As leaders, it’s our job to watch for trends, to recognize opportunities and avoid threats to our businesses. This is a part of my job I take very seriously.
These days, I spend much of my time either planning, analyzing numbers or in informational meetings, learning, observing and connecting. I’ve learned the hard way that being “in” your business instead of “on” it, can blind you and leave you exposed.
This lesson hit me in a very hard way at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. Let me take you back to what was happening for me. You see, I was in the midst of purchasing the company from my then-business partner. In fact, we were in the final stages of a highly sensitive and confidential transaction when the pandemic was declared.
And… like a tsunami, every client project and engagement we were scheduled to begin or were working on, cancelled.
Revenue and engagements that we had worked for months to secure and would help our business thrive, disappeared within the space of 3 days. The value of the business disappeared and I was holding a purchase agreement wondering what I had just acquired.
Could I have seen this coming? I don’t know that any of us could have predicted the magnitude of what the pandemic went on to create, however, I do think I could have paid more attention to the threats that were real.
I was so busy working in my business, delivering training and coaching, negotiating deals and working on securing the business, that I forgot to look up.
I didn’t notice this massive threat that was on the horizon, I didn’t have a contingency plan.
Now I wasn’t alone in this situation, the reality is, for anyone in the event or event support business, March 2020 onwards was incredibly difficult.
I was in the middle of a confidential purchase transaction which of course intensified the worry and the impact. I needed to keep my team motivated through the change in management; shift direction to support our clients and to focus on revenue generation through the development and introduction of new products that supported a new virtual reality.
I think you will agree that we are truly living in, and leading through challenging times.
As leaders, we have the opportunity to step up, to communicate from our hearts by courageously telling our stories.
And in doing so, demonstrate effective leadership techniques for our teams and for those who will lead in the future so that we can create the impact we envision for our lives and our work.
Mastering Storytelling Techniques: Creating a Cohesive Message and Strategic Plan for Leadership Challenges
Our stories and our truths come first from our lives and second from our experience as leaders. The story I shared above is a personal story, my story of stepping into my own leadership, choosing to continue to create change in the face of the unknown and trusting that my team will come along with me, following my lead.
As I took over the leadership of Talk Boutique, it was important that I have a plan, a plan that could be actioned inside of a global pandemic. The only thing I knew for certain was that I couldn’t predict anything, I could only plan for short-term actions, so that is what I did.
Using our resources, we created virtual events and offerings for clients who were challenged in a changing world. We gave and didn’t ask, we showed up every day and stayed on track for a vision of helping the world transform and we offered support using our roster of experts.
From deciphering the weak signals through our work with futurists to learning how to self-soothe during difficult days from our mental health experts to unraveling the mysteries of our bodies with our life and health science experts, our “Sense Making Conversations” provided windows of understanding that we offered to anyone who needed support.
This was an awareness and interest strategy to keep Talk Boutique top of mind, and to demonstrate our commitment to creating a better future and our genuine care and concern for our clients. We also developed a new product suite to support a world gone virtual through online, LIVE, and recorded training programs with the introduction of our Thought Leader Academy.
As the business morphed; so did my focus as a leader. I had to become more visible, more comfortable in the public eye, and more clear with my team. Planning became a regular part of my work, what did we keep and what did we allow to fall away, sometimes I asked myself this daily.
Planning, communicating, and decision-making are the most important parts of leadership and often the most difficult. While leaders are pulled in many directions and asked to participate in many things, I have learned that these are often just distractions from the important.
My true job, as the leader, is to carve out the time to review my plan, communicate my vision and make the decisions that keep me and my team on strategy; everything else is optional.
Emotionally Intelligent Leadership: Amplifying Your Message and Building Deep Connections through Vulnerability.
The reality is, storytelling is a way for us to demonstrate our own humanity and to show that even though challenges happen, there are always ways to successfully navigate. Often when challenging times hit, new or inexperienced leaders freeze, not knowing how to react, how much to disclose or who to trust. This is where your stories, as a leader, are essential. Not just the facts of the story, but the emotions as well.
I was afraid as I faced the reality of the situation in my business in March 2020. What I knew of my team was that we were resilient, and even though I couldn’t share all of the details with my them, what I did share were the successes I knew we could have.
I reminded them of the success stories we had achieved that demonstrated the importance of supporting our clients, and from these, we created new offerings.
Our “Sense Making Conversations” and “Courageous Conversations “demonstrated our capabilities while providing much-needed support to the diverse communities we support. What we did was create a new story about our company, one that included a deep commitment to community support and racial equity.
We were telling stories to ourselves and to others about the world we wanted to live in. From Sense-Making Conversations to Courageous Conversations to our work on teaching storytelling, we knew that if we could create a common and agreed-upon view of our world, together we could create it.
Harnessing the Power of Stories to Drive Change and Inspire Action.
I deeply believe in the power of story as a leadership tool and I’m not alone. There is plenty of evidence-backed research on how storytelling enhances memory, creates deep engagement, and increases understanding. Our brains need a vision of what we want to create (predictive); and, cross brain meridian interaction (associative) in order to take action and create a long-term memory.
Stories engage the sensory areas of the brain, they fire up to 7 regions and drive neural coupling (cross-brain meridian engagement), emotional transportation (visionary experiences) and trigger our brains to release dopamine, oxytocin, and endorphins, creating a deeply experiential environment that leaves us in an emotionally charged state ready for action.
Storytelling can be used as an intentional tool and it enables the listener to turn the story they’ve just heard, into their own idea and experience. We align to and adopt stories that move us emotionally and rationally.
Driving Business Transformation: Leveraging Stories as Catalysts for Deep Understanding and Lasting Change
The global pandemic is finally beginning to recede after two long years, and the business I purchased is now very different. We have created a new story for ourselves, we see the company differently and I, as the leader, am different. I have lived with and benefited from the power of story and I can see the impact that we, as a company have made, and continue to make, for our clients, for our community, and to some degree on the world.
What I know is that with the work we do — in helping experts and changemakers transform into thought leaders using the power of story — we are helping to shape a new vision of what’s possible.
And… we take this VERY seriously.