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Once Upon a Time

We are wired for stories - they have the power to transport, transform, revive, and restore us. As leaders, we must use the art of storytelling to influence and inspire people.

Storytelling, leadership, organizational change, communication

Using the Power of Storytelling to Move Your Organization Forward

We are wired for stories, to hear and share them. They awaken our imaginations, enliven our emotions, and inspire us to courageous actions. Stories bring shape and form to confusing and complex realities - they provide clarity that did not exist before. They have the power to transport and transform us, take us to new places in our minds, hearts, and souls, and revive and restore those core parts of who we are as humans.  We have heard the phrases before: “Stories stick,” “Stories unite us,” and “Leaders of the future will be storytellers,” along with some classic quotes, “There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you.” (Maya Angelou), and “There is no greater power on this earth than story.” (Libba Bray)

Storytelling is an essential art for leaders in our day and age. What’s encouraging is that it is an art that anyone can develop; it’s not a tool only for artists and creatives. What makes a great story? How do we share a story? I want to tackle these questions to help leaders use this form of communication to influence and inspire people. Whether casting vision, cultivating values, or creating movement, storying is an essential part of the process. Stories can be brief or fill a book's pages depending on the context and the audience. Regardless of length, every story should have the essential components of a life-giving and transforming narrative. 

Esther Choy, the founder of Leadership Story Lab, makes a great point that our stories need to have the following tenets to be persuasive:

1) Informational - data is essential; it may not move or motivate people, but without data (pertinent and factual information) being connected or tethered to your story, the story will become baseless and non-viable.   

2) Conceptual - great stories have an overarching arc that journeys through the stages of a story, culminating in a resolution that captures listeners' attention, making it engaging and memorable. Without this tenet, a story becomes directionless.

3) Emotional - stories that don’t evoke emotions will not mobilize people to action. Without emotions, stories become actionless. Emotions make stories compelling and connect people to what it means to be human.

When crafting a story, there are various models or formats to do so, but at its core, however brief or long, stories have the following elements:

  • Context:  Here, we set the stage and provide focus, situating the hearers into the place and space of the story. For example: “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times,” “It was a dark and lonely night.”
  • Characters: Who are the key people in this story? And to whom do you want them to correlate - your leaders, board, customers, volunteers, team, and so forth?
  • Conflict:  What challenges are the characters facing? What needs to be overcome?
  • Culmination: How does the story resolve, and in doing so, provide hope and encouragement to the listeners for a better future?

As one model (known as the IRS Model) puts it, stories need an Intriguing Beginning, a Riveting Middle, and a Satisfying End (or, as one person put it, a Normal, an Explosive Event, then a New Normal).

What kinds of stories should we tell, especially in the context of leading organizations - non-profit, for-profit, or congregational? I believe that there are at least three core stories that need to be shared regularly to help move things forward:

  1. Creation Stories: these stories capture and convey the why and how your organization started. What were the challenges being faced? What solutions did you want to provide? How did your vision and mission get birthed? What founding/foundational elements were established initially, and why were they necessary?
  2. Culture Stories: these stories help celebrate the wins within your organization. How have core values been embodied and lived out? How have team members been transformed within the organization? 
  3. Customer Stories: these stories demonstrate how your offerings to your customers or the wider community have been impacted positively by your services and products. How have they been transformed as well because of them?

We are all beautiful stories in the making. We need to share our stories about ourselves and others. Stories are the life and blood of the human journey, and this is no less true about the teams and organizations we lead. Begin to craft your stories for different occasions that tap into the human spirit and propel your team forward, making a difference in our world for the better. That’s what we are made for! 

If there is any way that I can help you move your church team forward, let’s get in touch. If you are curious about how Chemistry Staffing can help with your staffing and strategic needs, please contact me, and let’s talk.

Dr. Allan Love

Dr. Allan Love

Allan has been involved in church ministry for the past 25 years in a variety of roles and settings: church planter, Pastor of Disciple Making and Adult Ministries, Executive Pastor and Coach/Consultant. Allan has experienced many transitions in ministry from a variety of different perspectives. He understands that as painful and stressful transitions can be, they have the potential to transform you more than most things can! Allan, along with his wife of 33 years, Gloria, young adult daughter, and Luna (family Lhasa Apso), lives in Jacksonville, Florida. His son serves as a pastor in Virginia Beach with his wife and daughter. Allan and his family are originally from Canada, where he earned his Master’s in Biblical Studies (Regent College) and Doctorate in Missional Leadership (Carey). Additionally, he is certified as an MBTI, CPI 260 and StratOp Practitioner, and as a Church Unique and God Dreams Navigator. He is an avid runner who loves to hang out with family and friends and is committed to serving pastors and local churches to help them to live out their unique calling.

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