How To Be A More Effective Leader By Learning The Best Way of Storytelling

Storytelling is a powerful tool used for centuries to convey important messages and lessons. Stories can capture people’s attention, engage their emotions, and inspire action. In recent years, storytelling has become increasingly important in the workplace, as leaders have recognized its potential to motivate employees, build strong teams, and drive business results. In addition to other leadership skills, leaders must be great storytellers.

Leader Storytelling, The DiJulius Group

The Science of Storytelling

Storytelling has been shown to activate different parts of the brain than traditional communication methods like facts and figures. When we hear a story, our brains release dopamine, a chemical that helps us feel pleasure and motivation. This chemical response makes us more receptive to information and more likely to remember it. Additionally, stories can help us connect emotionally to a message, which can increase its impact and influence. You may have heard the old saying “Data tells, stories sell!” A great story helps to make that connection with the audience–in this case, a leader’s team.

Research has found that stories following a narrative arc with a beginning, middle, and end, and including emotional elements, can increase oxytocin levels in the brain. Oxytocin is a hormone associated with increased trust, empathy, and cooperation. This means that when leaders use storytelling in the workplace, they can increase their employees’ levels of oxytocin, making them more likely to trust each other and work together effectively. Science shows that storytelling is a powerful leadership tool.

*Related – Episode 114 with LaQuita Cleare: How Leaders Can Be Better Storytellers

Because of this oxytocin release, stories can be used in the workplace to inspire, motivate, and engage employees. They can help employees understand the company’s values and mission and provide context for decisions that may be difficult to understand. Additionally, stories can be used to create a sense of community and teamwork among employees, as they can share stories that illustrate their shared experiences and goals.

This is very important because a survey by LinkedIn found that 92% of employees said they would be more likely to stay with a company if they felt their work was being used for a greater purpose. Stories make that connection to the company’s goals and mission and as a result, your people feel more connected to the organizational culture in general and the work they are doing in particular.

The Role of Leaders in Storytelling

Leaders play a critical storytelling role in the workplace. They are responsible for communicating the company’s vision and goals to employees, and for inspiring and motivating them to achieve those goals. Additionally, the art of leadership storytelling can be used to build relationships with employees while creating a culture in which team members feel fully informed and free to ask questions and share ideas of their own.

Research from a study conducted by The Center for Creative Leadership found that effective storytelling by leaders can increase engagement, commitment, and performance among employees. When leaders use storytelling to communicate their own personal experiences and connect with their employees on an emotional level, they can build stronger relationships and create a more positive workplace culture.

Storytelling has the power to inspire, motivate, and engage employees in the workplace, to help them see beyond the status quo. Leaders who are skilled storytellers can use this tool to drive business results, build strong teams, and create a culture of openness and transparency. By understanding the science of storytelling, the importance of storytelling in the workplace, and the role of leaders in storytelling, leaders can use this tool to create a more engaged and productive workforce, becoming more effective leaders in the process and ultimately having a major impact on the customer’s experience.

How Do We Get Leaders to Become Great Storytellers?

First, our leaders must understand the overall importance of storytelling. Before diving into the training process, it’s crucial to emphasize the significance of storytelling in a leader’s role. Stories have been an integral part of human communication for centuries, as they engage both the rational and emotional aspects of the brain. A well-told story can ignite passion, build trust, and foster a sense of purpose among team members, ultimately leading to higher productivity and improved team dynamics.

Second on the list is training leaders on the key components of telling a compelling story. The four main components of a story are:

1. Purpose:

Every story needs a clear and concise purpose, whether it is to motivate the team, illustrate a point, or share a valuable lesson. Leaders must align the story with the intended message to ensure coherence. They need to know the purpose first and draft the story accordingly. A nice story cannot simply be told with the hopes of having a purpose somewhere–the purpose of each story must be resolute.

2. Emotional Connection:

Great stories evoke emotions. Leaders should learn how to connect with their audience by applying authentic reflection: incorporating emotions such as empathy, inspiration, or humor into their narratives. Focus on stories that team members can relate to, which include situations they may find themselves in from time to time. Reach out to them on a human level within the business context. Find and share stories of a team member overcoming conflict or barriers to achieve success. Work in “inside jokes” of the department to build humor and camaraderie.

3. Structure:

If not focused and prepared, it is easy to take a great theme and turn it into a ramble. An effective story typically follows a structure, including an introduction, a conflict or challenge, a climax, and a resolution. When leaders focus on structuring their narratives, they maintain engagement and interest, avoiding wordiness and rabbit holes.

4. Authenticity:

Authenticity is key to building trust. To create genuine connections with their team members, leaders should be encouraged to share purposeful leadership stories including personal experiences and insights. These can come from stories of their own growth within the organization, a department, or a specific position. They are not “back in my day” type lessons, but more focused on situations where the storyteller grew and learned as a result, ultimately attaining their leadership role.

The third step in this powerful leadership practice is developing and continuing to develop storytelling skills. Once the importance of storytelling and the four main components are understood, the training process can focus on enhancing the leader’s storytelling abilities:

a. Workshops and Coaching: Conduct storytelling workshops to teach leaders the art of crafting engaging narratives. Inviting experienced storytellers or communication experts as coaches can provide valuable insights and feedback.

b.  Storytelling Exercises: Encourage leaders to practice storytelling through role-playing exercises, team meetings, or presentations. Providing a safe space for them to experiment and receive constructive feedback can be beneficial.

c.  Study and Analysis: Analyzing and deconstructing powerful stories from various sources like TED Talks, famous speeches, or books can help leaders learn from storytelling masters and identify successful techniques.

d.  Tailoring Stories: Leaders should be trained to adapt their stories to different situations and audiences. Understanding the unique company culture including the team’s interests, concerns, and aspirations can help them tailor the narratives for maximum impact.

The fourth aspect of creating great storytellers in your organization is leveraging technology. Incorporating technology into storytelling can enhance effectiveness and engagement. But you must be careful! Technology should only be used to enhance the story; it should not become the story! What this means is that the story does not get listed out in bullet point fashion as a reminder to the storyteller–or “death by PowerPoint” as it has been called. But, if a picture can be added to help take the audience to the place and time, that is a great thing.

Encouraging Continuous Improvement

Becoming a skilled storyteller requires practice and continuous improvement of one’s communication skills. Leaders should be encouraged to seek feedback coaching from their peers, superiors, and even team members. Organizations should also look for opportunities for further development, including peer group practice sessions, offering classes, or starting a Toastmasters or other speaking club.

Storytelling is a powerful and effective leadership skill that can transform senior-level employees into influential and empathetic leaders. Through purposeful training, practice, and embracing technology, leaders can learn to craft compelling stories that inspire, engage, and create a lasting impact within their teams and organizations. Embracing the art of storytelling will undoubtedly elevate leaders’ communication and foster a more cohesive and motivated workforce, ultimately leading to the overarching goal of a best-in-class customer experience.

For successful leadership experience–as well as the highest-level employee experience–storytelling should become an integral part of your organization’s upskilling strategy!

Kevin Sloan is Presenting at the Customer Service Revolution Conference

We are thrilled to announce that Kevin Sloan is keynoting at this year’s Customer Service Revolution. Kevin Sloan is theKevin Sloan, The DiJulius Group Executive Vice President of the Branch Network at KeyBank. In this role, Kevin leads 6,000 teammates across Key’s 1,000 branch offices, its Business Performance, Support & Enablement Team, and its Retail Private Client Team.

The title of Kevin’s presentation is The KeyBank CX Journey: Eliminating Inconsistency, the Enemy Among Us. Kevin will explain KeyBank’s passion and commitment to client experience and its current journey to improve CX through milestones, pitfalls, and goals. He will set the stage by sharing personal stories about his banking career, highlighting the shift to a CX-centric culture at Key where teammates focus on what they can do for their clients. Kevin also will share what Key’s clients are saying about the bank and how its CX culture influences the business. Check out Kevin’s interview on the CSRev podcast

The 2023 Customer Service Revolution Conference is less than two months away

Episode 126 of the Customer Service Revolution Podcast

Become the best professional decision of your employee’s life

This week’s episode is a webinar by John DiJulius, Chief Revolution Officer of The DiJulius Group, on how to Become theCSRev Podcast, The DiJulius Group best professional decision of your employee’s life. As leaders, we need to do better; employees deserve better. The “Great Resignation”, “Quiet Quitting”, and “Cancel Culture” are not indictments on employees, but rather, business leaders’ lack of focus on truly caring for the people who are under their command. Today employees are more selective than ever regarding who they will work for; they are insisting that companies and their leaders help them live the right life. That is how you build a world-class culture.

Great brands are born to help people live extraordinary lives. Great leaders inspire their employees to build lives of meaning and purpose. As a result, they help their employees and customers reach their fullest potential.

You will learn:

✓ How the great resignation started a decade before the pandemic

✓ How to Create a Recruitment Experience

✓ How to Create an Onboarding Experience

✓ How to Build a Moat around your top talent

✓ Power of Purpose

Register for the 2023 Customer Service Revolution Conference 

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About The Author

Dave Murray

Dave is the Senior Customer Experience Consultant for The DiJulius Group and has helped dozens of companies create incredible systems that allow them to consistently deliver superior customer service. Dave’s experience has varied from leading call centers and front-line team members, to working closely with key partners and stakeholders.