The power of the story – it’s not just for votes


Love it or loathe it, over the next four weeks, the general election coverage will be nigh on impossible to avoid.  So if you can’t beat it, then benefit from it – listen and learn!

To be successful, the case for change needs to win hearts and minds.  And one vital tool in your box of change management tricks is to tell a convincing – and honest – story. One that reaches out to your audience, touches them and spurs them to action.  If you think about it, you will recall lots of story-telling snippets in the campaigning to date. David Cameron talking about his own experience of the NHS with his son Ivan? Ed Milliband speaking about his father’s experience as an immigrant to Britain?  Remember now?

But it’s not just for politics. The art of successful transformational change needs mastery of the art of storytelling too.

Marshall Ganz, lecturer in public policy at Harvard University describes public narrative as comprising three elements: a story of self, a story of us, and a story of now.  “A story of self communicates who I am – my values, my experience, why I do what I do. A story of us communicates who we are – our shared values, our shared experience, and why we do what we do. And a story of now transforms the present into a moment of challenge, hope, and choice”.   All these components are key to getting your message across in a way that connects with your audience and spurs them to action.

Leading Large Scale Change is about leading transformation. But leadership is not just about getting people to change. It’s about getting people to want to change; inspiring people to become champions of the change. That’s what we need to do as transformational leaders.

Take a few moments to think about what you are trying to change. Could you apply these principles? Could applying these principles make you more effective as a change leader?

We need to think about telling stories.  And make them follow the rules for successful public narrative – the story of self, us and now.  I’ll end with the classic example of a master storyteller (not least by being coached by the aforementioned Ganz).  For those who’ve not seen it before, or those who want to see it again, take a few minutes out to listen to Barack Obama’s keynote speech at the Democratic National Convention in Boston in 2004. It was heralded as the speech that made him the president.

Perhaps we won’t see such a great example of public narrative in our general election campaign, but keep an ear out next time you turn on the radio or switch on the TV. And as I say, listen and learn. If nothing else, it may make the endless election coverage that bit more interesting.

If you would like some help telling your story to help make your change happen, contact us at Kayhill Consulting.