There is a lot that is lost in translation when it comes to business leadership teams communicating their business strategy to the employees in their organisation. Typically, leadership teams will go off-site to a multi-day strategy session, to review, refine and formalise the business strategy and plan for the next 12 months or so. When they get back to the office, they might gather everyone together to go through a presentation and/ or send out a group email to communicate the new strategy moving forward. Tick, job done. Strategy has now been communicated to everyone in the business. But when it comes to engaging hearts and minds, to really getting everyone’s buy-in and commitment to the strategy, this communication process rarely cuts it, in fact it nearly always falls very short of getting everyone on board. A PowerPoint presentation and a list of bullet points does not capture the depth and the greater meaning behind the thinking that went into coming up with this particular plan of action. Why? Because this style of communication fails to tell a story.
Human beings work by communicating through story. Pre-history, before we could even write, the way humans would communicate, and swap ideas, which is hardwired in us, would be through story, rhyme, metaphore, song, the swapping of stories. Stories are how we exchange meaning. Outside of work we swap stories with friends and family, which triggers more stories and meaningful exchange. By telling stories, we build strong, engaging connections with others. But when we go to work, we revert to sending emails and create bullet point presentations, which fail to capture the essence, the deeper meaning of what we are trying to achieve. They often fall short of really capturing the attention and commitment they require. Turning strategies into stories is the perfect way to bridge that gap.
Turn your strategy into an engaging story
So how can you better engage hearts and minds and create a story to communicate your strategy to better engage the people in your team? When we connect a story to our strategies it connects to people on a much deeper level. Strategic storytelling allows you to not just present facts and logic to sell in your strategy, but it allows people to understand your ideas, your goals, on an emotionallevel. By telling a story, the recipients are able to place themselves in the picture and the story becomes relevant to them; they can empathise with the challenges, the tension, the turning point that lead to the plan of action. They are much more likely to form an emotional connection to the business goals if the story behind it is meaningful to them and they understand the greater human narrative behind that goal.
The truth is there has been a lot of research into the structure of stories so there are plenty of variations to the framework I like to use, the one that resonates well with me, so feel free to do your own research and find a method/ structure you like. The one I use, consists of the following elements;
- Core conflict
- Turning point
This general framework is well used by film makers, authors and every other kind of storyteller you can think of. Let’s think of the film Finding Nemo as an example of this kind of structure (yes, a personal favourite that I have watched time and time again through no choice of my own).
Once upon a time there was fish called Marlin with a son called Nemo who lived on the reef but had a cloud of doubt hanging over them due to the dangers beyond the reef. There is a lingering tension between living your life and being safe.
Each day Marlin, who had lost his wife and all his other would-be offspring to predators beyond the reef, would warn Nemo of the dangers of the sea and to always play safe within the reef. The core conflict then is how do you live your life to the full, whilst staying safe?
One day in an act of defiance and to show off to his friends, Nimo swims out of the reef, against his father’s wishes and faces great challenges to his safety.
Marlin makes a decision. He realises he has to go and experience his life, leaving the safety of the reef himself, in order to find and rescue his son (‘finding’ himself along the way).
They find each other eventually and discover love is all about trust and you need to find the balance between living your life and staying safe. Everything is resolved. There is no longer any conflict or tension or reason for the main characters to be apart.
Next week, I’ll explore how you can turn your strategy into a story using this structure and how you can create more meaningful connections between your goals and your employees.
In the meantime If you would like to book in a tailored leadership workshop with me this year or in 2020 get in touch today. I’d love to help!