Digital evangelist and and author Vala Afshar, a former key executive for Salesforce, recently noted: “Read to improve your writing. Write to improve your thinking. Speak to improve your storytelling.” His remark is profound, and should resonate highly with the readers of Smart Hustle.
Think about the many headlines competing for our time and attention as we scan the news every day. Of the “information overload” that covers our screens, which are the items that cause us to stop and compel us to read?
Memorable stories win hearts … and propel action
In nearly every case, it’s not the size or even the shock of what we see that compels us. It’s the stories behind the headlines that touch and surprise us or that entertain and teach us that capture our ears and our eyes.
Interestingly, a growing number of global organizations are providing their senior executives with 2-day seminars to instill and increase their abilities to tell meaningful stories in their presentations and within their leadership activities day to day. Why? There are many reasons, but according to a recent Forbes article, the top five would typically include:
- Inspiring the organization,
- Setting (and communicating) a company vision,
- Teaching important lessons,
- Defining a company’s cultures and values, and
- Explaining who you are and what you believe.
Authentic stories build both passion and profits
A scan of the most popular posts in Smart Hustle will quickly demonstrate the power of stories to both inspire and sell. Our own organization, Vasayo, has found these principles to be extraordinarily powerful. As a provider of health and nutritional products we have an underlying vision of abundant living and improvement of physical, emotional, and financial health. We want to change the world by improving lives and we express this frequently. But when we share the stories behind our ideals, these concepts take flight.
For example, announcing that our philanthropic arm has created 111 clean-water wells to support more than 420,000 people in Tanzania is impressive. But when the people involved share their stories about the villages, the children, and the families the wells are supporting, the people who hear the stories come away no longer merely impressed. They’re transformed.
This applies to all of us
At our most recent convention, our Chairman and I took the opportunity to share our own stories (both the victories and even more importantly, perhaps, the experiences that were painful) that influenced who we are, the lessons we’ve learned, and how we came to acquire the current missions and vision we hold.
Then we challenged all participants to improve their businesses and the lives of those they interact with by sharing their own deep and personal experiences as well.
A healthy company – and society – thrives on stories
Why is this so valuable and important? Our stories are our legacies, which applies to companies as well as individuals. For example, a current female executive leader recently shared in a presentation the personal courage she had mustered to strap an 80-pound motor to her back and leap into the air over an embankment as she was learning to paraglide. She was touched to the core when her young son, after hearing her story responded, “Mom, when I grow up, I want to have just as much courage as you.”
In my own case, I told the audience at our recent convention about growing up without my father, who left when I was very young. Subsequently, I became very close to my maternal grandmother. My grandmother became like a parent to me, and the things she taught me have been highly influential throughout my life.
It was my grandmother who gave me the confidence to know that no matter what odds were stacked against me I would make something of myself. She told me that I could become more, have more, and do more. Her belief in me has had a profound influence on me throughout my life.
As leaders we should share our stories more freely, as they can give meaning, perspective, and wisdom to all who listen. We should also think about the stories from others we’ve read or listened to that blew our minds or changed our way of thinking. We should remember to share them freely as well.
By increasing this one skill—understanding and improving our ability to tell our stories—we can make a much greater contribution to the success of our businesses and the growth of the people within them. In our quest to live “Life Abundant,” we can use our stories to enrich the life experience of all who surround us as well.
Daniel S. Picou is the founder and CEO of Vasayo. His company specializes in advanced delivery systems to optimize health and wellness.