July 22, 2013
The Power of a Story, by Daryl Leisey
As a child growing up, one of my favorite times (whether at home, school or church) was “story-time”. The opportunity to be transported to another place or time was fascinating to me. Whether it was Aesop’s Fables, the parables in Scripture or Dr. Seuss, the power of a story was unmistakable.
A number of years ago, I had the opportunity to attend a program at the Disney Institute in Orlando. It was a two and a half day workshop focused on the Disney approach to orientation. There were approximately 50 individuals from all over the world who were in attendance. Each segment was designed so that we would walk through the actual process and then spend time working through how we might apply those principles to our own environments.
An integral part of the workshop was storytelling. A significant aspect of their orientation was how they conveyed the values and the mission of Disney. Stories of guests experiencing employees living out those values were a common thread. They were often powerful and at times emotional.
I believe that storytelling is one of the most underutilized leadership tools we have to convey leadership principles and an organization’s values, mission, and culture. Stories have a way of connecting us emotionally, not just intellectually. As leaders, we can often focus on the facts of what we are attempting to convey. Stories can help us to connect, teach, motivate and inspire.
One of my clients began to open management team meetings with an opportunity for anyone to tell real stories about the ways the company was living out their values and mission. Initially the stories came slowly, but over a relatively short period of time people began to anticipate, prepare for, and share their stories more frequently. Great leaders not only tell stories, but they allow for others to tell their own unique stories as well.
There are a few principles that I believe are important when telling a story. First, personal stories are often the most powerful. Second, stories must be relevant to be effective. Third, for a story to be effective it must stimulate learning and ultimately impact behavior.
The question is not whether you have a story, but rather are you telling it?