A cursory internet search for attributes of successful leaders produced 10, top-10 lists of traits. Every single list included communication skills. What does that mean though?
Humans love stories. A compelling, visionary leader must tell stories effectively to captivate, motivate and engage organizations, investors and customers. And, via the ancient art of story-telling, we can accomplish such diverse goals as learning, entertaining and resolving conflict.
Story-telling Tip #1. Craft a crisp beginning, middle, and end
Every good story needs a beginning, middle and end. State the point of your story right up front. Don’t keep them waiting. Use a captivating question or little-known fact to invite listeners into the story. Then, introduce your main sections like an agenda. People will listen more closely when they anticipate the sections to come. In the middle, use real life examples from your own experience, for interest and credibility. And close powerfully by summarizing the main sections and introducing a call to action to keep them engaged after this communication.
Story-Telling Tip #2. Provide an easy to follow structure
Typically, covering three main points will maintain your listeners’ attention. These could be three key moments in time to anchor the story. For example: our first meeting, second meeting and final meeting. Or, set the scene by sharing stories from three locations that engage visual learners. For example, our offices in Bermuda, the Caymans and Trinidad. Or, when resolving conflict, to reach consensus, summarize three main points of view under consideration. For example, three departments: Sales’ view, Operations’ view and Risk Management’s view.
Story-Telling Tip #3. Consider different communications styles for variety
McLuhan and Davies Communications’ research has discovered that learners and listeners fall into three broad communication styles for how they prefer to receive information: factually, visually and interactively. The successful communicator can include all three in the same talk. For facts, sprinkle in some data, numbers and research. For visual effect, either use some esthetic images on slides, or simply speak in terms of concrete things that people can picture, like a beach or a home or a park. Think retirement advertisements. For the interactive style, invite questions!
While story-telling is ancient it is also timeless. Per Mary Catherine Bateson, Writer and Cultural Anthropologist. “The human species thinks in metaphors and learns through stories.” So, the next time you prepare a communication, I invite you to remember the power of storytelling.
Susan Lynne is a Management Consultant, Facilitator and Executive Coach based in Toronto