all, drive home an important and relevant point. Nevertheless, if used properly, business leaders can use storytelling to give facts an emotional resonance that bare facts often lack. Few people, if any, will applaud a pie chart, for instance. However, it is possible to achieve a vigorous response by delivering the same information through a story that sparks personal identification or relatedness. If you want to learn the basics of how to apply storytelling in a business setting, there are plenty of resources available to you, including companies that specialize in business storytelling training.  Beyond formalized training however, here are some tools and resources you can put to use right away. The Metaphor  Similes and analogies are lumped into this category for the sake of simplicity. Each does have its own structure, but these three forms of speech all borrow from the same purpose.  All three provide new information within a known frame of reference.  As such, they create mental pictures that foster more involvement and memorability than plain descriptions.   “The boardroom turned out to be a heavy artillery of egos” paints a more interesting picture than  “the members of the board all had strong egos.»  “His desk was as big as a tennis court,” may be an exaggeration, but it will say something more than “He had a big desk.” If you’re challenged with coming up with metaphors, there’s plenty of help available.  For starters, I recommend two books: Metaphors Dictionary by Dorris Weiss and Elyse Sommers.  It contains 6500 comparative phrases, and a complete bibliography of sources.  Many of these are taken from literature and may consequently leave a “heady” impression. However, as a reference source Interactive used to trigger ideas, this book is one you’ll want to keep within close distance. Click here to view high resolution image The other is The Tall Lady and the Iceberg:  The Power of Metaphor to Sell, Persuade & Explain Anything to Anyone.  In addition to containing a number of great metaphors that can be used for business storytelling, the author provides many useful techniques that will help you come up with your own unique metaphorical phrases.   Click here to view high resolution image 2.  The «Then, Now and How» Formula   The “Then, Now and How Formula” is something I learned while working with the highly acclaimed speaking coach, Craig Valentine. He writes more about this story pattern and other storytelling techniques in his bestselling book, World Class Speaking,  co-authored by Mitch Meyerson.  The “Then, Now and How Formula” comes in handy whenever you are presenting something new or recommending a change in direction. If you’re interested in learning more about the use of this formula, look up Steve Jobs on Youtube.com. His presentations are rife with its use. For your own use, it divides a story about any proposed change into three parts: Click here to view high resolution image The Then:  “We used to have a problem with employee turnover (really embellish the problem by talking about the management mistakes, setbacks, and the frustrations they caused). The Now: “Today, however, we have substantially reduced turnover to _____.”(fill in the blank and embellish) The How:  “The way we did this is through a process we call “employee acculturation.” (explain how it was developed and how it works). 10 Submit your Articles Sales and Service Excellence Essentials presented by HR.com | 12.2015


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