Two leaders had a critical message to communicate during a team meeting. One brought slides with robust data to show why a major shift in strategy was required. The other told a story about a conversation she had recently had with a client.
The first speaker reached about 25% of his audience. But the other 75% were unmoved by the data presentation, unsure of its relevance. After the second speaker concluded, there was a buzz in the room. Attendees began to ask questions. When they left the meeting, each had jotted down action items to complete to assess the impact of change on their areas of responsibility. In later team meetings, attendees referred back to the "lesson" of the story told by the leader. That message continued to drive change over the course of the team initiative.
Getting the Brain's Attention
Neuroscience research teaches us that the reason why so much of what we communicate in the workplace is never heard and acted upon is because we do not know how to get the brain's attention. The human brain can hold about 7 pieces of information in working memory at a time. The brains of those with whom we are communicating are already "full", actively engaged with other priorities. How can we present our information with such power that meeting attendees will "open up a slot" for us?
Principle:Everybody loves a story.
1. Think back on a time when a leader motivated a team or organization to make a major shift in direction. What did the leader do to engage others?
2. Reflect back on some of your favorite workplace stories. How have those stories shaped your attitudes and priorities?
3. Consider an upcoming meeting in which you play a role. How can you use a story to engage your audience?