A recent study conducted by LILA, Harvard University, shows that sharing experiences through storytelling builds emotional connections, establishes trust, transfers tacit knowledge, cultivates norms, and enhances objective learning. Great organizations have been leveraging the power of storytelling for years. Follow their examples by tapping into this indispensable technique to engage and motivate your employees and customers.
You may marvel at why stories are so powerful. A neuroscientist from Princeton, known as Uri Hasson, carried out a study on the relationship between storytellers and listeners, using modern medical technology. He developed his theory of brain ‘coupling,’ using MRI imaging, where the listener internalizes the narrative; turning it into their own experiences and ideas. It is very intriguing that science is validating what successful organizations have always known, that learning through storytelling is inscribed into our DNA, and henceforth, it turns out to be an invaluable approach in building your organization.
So how do you come up with a powerful story, one that is inspirational, and transforms behavior?
There are a few crucial and simple steps:
1) Choose a story that revokes emotions of your audience
You may find it difficult to decode operational directives and strategic goals into an influential phrase that draws the attention of the employees, and touches them on a personal basis. Nevertheless, it is a course worth the struggle, and also one that is feasible. A perfect illustration comes from the mission statements of two organizations that manufacture a commodity that could be hard to humanize; fertilizer. Company A has the following mission
“To be the top national firm, with global dreams, efficiently enhancing multiple growth chances, pursuing maximum returns to stakeholder, remaining ethically and socially answerable.”
Does it create an emotional response or a passion to go the extra mile for this company? Probably not. On the contrary, here is the mission statement of company B.
“Helping to feed the world, responsibly and reliably.”
This is a resonating cause. It is a mission statement that will highly motivate employees to individually invest energy and time. In the long run, it will improve their engagement factor. Always find the heart of the story, make it real, pragmatic, and give it a human face. Your customers will be more loyal as well.
2) Give rich details to assist your audience identifying with the story
Ensure that your narrative is filled with richness by spicing its sensory information. Carefully describe the detail snippets or scene of dialogue. Assist your listeners to fully picture the story by providing adequate input. Stimulate their senses to keep the story real.
An employee in a top insurance company expressed her sentiments about her first orientation on a certain platform. “Fresh out of campus and attending training for my very first job, the opening session was conducted by the company’s top life insurance agent. He simply sat on a couch in front of the conference hall, no PowerPoints or leaflets, and narrated a story. He explained one of his most challenging and simultaneously fruitful experiences as a life insurance agent, delivering a claim check of life insurance to a young widow in her house. He narrated the scene in detail, explaining how he sat with the widow at the coffee table next to a refrigerator decorated with elementary artwork, and consoling her on the death of her spouse. He went further to describe the vicinity that encompassed the conversation; he described the widow’s gratitude as he handed the insurance check to her. She pointed out the persistence he had depicted in getting the sale, recalling her late husband’s reluctance in acquiring life insurance. She was then glad that her future, and that of her children was secured. After narrating the short story, he was silent, to let it sink in.”
The employee then continues, “Throughout my career as a life insurance agent, I have learned that it is the human touch that makes the difference. Stories have an unbelievable power in my working experience!”
3) Keep it sweet and simple
It is often overwhelming to get across several points in a single story. There are many fundamental ideas that you may want to transfer to your employees. However, realistically, most individuals can only process two to three ideas at a time. By overwhelming your listeners with a lot of ideas, they end up forgetting all of them. Choose one favourable story with a relevant and a clear message. Pick it very carefully, practise it to perfection, and then narrate it well.
4) Allow your audience to elicit their own lessons
When you tell a moving story, your audience will connect with it for some time to come. Allow the listeners to independently unravel the meanings which may apply to their personal experiences. Always respect their potential to both unravel and put it into practice. Do not probe further!
In conclusion, you must have come to a realization that storytelling is a big-time treasure in building any organization. It goes without saying that storytelling is an inevitable approach to training employees in any organization that anticipates great success. Give it a try, and you will experience the change!