Storytelling for change: top five ways to address the transformational change challenge.
Increasingly, today’s organizations are facing some kind of transformational change. To lead that change successfully, today’s senior leaders need the right tools to not only survive the change but also to derive real value.
But are they ready? Less than half of the executives we surveyed in this year’s Global Transformation study (HR Transformation: which lens are you using?) say they feel well positioned to deliver sustainable value from business transformation1. It is fair to say that those in more junior positions feel even less confident about their ability to lead change.
We’ve seen that the key to addressing the transformational change challenge is to build an environment in which others can deliver rather than trying to do it all themselves.
Storytelling is an age-old tool – and that’s exactly what makes it so powerful. A story can go where quantitative analysis fails to gain admission: our hearts and long-term memory. As a business competency, storytelling uses a communication style that draws on authenticity, personal experience, practical examples and organizational context to provide a narrative that builds support for the change.
Moreover, storytelling shows that a workforce motivated by a strong sense of higher purpose is essential to engagement. With that in mind, we spoke to 5 of our subject matter professionals in the global people & change practice and asked them 5 of the most frequently asked questions that arise when working with clients around the globe to help them build capability in creating a compelling story.
Three reasons stand out:
You’re looking for anything that elicits an emotional connection with the audience. Facts and figures only go so far and do not engage those areas of the brain that make a story” stick.” Using a compelling story to deliver a message that creates a sense of tension and interest -- engaging the emotional center of the brain -- can actually cause the audience to feel the emotions we are seeking to portray, making the message more memorable.
Stories don’t always need to paint a picture of pure positivity. In fact, for people to really connect, a storyteller must not present everything as perfect but instead connect with the hearts and minds of the people around them through their own real-life experiences. What counts here is authenticity in the content of the message and the way it is delivered.
Start by creating a story that you will tell, building off the set of core messages delivered from the top. Then talk to your team about the upcoming change and what it means for them. Use examples that you know are meaningful and authentic. Solicit team feedback in a coordinated loop that circulates suggestions throughout the organization. If you fail to include any of these elements, you run the risk of people making up their own stories.
Every transformation story is based on a journey with ups and downs. When it comes to identifying success stories, you will start to see engagement that proves you have shifted the story from the heads to the hearts of the individuals in your organization. Each success story acts as an inspiration and reference for employees to emulate. Success is a continuous process, giving employees opportunities to create individual and team stories that live on.
1 HR Transformation: Which lens are you using? KPMG International, 2017.