Lead Your Organization with the Power of Storytelling

Storytelling embodies an approach that is well adapted to meet the deep challenges of leadership. Situations in which story impacts people across an organization include:

  • Persuading them to adopt an unfamiliar new idea
  • Charting a future course
  • Attracting the best talent
  • Instilling passion and discipline
  • Aligning individuals to work together
  • Calling everyone to continue believing in leadership through the unpredictable ups and downs

The underlying reason for the affinity between leadership and storytelling is simple: narrative, unlike abstraction and analysis, is inherently collaborative.

Storytelling helps leaders work with other individuals as co-participants, not merely as objects or underlings. Storytelling helps strengthen leaders’ connections with the world.

After all, isn’t this what all leaders need – a connection with people they are seeking to lead?

“The mistake people make is thinking the story is just about marketing. No, the story is the strategy. If you make your story better you make the strategy better.”

– Ben Horowitz

THE QUICK SUMMARY

Content strategists Joe Lazauskas and Shane Snow offer an insider’s guide to transforming your business—and all the relationships that matter to it—through the art and science of telling great stories.

Smart businesses today understand the need to use stories to better connect with the people they care about. But few know how to do it well. In The Storytelling Edge, the strategy minds behind Contently, the world renowned content marketing technology company, reveal their secrets that have helped award-winning brands to build relationships with millions of advocates and customers.

Join as they dive into the neuroscience of storytelling, the elements of powerful stories, and methodologies to grow businesses through engaging and accountable content.

With The Storytelling Edge you will discover how leaders and workers can craft the powerful stories that not only build brands and engage customers, but also build relationships and make people care—in work and in life.

A SIMPLE SOLUTION – Transform your organization through the power of storytelling.

When Thomas Davenport and John Beck wrote the book The Attention Economy, they brought a very important message to church leaders. The book argues that information and talent are no longer your most important resource, but rather attention itself. People cannot hear the vision unless we cut through the clutter.

The principle of attention requires church leaders to be bold and relevant as they integrate vision into the internal communication of the church. According to Davenport and Beck, these are the most important characteristics to get attention:

  • The communication is personalized.
  • The communication comes from a trustworthy source.
  • The communication is brief.
  • The communication is emotional.

Imagine the implications of these attributes for your church’s communications. Are you sending targeted, HTML e-mails to supplement snail mail and print communication? Are you delivering your most important sound bites via podcast? Finally, it is important to keep good communications people close to the core leadership. They shouldn’t have to guess about your church’s DNA. Rather, allow them to be privy to all the conversations and dialogue that surround development and articulation of your vision.

Harness the power of storytelling, and organizations and their leaders will win advocates and customers at a larger scale than ever before.

Stories Make Products and Services Better

Stories have a huge impact on the way people decide what products to buy. We’ll do a lot because of a good story. We’ll change our minds about a product if it incorporates a good story. We’ll change our minds about a product if it incorporates a good story. We’ll pay a little extra for a product that has an inspirational backstory. And we’ll give something a second chance because of a redemption story.

Stories Make Advertising Better

Corporations are realizing that the most effective way to find a hit is to strategically create content (story), test how it will connect with audiences, and then optimize the approach based on what they learned.

Stories Make Your Hiring Process Better

There are no real boundaries between internal and external marketing anymore. When you tell a great story that inspires the outside world, it also inspires the people inside your four walls.

Stories Build Your Brand

Brands that embrace great storytelling can achieve an incredible advantage over their competition.

Joe Lazauskas and Shane Snow, The Storytelling Edge

A NEXT STEP

How do you effectively invite people to take an active part in your vision? This is a constant challenge for leaders of every organization I work with. The answer? Vision-soaked communication. Get clear about your vision, develop a palette of tools to communicate it, and then let it soak into and through every way you communicate.

This is what the best organizations in the world do so well. Apple. Tesla. Amazon. Every piece of communication or interaction you have with these organizations is absolutely soaked in their vision, mission, and values. Just when you read the names of those organizations, colors and feelings were evoked inside of you, weren’t they? That’s the power of vision-soaked communication.

All ministry is communication intensive. It follows that story telling and understanding the nuances of story will help any leader in the daily ebb and flow of communication. Use these story types as described by Auxano Founder Will Mancini to do an inventory on your own “range” of utilizing of stories as a leader.

CREATION STORY

This does not refer to the first book of Scripture but to the genesis of the organization itself. If you are a pastor, you should know more about the creation story of your church than anyone on the planet. What are the circumstances—passions, problems, and people—surrounding how the church got started to begin with? Mastering the richness of the creation story will help in two major ways. First, it will hold insight into the unique culture of the church and therefore future decision-making and vision. Second, your mastery of the story itself will bring tremendous credibility with people when initiating change.

> ACTION STEP: Write a one-page, two-minute creation story talk. If you have any gaps in your knowledge interview people in your church until you know more than anyone else.

SIGNATURE STORY

A signature story relates to any milestones or hand-of-God moments after the creation story. Obviously a church with more history will have more signature stories. These accounts show off strengths of the church and God’s hand in its history. Look for signature stories when discerning a church’s Kingdom Concept (What can your church do better than 10,000 others?). These stories reveal the values and mark the high-water line of God’s activity and unique journey for each church. Use the signature stories the same way as the creation story: celebrating God’s goodness, explaining decision-making and guiding change.

> ACTION STEP: Make a list of 3-5 possible signatures stories in your church. Ask key leaders to do the same and make a master list of the top five.

FOLKLORE

Folklore stories are simply ones that are worth being told and retold. While there may be overlap between the first two on the list, folklore often focuses on the life change journey of individuals. Even though everyone has special stories of God’s transforming work in their lives, folklore shows off, in brilliant detail, the mission or strategy, a value or life mark, from the church’s articulated. Folklore often embeds a moment of modeling—like repeated prayer, gospel conversation or invitation toward an unchurched friend—that reflects “the win” we are striving for as a congregation. Imagine a church planter who sees a convert grow with unusual intentionality to become a key leader in the church. This story could model the pattern that we hope to see repeated over and over.

> ACTION STEP: Identify three stories from individuals in your church that you know could never be shared too muchAsk another leader in your church to capture all of the details of the story in a two-page, five-minute summary.

HORIZON STORY

Now turn your attention of story-telling to the future. Think of the horizon story as a time-machine window where you tell people what God is going to do. It may have a lead in like, “What if…” or “Imagine…” Tell a story of what the church will be like in one year. How about three years? When crafting this vision-casting story, it’s important not to be presumptuous. To guard against that make sure you show what we call the “God smile,” that is, remind people that this is God’s idea not yours.

> ACTION STEP: Prepare a two-minute story to tell someone what your church will look like in one year. To give yourself freedom, don’t worry about sharing it with anyone— you may or may not. But practice thinking about the future feel of a story.

THE GOSPEL

The centerpiece of all story telling is the gospel. It is important to define every other story in relationship to the grand news of God’s intervention in our world and our lives through the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus. You may wonder, “This is a given, so why would you mention this as an organizational story?” First, many congregations are stuck in a shallow appreciation for the gospel’s ongoing presence and power in daily life. Second, as you master story as a leader, you won’t want to develop and practice the other story types to the neglect of the gospel. Rather, let the gospel develop you as you integrate it into all story telling. 

> ACTION STEP: Grab a copy of Center Church by Tim Keller and study the section on “Atonement Grammars.” This is one of the most helpful summaries available.

TEACHABLE POINT OF VIEW

The last two kinds of stories have to do more with the personal life of the leader. A teachable point of view, a term coined by Noel Tichy in The Leadership Engine, is the story that surrounds personal leadership learning. Informal leadership development happens best when an experienced leader, in relationship with other leaders can unpacks stories of why they do what they do. Where did this conviction come from? What led me to develop this skill? Why did I make what seemed to be a counter-intuitive decision? The more that you have thought about your leadership’s teachable point of views, the more often and intentional will be the transference of wisdom in your leadership culture.

> ACTION STEP: Take 20 minutes and write down your top 10 learnings as a leader. Write down a few bullet points and begin to flesh out the story behind the learning.

CONVERSION STORY

The last story is the perhaps the most obvious, but should not go unstated. In many leader’s lives, there is a failure to acknowledge the story of the personal journey with God at its very beginning. Maybe that’s because it happened when the leader was young, which seems pretty distant from the “important” leadership work of today. How many people on your leadership team know the details of how you trusted Jesus and how you grew in affection for the gospel? Using your own conversation story as a leader is important for at least three reasons. First, it will keep you humble. Second, it’s a personal help to keep the gospel at the center of all stories. Third, it will model for people the importance of sharing a personal testimony.

> ACTION STEP: Create a one-page, two-minute conversion story testimony. Practice sharing it with one other person a week, asking the other person to share their conversion story.

 

Excerpt taken from SUMS Remix 94-2, released June 2018.


 

This is part of a weekly series posting excerpts from one of the most innovative content sources in the church world: SUMS Remix book excerpts for church leaders.

Each issue SUMS Remix takes a practical problem in the church and looks at it with three solutions; each solution is taken from a different book. Additionally, a practical action step is included with each solution.

As a church leader you get to scan relevant books based on practical tools and solutions to real ministry problems, not just by the cover of the book. Each post will have the edition number which shows the year and what number it is in the overall sequence. (SUMS Remix provides 26 issues per year, delivered every other week to your inbox). 

> > Subscribe to SUMS Remix <<

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

VRcurator

VRcurator

Bob Adams is Auxano's Vision Room Curator. His background includes over 23 years as an associate/executive pastor as well as 8 years as the Lead Consultant for a church design build company. He joined Auxano in 2012.

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comment_post_ID); ?> I agree 100%, you can tell if a church is doing this it grows, if there's no growth there's poor leadership..
 
— Dennis Whiterock
 
comment_post_ID); ?> Great work Bubba! Its exciting to see how God has blessed your faithfulness over your lifetime into remarkable, fruitful, Kingdom expansion! Jesus DID say, "without Me you can do nothing!" (John 15:5). No surprise that He rewards "thick and thin" prayer with great fruitfulness! :)
 
— Mike Taylor
 
comment_post_ID); ?> I loved this presentation. It helped greatly as I organized an Outreach Ministry of The Shepherds Care. Thank you. Esther Callaham Mahgoube Emmanuel Pentecostal Church New Jersey
 
— Esther Mahgoube
 

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Leaders Should Know – and Tell – Their Organization’s Creation Story

Will Mancini, founder of Auxano and Younique, writes about the importance of leadership stories here. He believes that storytelling and understanding the nuances of story will help leaders in the daily ebb and flow of communication. The first, appropriately, is your organization’s creation story.

As a leader, you should know more about the creation story of your organization than anyone on the planet. What are the circumstances—passions, problems, and people—surrounding how the organization got started to begin with? 

Mastering the richness of the creation story will help in two major ways. First, it will hold insight into the unique culture of the organization and therefore future decision-making and vision. Second, your mastery of the story itself will bring tremendous credibility with people when initiating change.

With a passion of Disney history, I’m always grateful to visit Disney properties and immerse myself in the stories and culture of Walt Disney and the “kingdom” he began. During a recent multi-day visit to California, I had the opportunity to visit Disneyland several days, experiencing both the familiar and new perspectives.

Take this image, for example:

In talking with current Cast Members, Tour Guides, and former Imagineers, various stories were given as to the origin of Disneyland:

  1. It was Walt Disney’s fascination with trains, beginning as a boy, that led him to first create a scale model railroad in his backyard. Not satisfied, he begin to develop an ever-growing park that would include a railroad. When Disneyland opened in 1955, the first object you saw approaching the park was a train station, and a 5/8 scale railroad encircled the park.
  2. Saturday’s were “Daddy’s Day,” and Walt often took his daughters to play in nearby parks. While sitting on a bench in Griffith Park, Walt imagined what a park would look like that would allow both parents and children to be immersed in a story-rich, safe, clean park.
  3. Fascinated by miniatures, Walt began a hobby of crafting extremely detailed miniature items, building entire rooms filled with objects that were not only beautiful to look at, but fully functional. He envisioned a place to display these miniatures so that people from all over the country could enjoy them.
  4. By the late 1940’s-early 1950’s, Walt had grown tired of making animated pictures, and even his recent venture into live-action motion pictures left him dissatisfied. He imagined a place were people could actually be a part of a story, immersed in all the rich details that a “theme park” could provide.

What is the true origin of Disneyland?

I believe that all of the above contributed to the creation of Disneyland. And the common denominator of all of them?

Passion.

> What about your organization?

ACTION STEP: Write a one-page, 2-minute creation story talk. If you have any gaps in your knowledge, interview people in your organization until you know more than anyone else.

> Read more by Bob.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Bob Adams

Bob Adams

Bob is an absolute fanatic about Guest Experiences, growing up watching his father serve customers at the gas station he built and operated for 44 years. Bob is continually connecting with corporate leaders in the customer experience world, learning and then translating practices for ChurchWorld. He writes, speaks, and consults on the topic frequently. Vocationally, Bob has a dual role at Auxano, a clarity first consulting firm serving the church. As Vision Room Curator and Digital Engagement Leader he researches, edits, writes and publishes online content. As Guest Experience Navigator, he leverages his passion, providing Guest Perspective Evaluations and Guest Experience Blueprints. Bob and his wife Anita have been married for 40 years. They have 4 children, 3 daughters-in-law, 1 son-in-law, and 5 grandchildren.

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Recent Comments
comment_post_ID); ?> I agree 100%, you can tell if a church is doing this it grows, if there's no growth there's poor leadership..
 
— Dennis Whiterock
 
comment_post_ID); ?> Great work Bubba! Its exciting to see how God has blessed your faithfulness over your lifetime into remarkable, fruitful, Kingdom expansion! Jesus DID say, "without Me you can do nothing!" (John 15:5). No surprise that He rewards "thick and thin" prayer with great fruitfulness! :)
 
— Mike Taylor
 
comment_post_ID); ?> I loved this presentation. It helped greatly as I organized an Outreach Ministry of The Shepherds Care. Thank you. Esther Callaham Mahgoube Emmanuel Pentecostal Church New Jersey
 
— Esther Mahgoube
 

Clarity Process

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7 Reasons Storytelling is Important for Branded Content

Gutenberg invented the printing press around 1440.
The first radio transmissions were in the early 1900s.
The television became commercially available less than a century ago.
The Internet is not even old enough to have a drink (legally; at least not in the United States).
Facebook and Twitter are just out of diapers, and the next big marketing tool is still in the womb or possibly just a twinkle in its creator’s eye.

When most people think about marketing, these are the tools they think of: print, radio, TV and the web. None of these, however, are ingrained in us as much as storytelling. We’ve been telling stories for thousands of years, but we don’t have to go back that far to understand storytelling’s powerful effect on our hearts and minds. Go back only as far as your childhood, when you begged your parents to read your favorite story—the one you already knew by heart—just one more time. Why did you do that? Why was it so important to hear that story?

Stories and the art of storytelling play a major role in content marketing today. Not all brands realize the importance of unearthing their core story and learning to tell stories in ways that endear new fans and motivate advocates. In case you need even more reason to learn to weave an effective narrative throughout your marketing efforts, here are seven reasons storytelling is important for branded content.

If you’re reading in RSS and can’t see the images, please click through to reveal the reasons. We’ve also turned this post into a SlideShare presentation!

Experiences leave lasting impressions. They go far deeper than facts, figures or features. And by creating a story-based experience, you cause your audiences to walk away with an impression of your brand that doesn’t rest on the precarious edges of their minds but sits deep in their hearts.

Chances are that if you have an innovative or unique offering, it’s not going to be innovative and/or unique very long. Any amount of success will generate copycats. But what they can’t copy is who you are. What’s your origin story? Where did your brand come from, and how has that shaped your product or service? When your facts, figures and features are in line, your story can set you apart from the competition.

If it weren’t for stories, your brand wouldn’t mean much to your audience. It’s those stories that create a real connection. Facebook now dedicates an entire site to stories. Fans can post stories about their individual and collective experiences. (Facebook even flew a number of these storytellers to its headquarters to surprise a room full of Facebook employees, creating a rock-solid connection between the work they were doing and the difference they’re making in the lives of their users.) Tumblr and Twitter have done something similar with Storyboard and @twitterstories, respectively.

There’s nothing more mind numbing than hearing or reading a bunch of facts and figures. And anyone can recite numbers to an audience. A true marketer will weave a story around the information to createmeaning for the audience.

“Having the data is not enough. I have to show it in ways people both enjoy and understand,” Hans Rosling said. Rosling is well known for the ways he has spun compelling stories around massive data sets. What would otherwise be mundane statistics becomes a gripping narrative with valleys and peaks that keeps interest piqued throughout. Strong visual elements and impassioned narrative elevate his presentations.

Stories are uniquely able to move people’s hearts, minds, feet and wallets in the storyteller’s intended direction. Nobody was better at this than Steve Jobs, who turned sales presentations into coveted experiences. His masterful storytelling motivated fans to rave about the products, creating valuable earned media. The photo above is the line to get into one of his keynote addresses.

When was the last time a friend of yours called you up to tell you the great features of this new product they were interested in? Or how they scored a coupon? Probably not recently. But we share stories every day. This has only been amplified by social media, through which we are able to share with the click of a button. When a story resonates—moves people emotionally—they retell it many times over, ultimately amplifying the message.

When we know we’re being marketed to, we close our ears. We don’t have 30 seconds to be interrupted. But when we’re told a story, miraculously, we have 30 minutes to listen. Our arms unfold and we lean forward, excited to hear what comes next.

With only 23 percent of consumers trusting ads on TV and 20 percent trusting ads in magazines or on the radio, it’s more important than ever for brands to integrate their marketing into their story. Otherwise, what are you marketing?

Do you have any other reasons to add? 

Read more from Jon here.
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Jon Thomas

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COMMENTS

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Mr. Steven Finkill — 10/24/12 8:45 am

I think the church in general has forgotten the power of story. Our preaching, for instance, tends to focus on some sort of logical presentation of concepts rather than sharing truth in the package of a story. And I don't think this is just about including "illustrations" in a message, either. It's about couching all of our communication in story whenever remotely possible. Bring on the stories!

Recent Comments
comment_post_ID); ?> I agree 100%, you can tell if a church is doing this it grows, if there's no growth there's poor leadership..
 
— Dennis Whiterock
 
comment_post_ID); ?> Great work Bubba! Its exciting to see how God has blessed your faithfulness over your lifetime into remarkable, fruitful, Kingdom expansion! Jesus DID say, "without Me you can do nothing!" (John 15:5). No surprise that He rewards "thick and thin" prayer with great fruitfulness! :)
 
— Mike Taylor
 
comment_post_ID); ?> I loved this presentation. It helped greatly as I organized an Outreach Ministry of The Shepherds Care. Thank you. Esther Callaham Mahgoube Emmanuel Pentecostal Church New Jersey
 
— Esther Mahgoube
 

Clarity Process

Three effective ways to start moving toward clarity right now.