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Leading from the Heart - Leadership Series - Part 4

“Over the years I have become convinced that we learn best—and change—from hearing stories that strike a chord within us… Those in leadership positions who fail to grasp or use the power of stories risk failure for their companies and for themselves.” - John Kotter, Harvard Business School Professor and author of Leading Change

The final part of this series is about how we inspire others - To inspire means to excite, encourage, or breathe life into a person’s will. Imagine the world without inspiration. Think about this for just one minute. There would be no music, no art, no films, no beautiful buildings, no fashion, no technology and no books. It would be a very dull place; not to mention that it would also be a very selfish and miserable place considering that inspiration is also about having a vision and a cause; moving people to make a difference. If you can successfully inspire others, it can impact so many areas in your life, from getting the kids to be more responsible at home, to your colleagues at work having the motivation to work as hard as possible.

Part Four - Inspire

If you truly want to inspire others, remember that you can do so through learning the art of storytelling. A story told in an authentic, masterful way that connects on an emotional level engages people like nothing else. This is because almost everyone can relate to the problems, challenges and obstacles that a hero or heroine overcomes and at the same time offers a lesson that we can apply in our lives. Think back to the presentations that have inspired you the most and really stuck in your mind. Chances are, they started with a story. Nearly every TED talk features a story in it, especially the most successful ones. If you don’t believe me, take a look at the TED talk below. You may notice how storytelling was brilliantly implemented in the techniques he discussed. In these challenging and uncertain times, it is more important than ever to reach out to your team; helping to inspire them and keep them motivated. One concrete way you can go about doing so is through hearing their own individual stories. Ask them about how they are coping with the challenges caused by COVID-19. You may be surprised at some of their responses and be inspired by them too. After all, people are capable of amazing things in a time of crisis. Capture the detail of these stories; don’t summarise them too much. So, if Kate and Sandeep from the IT team were up until 5 a.m. working to get that VPN system up and running for hundreds of employees, and between those long hours they drank 17 cups of coffee to get there; include it. Every single detail counts. Below is a simple way to help you master the art of storytelling taken from my new book “Stand Out”

How to Structure a Story

Choose a fictional story you love, work through my example below making notes on how your chosen story delivers on each part. Scene setting The Hobbit is one of my all-time favorite stories and the opening pages are beautifully descriptive and detailed, bringing to life the Shires and Bilbo’s hobbit hole, early on we care about the characters. A watershed moment - A moment of truth, a tragedy or challenge the characters have to face, in the Hobbit its Gandalf arriving at Bilbo Baggins house inviting him on a terrifying quest. The journey - Conflict, struggle or a journey our hero or heroine finds themselves on, it might be an emotional journey rather than a real one and it is fraught with challenges and discoveries, leading to learning and growth. The climax - A dramatic event, the end of the journey or the big fight; in the Hobbit of course it’s the fight against the dragon. The fall out - The immediate events after the big climax, how do the characters fair and how are they dealing with the consequences. The resolution - How did it end up, what happened to the characters? What have they learnt? What can we learn from it, maybe it has a deep and powerful final message.

Use this as a basic guide for creating any business stories you want to tell, why not challenge yourself to start your next meeting with a story, people often forget what you tell them but they never forget how you make them feel, so give it a go, win their hearts and minds by leading from the heart!


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