ONCE UPON A TIME...the origin of those four words can be traced back to Chaucer's Canterbury Tales in 1387. The purpose of his literary masterpiece was to inspire people in his world to make some positive changes.
What change would you like to see in your world? If you were asked to share an inspirational story that might change someone's behavior in your workplace or family, what would you say?
"If you want to change the world, you need to change your story."
~ Michael Margolis ~
Stories engage and connect people in a way that lectures, numbers and PowerPoint slides never do. They have the potential to teach, influence and entertain and, in some cases, the lessons learned stay with us for a lifetime.
Storytelling has been around for as long as human beings have been speaking; and in today's world, it's one of the most important leadership skills. The good news is we're all good storytellers and we have been telling and listening to stories all our lives. However, storytelling is an art form that's in decline because leaders are spending more time communicating with texts, tweets and emails. As a result, their face-to-face storytelling skills are slowly becoming weaker every week.
If you want, you can start strengthening your storytelling skills today. All it takes is a commitment to start telling more meaningful stories and asking other people to share their stories with you.
Everyone has a positive story to tell.
The next time you're in the car or having a meal with your co-workers or family member, ask everyone to put their phone down, take their AirPods out of their ears and start exchanging stories about an important subject.
In future articles, I'll share some ideas on how to get better at storytelling, but for now, just start telling more meaningful stories.
"Marketing is no longer about the stuff that you make but about the stories you tell."
~ Seth Godin ~
You can use these questions to stimulate your thinking about work stories. If you don't know the answers, then interview a senior leader in your organization and let them tell you a story.
Who founded your company? Why did they start the business? What were the strengths of your organization? What problems did your company solve? What challenges did they have to overcome? Who were your strongest competitors over the years? Why were those competitors so good? What competitors went out of business? Why did those competitors fail?
What clients were most important to your success? What client brought out the best in you as a leader and as an organization? What clients did you not want to serve? Why did you choose to not work with those clients?
How would you describe the kind of people who thrive in this company? What employees contributed the most to building this business? What are some examples of what they did that made them successful? What kind of people will this company need to continue to grow and prosper?
"If history were taught in the form of stories, it would never be forgotten."
~ Rudyard Kipling ~
You can use these questions to stimulate your thinking about family stories. I suggest you interview your grandparents or your oldest relatives. Your grandparents, aunts and uncles are the bridge between your past and future. They know the history of the two generations before and after they were born. This gives them an extremely valuable point of view that needs to be captured before they pass away.
The stories you learn from your elders can be retold to your children regardless of their age because no one is too old or young to benefit from a good story.
Here are a few family questions to get your stories started:
What were the most important lessons you learned from your parents? What family member had the most positive influence on your life? What did they do to bring out the best in you?
What do you want your grandchildren to remember about you? What virtues do you want your grandchildren to value? Why do you feel those virtues are important?
What advice do you have for building a good marriage and a happy family? What traditions or behaviors do you hope our family always continues? If there were one thing you wished you would have done differently, what would that be? Why would you have liked to do that differently? What goal are you most proud of achieving? Why was that goal important to you?
Regardless of age, gender, background or beliefs, the ability to tell good stories helps leaders and parents bring out the best in everyone around them.
As you tell more stories and begin to master the art of storytelling, you'll find it easier to inspire and influence the people you work with, live with and serve. And maybe one day, someone you lead or love just might say..."Once upon a time, you told me a story that changed my life."