How do we persuade people to adopt our ideas, listen to what we have to say and even be inspired to act?
If you lived in 16th century Venice, the answer would be easy. You would do it through fear, as suggested by diplomat and political theorist, Niccolờ Machiavelli.
Successful, smart leaders in the 21st century know that hard power (fear, command and control, yell and tell) is not the way to create long-lasting, sustainable influence or change.
In the 1990s, Professor Joseph Nye introduced us to the idea of soft power–creating change through connecting, consulting and collaborating.
Most leaders know that soft power is how we get people on board. Think of soft power as sowing seeds and planting a garden—worth the long-term results but difficult for the impatient.
However, research informs us that over 70% of change efforts in organisations simply fail. So, using just these two tools (hard power and soft power) will make many of our change efforts unsuccessful.
The new currency of change is as old as time yet is the contemporary tool of our time. It is business storytelling. A purposeful, authentic story in business can influence, persuade and motivate people. Here’s an example from a client on what this looks like.
John Kotter, the leading authority on change, declared, ‘Change leaders make their points in ways that are as emotionally engaging and compelling as possible. They rely on vivid stories that are told and retold. You don’t have to spend a million dollars and six months to prepare for a change effort. You do have to make sure that you touch people emotionally…’
Simply stated, hard power informs, soft power invites and story power inspires.
Not for a moment am I suggesting to share one story, and you will instantly influence 100% of the people. No one story can do that, and no one deserves that level of influence; you would never want to have a bad idea in that case. But, over and over again with clients, I have seen that purposeful stories, crafted and shared with authenticity, inspire and create and power and mandate for change.
The currency of change has changed. Are you trading in this new currency?
You can’t throw a stone without hitting a storytelling consultant today. Yet, I remember a lot of blank stares when we co-founded Australia’s first storytelling company 10 years ago. Our first 18 months were spent answering questions from puzzled people, such as ‘How can you storytell in business?’ and ‘Aren’t storytellers natural?’
Yes, we know today you can storytell in business, and you should if you want to connect with and engage your audience. However, storytelling is not a natural gift, but everyone can learn how to get better at it.
It’s wonderful to see how, in just the last decade, business storytelling has become established as essential in both business and leadership. It is widely taught across the globe and part of most leadership development programs. This then begs the question, what’s next for business storytelling?
We are going to experience a tsunami of storytelling across all platforms, digital media and sectors—marketing, advertising and professional services, just to name a few. In addition to data, stories are going to become de rigueur. Nobody is going to buy or be persuaded to change simply based on data.
‘Show me the money’ is going to be reinvented as ‘Tell me the story.’ Google’s own ad on search is a wonderful example of this. Already there is a recognition that storytelling is the fuel that drives compelling engagement face to face and on social media.
In turn, this means our audiences are going to be much more discerning. The authentic, well-told story will wow. Spin passed off as stories will incur well-deserved wrath. Social media will amplify success and failure.
So, where will storytelling be one year from now? Here’s my snapshot view:
- More competition—everyone will be doing it across industries and in roles from leadership to marketing
- Audiences will be more discerning and more vocal
- This is the biggie – There will be a chasm between good, bad and ugly storytelling
So, how are you preparing for this storytelling revolution?
Please share, I love hearing from you.