Most business owners are born leaders–that’s why they took the risk to start their own business in the first place. And the conventional attributes of a strong leader: confidence, resilience, passion, integrity are their most striking qualities.
But there are more subtle characteristics and skills that can make a leader stand out from the rest of his or her cohort, and one of those is the ability to be a great storyteller.
This might sound odd at first, but think about it: What is a successful brand? A dynamic company? An innovative product? A cohesive staff? Though we might all have different answers for these questions, we might also agree that the story we create about our business is integral to our branding, marketing, and, ultimately, to our business success.
How Storytelling Can Help Your Business Leadership
In a 2012 interview with Forbes magazine, Paul Smith, author of, Lead with a Story: A Guide to Crafting Business Narratives that Captivate, Convince, and Inspire, laid out 5 ways that storytelling can help businesses be more effective:
- Inspire the organization – Motivate your staff and management to do their best every day for your business as well as their own continued growth and success.
- Set a vision – Where you want to go is just as important as where you are right now. Storytelling can help develop this vision for your company and relate this vision to employees as well as clients in an inspirational and immersive way.
- Teach important lessons – As you move across the hills and valleys of your business, there will be many lessons learned along the way. It’s important that these lessons aren’t forgotten and that you can express them in engaging and inspiring anecdotes.
- Define culture and values – Your business is more than–well, just a business. It’s a place where culture and values are created that add to the overall conception of your company. Make sure you’re considering these crucial aspects of your brand and relating them to your potential customers.
- Explain who you are and what you believe – This might seem similar to the second piece of advice here but explaining who you are and what you believe is more of a specific approach to your story than the grand vision. Rather than painting an all-encompassing conception for your company, think, specifically, about who you are and what you believe.
How to Implement Storytelling into Your Business
So now that you know how storytelling can positively affect your leadership, let’s talk about practical ways to implement storytelling into the workplace.
Some great advice comes from Rob Biesenbach, author of Unleash the Power of Storytelling: Win Hearts, Change Minds, Get Results. According to Biesenbach, there are 5 aspects to consider when framing the narrative of your career, but we can apply these tips to your business narrative as well.
- What sets your business apart?
- What drives your business?
- What does your company stand for?
- What values do you offer?
- How is your business making a difference?
These 5 pieces of advice will ensure that you’re generating enough content about your company to shape into an inspiring and cogent narrative. Remember, these are details that you should be sure to address and embellish on in your story.
Putting it All Together: Storytelling Structure
Now that you have the details ready to go, follow Biesenbach’s advice for constructing your narrative so it has the same shape of a traditional story.
- The beginning: the “normal state” of things
- Inciting incident: something that disrupts the normal state
- Turning point: the path you took in response
- Conflict: challenges along the way
- The end/resolution: brings it all full circle
Though your business narrative might not incorporate every aspect of this structure, our brains are hardwired to digest stories with this age-old construction, so incorporating at least a few of these elements into the story you’re creating is definitely a smart idea.