Leonardo Da Vinci “Poetry is painting that is felt rather than seen.”
How can you tell a story that sticks? How can you encourage your employees to share in your vision of the future and imagine better times?
In our previous articles we discussed leading change, we will now look at how we can persuade others and embed change. Telling a story is really powerful. Some people are natural storytellers, but everyone can learn techniques to bring their stories to life.
There are six principles that can help embed our communication and make them “stick”. They are:
What is even more effective than telling a story is helping your people to create their own story. As discussed in our previous article, our golden rule of influencing is: Ask don’t tell.
In the Royal Mail in 2010 there was a need to automate. When Royal Mail announced the changes to staff, the management team told a (true) story. What was essentially communicated was “We have huge operating costs, a big pension deficit, and lots of competitors who are much more efficient than us. We MUST automate.”
Despite the story being true, the unions immediately co-ordinated strikes which only ended when employees were awarded a pay increase, a shorter working week and greater job security.
When managers changed their approach, things changed. Managers sat down with union representatives and started asking questions. They said “We have competition, what does that mean for our people? Where do you think we can improve to stay safe as a company? How can we keep people safe and in jobs?” The solutions that emerged were to automate and not impose redundancies; they agreed to reduce staff numbers through natural staff turnover and not replacing leavers.
This changed how people were feeling about the change from resistance and reticence to being engaged with "build in". How can you learn from this and bring your team on board from the beginning?
Goffee and Jones talked about the importance of authentic leadership and how followers need to trust their leaders in order to embed change.
So, if you have a change you want to implement, how do you write your change speech? Think about group polarisation, can you find examples of other people doing the same thing? Think in advance about where the budget will come from. What article or news story could you show your audience 24 hours before your speech? This is called priming. Where can you tell a story? Choosing the right location can have a huge impact on an audience’s receptiveness. Where can you add images? Build a persuasive / emotional business case, not purely a financial one. We have trained thousands of people in these techniques and it is very rewarding when people change from being shy and nervous to becoming willing to take their ideas to the CEO.
A caveat; these techniques can be used for manipulation as well as influence. Marketing companies regularly use these techniques to manipulate; so do politicians. A quick guide to whether you are using these techniques ethically is, are you willing to be transparent to your audience about the techniques you have just used?
Links to further reading:
Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die, by Chip Heath and Dan Heath
Goffee and Jones: Why Should Anyone Be Led By You? https://impact.ref.ac.uk/casestudies/CaseStudy.aspx?Id=44529