What is your Story?
Great Leaders Tell A Great Strategy Story
Most businesses have incredibly compelling stories to tell, full of drama and interesting plot lines.
But the blind spot that leaders at most businesses have is a lack of engaging strategy to tell that story. Most organizations have a semigeneric vision statement, accompanied by what seems like too many slides to outline their strategy for what winning looks like for the organization. And, if the boring, generic story doesn’t sink most strategies, then stories about money will. Stories that tout EBITA, ROI or Net Income fall equally flat when it comes to tapping deeply into the human spirit.
How you tell your story matters
Connecting your strategy and decisions in a meaningful way to employees is crucial to bringing your strategy to life. As author Stephen Denning writes, “Analysis might excite the mind, but it hardly offers a route to the heart. And that is where we must go if we are to motivate people not only to take action but to do so with energy and enthusiasm.”
The truth is that to reach the heart, you have to create a sense of adventure and a sense of belonging, while also outlining a meaningful journey where people can see how their contributions make a difference.
There are four components that contribute to crafting and delivering a compelling story:
- Having a vision statement that is a great headline to your story
- The quality of the strategy story that supports your vision
- Your ability to share your story effectively as a leader
- Achieving shared meaning of your story by your leaders
Your vision statement is the headline to your story
Compelling vision statements need to represent a powerful headline to your strategy story. Unfortunately, in many organizations the vision statement is a result of too many leaders wordsmithing something that is shockingly uncompelling, generic, and unhelpful.
Do you have a compelling vision that headlines the adventure ahead? As you review your own vision statement, be sure that it:
- Clearly articulates what winning looks like
- States what makes you unique
- Creates a sense of adventure to find a better way that inspires and creates followership
Your strategy story must support your vision
One of the most important jobs that leaders have is to inspire people to embrace change. After all, if they can’t do that, it is really hard to scale any idea, process, or new strategy.
It is the leaders’ responsibility to craft a storyline that connects, while creating the intellectual and emotional buy-in for people to want to accompany you on your journey. It is your job to have them want to internalize your story, rather than their job to have to listen to it and figure out where the excitement is.
Each and every time you create an effective story, you must:
- Identify your primary audience.
- Focus on the overall message.
- Outline the core drama.
- Make it personal.
- Practice delivering it
Your ability to share your story effectively as a leader
After leaders give a presentation, we often witness HR or communications folks high-fiving about how well the message was delivered. When we then ask people within the organization about what was shared, we get an entirely different story.
Addressing this gap provides tremendous opportunity for better engagement of your people, and effective activation of your strategic ambition.
Your “great story” should take no more than three- to five-minutes to tell, you must tell it with passion and conviction, and it must inspire people to connect with the larger ambitions of the organization.
Achieving shared meaning of your story by your leaders
The right use of visualization is one of the most effective ways to achieve shared meaning.
Shared meaning ensures that your story has a deep sense of shared understanding, alignment, and, ultimately, meaning to people. Doing this effectively is the difference between people not fully understanding your story, and being an advocate for it.
How might you use visualization to create shared meaning without an artist or designer in the room? Consider the many times when you have witnessed people trying to get their ideas across by drawing images, arrows, or word pictures on a napkin to express, in detail, something that they were excited about—or when you have done the same thing yourself.
If you have created a great vision with a compelling strategy story, are comfortable sharing that story, and have shared meaning around that with your team, you have addressed a critical blind spot.