How are YOU telling your story? Sizzle, Steak or Rainbows?
To be perfectly honest, I’m a numbers and facts girl. Give me the numbers and the facts if you want to sell me something or get me to support your project. I appreciate a bit of finesse and style in the telling, but if you’re still spinning stories and playing on emotions five minutes in and I haven’t heard a single number or fact, you’re done.
This can be a problem when I need to motivate people who prefer a more emotional, storytelling approach. I always believe the numbers and facts speak for themselves…but the wrong approach can diminish enthusiasm for you and your project fast. If you don’t get “buy in” you’re a leader with no followers.
Learning to flex your storytelling style to meet the needs of your audience is a critical skill to master when you’re leading through complex changes. Some teams want to hear a “Rocky” type story (think of the countless sports coaches who lead with this sort of motivational speech), others prefer the “Rags to Riches” approach (“I grew up in poverty but I had a dream, and now I’m living it”), still others want a “Yes we can! Go Team Go!” hands in the middle type huddle. Some want to be wooed. Some want to be sold. And some, like me, just want the facts.
Word choice, tone, style and message for external messages keep giant marketing departments busy for years, and we need to think just as carefully about how we talk internally. You will need to carry a consistent, authentic message, but craft the delivery to meet your audiences needs.
Are you telling your story up the food chain? Generally as you are trying to persuade more senior executives, leaning heavily on facts and numbers will be the best option, but to truly sell it, put some passion and a bit of sparkle around the numbers (you want some passionate champions at the top too!). A general good ratio might be 75% facts wrapped in 25% sizzle, but you need to know your audience. If they’re like me you want to dial back the fluff and stick to the facts.
You may also have to tell your story to the world outside your company, customers, stockholders or regulators. How you craft that story will be a combination of understanding why the story needs to be told, what your audience currently understands about your business and what is important to them. Are you fixing a problem they knew about? Are you improving something that will bring better service, a new product option and what’s in it for them?
So today, take a minute and think about how you are telling your story. Are you leaning heavily on an approach that always served you well with a different audience? And is it serving you with your current audience? Do you need to flex your style?
P.S. As numbers focused as I am, if you play a video of cute baby pandas in the background while you’re talking I’ll probably sign anything. I would start with this one.
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