Telling authentic and personal stories is one of the most powerful tools you as a leader can use to drive and sustain engagement among your staff. Here’s how.
This is because stories help meet the emotional needs people have at work to be secure, to belong, to be part of something meaningful, worthwhile and successful in a way that facts, figures and logic never can.
Why is storytelling so powerful?
Numerous experts have written about the importance of authenticity and storytelling in helping to engage people and give them a sense of belonging.
Hearing stories, especially those of which you are a part, meets fundamental needs rooted deeply in our evolutionary origins as human beings.
Stories help meet the emotional needs people have at work to be secure, to belong, and to be part of something meaningful”
In his book Sapiens, Yuval Noah Harari argues that the very purpose of language is to enable human beings to co-operate together in pursuit of goals and enterprises greater than themselves by sharing (and believing) myths and stories about their place in the world.
How to find and deliver stories with impact
The obvious question that these insights provoke is: what sort of stories can you search out and relate as a leader in order to have this positive impact?
Firstly, it’s about prioritising authenticity and personal connection in storytelling to influence engagement among your people. In a work context, this means not being afraid to show your vulnerability and being open about learning from your mistakes.
You still need to present results to your team with maximum enthusiasm and commitment, but if this is all you ever do it’s hard to reveal anything engaging about yourself that helps people connect on a human level.
Find a personal connection through stories
The best way to find these stories is through authentic conversations with your team members and colleagues. Take the time to find out what genuinely drives them and what success means to them as individuals.
Take the time to find out what genuinely drives your people and what success means to them as individuals”
Finally, we need to ask what type of stories to seek out and tell. These fall into three categories:
- Firstly, there are stories from the past which illustrate the heritage and values of your organisation: from surviving through adversity to growing and succeeding, especially if this is against the odds.
- Then, there are stories from the present, either personal or gathered from colleagues. These celebrate the hard work, ingenuity and successes of team members in meeting challenges.
- Finally, there are stories about the future where you paint a picture of positive experiences and results that lie ahead when challenges are overcome and strategies are implemented effectively.