A group of four people sit and stand around a wooden table. One of the four, a man in a light blue polka dot shirt, is sitting at an angle to face the others and speaking while gesturing with his hands. The other three people are smiling in response.
All businesses have stories that relate to them, ranging from the literal stories of the company's history to the metaphorical stories used to communicate messages to employees. — Getty Images/fizkes

Storytelling in leadership plays a big role in driving employee buy-in and improving worker engagement within a company. It is a learned skill that can shift employees’ mindsets by suspending beliefs and introducing new ideas, and it allows leaders to communicate their vision to guide employees in the right direction.

According to Virtual Speech, leaders with great storytelling skills are able to share a compelling vision to recruit the best people for the job, are more effective at dealing with media, and are able to create better relationships that help with fundraising and successful business deals.

Incorporating storytelling requires a leader to look inside themselves and be open about topics that are relatable to employees. By being honest about overcoming struggles, leaders can inspire employees and create a unified vision throughout the company.

[Read more: 5 Ways to Be a Successful Leader, Even If You’re an Introvert]

How to use storytelling as a leadership tool

Leaders who use storytelling as a leadership tool will find there are many benefits. Here are five tips for effectively using storytelling in leadership.

Provide context

Throughout a story, leaders should provide context — reinforcing what the company is working towards, what changes the leader is looking to make, and how they plan to get things done.

Sharing stories helps employees understand a leader’s perspective and ultimately can play a big role in establishing a common goal throughout the company. Stories allow leaders and employees alike to come together by providing insight into the leader’s thinking and strengthening the camaraderie among personnel.

Get personal

Getting personal in your storytelling and thinking outside the box is an important factor in engaging your audience. According to a study published in the journal PLoS One, people forget more than 40% of the information told to them by the next day. Therefore, if you want your story to have an impact, it has to be memorable.

The power of a story comes from the meaning of its message, rather than the actual details of the story. This means a leader can inspire employees by sharing a story about strong leadership without the story taking place in the office. Instead, a good storyteller can shape the story into a metaphor with a relevant message.

[Read more: 6 Tips for Adapting Your Leadership Style in the Post-COVID World]

Humans communicate with, connect with, and learn about one another through stories.

Seek feedback

Consider your audience’s reactions to a story and seek feedback to learn how it impacted them. Through audience feedback, leaders can learn what works and what doesn’t work when it comes to their storytelling approach.

Ask how your audience feels after hearing the story and what they remember most about it. Then, allow them to ask questions. Take note of the audience’s response and find out if their takeaways from your story are the ones you intended them to have.

Be brief

It is no secret that people’s attention spans are getting increasingly shorter. In fact, a study from Microsoft suggests humans may have attention spans as brief as eight seconds. To combat this, keep stories brief and concise to maintain a connection with the audience. Aim to keep a story within a 45-second time frame and use a clever hook to keep employees engaged. A quick, punchy story with a strong message can be far more impactful than a lengthy one.

Stories should be appealing and exciting, and the message should be easily understood. Listeners should walk away comprehending what the story was about, feel comfortable repeating it, and be clear on the message it was meant to convey.

Aim to connect

Humans communicate with, connect with, and learn about one another through stories. By facilitating this connection between leadership and employees, a sense of value and camaraderie can be fostered throughout a company.

Leaders can connect with their audience by sharing stories that inspire and are relatable. However, be intentional when choosing stories to ensure the message works for the company, rather than against it. Stories should reinforce a leader’s message and correlate with the organization’s priorities and values — this has a greater impact on employees and helps drive change.

[Read more: Storytelling and Social Media Have Helped Blockchain-Based Goodr Grow]

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