Business Storytelling is one of the most crucial skills for leaders to discover in 2021. In this week’s podcast, we interviewed Yamini Naidu, economist turned master business storyteller. The hybrid and virtual workplace will be new, challenging and definitely a more emotional game. The greatest leaders and managers will engage their workforce through masterful storytelling to create inspired relationships, and create an energized future and culture. Every leader today is further away from their employees and will need to leverage storytelling to bring employees together.
Why Business Storytelling is Important
Storytelling helps us reach this meta-modern world and it helps us stay connected with each other. Stories are the Velcro on people’s brains; nothing else will stick. So whether you work with products, services, teams or stakeholders, the most powerful way to pitch your work is through storytelling.
Personal Storytelling Versus Business Storytelling
Think of personal storytelling and business storytelling as a continuum. Business storytelling must have a purpose and a message. It gives leaders the power of connecting people around a message that creates engagement. This is different than the power of control and command; rather, it is the power of connecting, collaborating, and consulting.
Business Storytelling Example
Bernadette Escanda was busy leading a team in an insurance company in Australia. The insurance industry is very black and white and Bernadette wanted her team to occasionally take a step back and pause. She told her team, “Sometimes we’ve got to give the customers a second chance.” Just sharing that insight did not resonate at all with her team. So instead she decided to use the skills she learned from Yamini and told an inspiring story:
“A few weeks ago, my little five-year old niece, Maya, came tearing into the house holding an apple in each hand. I thought this would be a good time to teach Maya how to share. And so I said, ‘Maya, can I please have one of your apples?’ She quickly took a bite out of each apple in her hand. I was shocked. And then she said, ‘Auntie, you can have this one because it is sweeter.’”
I’m sharing this example with you because every day we have an opportunity like this to make our messages stronger and more actionable. Obviously, this leader demonstrated how she wanted her employees to handle customers in a different way. The personal story would powerfully remind her employees to give customers the benefit of the doubt and enhance trust.
It might seem like a paradox, but to use personal stories to land a business message is the most powerful thing you can do.
Transform Bland Company Events into Captivating Experiences
When Leaders share personal stories, they are micro storytelling. Macro storytelling is when storytelling happens across an organization. Leaders can think larger, go beyond a focus on individual stories and think about storytelling in areas like their brand promise or employee value proposition.
How to Make Storytelling an Experience for a Company Retreat or Event
- Provide a list of framing questions.
- Break leaders or people into groups and get them to share their experiences and answers to the questions you provided. This part of the experience should almost feel like sitting around a campfire.
- Do stop lights. In stop lights, everyone takes a pause at sharing, and shares across the groups.
- After all the groups have shared their highlights, ask the group as a whole, “Given these highlighted experiences, what powerful stories might resonate across the organization?”
Storytelling should be used when planning events because whenever stakeholders come together, we have the opportunity to create an experience. How can you create experiential moments at your next event? Think about setting up your event like a campfire, with small break-out sessions dedicated to storytelling in a unique way.
Elements of Business Storytelling
Before you even start to craft a story, begin with the end in mind. What’s the purpose? What’s the message of the story? Who is this story going to serve? This initial process grounds us as storytellers.
Business Storytelling Requires Three Elements
- Have a Clear Sequence.
- What is the simple structure of your story? The beginning, middle and end. Make sure you continue to engage your audience. The ending should land with a subtle, elegant message.
- Be Specific.
- Many business skills require abstract, conceptual and big-picture thinking. Crafting a story is the opposite of that because it requires specificity.
- When you are specific, you do the two most powerful things in storytelling: you create emotion, and you paint a picture.
- Test Your Story Against Three Criteria
–The story is personal
–The story goes beyond “here is what happened”
–The story connects with a universal, human element
ROI of Storytelling
Yamini delivered a storytelling training with the consultants at Accenture a few years ago. Six months later the Managing Director was featured in Financial Review Boss Magazine saying, “storytelling doubled our revenue.” In this time, Accenture made one small shift; they committed to share a relevant story at the beginning of every meeting, pitch, and proposal.
Yamini Naidu, CSP is rated among the top 3 business storytellers globally and is the world’s only economist turned business storyteller. Award winning speaker and best-selling author, she works with leaders helping them shift from spreadsheets to stories. Yamini recently received a Global Leadership Development Award. This award recognises the results she has had, the impact of her work with clients, and her thought leadership in business storytelling.
Yamini is currently the Director of yamininaidu.com.au
In 2005 she co-founded Australia’s first storytelling company and is a pioneer in the field. She has held senior leadership roles and has extensive corporate experience working in a range of industry sectors including Information Technology, Retail, Pharmaceuticals, E commerce, Government and Financial Services and has worked with senior industry leaders, key stakeholders and company boards.
Yamini has also taught leadership and management at RMIT University. She is an economist by training, and a postgraduate (and scholarship winner) from the London School of Economics. She is the author of several books including business best seller Hooked: How Leaders Connect, Engage & Inspire Using Storytelling. Her latest book Light of the Party will be released at the end of April 2021.Yamini is a voluntary guide at the National Gallery of Victoria. She also performs stand-up comedy (as a hobby!) and featured in a Best of Showcase at the Melbourne International Comedy Festival 2018. She is committed to social enterprise and supports through pro bono work the High Resolves Global Citizenship and Leadership Programs, which offer a three-year transformational experience for high school students.She supports and works with Pollinate Energy, a not-for-profit focused on energy access for poor people living in urban India.