Use your time wisely before a captive audience. Here’s how to keep them listening.
Releasing my foot from the non-existent brake pedal on the passenger side of the car, I turned and smiled at my 15-year-old who had just pulled the car into the garage.
“Four hours to go!” he exclaimed.
He was right. Only four hours of the 50 hours of required practice driving remained. Then he could take his driver’s test.
A couple of months ago, we shared a 90-minute drive to his baseball game. Since he was the driver, his usual “pre-game” headphones were off. This was when I realized driving practice was also one-on-one time with my sometimes evasive teenager. Seeing this opportunity, I started in with the stories about him as a young boy, the day he was born, how I met his father and anything else I could slip-in. His face became attentive as he listened. Then he actually cracked a smile and laughed a few times.
Stories are a great way to build culture – and there are times where telling your captive audience a story is the perfect use of your time together.
Know When You Have a Captive Audience
As a leader, you often get an opportunity to address groups of people. Those moments are good times to share a story that emphasizes your point.
Other opportunities for stories are moments that aren’t scheduled but just happen. I worked with an executive who was a master at this. If a meeting ended early or its start was delayed, he would use those moments to share a story with everyone gathered in the room. His stories were personal, his stories demonstrated what was important to him, and his stories were always entertaining.
Choose to Make an Impression
When you first meet someone, they are curious about you. It is a great time to tell your stories.
As a leader, when someone joins your organization, it’s the same way – their impressions are being formed. Make a point to share stories with them early-on that help them understand you and their new company.
Call them up to check-in on them and tell a story, or invite them to lunch and tell a story or just stop by their desk and tell a story. Get comfortable using stories to communicate and get ready for some smiles and laughs.
Prepare Stories for Those Moments
I love stories. You can get to know someone from their stories. I prefer to listen to stories rather than to tell them.
At a company conference a couple of years ago, Kindra Hall shared with us her art of storytelling. While I knew the importance of shaping the story for the message I was trying to send, what I learned from Kindra was that when you anchor a story with an emotional connection people are more likely to remember it.
Since then, I’ve been working on my stories – both creating them and telling them. (Yes, for me, it’s work.)
As a leader, I recommend you do this work too. Have a couple of stories about your past that let people know what’s important to you. Have a couple of stories about your organization that are easy (and fun) for your employees to remember and repeat.
Emphasize your Shared History
It’s fun to hear yourself in a story. My sons like the stories that include them. In fact, those are the only stories they ask me to repeat.
As a leader, take time to reflect on key events and turn them into stories that include your current team. Done right, your story will emphasize the outcome of an effort and some of the emotions that were experienced. It will also give those in the story a way to recall their shared accomplishments and memorialize their connection to each other.
As my required practice driving time ends with my son, I look forward to reflecting on it and deciding what will be the story I share from our 50 hours of car time together while “driving.”