As regular readers of the blog will know I’m a fan of story telling in a wide range of contexts and I’ve been reading about how they can be used in a leadership context, especially when you’re trying to convince sceptics or change opinion. The suggestion comes from Stephen Denning, a Stanford Business School professor. He suggests that story telling in a leadership context should take three forms.
1. Gaining Attention
Your first story should aim to get the attention of your audience. Negative stories often work well in this context but in general your story should be one of the following:
- Evoking an emotional response
- From a trustworthy source
2. Eliciting desire for a different future
This is where positive stories come into their own because you get to tell how the future can be better. At this stage listeners are usually bombarded with analysis and review of various options. Denning suggests that these should be ignored in favour of a story. It doesn’t have to be a big ol’ epic of a story, just one that elicits a positive response from the kind of change you’re hoping to evoke.
3. Reinforcing with reasons
What the change will be, the story of how the change will be implemented, the story of why the change will work. All of these occur in the final section.
The basic jist being that decisions are more often made emotionally than rationally, so use stories to appeal to the heart rather than the head.