“When I was young I fell in love with stories…”
~ “Projectionist”, Sleeping At Last
The love of stories is an important quality for writers, movie producers and directors, preachers and chief executive officers.
This leadership quality is an especially important asset for executives in an industry undergoing transformative change with consolidations, layoffs, early retirements and job restructuring. Employees must buy in to the myriad of changes that frequently includes the reshaping of the vision and operating culture of the enterprise. The art of communication, the ability to share a new vision in a way that helps employees to embrace change intellectually and emotionally is extraordinarily important. It can well mean the difference between success or failure.
Employees want a leader they can trust, someone they can look up to, someone they can follow. A leader who is adept at weaving meaningful stories through her or his communications has a better chance at galvanizing those employees. Changing an organization’s vision and culture is one of the most daunting challenges a CEO can face. Many have tried and failed because they did not understand the importance of having a communications strategy, or the importance of how a message is delivered.
Just as a preacher or speaker uses stories to capture the imagination of a congregation or audience, leading them on an enthralling journey to a place where they can achieve acceptance, savvy leaders must perfect those skills to maximize buy-in. If you polled any organization undergoing transformative change, many employees, all things considered, would just as soon leave things just the way they are, thank you very much; however, a substantial number are open to change if you can show them that the way forward will be a rewarding journey.
One of the premier leadership coaches today, Patrick Lencioni, is first and foremost a master storyteller who crafts his books as easy-to-read parables that lead his audience to acceptance of a concept that will nourish personal or team success, as well as point the way to achieve change.
I first read The Five Temptations of a CEO at a time when I was struggling to run a complex regional emergency medical services company that was undergoing a stem-to-stern redesign that shattered the existing mission, vision and culture of the business. The CEO in Lencioni’s parable believed he was failing in his first CEO assignment, just as I felt that I was failing with what I came to believe was a next to impossible task. However, his story telling first captured my interest and then my imagination. Finally, it led me to an understanding of what I should do, and that is when I conducted my first executive search and found a new passion in my career.
I identified my replacement, one of the top emergency medical service executives in the field, a man that our EMS consultant said never leave his current employer. The consultant was brilliant in many ways but he was wrong about the candidate who retired in my old job more than 18 successful years.
Stories in the hands of savvy leaders are powerful tools.