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Corporate storytelling - An essential leadershift capability

Dr. Tanvi Gautam, shares what it takes for a leader to be a good story teller

· leadership,Twangout,Expert Views

As kids we have all indulged in listening to legends, folklore and bedtime stories. We have even told numerous tales sharing our day-to-day experiences and excitement with friends and families. Remember how much fun it used to be back then when we could relate to each of those stories? Now, compare it to how we feel as part of a business conversation with all the fancy jargons that just do not connect personally yet seem like a very essential and inevitable part. This is why our L&D Leadership twangout on ‘Corporate storytelling’ focused on why it is an essential leadershift capability and what differentiation does it bring to a leader.

Our speaker for the session, Dr Tanvi Gautam, Managing Partner, Global People Tree explained the term ‘leadershift’ and shared how important it is for leaders to embrace storytelling for leading the shifts in our workplaces with multi-cultural and multi-generational workforces and inspire actions in the midst of all these shifts. Storytelling is something that helps instantly connect with people and can therefore be an effective tool for leaders in various functions like recruitment, coaching, change management etc. Sharing an example of how storytelling can be leveraged in recruitment, Tanvi said, “When in a recruitment drive, telling a few strategic stories to a candidate as compared to handing over a 500 page manual about what the organization does, will be more impactful and memorable”.

Sharing the rules for storytelling Tanvi mentioned that the key to good storytelling is generating curiosity while keeping an element of mystery which basically is also a pull strategy. Strengthening the same, she shared a meaningful line by someone, ‘storytelling is the careful release of information’. Then it is also about the authenticity of the story and the ability to evoke emotions in the listeners. This means a good story always connects with the listeners and has a set purpose attached. The most important of all is that corporate storytelling has to be a goal-oriented activity. She also explained that the length of a story matters a lot in terms of keeping the audience engaged as a good storyteller is always aware if the audience is engaged. Tanvi said, “You cannot measure the ROI in storytelling but it is more about ROE (return on engagement) of people”.

Talking of benchmarks for good storytellers, Tanvi shared that storytellers always use a more open-ended and easily comprehensible language as compared to calculated language with business jargons. She said, “Good storytellers are good listeners and emotional intelligence is directly proportional to good storytelling”. Being high on emotional intelligence also means you can judge your audience well, understanding their needs, aspirations, issues, past experiences and cultural sensitivities. This in turn helps contextualize the stories to suit the audience. When asked whether storytelling is an art or a science, Tanvi said “it is both”. She explained that it can be a science as there can be templates, instructions, do’s and don’ts, specifications etc. that help people learn the same but it is also an art as it takes judgement to have the right story with the right emotions and at the right time in order. However, this judgement of the people whom you want to cater to itself is an art.

The session was remarkably engaging and ended with the thought that storytelling should also be included in the curriculum for leadership development and should also be taught to HR and marketing professionals. When asked ‘what is the right time to establish a storytelling culture’ Tanvi said, “The right time to begin was yesterday and if you haven’t yet embarked on that journey you are surely missing out”. So if you are planning to begin now, here are a few key takeaways for your storytelling journey.

  • Storytelling is both a science and an art
  • Storytelling should be a goal-oriented activity
  • A good story generates curiosity, evokes emotion and connects with the audience
  • Look at ROE (return on engagement) not ROI for measuring the effectiveness of storytelling
  • Good storytellers are good listeners and are high on emotional intelligence
  • A good storyteller understands his audience well and contextualizes his stories accordingly
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