Can great stories come from people in suits?

Can great stories come from people in suits?

When was the last time you heard a great story?  A story so shocking you gasped out-loud with amazement.  A story so funny you snorted with laughter?

When was the last time you heard a tale so inspiring  you couldn’t shake it from your thoughts all day?

Recently…I hope.

But now think about the last time you heard one of those stories at work? From your boss? From your CEO even?

Harder to answer? I reckon so.

And that’s a real shame.

When it comes to inspiring, educating, persuading, motivating (I could go on), there’s nothing more powerful than a story well told.

So why aren’t corporate leaders sharing more stories?

Part of the answer is that not everyone is a great story teller.

Some people are great at dramatic openings but lose their audience in the detail.  Some people are great at sharing tales with emotion but drag out their narrative and never quite get to the end.  You know, the kind of story that’s about five minutes longer than needed.

All this is OK. We’re human after all, and a little bit of training can go a long way in honing story telling skills.

What can’t be trained however is the need for corporate storytellers to be authentic.  And that’s important because for a story to be compelling we must believe and trust the person sharing that story.

I understand that might sound obvious but too many leaders miss the opportunity to engage in true story-telling at work because they hide behind ‘corporate speak’ and tools.

I mean seriously, when was the last time you were moved by a PowerPoint deck?

At an Australian Marriage Equality panel event I attended in Sydney earlier this week I was impressed by the authenticity displayed by all of the panellists.  Particularly Qantas CEO Alan Joyce and SBS CEO Michael Ebeid.

Their authenticity was demonstrated in part by the action of discussing an important topic but mostly through the personal stories they shared.  Instead of hiding behind corporate talk on diversity we heard how Michael had wasted too much energy in the early years of his career worrying that people would find out he was gay.  And we learnt from Alan how he discovered it matters to have role models in the corporate world that others can look up to for support.

Their personal tales engaged everyone in the room not simply because of who they were but because they created a human connection.  And their stories were believable as they showed another side that’s so rarely show by corporate leaders nor reported in media articles and news bulletins.

As I sat in the audience, I felt relieved and inspired.

Relieved that authentic leadership is alive and kicking.  And inspired to see that great stories really can come from those in suits.

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