power of leadership storytellingRemember in elementary school when you had to write your first report?

Usually those early life reports were a few sentences filled with facts along with a couple of pictures you cut from your mom’s magazines.

Have you been asked to write a report for work? Again, your report probably was composed of a number of facts, some big words or acronyms and a few charts thrown in for good measure.

We’ve been taught in both school and business that we should be logical and that facts should drive our decision-making process. What we aren’t taught is that facts alone just don’t work.

Brain Science, Meaning and Memory

 

The working memory area of our brain can hold only seven (plus or minus two) bits of information!

To hang on to this information, we must consciously decide whether or not to make a permanent record of it. Every time we’re presented with new information, the previous information can be pushed out. The only way to remember these facts is to make them mean something to us.

If we’re presented with fact after fact, our minds can tire easily from trying to decide for ourselves if the facts have meaning and/or if we should make them permanent. After a while we start to tune out – not because we want to – but because we can’t quickly find the meaning of the facts.

However, there is a way to jump-start thinking and help your audience process your facts a little easier. 

That way is by telling a story.

Benefits of Storytelling

 

John Kotter, author and professor at the Harvard Business School, writes:

I see that too few business leaders grasp the idea that stories can have a profound effect on people. The gestures made (or not made) by leaders can turn into the stories that powerfully affect behavior. Leaders who understand this and use this knowledge to help make their organizations great are the ones we admire and wish others would emulate. Those in leadership positions who fail to grasp or use the power of stories risk failure for their companies and for themselves.

Stories have been used since the beginning of time to pass important information from generation to generation.

The stories of storytelling can do so many things:

  • Make the complex simple
  • Organize data so that it can be processed
  • Convey and communicate information and data
  • Introduce a new concept in a non-threatening manner
  • Inspire and present a new or different point of view
  • Reduce tension and anxiety
  • Help change behaviors
  • Provide entertainment
  • Create rapport and engage your audience

Once you understand what a powerful tool stories can be, you’ll never look at a presentation the same again.

And THAT is no tall tale.

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Today’s guest post is by Roni Wilson-Vinson, a Training Consultant, Instructional Designer and Training Project Manager who saw the power of storytelling back in 2003.  Since then, she’s presented this topic at national conferences, at Fortune 100 companies, for government agencies, in higher education institutions, for non-profits and through elearning. Roni’s personal story includes a BA from Wright State University, a 25 year marriage, 2 busy teenagers, 2 dogs and a love for creating stained glass.

Image source before quote:  Gratisography