During a recent planning and leadership meeting at work, we began the week focused on storytelling. Our facilitator that day, Judy Rosemarin told us that “the shortest distance between two people is a story.”
Since then I read in Inc. how storytelling can help entrepreneurs and in Fast Company how storytelling can grow a business. Although I’ve been telling stories my whole life, it was always in the context of telling someone else’s story. It’s what reporters and writers do. But this session was about telling stories as a leader or about your company.
I knew I was going to learn something when Judy said we should want our stories to be a “HUMAWAYTM.” It’s a term she trademarked, and it’s what its name implies. When a song sticks with you, you keep humming it. The same is true of a good story.
So how do you tell a good story? Several elements are needed, including:
One way, Judy said, is to act like a camera. “What can you show?” she challenged us in the room. The key is using words that create images in our minds.
She also urged us to listen with curiosity when we are interviewing or talking with others. “Dialogue is the key to rich, in the moment, feelings and experiences,” she said.
Do you know how to tell a good story? (Photo by Cynthia Price)
To get to these stories, she said we must focus on the “why” and “how” and “what’s in it for me” questions, which are seldom answered.
A story should start in the present, jump to the past and springboard to the future.
Judy said the ability to tell a meaningful story is an essential leadership skill. “The sharing of stories connects us to each other, in deep and sustainable ways,” Judy said.
This is true not only for individuals, but also for organizations. “A true story,” Judy said, “is one that people remember; not your official communications, but real live stories.”
When you tell good stories, people will listen. They also will tell their own stories.
What is your story?