While data, facts, analysis, bar charts, graphs and PowerPoints may substantiate a new change initiative or direction, logic alone rarely provides the inspiration necessary to fully engage people in a significant change of any kind. Facts and figures may be enough to describe the logic behind a major change, data alone rarely does much to change how people may feel, or even think about, a given change. Logic, without an engaging story, rarely wins over the hearts and minds of the human spirit.
You may have read in past editions, my simplified definitions of management and leadership, as functional processes. I propose that management, as a process, tends to be about hands, backs, and behinds. If I’m your manager, I might have the “position power” and authority to manage where you sit and what you do with your hands and backs while you’re at work. I might even be able to measure your production using an entire range of metrics.
Leadership, however, tends to be about heads, hearts and spirits, perhaps the most important parts of what people bring to work every day as creative beings. It is simply not possible to manage these critical aspects of your employees and colleagues, anyone for that matter. These are the attributes people volunteer because they want to, because they have the desire and because their human spirit has been fully engaged.
This is where a leader’s ability to tell relevant and convincing stories come into play.
“Stories constitute the single most powerful weapon in a leader’s arsenal.” – Dr. Howard Gardner, Professor, Harvard University
We lead people from where they are, mentally and emotionally, not from where we are. Let’s say you have been planning a reorganization of your function for weeks or months. You have gathered the intelligence; you have completed your S.W.O.T. analysis; you have thought through scenarios both positive and negative; your plans are in place and you’re ready to launch.
You put together your PowerPoint presentation and articulate the plan, complete with beautiful graphics and brilliant data to support and validate your ironclad conclusions.
The people you lead haven’t had the same time to process the facts, the situation, or the pending plan. They may not have seen the facts, or the situation, through your filter and perspective. It is no wonder why so many change plans are met with resistance and skepticism.
People will only buy into your vison to the degree their personal experiences and perspectives match the conclusions you have drawn as a leader, and that is not likely.
“Perhaps the most powerful role of stories today is to ignite and drive changes in management policy and practices.” Author Unknown, found in a recent Booz Allen review.
Learning to tell stories that connect the head with the heart is a powerful leadership skill. It is a skill that all leaders can practice and learn to master. And here is the really cool thing: we all have stories to tell.
What stories can you use to help others see a brighter future this week? What stories will help others be more successful in the future? Start collecting your personal set of leadership stories, include the facts and begin connecting heads, hearts and spirits.
Bonus Quotes Below.
How will you live and lead differently, or better, this week?
Do you know someone who might benefit from this weekly leadership minute? If so, please feel free to pass along the subscription link below:
Have a great week!
“Expanding Your Capacity for Success”
- “Humans are not ideally set up to understand logic; they are ideally set up to understand stories.” – Roger C. Schank
- “We are all storytellers. We all live in a network of stories. There isn’t a stronger connection between people than storytelling.” – Jimmy Neil Smith, Director of the International Storytelling Center
- “Inside each of us is a natural-born storyteller, waiting to be released.” – Robin Moore, author
- “No tribal Chief or Elder has ever handed out statistical reports, charts, graphs or lists of facts to explain where the group is headed or what it must do.” – Peg Neuhauser