Are you using the most powerful tool to influence and connect?

The single most powerful tool you have in your change maker’s toolbox is…

Story.

Whether you’re influencing a C-level exec to rally her organization to a new mindset or helping your teenager understand that life is larger than high-school dramas, story awakens our brains and opens us to possibility.

Story creates instant empathy.

It also creates a role model by time-shifting the act of observation.

My interest in story came from feedback that I wasn’t good at it.

As I taught workshops on change management and leading change, participants indicated they’d learn more if there were more concrete examples to support the concepts.

More stories.

But, when I try to recall stories, by brain goes blank.

The need to recall stories and be able to tell them was the catalyst for pushing ‘Publish’ on my first public post (written in 2015). I figured that I better do something to practice and also to catalog experiences and examples so I could more effectively convey ideas.

I’m still not great at storytelling, but I’m still committed to practice and improve.

This week, I’ll be speaking with Patti Sanchez at the Association of Change Management Professionals Conference. Our session Monday evening is duplicated Tuesday morning and focuses on how to harness the power of story to drive change.

In the gift of surprise, I shared some wonderful wisdom my friend and colleague gave me as I prepped to answer some questions on video. She told me to make it interesting. I later found this great advice from Patti Sanchez for how to turn something dry into a powerful story:

Make it interesting. Folklore may be an important source of learning, but it won’t get its point across if it’s dull. This is where the art of storytelling comes into play. It’s not a natural language for analytical thinkers, but you can guide them into a dramatic frame of mind and set the stage for a high-impact story by probing for details about a specific moment. A few years ago, I worked with a college educator who explained to me — in a logical (and dull) narrative devoid of conflict — how he had radically restructured his school’s curriculum. He happened to mention that he tested his initial ideas with new students (who loved the changes) and tenured staff (who hated the changes) over a series of meals that led to increasingly heated debate. I saw those events as the turning points in an emotionally charged story that pitted idealistic students against jaded teachers in a battle over the future of education. I then shaped his anecdotes into a classic three-act structure – likeable hero encounters obstacles and emerges transformed — to convert a factual account into an engaging tale.

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