Image Description

Why Tell Leadership Stories?

This lesson is a part of an audio course Storytelling for Leaders by Paul Andrew Smith

So, why should you be telling stories in the first place? What’s wrong with just doing things the way you are now? And the answer is that storytelling has a number of unique benefits you won’t get from other forms of communication. Here are the top six:

Benefit #1: storytelling speaks to the part of the brain where decisions are actually made. Much of the cognitive science in the last couple of decades tells us that human beings make subconscious, emotional, and sometimes irrational decisions in one place in the brain, and then justify those decisions rationally and logically in another place. So, if you’re trying to influence people’s decisions, using facts and rational arguments alone aren’t enough. You need to speak to both parts of the brain, and stories are your best vehicle to do that.

Benefit #2: storytelling is timeless—it’s the oldest form of communication known to man. I mean, we’ve been using stories since we’ve been scribbling pictures on cave walls. Storytelling isn’t some new management fad that’s going to be gone in a couple of years. It’s always worked and it always will.

Benefit #3: stories are demographic proof—I’ve taught this course all over the world, and I’ve yet to find a demographic profile of people who are immune to the effects of a good story. Now, I know a lot of people immune to the effects of a bad story, and I’m one of them. But we’re not talking about bad stories. We’re talking about good stories.

Benefit #4: stories are viral by nature. You tell a good story, and it will spread all over your world, however big your world is. People love to share good stories, so they do, just by word of mouth. I’ll bet that doesn’t happen to your policy memos and corporate emails.

Benefit #5: stories make things easier to remember. There are a number of studies that show that facts are between 6 and 22 times more likely to be remembered if they’re embedded in a story than if they’re just given to people in a list. But you don’t need to believe any of the studies. I can prove it to you right now with a simple observation. And that is that all of you listening to this course right now know that by this time tomorrow, none of you are going to remember this list of six things. Right? It’s okay, I’m not insulted. Every time I teach a course like this, I have to look at the list myself. Because it’s just a list of six things. But, all of you who heard the last lesson know that by this time tomorrow, you will remember the story of the round jury tables. In fact, next week, next month, or next year, most of you will be able to tell that story and get most of the facts right. But none of you will remember this list of six things. That’s the power of good storytelling.

Benefit #6: stories inspire. Slides don’t. When’s the last time you heard someone say, “Wow! You’ll never believe the PowerPoint presentation I just saw!” Never, right? But you do hear people say that about great stories.

Now, my hope is that these six were enough to convince you that you should be telling more stories and that you’re now motivated to learn how to do it. Because that’s exactly what I’ll help you do in the rest of this course.

Image Description
Written by

Paul Andrew Smith