C-Suite Agenda

How to Use Storytelling as Your Secret Weapon

Emma Bannister

Every leader needs a secret weapon. One that motivates the people we lead, keeps our organisation on track and pushes us forward to new achievements. Have you ever considered that something as simple as storytelling could be your secret weapon? Stories are one of the most potent tool available to leaders. Being a ‘storyteller’ doesn’t mean you have to be a poet – you don’t even have to be exceptionally good with words.

In leadership, storytelling is about articulating where you’ve come from and setting the vision for the future. Storytelling comes in all forms, from internal communications and presentations to celebrations, events, marketing and beyond. Storytelling is an attitude, one which understands our primal drivers as humans and our need to use narrative to understand ourselves and the world around us. Stories are your secret weapon – here’s how to embrace them.

  • Motivate
    Stories trigger a part of our brain which helps us comprehend the current state and imagine a future state. Imagination is key for motivation. Without the ability to imagine what could be, why would you bother working towards a particular goal? As a leader, it’s your job to help people imagine that future through your storytelling. This means condensing past events, current successes and future aspirations into narrative forms – in the way you speak, write and communicate with the people you lead. A good story has a beginning, middle and end with twists and turns along the way. This is the structure to keep in mind as you become a storytelling leader. This is a key method for motivating your team to reach goals – by helping them imagine what is on the other side of the finish line. Imagination helps excite and move us to action. And, stories are the best way to unlock that motivating imagination.
  • Build Culture and Identity
    Stories are a primary way of teams and businesses identifying themselves individually and collectively. Want to build a positive corporate culture? Concerned about the state of your collaboration? Learn to be a storyteller. Culture and identity is found in the stories we tell about ourselves. It is powerful to use internal and external communications to remind people what their collective identity is. Re-tell anecdotes of shared experience which epitomise the culture you are aiming to create. ‘Remember that time …’ is a great starter for storytelling. Celebrate your successes in the form of stories, written and spoken. Turn your brand history into a narrative form and emotional impact is sure to follow.
  • Set the Scene for Success
    Storytelling is an essential ingredient in future-orientated teams. Becoming a storyteller is a great leadership technique to push your team towards new goals and achievements. As we tell and re-tell the stories of our businesses – where we’ve come from and where we’re going, we shape the future. Stories have the power to dictate the next steps our teams take and the vision they work towards. Stories which focus on resilience and problem solving help re-focus unmotivated teams. Part of good leadership is about re-angling ‘failures’ in narratives which are growth oriented and spur on our teams to greater success. Stories don’t have to just be about our past, they can be about our future too. ‘Imagine if …’ might just be the perfect arsenal for your secret weapon of storytelling.

How to Use Your New Secret Weapon 

There are so many ways you can use your newfound secret weapon. In business, stories are everywhere.

  • Presentations – if every presentation you gave was narrative driven and story-focussed, the impact on your audience would be immense! Re-think how you present to use these times as a key opportunity for storytelling.
  • Internal communications – emails, social media, meeting memos and just about anything else you can think of can be woven into the bigger story.
  • Conversation and communication – tell stories whenever you get the chance! Remind people of their successes and encourage them by telling the story of what the future could look like.

Storytelling isn’t a skill often taught on your journey to leadership. But, it’s never to late to learn! Storytelling is such a powerful tool, not just in branding but in the way you lead your own team. By embracing your role as a storyteller, you tap into our fundamental need for narrative and the results you will reap are significant. Storytelling is the secret weapon you’ve been waiting for.

Written by Emma Bannister.

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Emma Bannister
Emma Bannister is passionate about presenting big, bold and beautiful ideas. She is the founder and CEO of Presentation Studio, APAC’s largest presentation communication agency, and author of the book Visual Thinking: How to transform the way you think, communicate and influence with presentations. Emma is an opinion columnist for the CEOWORLD magazine.