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Use Values-Based Storytelling as a Leadership Tool

2 min read

How do you align your personal values with your organization’s values? And how do you communicate that connection to your people?

There is long-standing literature and discussion around the importance of individuals’ understanding and living our personal values. At the same time, the business world is shifting more and more towards bringing those values to the workplace. Values-based leadership has been a hot topic in recent years—but how do we identify our personal values and communicate them to our people?

The answer to both questions is the same: storytelling. In fact, remembering what Noel Tichy calls the “teachable moments” of your past and then sharing them with others is essential to values-based leadership.

A 5-point plan to crafting a values-based story

1.     Find the story. Our pasts are like my attic: messy and full of old boxes. But if I flip on the light, clear the cobwebs, and start leafing through those boxes, I rediscover my old stories. If you find a quiet place and close your eyes, the first story that comes to you is most likely the right one.

2.     Give us the sensory details. Tell us about the corner office with the view of the Hudson River that you had to give up, or the half-walled cubicle with no privacy from your first job. Describe the noise of the trade floor. Tell us how your boss’s Cartier watch swung around his wrist as he yelled at you.

3.     Don’t forget the (emotional) juice. Maybe there was a moment of uncertainty, fear, or just a tunnel-vision focus on right vs. wrong. Communicate that. Don’t gloss over it. This is where you connect with people’s hearts.

4.     Act like a professional storyteller. Imagine you are telling the story to a bunch of children (your audience won’t know): keep them in suspense, use foreshadowing, and show through facial expression how you felt.

5.     Name the value: Tell us what value was forged or violated as a result of this life event.

Leadership is about sharing your knowledge—what you’ve gained along your journey—with your team in order to strengthen those relationships and drive motivation. There’s no better way to do this than through storytelling. It’s scientifically proven to captivate attention, stimulate the part of the brain that empathizes and builds relationship, drive action, improve memory, and more. And it’s an invaluable tool for leaders to build connections that will bring your organization success.



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