Don’t be afraid to tell your story!
A memory popped up on my Facebook the other day. A memory from three years ago. I was fortunate enough to win an all-expenses paid trip to attend a Leadership Programme at Harvard back in May 2015. Hands down, one of the best experiences I’ve had. The whole place just oozes knowledge (with some of the best educators giving lectures and active workshops), but more than that you get to meet people from all different walks of life, stages of their career and parts of the world. You can’t put a value on that perspective. It makes you realise that, despite the many differences we think we have, many businesses are struggling with the same issues, facing up to them in various ways (some the same and some different) and doing so through the power of people.
This nostalgia got me thinking. It’s been 3 years since I attended Harvard and I wondered what take-aways I still remember. In the spirit of Learning at Work Week, I thought I’d share what I still believe is the most powerful workshop I’ve attended and is a practice I still employ today. In fact, since this session, I’ve used this skill dozens of times to influence people, drive through major transformation and make people sit up to really hear what I’m saying.
So, what’s the skill? Well quite simply it’s the power of story-telling. I have an 18-month old son and most days I will read him a story. He is mesmerised by the words, by the pacing, by the different voices and by the imagery it all creates. It’s a skill that, prior to attending Harvard, I wouldn’t have thought of employing, but the power of using storytelling to lead with presence is undeniable.
Back in May 2015, I had the luck to experience a one-day workshop with Ariel Group. In particular, they put us all through our paces via their Storytelling workshop. During the course of the day we learnt about the basics (body language, intonation, pace, voice etc.) but all taught by facilitators who are also active actors and actresses. Over the course of the day we were asked to pick out an important moment from our lives, one where we could tell a story. We then, in small groups, and ultimately to everyone on the course (around 300 people) wove our memory into a full-blown story. The difference is phenomenal.
Storytelling allows you to connect to everyone’s inner child. It allows you to create excitement, connection and to take someone with you. So now I practice storytelling every day. When I have the chance, I employ it. If I have a difficult conversation or decision coming up, I embed it within a defining story that gives perspective, encourages the change and helps build a relationship.
Looking back now, I’ve used storytelling to convince Senior Directors to undertake key business change (by telling them a story of the future 20 years from now) and I’ve stood on stage in front of 500 people and talked about the future of e-learning through the story of my business. Both times, it was about sharing a part of myself and hoping to get across some key learnings, information and thoughts.
Even today, I’m still telling stories. Having just launched a new e-learning brand, every time I pick up the phone and talk to someone, I tell a story. The reason why I’m doing what I’m doing, why I’ve taken the plunge to make my family proud and so on. Storytelling makes the world a better place. Don’t be afraid to try it for yourself.
Check out the Ariel Group’s blog right here: https://info.arielgroup.com/blog/topic/storytelling