Storytelling – how to frame stories to lead

What is your story image

Story is a description of either true or imagined, well-connected series of events. Stories define the way we think about real things, they are not always imaginary or fictitious as it is generally perceived. As kids we were drawn into some of the fantasy stories of the comic characters, who had the courage to fight the evil and emerge as heroes. Stories from Panchatantra or Jataka Tales not only triggered our imagination but also taught us what was right and wrong. And if you pause and think, stories have been part of our culture for ages – and some of the stories are being passed on from generations to generations. We all love stories as we need affirmations on what we believe. Stories help us visualize what is being told and if the story-teller is able to catch your attention, it can draw you in and you could experience an emotional connection with what is being told.

I have the privilege of being associated with people who were very good story tellers, who have shaped my behavior and thinking  at various stages – starting with my parents, my friends, my colleagues and my seniors. Therefore, I strongly believe that story telling is the skill that is an integral part of being a good leader or role model. As parents we might have felt the need to get creative in framing stories to lead our children in the right path. Fairy tale stories will not work for a teenage kid, however real life stories might help. Story telling is also useful in workplaces when you are giving coaching or feedback to your subordinate or making a recommendation to your senior. The art of storytelling is therefore required in all walks of life.

Each of us has our own story, based on our past experiences and we all tell our stories, to the people we trust.  Occasionally, we all have experienced our story falling on “deaf ears”, the key therefore is to be effective. It is all about knowing your punchline or ending and knowing what to tell so that it resonates well with your audience. The key to effective storytelling is narrating the learning from experience (i.e the ending), in a way that can paint the picture in the mind of the listener and help them relate to what is being told.

Story telling is not a magic wand and may not work in all situations and it requires deeper understanding of the situations in which they create a lasting impact on the listeners. Altough there are no fixed set of rules, credibility and authenticity of the storyteller, is the key element in making a powerful story.  If your audience cannot perceive you to be authentic or credible,then don’t be surprised to see “look who is talking” expression on their face. Your words need to match your actions, audience need to make direct link to what is being narrated by you and to see you as walking the talk – to be drawn in / convinced by your story. You need to get the audience thinking “if he can do it, then I can do it too”. Last but not the least is the timing – you need to tell stories to remind people about their strength at the time when their morale is low, and instill the “you can do it” factor, rather than talking about glorious vision of the future.

So don’t wait any longer – share your story. Stories have the power to make and shape lives.

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