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There is a reason companies rely heavily on buyer testimonials and referrals. It’s because they know decisions are often based on emotions, and emotions are affected by what other people think. Consumers are more likely to make a purchase when someone they can relate to tells a story that they can relate to. It’s the same for employees deciding whether to ‘buy-in’ to something new at work. 

When John Kotter and published his now classic book on change management, The Heart of Change, he told us that “People change what they do because they are shown a truth that influences their feelings.” We learned that people don’t really love being told what to do or think, or believe, but if you paint the right picture with information and conversation, they will come along.  

No doubt, you have found yourself in a situation where you are trying to get others to adopt a new process, develop new habits, or find ways of working in a new set of circumstances. You probably know that putting together a narrative that provides context, good talking points that outline details, and a comprehensive Q&A list that closes any confusing gaps are on the checklist when communicating change. These are all very good and important; however, I’ve found that no matter how well-written, thoughtfully designed, or carefully timed, change messages will fall on deaf ears and closed minds every time. You will see your eager change and agents emerge, your fence riders choose the right side, and even your nay-sayers come along over time. Still, there is one thing you can include on your list that is a game-changer and, if done well, will exponentially speed up your change initiative, and that’s storytelling. 

Storytelling is so powerful, yet it is often an overlooked and undervalued skill. A well-told, authentic, and personal story feeds oxygen into any change effort. If people can see the change through someone else’s eyes or heart they are more likely to find their own ways to relate and buy-in to the change.  

When I teach my course on leading change, the most impactful lesson in the content is when leaders learn that they have to “get good with it” before telling their teams to get on with it. This means leaders have the responsibility to understand any change that is being asked of their team. They must be the conduit through which the change can flow, not a barrier. It’s the difference between saying, “They told me I have to tell you about this change thing,” or reading the provided talking points with an attitude or deadpan demeanor and “Here’s change coming that’s going to help us, and here’s how and why I think it’s going to work (insert personal story).”   

All good competencies take time to develop. You don’t want to just tell your leaders to go build stories and stand back. You’ll need to treat storytelling like any new skill and provide training and support to help your leaders find their voice and inner storyteller. As you might imagine, I have resources for that. 

Please reach out if this article intrigues you to learn more! 


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