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Storytelling to Increase Engagement, Buy-in, and Results

By Tammy Grabowski | September 7, 2021
Storytelling to Increase Engagement, Buy-in, and Results

Before I got married, I am pretty sure I had never once been in an antique store. I didn’t understand why anyone would want to buy old things. But, as I said, that was before I got married. Since then, antique stores have become almost a regular event, and I have learned to enjoy them.

I notice in antique stores how something that looks like a piece of junk can take on a completely different appearance when the person offering the thing puts a story with it. “Yes, sir. That pocket watch you hold in your hands may not look like much, but let me tell you a little bit about it.” You might as well hand over the credit card.

Adding Value, Making a Connection

As a leader, you will have no shortage of opportunities to tell people what you would like them to do. However, simply telling does not always generate the same level of engagement as inspiring them to do what they think should be done. Some might call this style of inspiring “empowering people to act.” You can use a story to inspire others and give them a vision for the outcomes you are looking to achieve.

Why Does Story Connect

NYU Psychologist Jonathan Haidt said, “The human mind is a story processor, not a logic processor.” Stories capture attention and open a door for a deeper connection and buy-in. When I wanted my sales team to embrace a new set of sales disciplines, I started with a story about my teenage son. I saw people around the table begin to smile and shake their heads. “Yep, my boy does that same thing.” They each saw the importance of trying the new ideas I was promoting.

Stories make you seem human, especially if the story is about you and a challenge you have faced and overcome. People respond very positively to authenticity and humility in others. Plus, telling a story about yourself almost always generates a laugh, and the only thing better than a story is a funny story.

Getting Started

If you think that storytelling is for creative people and you’re not creative, you need to move past that and try anyway. I usually think about the point I want to make and then think of situations that may have happened to me or where I saw it happen to someone else. If I need to change names or circumstances to keep things anonymous, I will do that.

Here’s an example: When my son was a teenager looking for a job, he secured an interview with a local company. I suggested he wear a suit to the interview, but he didn’t think that was necessary for this type of job. Now, I could have argued with him about it, but instead, I sat back in my chair and smiled, “That reminds me of a time when I went to an interview when I was about your age. I was applying for a stockroom job, so I wore casual pants and a dress shirt. When I walked into the interview, the person I was meeting barked at me, “You don’t own a suit!” I assured him I did, and he barked again, “Don’t you think today would have been the day to wear it??” He dismissed me with no further questions. As it Turns out, they did originally need stockroom help, but now they were looking for certain individuals to help them in the front of the store with customer service work.”

My son looked at me and quietly said, “I’ll wear the suit.”

Stories communicate on a different level and help you connect powerfully with others.

Perry Holley is a coach and facilitator with the John Maxwell Company’s Corporate Solutions Group as well as a published author. He has a passion for developing others and seeing people grow into the leaders they were intended to become.

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