Managers: How to use storytelling to boost your team’s motivation+results.

As a senior leader in a DC-based association,  I can personally attest to the value story-telling and great imagery can have in boosting people’s connection to their work and the company mission.

Storytelling in this case refers to literally telling stories, incidents- in the case of business, usually real, but sometimes fictional– to transmit an allegorical message effectively. Storytelling works because it boosts people’s connection to their day to day work and the larger goals of the company. This boosts productivity and results. Many employees have a hard time connecting their day to day with the larger mission. Stories can be the bridge that make that connection.

Here are three steps to improve your storytelling skills.

  • Identify the core of your message first: if you’re naturally not a storyteller it can be hard to identify a good way to start. Figure out what you’re trying to convey first (importance of caring about customer experience, for example). There needs to be a point to the story!
  • Use real examples: Most businesses have great stories of customer complaints and how they were solved. Most people have life lessons they’ve learned from past experiences. Mine that to craft your story messaging.
  • Add detail and color: What makes stories interesting aren’t just literally going from point A (the issue) to point B (the resolution). It’s about the little asides and details (the age of a protagonist, where s/he lived, etc) that makes the story pop.

 

Need more storytelling ideas or approaches? Contact me here.

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Aside

 

  • You are not your employees’ friend. Be friendly and supportive but remain an authority.
  • Never ask for more from them than you’re willing to do or give yourself. Always show that you’re expecting more of yourself than them.
  • Understand and use each individual’s personal motivation/driver to enhance his/her performance: For some it’s money. For others it’s promotion opportunities or being seen an important. For others it’s a growth opportunity in a field of future interest. Once you know what motivates each person, you can tailor what you offer to get the best out of them.

3 tips to write persuasive work emails

Most of what you do at work is conveyed through some form of written or verbal communication. Today I wanted to tackle how you can  improve your email writing skills. Here are three easy tips you can use today.

  1. Remove all types of  softener words, i.e. these words diminish the strength of your words and make you seem  tentative or weak. Softener words include “just,” “a bit,” “I think,” “maybe”  or “perhaps.” This is an easy tip that EVERYBODY could do tomorrow.
    • Weak sentence:  I think that if we did just a little bit more to increase sales, we’d see revenue growth.
    • Stronger sentence:  To boost revenue growth, we must increase sales.
  1. Use more active sentences versus passive:
  • Weak sentence: The project was going to be kicked off next week, but got delayed.
  • Stronger:  I’m postponing the project kickoff.
  1. All your sentences must serve to fulfill a clear call to action: Identify what you want the audience to do. Then ensure that every sentence you write compels them to do that, whether it’s “respond by date X” or “click here to complete the process.” Any sentence that doesn’t drive to that action or wouldn’t  convince someone to complete that action is a wasted sentence.

I’m not including the most obvious tip– know your audience. Depending on what you know about who you’re sending the email to, you’ll adjust how much info you provide and how you structure your feedback or requests.

How to take time off

When I started my first job nearly a decade ago, I thought that the best way to get things done at work was to plough right through tasks and keep going until the work was done. After all, if it had worked in college, it would work in the real world, right?

It took me years to realize that this approach was the fast track to burnout. When you’re in college, you have defined end points, be they mid-term breaks, semester breaks, or of course the end of the program. But work doesn’t work that way; If you kept going till the work was done, you’d never stop! There are always special projects to complete and must-hit goals or deadlines to meet. But that doesn’t mean that you can’t stop or take a clear break.

At my current employer, I’ve been lucky to benefit from both our generous leave and sabbatical policies. Our leave policy allows us to take up to fifteen days off in the first two years, and unlimited leave after that. Our sabbatical policy allows those who complete five years at the company to take five weeks off. I’ve used both these policies to rest, recharge and come back raring to go.

No matter what stage of your career you’re in, you need to set up pre-defined breaks and rest. The rest helps in a variety of ways:

  • Giving you new perspective and a fresh eye to catch errors you may have made at the job.
  • Putting you in a better mood, which probably makes you a better colleague!
  • Reminding you to be grateful for the things you do at work—being away from it gives you appreciation for what you have.

Here are some tips for planning your leave:

  1. Start planning early: At the start of the year, look at your upcoming year and identify existing holidays that you can piggy-back on to take a longer break. This could include Presidents’ Day, Memorial Day, Labor Day, etc.
  2. Use your existing break to plan your next one: Nothing makes you more eager to plan your next break like enjoying your current one.
  3. When you take time off, let everyone know that the only way they can reach you is via phone/text: this limits the desire to check your email all the time to keep up with work. People will call/text only if they have to versus email, which we all use much more casually.

As the new year approaches, make a resolution to take more time off. It doesn’t just benefit you personally; It will make you a better employee.

I wrote  a version of this post here, a few years ago. I wanted to reshare an updated version, above.