Episode 9

full
Published on:

4th Aug 2022

Storytelling

In this episode of How To Take The Lead we explore the power of storytelling in the context of leadership. Whether you are a natural born storyteller or you are a leader who deals in facts and figures, we discuss the importance of storytelling to build connections.

In this episode we share our thoughts, experiences and learning, including:

·       03:38 – creating sticky content 

·       10:51 – listening to all the stories

·       14:53 – stop shoehorning in irrelevant stories

·       25:59 – stories and data working together

·       32:25 – How to ... use storytelling as a leader

As always we share our top takeaways and in this episode we highlight the need to ensure your story is aligned to your purpose, not being the hero in your story and also the need to practice, practice, practice.

We also recommended the following books:

Squirrel Inc. by Steve Denning

Unleash the Power of Storytelling by Rob Biesenbach

Building a Story Brand by Donald Miller

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You can find out more about Lee Griffith via www.sundayskies.com and about Carrie-Ann Wade at www.cats-pajamas.co.uk

Get social with us via:

Lee on LinkedInTwitter and Instagram.

Carrie-Ann on LinkedInTwitter and Instagram.

Transcript
Lee:

you creating a sticky moment.

Lee:

Actually let's not use the sticky word anymore

Carrie-Ann:

Now it's getting a bit, I like the first bit.

Carrie-Ann:

Now it's getting a bit weird.

Carrie-Ann:

I've gotta be honest Lee

Carrie-Ann:

Welcome to episode nine of how to take the lead.

Carrie-Ann:

I'm here with the lovely Lee.

Carrie-Ann:

Hello Lee,

Lee:

Hello,

Carrie-Ann:

How are you?

Lee:

I'm doing well thank you.

Carrie-Ann:

Good.

Carrie-Ann:

I am pleased to hear it.

Carrie-Ann:

And in this episode, as we always do, we pick a topic associated with leadership

Carrie-Ann:

that we want to explore a bit more discuss, talk about, share some of our

Carrie-Ann:

thoughts on, and in this episode we're going to be talking about storytelling and

Carrie-Ann:

the reason, well, first of all, I'd say obviously you and I Lee are communicators,

Carrie-Ann:

by profession and professional background.

Carrie-Ann:

So, for us, I think the concept of storytelling probably

Carrie-Ann:

comes quite naturally to us.

Carrie-Ann:

And we understand what we mean when we talk about storytelling, but I,

Carrie-Ann:

I have been more aware recently that when we talk about storytelling in

Carrie-Ann:

their sort of business setting or a business context, that some people seem

Carrie-Ann:

to find it a bit awkward and something that they can't really get their head

Carrie-Ann:

around as it were in terms of like, you know, what, what do you mean?

Carrie-Ann:

I have to tell a story and I think there's a sort of connotation that

Carrie-Ann:

when we're talking about storytelling, we're talking about making stuff

Carrie-Ann:

up, like making up a story.

Carrie-Ann:

I just thought it'd be helpful to set the context a bit before we get into the

Carrie-Ann:

conversation a bit more about what is it that we really mean by storytelling

Carrie-Ann:

and briefly elaborate on that.

Carrie-Ann:

So what would your take on it be Lee?

Lee:

Yeah, it's a really interesting one.

Lee:

Isn't it.

Lee:

And again we've covered a few of these topics.

Lee:

This series of things that seem relatively new and potentially icky

Lee:

in their concept, but actually they go back a really long way, but just

Lee:

have been called different things.

Lee:

So leaders are really used to, for example, making sure they have case

Lee:

studies to give some illustration to a point they're making and storytelling

Lee:

is a way of giving an example or giving a case study or whatever.

Lee:

And I think for me, The essence of a story.

Lee:

And that's why we use that phrase, storytelling, now is to connect people

Lee:

to either a personal understanding of an issue or an experience because

Lee:

we know people, we as individuals will all relate to stories.

Lee:

We either recognize ourselves or our friends and family in a story.

Lee:

So when we use storytelling in leadership, it's a really good way

Lee:

to cut through, Build connection, whether that's a connection with

Lee:

you as an individual or with an organization and the story it tells.

Lee:

And I think we also find it really easy to remember stories

Lee:

as opposed to other stuff.

Lee:

If you think, you watch a soap or a TV show, or you read a book, you

Lee:

can relay what's happened in that to someone else really easily.

Lee:

It becomes really quite sticky.

Lee:

I like see it as sticky content.

Lee:

And

Carrie-Ann:

I love that sticky content.

Carrie-Ann:

I love that

Lee:

it, it, it stays with you, doesn't it.

Lee:

And I think if you can illustrate a serious point with a story,

Lee:

then you creating a sticky moment.

Lee:

Actually let's not use the sticky word anymore

Carrie-Ann:

Now it's getting a bit, I like the first bit.

Carrie-Ann:

Now it's getting a bit weird.

Carrie-Ann:

I've gotta be honest Lee

Lee:

But if you can illustrate a serious point with a story, then you are creating

Lee:

a moment that people remember more easily.

Lee:

They're gonna remember the key facts of the story.

Lee:

They're gonna remember how it made them feel.

Lee:

And they're less likely to do that if you just ram data or dry information

Lee:

down your throat, and I think, sorry, I'm on a roll here, but I think as a

Lee:

leader, we've talked about this so much.

Lee:

You are there to inspire, you are there to paint a picture of the vision that you

Lee:

have for your team or your organization.

Lee:

And these are usually really future focused things.

Lee:

So there isn't necessarily anything tangible that people can touch and

Lee:

feel at that moment to understand what you're trying to achieve.

Lee:

People have to use their imagination.

Lee:

And I think that's where storytelling really comes into its own and is really

Lee:

helpful because it can fill in the gaps.

Lee:

If you go back to the novel analogy.

Lee:

When you read a book, you, you really do build a picture of the characters in your

Lee:

head, the place it's set what's happening.

Lee:

You almost create like a film of that.

Lee:

And I think that's for me is when leaders tell great stories, what they

Lee:

do for their staff or communities or whoever they're trying to connect with.

Carrie-Ann:

Yeah, brilliant.

Carrie-Ann:

And I, and I love that analogy around the sort of novel or the

Carrie-Ann:

book and, and it's absolutely right.

Carrie-Ann:

Isn't it as humans.

Carrie-Ann:

And I dunno if you've ever done this, you've got your favorite books that you

Carrie-Ann:

read and like you say, you can completely picture through the words on that page,

Carrie-Ann:

you can almost see it like a film and often people make books into films, and

Carrie-Ann:

sometimes you're quite disappointed by the film version because it doesn't match

Carrie-Ann:

that kind of image that you've built up in your head of, of how it looked for you.

Carrie-Ann:

So, say that is, it is quite interesting as you say that as human beings, we are so

Carrie-Ann:

used to, in all aspects of our life, that, that whole notion of storytelling aren't

Carrie-Ann:

we through the TV we watch films, books, movies, when we're at school, you know,

Carrie-Ann:

we learn to read through reading stories.

Carrie-Ann:

People telling us stories before the point we can read..

Carrie-Ann:

So I feel like it is a, a huge part of what it means to be a

Carrie-Ann:

human it's part of human nature.

Carrie-Ann:

So for me, like you said, it makes sense that in that business

Carrie-Ann:

or leadership context, that storytelling would be part of that.

Carrie-Ann:

And you've started to touch on it a bit already Lee, in terms of what you've

Carrie-Ann:

been saying around why as a leader storytelling can be really helpful for

Carrie-Ann:

setting that vision and engaging people.

Carrie-Ann:

But I'd like to just explore that a little bit more, I guess.

Carrie-Ann:

So.

Carrie-Ann:

You know, why as a leader, should we consider storytelling as part of

Carrie-Ann:

maybe like our toolkit or our kind of, you know, communications capability?

Carrie-Ann:

Like why is it important specifically as a leader to be more focused on storytelling?

Lee:

Yeah.

Lee:

I love that notion of it being part of a, a toolkit.

Lee:

Although when I think of toolkits, I always think of Levi roots with his

Lee:

sunshine kit, with all his spices.

Lee:

I dunno why mind went there said that.

Carrie-Ann:

I was thinking, Bob, the builder with this tool belt

Carrie-Ann:

on with everything hanging off it.

Carrie-Ann:

So , I've clearly got stuck on a very early story.

Carrie-Ann:

Such are childhood stories.

Lee:

But I, I think the notion of having the ability to tell stories

Lee:

as, as a leader is a way to really connect and take people with you.

Lee:

It's helps you to make the complicated, easier to understand.

Lee:

It's a really helpful way to share learning.

Lee:

And ultimately what you're trying to do through it is inspire some kind of action.

Lee:

If you think about all the great social movements in history,

Lee:

they've all started with a story either, you know, someone's dream.

Lee:

I have a dream, I've got this vision.

Lee:

Or someone's lived experience that starts to get shared.

Lee:

So yeah, I think for me, you use stories and, and maybe we'll touch on this later,

Lee:

how you use stories, but you use it in a way that I think can cut through a lot of

Lee:

noise to connect to the root of an issue.

Lee:

And I think from a psychological point of view, you know, it is proven that when you

Lee:

listen to a story, it engages and fires up different parts of your brain, not just

Lee:

that data information side, but that maybe your sensory side, the creative side.

Lee:

And so it becomes a far more whole body experience almost for a person.

Lee:

If they listen to a story that they really connect with.

Lee:

And I think as individuals as humans, we are always seeking out stories.

Lee:

If you think about the trashy tabloids or gossip and all of that, we're

Lee:

always seeking something that goes, oh, you know, have you read this?

Lee:

Do you know that?

Lee:

So, and so's doing this.

Lee:

So, and so is doing that.

Lee:

And I think if you just give dry data or lots of information, and

Lee:

people don't have a story attached to it they'll create their own.

Lee:

And I think that's the risk for leaders not using storytelling.

Lee:

We talk about leaders owning their narrative, and I think telling

Lee:

stories to connect to the points you want to make is a really good

Lee:

way of owning your narrative.

Carrie-Ann:

Yeah, definitely.

Carrie-Ann:

It's part, as you say, it's like a tool, isn't it for like what your narrative is.

Carrie-Ann:

So this is now what you do to get that narrative out there.

Carrie-Ann:

And I think in organizations, or at least, you know, some that I've worked

Carrie-Ann:

in or that I've connected with that there's been a bit of a spell where

Carrie-Ann:

people have talked about the journey.

Carrie-Ann:

Like we need to describe the journey that the organization is on.

Carrie-Ann:

And it is your point about connection.

Carrie-Ann:

Isn't it to describe that journey?

Carrie-Ann:

Really what you're doing is telling a story

Carrie-Ann:

as a leader, you're telling a story about, you know, and it might be where

Carrie-Ann:

we've been, where we are now, where we want to go in the future, but you tell

Carrie-Ann:

that story to demonstrate that journey.

Carrie-Ann:

And the hope that what you do is connect with people and engage them

Carrie-Ann:

to, to go on that journey with you.

Carrie-Ann:

So Yeah.

Carrie-Ann:

I think everything you say is, you know, absolutely valid in terms of why as a

Carrie-Ann:

leader, storytelling is important and I'm sure we'll get onto it because it's not

Carrie-Ann:

the be all and the end all, and there's, there's not a certain right or wrong

Carrie-Ann:

answer about how or what story you tell, but you touched on that point, I think it

Carrie-Ann:

was like almost leading up to consistency.

Carrie-Ann:

So if actually people fill the void with their own stories that may not actually

Carrie-Ann:

be reflective of where the organization is at or what your vision is as a leader,

Carrie-Ann:

then you've got that lack of consistency, I think, which is, I know we've talked

Carrie-Ann:

about in other episodes before, so.

Lee:

I think also when we look at storytelling in leadership, it isn't just

Lee:

the stories that leaders tell people.

Lee:

There will be stories being told all over your organization, what your staff

Lee:

are saying to each other over a coffee.

Lee:

What managers are telling their teams, perhaps what your direct reports are

Lee:

saying about you and the organization.

Lee:

So I think leader in storytelling mode is also someone who observes and

Lee:

listens and who's picking up on what's happening on the ground and knows the

Lee:

stories of the wider organization.

Lee:

Making sure that their own stories are enabling them to stay connected

Lee:

and relevant with what's happening.

Carrie-Ann:

Absolutely.

Carrie-Ann:

And I know we've talked about before Lee, like sometimes when you're new

Carrie-Ann:

into an organization, you can feel that desperate need to make your mark, you

Carrie-Ann:

know, Chuck everything out, start again, really have an impact, but actually

Carrie-Ann:

we have talked about the importance of understanding, the history of

Carrie-Ann:

the organization, the experiences of the team that have come before you.

Carrie-Ann:

And a lot of that, again, you'll gain through the storytelling of other people.

Carrie-Ann:

Say like you say, listening is a, a really important part of that whole

Carrie-Ann:

storytelling culture, because you need to listen and understand the stories

Carrie-Ann:

that people are telling you about what it feels like to work here, what

Carrie-Ann:

it used to feel like to work here.

Carrie-Ann:

You might need to do some of that being a bit more respectful of the

Carrie-Ann:

stories that you're hearing about what things used to feel like for people.

Carrie-Ann:

So, like you say, the more you delve into it, the more that you see as a

Carrie-Ann:

leader, storytelling is just such a huge part of life, not just working

Carrie-Ann:

life, but life in general and, and you are right, everybody is out there

Carrie-Ann:

telling their story about what it's like to work in your organization.

Carrie-Ann:

So there's also that link with reputation and perceptions of you and perceptions

Carrie-Ann:

of your organization based on the stories that other people are telling.

Carrie-Ann:

So, definitely something I feel like it's really important

Carrie-Ann:

to be clued into as a leader

Carrie-Ann:

We've all probably had experiences and worked with leaders who are

Carrie-Ann:

brilliant storytellers, who really engage you and inspire you and use

Carrie-Ann:

that tool of storytelling to kind of capture your imagination, you know,

Carrie-Ann:

really fire you up and motivate you.

Carrie-Ann:

But I'm sure we've also had experiences of others who are maybe not quite so good

Carrie-Ann:

at it, or they perhaps haven't really grasped the concept of, to storytelling.

Carrie-Ann:

That probably sometimes can feel a bit awkward for people.

Carrie-Ann:

You can tell that people that as leaders are maybe not so

Carrie-Ann:

comfortable in that space.

Carrie-Ann:

And for me, I wonder if some of that is about more of the practicalities around

Carrie-Ann:

how do you tell a compelling story?

Carrie-Ann:

How do you make a story compelling?

Carrie-Ann:

How do you pick which story to tell?

Carrie-Ann:

Cause I've had experiences of leaders who maybe rather than a story use an

Carrie-Ann:

anecdote, but that anecdote doesn't quite match or line up with the

Carrie-Ann:

narrative that they're trying to share.

Carrie-Ann:

So I'd be interested in your views about what makes a compelling story and how

Carrie-Ann:

you can think about that as a leader.

Lee:

Yeah, I think on your point around anecdotes first I do think the mistake

Lee:

that some people make is that they know they have to tell a story and then they

Lee:

try to shoehorn it into their narrative.

Lee:

And as you say, it might jar with the tone of what they've been saying.

Lee:

Sometimes that can be really powerful as a technique, but

Lee:

sometimes it just falls a bit flat.

Lee:

It might be, actually just having an anecdote, it doesn't leave you

Lee:

with that sense of I want more or the have a so-what moment, which is

Lee:

what you are seeking from a story.

Lee:

It might be someone just only has one or two stories and they just

Lee:

keep repeating it and everyone's going, oh bloody hell it's one again!

Carrie-Ann:

I've I've had that experience of a leader before where it's like,

Carrie-Ann:

oh, it's that it's back to that story again, that everyone else could

Carrie-Ann:

probably tell better than the person

Lee:

yeah, it loses the impact.

Carrie-Ann:

Yes, they've heard it so many times.

Lee:

Yeah.

Lee:

And then it could be that they've just picked any story.

Lee:

Because they felt the needs and that pressure to, and I've definitely

Lee:

worked with people who, for every single presentation that they

Lee:

did, it was like, I need a story.

Lee:

I need a story and find me a story.

Lee:

And for me, I don't think it works as easy as that.

Lee:

A, I don't think you need to have a story in absolutely everything you do, because

Lee:

it can look a bit trite and a bit false.

Lee:

If, you know, you're just giving your weekly update to the organization

Lee:

and suddenly you wanna come in with this big motivational story.

Lee:

It doesn't, it doesn't really work.

Lee:

And for me, I think there's something about it being a genuine story.

Lee:

So a story that you've either witnessed or heard or seen firsthand that you

Lee:

relate to, and it makes that point.

Lee:

And I think it can be really hard.

Lee:

And I certainly, from, from my communications background, when

Lee:

you get told, just give me a story and the leader doesn't connect with

Lee:

the story because they just want it to throw in as, as an example.

Lee:

So I do think you need to be careful in how, and when you use stories.

Lee:

In terms of what makes a compelling story, I think there few principles, which are.

Lee:

And I suppose it's the same for a lot of the stuff that you communicate, know

Lee:

your audience, people are gonna connect with different stories in different ways.

Lee:

So you need to know what's likely to connect best with the people you

Lee:

are trying to, to talk to be really clear around what's the purpose.

Lee:

So what's the objective.

Lee:

What's the end point I'm trying to get to, by telling this story.

Lee:

If you can't boil it down to a single key message that you want to get

Lee:

across, you probably, haven't got a very strong story to begin with.

Lee:

And I think that's always a really good marker.

Lee:

I think when you are looking at a structure of the story, it's the same

Lee:

as when you read a book, you know, you have to have a hero that hero isn't you.

Lee:

And I think that again is somewhere that leaders trip up that they position

Lee:

themselves or the organization is the hero of the story and that puts people off.

Lee:

But the hero needs to encounter a problem of some sort.

Lee:

And there needs to be a process of coming to a resolution or have a way ahead.

Lee:

And, and it is as simple as that, obviously you don't need

Lee:

to be as detailed as a novel.

Lee:

And I do think some people go into unnecessary detail and lose people in

Lee:

the process of telling their story.

Lee:

And I think there's also something around the type of story for the situation.

Lee:

So not only the audience, but the type of action or outcome that you want.

Lee:

So if you want to get people to buy into an idea, You need a story

Lee:

that's absolutely gonna relate to that person that you need to make

Lee:

the change and it needs some kind of positive outcome to really motivate

Lee:

them to want to make that change.

Lee:

If you want to show who you are as a person and a bit about your values.

Lee:

You need a story that's gonna reveal something about you.

Lee:

It might be a vulnerability.

Lee:

It might be how you dealt with a difficult situation or some adversity, but you are

Lee:

sharing and opening up about something that gives, gives a really good example.

Lee:

Or if your aim is that you want to share information or perhaps improve knowledge

Lee:

within a team or an organization or whatever, then your story needs to.

Lee:

Make sure it's got that problem.

Lee:

It's got a bit of context.

Lee:

It's got a solution and that you are really clearly explaining it.

Lee:

You are making sure that the information you provides really relevant and it's

Lee:

focus it doesn't kind of meander through.

Lee:

I would say there's a really great book that I read.

Lee:

So it was recommended to me by a coach many, many years ago called

Lee:

Squirrel inc by Steven Denning.

Lee:

We we'll put it in the show notes.

Lee:

And it is a story in and of itself, but it's a story that illustrates

Lee:

leadership through storytelling.

Lee:

And he's got section in here around the seven forms of

Lee:

organizational storytelling.

Lee:

So if you want to try and think what type of story do I need to

Lee:

tell for what type of example, this is a really good book for that.

Carrie-Ann:

I love that really good top tip.

Carrie-Ann:

Thank you, Lee.

Carrie-Ann:

And as you've been speaking through some of those examples that you've

Carrie-Ann:

given I'm, I can already see in my mind, like the exact stories that people I've

Carrie-Ann:

worked with as leaders have told that kind of fit those examples and some

Carrie-Ann:

which have worked well and not so well.

Carrie-Ann:

And I think often you are perhaps a custodian of someone else's story that

Carrie-Ann:

you are using to illustrate something.

Carrie-Ann:

So I think you have to do that really respectfully.

Carrie-Ann:

But you also, again, have to think about is this story I'm telling

Carrie-Ann:

really hitting the purpose that I'm, I'm intending to tell it for.

Carrie-Ann:

So I I've worked with someone before who used to tell a brilliant story that was

Carrie-Ann:

about reflecting diversity and fairness.

Carrie-Ann:

And it was really on the money and everyone was always

Carrie-Ann:

really compelled by the story.

Carrie-Ann:

And they were saying, you know, in our organization, this is how we want

Carrie-Ann:

to operate and, and here's the story.

Carrie-Ann:

But the same person then had another story that they would tell quite

Carrie-Ann:

frequently in staff sessions that was about innovation, but actually

Carrie-Ann:

it just didn't quite hit the mark.

Carrie-Ann:

Like you could almost see the audience weren't quite engaging with it in

Carrie-Ann:

the same way as the other story, because like you said, maybe on the

Carrie-Ann:

face of it, it felt like this is a story about being innovative, so I'm

Carrie-Ann:

gonna tell it, but actually it, it didn't really align with what we were

Carrie-Ann:

trying to achieve in the organization.

Carrie-Ann:

So it just felt a bit like, okay, that's a really interesting story from the past.

Carrie-Ann:

And so what?

Carrie-Ann:

And I think it's that and so what piece, isn't it.

Carrie-Ann:

If you're going to use storytelling in that way then, and so what?

Carrie-Ann:

And, and I liked the point that you made around leaders, not always

Carrie-Ann:

making the stories about themselves.

Carrie-Ann:

So although often you might have to tell other people's stories sometimes.

Carrie-Ann:

It's more authentic and more impactful to have that person tell their own

Carrie-Ann:

story as part of how you're doing that.

Carrie-Ann:

And I know there are organizations and, and the one that I work for does this

Carrie-Ann:

at the start of every board meeting, they invite a patient or a carer to

Carrie-Ann:

come and share their story about using a particular service and actually that's

Carrie-Ann:

far more powerful to hear it directly than it would be to hear it third hand

Carrie-Ann:

through one of the board members relaying the story, if that makes sense, because

Carrie-Ann:

it, it has that much more impact.

Carrie-Ann:

So, I think there's some really top tips in there actually about

Carrie-Ann:

how, how to pick the right story and how to make that compelling.

Lee:

I think you are, you are right about sharing other people's stories can be

Lee:

something that you tell, but you need to demonstrate how you are connecting

Lee:

to it so that other people understand how they connect to it, or you need

Lee:

that person's voice to shine through.

Lee:

And I think back to one of the strongest stories that I ever worked on in,

Lee:

in my corporate career was we did a massive transformation program shifting

Lee:

care out hospitals, into community.

Lee:

And it was really, really tempting for the leadership to want to keep talking about

Lee:

the drivers for change from a financial point of view or from a technical point

Lee:

of view how many beds, how many staff, how much money we are gonna need to

Lee:

save and all of that kind of stuff.

Lee:

And that started to become the narrative and.

Lee:

I did some filming with some patients who were using the new

Lee:

services that we were developing.

Lee:

And there was this one lady who was in her eighties and she was talking about

Lee:

the perceptions of being an 80 year old, how she wanted to keep her independence.

Lee:

That people were treating her as if she was old and she didn't feel old.

Lee:

And she said, all the magazines talk about, you know, you're in your older

Lee:

years, she said, I don't feel like that.

Lee:

And she was having these struggles with, with her health and it was making

Lee:

people treat her more dependently than she, she wanted to be treated.

Lee:

And the biggest difference that we made to her life and her

Lee:

independence in her own words was changing her toilet seat at home.

Lee:

And this lady telling her story in her own words was so, so powerful

Lee:

because she was our family member.

Lee:

She was us in the future.

Lee:

It was totally relatable.

Lee:

And, and you got it from the emotion that she shared in the story from the,

Lee:

from the relief she had that her, you know, issue had been resolved and.

Lee:

I think when we captured that story and started sharing it, whether it

Lee:

was us using the video in lots of different settings or whether, because

Lee:

the leadership team connected with the story as well that they could share it.

Lee:

It just transformed the narrative of the program that we did.

Lee:

And it really helped us to get more people on side with the changes

Lee:

because they could relate it to them or their mom or their dad or whoever.

Carrie-Ann:

And that relatability is really important.

Carrie-Ann:

Isn't it?

Carrie-Ann:

And I'm, I'm gonna take a slight tangent, but hopefully bring it back to the

Carrie-Ann:

relatability bit, because I think there are people who you know, I think, I

Carrie-Ann:

think we agree, like it's part of human nature to be interested in stories, but

Carrie-Ann:

there will always be people who are more driven by the data, by the science, by

Carrie-Ann:

the facts, by, you know, something that's maybe feels slightly more academic.

Carrie-Ann:

But if I liken it to probably the start and the height of the pandemic,

Carrie-Ann:

obviously the country had all of the facts about the numbers and the numbers

Carrie-Ann:

in themselves were fairly compelling in terms of, you know, it's, this

Carrie-Ann:

many people are being hospitalized.

Carrie-Ann:

This many people have, have got COVID.

Carrie-Ann:

For example, this is how contagious COVID is, but I still think if you hadn't been

Carrie-Ann:

impacted by COVID yourself, it was like, oh, well, those numbers sound terrible.

Carrie-Ann:

But, and so what for me, why can't I still go out and see my friends and family?

Carrie-Ann:

And it wasn't until we started to get to the point where through the media

Carrie-Ann:

and in other sources, we were able to actually hear directly from people who

Carrie-Ann:

had that experience of COVID and how that really impacted their lives or.

Carrie-Ann:

Family members of people who had been, you know, really poorly and hospitalized

Carrie-Ann:

with COVID that I think that almost worked then with the facts to be able

Carrie-Ann:

to complete that whole compelling story where people could actually

Carrie-Ann:

see the impact that it was having.

Carrie-Ann:

So definitely hearing people's stories in their own words is so

Carrie-Ann:

powerful, and that they don't always have to be really traumatic things.

Carrie-Ann:

But as you say, there, there usually is in, in the most compelling, personal

Carrie-Ann:

experiences, we hear about something that somebody's seen as a challenge and

Carrie-Ann:

then them overcoming that challenge.

Carrie-Ann:

And that's the bit that really resonates with you.

Lee:

And I think you're right on the, the big numbers thing I always

Lee:

used to talk about when people talk about financial challenges and we

Lee:

need to save X number of millions, or we are wasting Y number of millions.

Lee:

And I always used say, we're talking monopoly money here.

Lee:

People don't see it is real.

Lee:

It's not something they can touch and feel.

Lee:

They can't picture it.

Lee:

It's a big, it's a big figure.

Lee:

They know it's a big figure, but it doesn't relate to their reality.

Lee:

And if you need to connect with people and from a financial point of view, you

Lee:

start talking about the pennies or you look at it on a personal impact basis.

Lee:

Well, what does it mean if this person's not getting this?

Lee:

And we see this now with the cost of living crisis, it's exactly the same.

Lee:

It boils it down to what, what does it mean for me on an individual?

Lee:

What's my reality every day.

Carrie-Ann:

Yeah, absolutely.

Carrie-Ann:

And, and we've just touched upon that, you know, that element of not everybody

Carrie-Ann:

will be comfortable with pure storytelling and we're not suggesting that's the

Carrie-Ann:

only tool that you've got as a leader.

Carrie-Ann:

But if you are a leader who finds it maybe a bit uncomfortable, because

Carrie-Ann:

you are more about the data, the science behind things, whatever.

Carrie-Ann:

And, and it doesn't come naturally to, to you to tell a story.

Carrie-Ann:

It's not maybe, you know, how you would normally approach things, but

Carrie-Ann:

you've realized as we've been talking today, it, is a really effective

Carrie-Ann:

way of engaging people, sharing your vision, supporting your leadership.

Carrie-Ann:

How can you actually practice storytelling to become more comfortable with it

Carrie-Ann:

and to feel like it's something you can do as part of your leadership?

Lee:

Mm, just to reinforce, I suppose, the point of why storytelling is important.

Lee:

I have a stat for you.

Carrie-Ann:

See, excellent.

Carrie-Ann:

It's all coming together as if we planned it.

Lee:

There was this study when I was looking at some other research,

Lee:

I found this study that was done by lecturer, which showed that 63% of

Lee:

people that he studied remembered the stories they were told and only 5%

Lee:

of people remembered the statistics.

Carrie-Ann:

That is such a good stat.

Carrie-Ann:

I love it.

Lee:

But I don't think data needs to be boring.

Lee:

I do think you, you want to use data and I do think if you use it

Lee:

sparingly, it has super impact.

Lee:

I think the most engaging of academic people can bring the evidence

Lee:

and data to life through stories.

Lee:

You can connect a story to a number quite easily.

Lee:

My, my husband works in stats and data, and it's always quite

Lee:

interesting cuz he is more stats and data driven and I'm a story person.

Lee:

So our conversations can always be quite funny, but he's been on courses around

Lee:

how to develop narratives with data.

Lee:

So it's not necessarily about being, cause I think this is a fear of,

Lee:

of data driven people that they've got to be creative with the facts.

Lee:

And that, isn't what we're saying.

Lee:

It's, it's more about breaking down what a number actually means.

Lee:

So it isn't about, I need to, to make the numbers look sexy, which I

Lee:

do think sometimes I've heard that used as an excuse for why we can't

Lee:

put a bit of flavor around something.

Lee:

I think if it doesn't come naturally to you and you want to start developing

Lee:

that notion of bringing storytelling into, into the way you work.

Lee:

I think it's like anything.

Lee:

It's a bit of trial and error, error.

Lee:

It's a bit of practice.

Lee:

I think certainly when I've worked with leaders, I usually say start

Lee:

to keep a note of stories as you go around doing your day to day work.

Lee:

So you start to build a bank up before you perhaps use them.

Lee:

So you'll become more aware of the stories around you.

Lee:

So it could be maybe just listening and observing people in the organization

Lee:

and what stories they're telling as we, you said earlier in the episode, It could

Lee:

also be things like sitting at home, watching the news or an interview or, you

Lee:

know, some great Ted talks, for example.

Lee:

So you could start to see how people are using stories in big, serious subjects.

Lee:

It could be when you watch a presentation at work, just looking at

Lee:

how they try and connect on the topic or don't, cause you can also pick up

Lee:

by what people don't do and what you think would make it more compelling.

Lee:

I think the risk is that someone starting out fresh feels like they have to create

Lee:

these massive moments that has everyone laughing or crying in their seats.

Lee:

And I, I don't think we're suggesting that I, I think that takes a lot of

Lee:

practice and only the really, really skilled oraters can Achieve that.

Lee:

And I, I don't think that the most typical of us, you know, even us as

Lee:

communicators can always do that.

Lee:

I don't think you need to drown your narrative in lots of stories.

Lee:

One powerful story says so much than 10 trying to be shoehorned

Lee:

in throughout what it is you do.

Lee:

And I think make sure you link it back to the bigger picture.

Lee:

So what's the message that you're trying to get across.

Lee:

What's the action you want people to take as a result of sharing this information.

Lee:

And I think if you're really struggling, there's a lot of great books and I

Lee:

can share a couple of recommendations.

Lee:

There's lots of courses and actually working with a coach is

Lee:

a really good way to start testing stories as you collect them.

Carrie-Ann:

Some people might feel, feel fearful of it, but actually the more you

Carrie-Ann:

practice, the more confident you become.

Carrie-Ann:

And the more that, like you say, you observe others who are really

Carrie-Ann:

good at it or really bad at it.

Carrie-Ann:

The more it's in your mindset to think about it, but I loved your point about,

Carrie-Ann:

like, you don't need hundreds of stories in, in every communication that you are

Carrie-Ann:

sharing with people, like one powerful story that really illustrates the point

Carrie-Ann:

that you want to make is what you need.

Carrie-Ann:

So, some really useful stuff there, which probably brings us to our part

Carrie-Ann:

of the episode where we do share a couple of our takeaways and top tips.

Carrie-Ann:

So, Lee, what would yours be?

Lee:

I Would say going back to the starting point, storytelling is a really

Lee:

great way to build connection, and I think it is the clearest way that you

Lee:

can set out your stall as a leader.

Lee:

Without telling the story you're just presenting facts and information, and

Lee:

people are gonna fill the void and create their own narratives, which might not be

Lee:

the story you want them to be telling.

Lee:

and I also would say, don't make yourself the hero of the story.

Lee:

I think that's really important.

Lee:

It's it's about other people, not you.

Lee:

It's not a dark art.

Lee:

So don't feel like you need to be inauthentic in the way

Lee:

that you tell your stories.

Lee:

and Practice, practice, practice it will come.

Lee:

It will all start to click eventually.

Lee:

I've got a couple of books.

Lee:

I've mentioned Squirrel Inc by Steven Dening.

Lee:

I'm currently reading unleash the power of storytelling by Rob

Lee:

Biesenbach, which is really good.

Lee:

It's quite a practical guide.

Lee:

And another book I absolutely love is building a story brand by Donald Miller,

Lee:

which is more organizational stories than individual leadership stories.

Lee:

But I think as a leader, who's looking at the bigger vision

Lee:

and how they tell that story.

Lee:

Absolutely.

Lee:

A must read.

Carrie-Ann:

Brilliant.

Carrie-Ann:

I'm loving your your book recommendations there.

Carrie-Ann:

Thank you, Lee.

Carrie-Ann:

And I think the only thing I would add in terms of my own top takeaway is

Carrie-Ann:

just be really clear on the purpose.

Carrie-Ann:

What is the so what that you want to leave people with, because

Carrie-Ann:

that will help you decide what's compelling story you need to tell.

Carrie-Ann:

So why are you telling the story in the first place is, is probably

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About the Podcast

How to Take the Lead
Unfiltered conversations for the modern leader
How to Take the Lead is a show exploring all things leadership.

Every week we'll be exploring a different part of life as a leader, questioning everything we've ever learnt and sharing a few of our own stories along the way.

If you want to learn how to do leadership your own way, join hosts Lee Griffith (from www.sundayskies.com) and Carrie-Ann Wade (from www.cats-pajamas.co.uk) as they debunk myths, tackle stereotypes and generally put the leadership world to rights.

New episodes are released every Thursday. To get involved, share your thoughts and stories or to ask questions visit www.howtotakethelead.com or DM us via instagram, LinkedIn or twitter.

About your hosts

Lee Griffith

Profile picture for Lee Griffith
Lee Griffith is a leadership strategist and coach who works with CEOs and senior leaders to maximise their impact. A former award-winning communications and engagement director with over 20 years of experience, Lee has supported everything from major incidents to reconfigurations, turnarounds and transformations. She now runs her own company, sunday skies, and speaks regularly about how leaders can build connection and effect change through great communication and engagement. Find out more via www.sundayskies.com.

Carrie-Ann Wade

Profile picture for Carrie-Ann Wade
Carrie-Ann Wade is a communications director in the NHS with over 20 years of communications and marketing experience. She is also founder of Cat’s Pajamas Communications which focuses on mentoring communications professionals to thrive and grow in their careers. She has been named one of F:entrepreneur's #ialso100 2020 top female entrepreneurs and business leaders, and Cat’s Pajamas has been recognised in Small Business Saturday's UK #SmallBiz100, as a business with impact.
Find out more via www.cats-pajamas.co.uk