Leadership toolkit: The power of storytelling

Remember story time? We do too! The power of stories lasts well beyond childhood; they’re how we learn, share and connect in all areas of life. As leaders, storytelling is one of our most powerful tools, releasing chemicals that make people remember and care. In fact, our brains process stories similarly to how we process real-life experiences – it’s like we’re there.

We know getting buy-in is more effective than barking orders; storytelling is how we get that buy-in. Stories can overcome mental barriers towards new ideas, inspiring people to embrace unfamiliar and sometimes unwelcome changes. They help us explain complex concepts by turning logical arguments into an emotional engagement.  

At Hatch, we attracted top talent and thousands of customers by presenting a compelling vision of a world where people took control of their money. We swapped investing graphs and charts for stories about people who quit their jobs, left terrible relationships, and travelled the world with their kids. These stories drew a mental picture of our purpose, reminding us why we were in business – even when it was a real grind! We’re doing the same with Powrsuit, ‘cause who can argue with stories of how women in positions of power and influence genuinely make the world a better place?

In a world where the average attention span is 8.25 seconds (down from 12 seconds in 2000), the ability to captivate and engage others is more important than ever. So, how can you harness the craft of storytelling in your daily interactions? Practice! Whether you’re in a one-on-one meeting, giving a presentation, or having a casual conversation, here’s how to ensure story time with you is as memorable as those days back on the school mat: 

Start with your own story 

Think back to the last time someone really inspired you. It was likely their story that drew you in. We all have unique experiences that shaped who we are and why we’re here – sharing these stories builds trust and connection. Want to make an impact? Tell your story and share anecdotes from your life. Be authentic, vulnerable, funny, surprising, it’s your story, tell it your way.

If you’ve nailed your professional elevator pitch, having a few stories demonstrating your superpowers is also useful. Polish them and pull them out during job interviews, annual reviews (#payrise!), or to showcase your value when putting your hand up for strategic work.

Use stories to convince

We’ve all been in meetings that devolve into a battle of opinions *wince*. The best influencers draw on evidence and data to form their opinion, but use a totally different tool – storytelling – to convey it. 

  • Does an anecdote about a customer outcome summarise the stats? Tell their story. 
  • See history’s mistakes repeating themselves? Share the story of what you experienced last time. 
  • Want to get buy-in for your vision? Tell the story of what the world will look like after you succeed. 
  • Updating senior execs? Inject a story that highlights a lesson learned or key takeaway – don’t underestimate how far removed they can get from the ‘front lines’. Remind them!

Encourage others to share their stories

Empathetic leaders go beyond work and support the humans around them. Knowing what’s happening in the lives of the people you lead is critical to ensuring you can give them what they need. So ask about their lives and experiences. Start meetings with an icebreaker that inspires storytelling (we love questions like ‘What was your first job and why?’ or ‘Where were you born?’) – and prepare to be shocked by how much you learn – and are inspired by- the people around you.

The moral of the story? 

People love hearing personal anecdotes and building rapport through stories. You don’t have to be a master communicator or comedian to utilise storytelling to inspire, influence and bring people together behind your vision.

And live happily ever after.

30 second action:

Think of a story that highlights the value you bring to the table at work.

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