10 ways to masterful storytelling

We all know how a well-placed and well-timed anecdote can tell us so much more than stats or facts ever could.

‘Storytelling is fundamentally how we construct identity and a sense of purpose,’ says Mark Strom, author of Lead with Wisdom.

Tell a story and people will grasp what you are saying.’

We all know how a well-placed and well-timed anecdote can tell us so much more than stats or facts ever could. While politicians have long had a go at this approach, it was Barack Obama who took the art of narrative campaigning to another level. It’s also a technique that is becoming the go-to in business, leadership, content marketing and social media.

Strom believes it’s not only the telling of stories that’s important, but it’s also about asking ‘grounded questions’. This, he says, leads to people telling more meaningful stories.

I heard Strom speak on this subject some years ago and was impressed by how he brings together his belief in the value of wisdom with his knowledge of philosophy. He describes himself as a ‘storyteller with a PhD in the history of ideas.’ He now helps businesses identify their narratives to affect positive change.

‘We can’t make anything without words,’ says Mark. ‘We all have to become the author of our own world.’

And yes, you can make this approach work for you, too.

Here are 10 ways you can become a master storyteller:

  • Make your story a universal one. This will touch more people.
  • Use emotions. How we respond to people is relational not just intellectual. If someone else feels what you felt, your story will touch them.
  • Be succinct. Don’t waffle.
  • Know the point of your story. Why are you choosing to tell it?
  • Ditto with intention. Intention will help your story resonate better with the listener because this is pure energy focused into your words.
  • Consider your delivery of the story. Allow for suspense and build to a punchline.
  • Listen to other people’s stories. They will inform your own.
  • Your story needs to suit your listener. Be prepared to reshape and adapt an anecdote to make it more appropriate to your audience.
  • Use your imagination. Stories don’t merely come from the mind. Rather, from the heart and soul, past and future, ether and the winds. You might not be able to harness all of these but if you are delivering an important presentation, think beyond the intellect.
  • Lastly, be open to reflecting on the story of your life. How you share your story is up to you. You are, after all, the hero of your own narrative and ultimately, destiny.

So give these tips a whirl and watch the master storyteller in you unfold in no time.

Actions always speak louder than words

To be a leader who people remember and who triggers stories, is to be a leader who acts.

Chris Beer, former CEO of Luxottica in the Asia Pacific Region, and now CEO at Performance Hub, was well aware of this. In 2012 he became increasingly concerned about the appalling statistics of Indigenous eye health in Australia. Six more Indigenous Australians suffer blindness and are 12 times more likely to have blinding cataracts than non-Indigenous Australians.

‘I kept asking questions. Australia being a lucky country, why do we have third world eye health in remote Indigenous communities? It was unacceptable to me.’

Beer wanted all Australians to have the same eye health care as his children in Sydney. He launched OneSight, Luxottica’s global eye health charity program in Australia with a particular focus on Indigenous eye-health. .

What started as a personal challenge, he admits, became ‘an obsession.’ He wanted to get his hands dirty, to get involved and made sure he sat on the advisory board, gave up his time to travel to remote communities and told his staff. ‘Don’t just listen to what I say but look at what I do.’

Since the program started in 2012, over 500 Luxottica staff across all departments have got involved — and now it binds the organisation. Beer says, ‘It’s become a deep and rich part of the DNA of our organisation.’

When they first started, some of the Indigenous elders were sceptical. Beer went to Mornington Island and remembers one gentleman saying,‘“We love what you want to do but we know that you won’t stick it out. Bosses turn up, there are photo opportunities and 12 months later you disappear.” After year two, it was greatly appreciated that we’d returned.’

For Beer he’s had to learn patience. ‘When I used to run Luxottica in South Africa, one day I was a bit impatient and one of the team, said to me, “Chris, do you know how to eat an elephant? One bite at a time.”’

So what can you do in the last two weeks before pre-Christmas sign off to do something memorable?

To read more about what Luxottica and other companies are doing in Indigenous communities, read the full Acuity article here.

Why leaders must take risks

Taking risks and bucking the trend always takes guts. Especially when you are trying to shift the current economic and commercial paradigm.

But everywhere leaders and companies are shifting the dial. In June I went to the Conscious Capitalism conference in Sydney and heard dozens of ways organisations, large and small, are making a difference.

After working in the corporate world for over a decade, James Meldrum and wife Monica knew they wanted another approach when they founded their Melbourne-based organic food company Whole Kids.

The idea for Whole Kids came because they couldn’t find any healthy, tasty and convenient snacks for their family. In their words. ‘Just about everything was full of junk.’

Taking a big gulp, they spent their life savings on starting their business and put their house-buying plans on hold. In 2005 they manufactured the first run of the Whole Kids products. Now you can buy them in Woolworths.

From the start their purpose was ‘way above just making money.’ It was also about being social responsible, operating as a family and giving ‘people room to bring the best self to work.’

Ever since Meldrum had done an MBA in America, he’d followed companies like Ben & Jerry’s and Patagonia. Then three years ago he discovered Conscious Capitalism. ‘That’s when we realised that what we were doing had a name. Conscious Capitalism gave us a language.’

Americans Raj Sisodia and John Mackey, co-CEO of Whole Foods, founded the Conscious Capitalism non-profit movement in 2008.

– Higher purpose or the ‘why’ of a company
– Stakeholder orientation that focuses on optimising value for all parties including the environment
– Conscious leadership
– Conscious culture that builds trust and transparency among all stakeholders.

Whole Kids is also one of a handful of Australian companies to have been B Corp certified; this third-party independent assessment audits a company’s social and environmental performance, accountability, and transparency.

For Meldrum it’s about trying to make work as fun as possible.

As there are only 10 in the team, career opportunities are limited. Instead Meldrum focuses on how to create professional development opportunities for the staff and offer other meaningful benefits and rewards. On the staff strategy days they spend half the time working through the Conscious Capitalist principles.

‘We look at how can we make people more healthy and more happy. One of the team said she’d really like to run a marathon, she’d never run a race before. We asked how could we help her as a team? We gave her time off to run every week. And then we all joined in. Now the whole team runs.’

So what meaningful risk can you take at work to make a difference?

If you’d like to read more about Conscious Capitalism, read my full article in Acuity.