So you want to change the world, don’t you?
Get ready to tell a story then. A story of transformation so enthralling and inviting that people can’t help themselves but want to be part of your story.
People’s minds and hearts are hungry for stories. We loved them as kids, listening to our parent’s voice reading us fairy tales and adventures from our favorite books as we were dosing off to sleep. Remember that?
A story opens doors and lets magic and understanding in.
Now we watch 18-minute videos of storytellers sharing ideas worth spreading. We go to conferences to hear presenters share their story of success, of struggle, of change, and of how you can be part of their story.
Whether you want to inspire communities to come together and tackle climate change. Whether you need to rally the troops and get a whole company onboard with a cultural change or whether you want to convince your spouse to skydive with you, your success of leading someone in the direction of the change you’re after is determined by the story that you tell.
If you are the one after a change that involves others, any change, then it’s up to you to lead others to embrace a story of transformation that leads to your desired change.
How to tell a good story then? Start by asking yourself some questions.
What is it for?
What is the change you’re after about? What is it for?
Envision a powerful and compelling world or goal for you and others to live up to.
Keep clarifying what this goal is until you know you nailed the answer. Know what the change is you want to see in the world and why you want it.
Who is it for?
Who is involved in this change? Your team? Friends? Family? A certain demographic?
Get very specific about the persona that is involved in you achieving your vision.
Step into their shoes and ask yourself what stories they are telling themselves about the world. What problem are you solving for them?
If you want them to change you need first to understand where they are at. How they tick and think. Use empathy and keep asking questions.
If you need to influence a change you want to see in your company ask yourself a question like; who has the power to make decisions? Who else? Who are the people that say yes? Who are the ones that say no?
What is the decision-making process in your organisation?
What stories are all these people telling themselves? Find out!
Enrol people in the creation of your story
People support what they help create.
Engage with people early and skilfully. Share your ideas with people you trust and ask them for their reflections. Let them participate in your world and let them add to it.
People love to help and contribute if given the chance, therefore, involve people.
Solicit feedback and go through various cycles of evaluation and refinement.
I consider asking for help an act of generosity as it gives others the opportunity to share two of the most precious things they have, their time, and their life’s experience.
As you ask out of generosity, and they give out of generosity, the foundation for a positive exchange of transformation has been set. A story is unfolding.
Embody the message
Change is not easy and people’s initial response tends to be one of resistance. Hence you need to be able to stand for your vision and invoke a sense of trust and integrity.
Gandhi is often quoted as having said: “We must be the change we want to see in the world.”
In fact, that quote is a paraphrase of something more elaborate that Gandhi has written:
“We but mirror the world. All the tendencies present in the outer world are to be found in the world of our body. If we could change ourselves, the tendencies in the world would also change. As a man changes his own nature, so does the attitude of the world change towards him. This is the divine mystery supreme. A wonderful thing it is and the source of our happiness. We need not wait to see what others do.”
It is a quote that I dearly love and one that also reminds of a quote from Anne Frank:
“How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world.”
Both quotes indicate that it is possible to improve the world, and it starts with us. Because we have much more control over changing ourselves than changing the world directly.
Specifically, in Gandhi’s quote, the implication is that by depending on how we perceive life, how we think, how we speak and how we conduct ourselves the outside world will reflect our inner world. Hence, take care of our inner world. In a business perspective, it implies that any desired change needs to be embodied by the people involved for it to take shape.
For example, let’s explore cultural change. Often suggested or imposed by management yet not always embodied. For real change to take place around them leaders need to embody the cultural changes they want to see.
This is where congruency, consistency, and integrity play such a big role in how we express ourselves and how we align ourselves with what we would like to create as company’s culture and processes.
How we show up is part of the story we tell.
Place the story
Once you arrive at this stage you know and own your story. You know what to say and whom to say it to.
As you live and breathe this story it has become alive and it flows depending on circumstances, context, and the people you’re with.
Now it comes down to delivery, learning how to place the story.
Timing and skill are everything and this take practice. Learn to tell your stories and learn to place them.
Remember, a story doesn’t belong to the one who tells it, it belongs to the one who receives it.
This is where your empathic skill comes in. Don’t shove your truth down people’s throats.
Instead, consider the following:
There was once a poor, ragged, old woman who went from house to house looking for alms. As she did so everyone closed the door in her face and turned her away.
One day a finely dressed young man arrived in town on a beautiful horse. People greeted him with joyful enthusiasm and welcomed him heartily giving food and gifts. He saw the old woman and beckoned to her. ‘Ride with me,’ he whispered, ‘I will wrap you in my cloak.’
The old woman’s name was Truth and the young man’s name Story. From then on, when they rode together and when Truth was wrapped in the cloak of Story, she was no longer turned away and that is how it still is today.