Storytelling is the number-one leadership skill for the next decade. Why? Because storytelling helps leaders communicate more effectively and, more importantly, engage and inspire people into action.
As leaders we face many challenges, and when it comes to communicating we face three specific challenges:
- Do people understand what you are saying (and really understand it)?
- Can they remember what you have said long after the meeting or presentation has finished?
- Can they relay your message without losing your meaning?
Storytelling delivers on all those three challenges. Let’s look at how one leader addressed these challenges with a story.
Tristram Gray is the head of human resources at Ericsson for the Southeast Asia and Oceania region. Tristram is based in Singapore with a diverse team and wanted to get across to his team the importance of asking the right questions so that they can solve the customers’ real problems. This is the story he used to convey the importance of this to his team.
My family and I moved to Singapore in early 2012, and soon after, my wife Michelle needed to take our eight-year-old son Harry to the doctor as he had developed a fever.
The only appointment time she could get was 8pm.
The doctor assessed Harry and prescribed some antibiotics. Michelle asked the doctor’s receptionist where the nearest pharmacy was. The receptionist provided directions to the nearest pharmacy, which turned out to only be a couple of kilometres away.
Michelle and Harry set off and within 10 minutes arrived at the pharmacy, only to find that it was closed, and had been so since 6pm.
Frustrated, they returned to the doctor’s surgery and asked the receptionist why she had sent them to the pharmacy given it was closed?
The receptionist replied that Michelle had asked where the nearest pharmacy was, and this was the nearest one. She then gave Michelle directions to the nearest open pharmacy, which was a little further away, and Michelle was able to purchase the medicine Harry required.
This made me think about how many times we provide answers or solutions to the problem or issue that is being presented to us, rather than taking the time to ask the right questions to ensure we answer or resolve the real problem.
Everyday we have opportunities to send our customers to the nearest closed pharmacy or the nearest open pharmacy, and by asking the right questions, imagine the difference we can make.
As Robert McKee, founder and presenter of the Story Seminar, says: “Storytelling is the most powerful way to put ideas into the world today.”