In my early career when in my late 20’s I was assigned a mentor/coach from within the organisation as part of my development as a leader. His name was Bruce. Bruce was in his 60’s, part of the Executive Team, a wise person, and a few years away from retirement. He took me under his wing and I became his project. Little did I know that his good storytelling would have such an enormous impact on my life.
He suggested fortnightly catch-ups. At first I thought this was an overkill. Why did we need to meet this regularly? After the first month and a couple of meetings in, my fortnightly ‘catch-up’ with Bruce became a highlight for me. I found myself engrossed in our conversations and the time went too fast. I learnt an immense amount from Bruce which I still apply to this day some thirty-something years later.
I have reflected over the years about the conversations with Bruce and what made them so effective and so memorable. I have tried to dissect what he did so I could learn from a master of influence. There were two things that Bruce did that I value to this day.
The first thing was that he listened to me empathetically – really tried to put himself in my shoes. He was curious and asked great questions.
The second thing he did was he shared his perspectives with stories. I was amazed how he managed to always have a memorable story to address every issue I was facing. As I look back now to these conversations 30 years ago, the reason they have stuck with me was the stories. Bruce’s stories, both professional and personal, was the vehicle he chose to deliver his wisdom.
So here is my ingredients for passing on value to others, effecting change and enhancing your influence.
- First ‘listen with curiosity’ as this is the prerequisite needed and earns the right to then share a perspective. A perspective shared is necessary, but insufficient to cut through the noise and really be heard.
- Then use a story to deliver the perspective. A story without relevance or perspective is entertaining but of little value other than momentary entertainment.
- Combine Listening with Curiousity + Perspective delivered through a story and you begin to facilitate change between people, generations, workgroups and cultures. So here is my formula:
Listen Curiously + Share Perspectives through Story = Enhanced Influence
Bruce was a storyteller and it was a skill he had developed. If you want to increase your influence and impact professionally and personally, then you need to invest in building your storytelling skills.