To inspire meaningful change, leaders create a desire for a different future by contrasting their vision for that future with the unsatisfactory status quo. To do this, you need to paint two vivid pictures: the picture of how things are now, and the picture of how things could be. Stories about specific people and events are one of the best ways to make these ideas compelling and to help others pass them on.
But where do you find these stories? It is difficult to think of them on the spur of the moment. If you develop a practice or habit of gathering stories, however, you will have a collection of them at your fingertips to use whenever you need them.
There are three excellent ways to collect stories: by reflecting on your own life, by listening to the people around you, and by learning from the wider world.
The best place to look for stories is to reflect on your own life. What have been turning points for you, when you realised something important about who you are, or what you are capable of achieving? What have been some failures or learning experiences?
It can be difficult at first to tell these stories to colleagues because it means you have to allow yourself to be open and vulnerable. However, you will find that authentic stories that come from your own experience are extremely powerful in affecting others. You may be surprised at what an inspiring person you are.
Even better, the practice of reflecting on the events in your life helps you to put them into perspective and understand what they have meant for you.
A second place to look for stories is by listening to the people around you. Collecting these can create a rich resource for your whole organisation—for sharing knowledge, building a culture, forging a shared vision, and generating empathy.
Be careful to respect the stories of others. They have placed trust in you by telling their stories. Make sure you have their permission to share them, and never tell someone else’s story as if it were your own.
Finally, you can find stories everywhere around you. Social media, journals, newspapers, television, conferences, and books are all rich sources. If the change you want to see hasn’t happened in your own experience or in your organisation, look for an example of it somewhere else.
By making it a conscious practice to look and listen for stories, especially stories that reflect changes you’d like to bring about, you’ll soon have an inspiring collection to draw from when you need to explain why your idea is important.