Kindra Hall is a master storyteller. She wants you to master the power of storytelling, too, so you can build an incredible team.
Several years ago, I was at an event being hosted by my former organization. It was our annual flagship event, and each year we hosted different authors, speakers, and business experts. I always enjoy getting to hear people speak who have expertise in an arena I don’t know much about.
On this particular day, a speaker took the stage and almost immediately blew me away. She was wearing a bright purple dress and beautiful heels and unbelievably powerful presence. I was transfixed. And I couldn’t wait to get the opportunity to meet her.
Her name is Kindra Hall. She’s the best-selling author of two incredible books, Stories That Stick: How Storytelling Can Captivate Customers, Influence Audiences, and Transform Your Business and the just-released Choose Your Story, Change Your Life: Silence Your Inner Critic and Rewrite Your Life from the Inside Out.
But more than being an author and a dynamic, engaging speaker, Kindra is a master storyteller who specializes in teaching businesses and global brands how to better communicate their value and individuality.
What Kindra really wants people to understand is that everyone in their own way can become an incredible storyteller. I had the pleasure of sitting down with her recently to discuss her new book, and what she wishes everyone knew about storytelling. Here are some highlights!
Don’t do it on a whim — great storytelling takes preparation
One of the most critical pieces of telling engaging stories that resonates with your audience is preparation. A lot of tend to look at storytelling as some sort of improvisational act, but when you’re using storytelling in critical interactions — sales presentations, team updates, or marketing, for example — you should never do it on a whim.
Great storytelling in these moments is done with intentionality. The story isn’t there to fill time. Story has a purpose. Your stories are there to create an emotional connection between your audience and whatever core idea you’re trying to communicate.
Practice your storytelling. Write your stories down. Learn how to say them aloud. Work on your timing. Every word counts.
Make this process an integral part of your team’s training so that they understand that great storytelling is a part of everything your organization does. There’s a story behind your business’s mission, its vision, and its values. Teach them those connections and how their roles are the connective tissue to that story.
Everyone — yes, everyone — can learn to be a storyteller
As it happens with a lot of skills considered to be creative in nature, you’re going to have people telling you that they’re not good storytellers. Heck, this might even describe you. The thing you need to understand is that storytelling is applicable to pretty much everything that you do, and any role you might have in an organization. You just have to look for them.
If you’re a person who works in finance or in sales, you’re really trying to find the emotional undertones of what those roles do. What are the results that come with your organization’s financial health? What difference is made when your sales team hits their targets or is able to form a relationship with a new client?
But don’t stop there. What are the things that have happened in your life or in the lives of others that contain parallels to those outcomes? How can you connect the dots between these stories and your business?
These connections are all around you, but you need to look for them, you need to write them down, and you need to practice them so they feel organic, sincere, and tailored to the appropriate audience.
Not having stories worked out is different than not being a good storyteller
This goes back to being willing to put in the work. There are things we’re all just naturally better at than others. If you or your team members are telling a story that just doesn’t land with the audience, then it doesn’t mean that you’re not a good storyteller. It more likely means that the story hasn’t been fully fleshed out.
Having the pleasure of seeing a master storyteller like Kindra speak has taught me that even when you’re telling a story you’ve told over and over again, you can make it sound fresh and inspired.
Don’t get too comfortable with your storytelling. What I mean is, when you or your team is pitching, presenting, on a sales call — whatever the case might be — you need to know enough about your audience so that you can adapt certain details of your story.
Your goal is to connect. And while the larger, overarching beats of your story can stay the same, you have the opportunity to adjust certain details to your audience. Doing this critical work will help you and your team stay nimble in the face of different audiences.
Don’t let the stories you tell yourself limit your potential
Most everyone in their lives has had that voice in their head that tells them they’re not good enough, smart enough, or capable of achieving great things.
This is a form of storytelling, but it’s one that is detrimental to you achieving your personal, professional, and financial goals. In order to overcome these limiting stories, we need to reflect on where these stories come from, and do the work in creating new stories.
At Cardone Ventures, we place such an emphasis on goal achievement, because we’ve seen so many people, both our clients and our team members, achieve great things because they finally have the space to discuss their goals and put them into an actionable framework.
If you’re a team leader, then this is your opportunity to help your team and everyone you serve to write new stories, stories where they can see and achieve what’s possible.
Mastering your storytelling will make you more compassionate
Getting more in touch with your own storytelling, and getting an understanding of where those limiting stories come from helps you become more empathetic and compassionate for other people.
These stories that we tell ourselves, good and bad, are often universal experiences. When you’re able to share your stories with others, you’re creating an intense emotional bond because you’re being brave enough to show vulnerability, self-reflection, moments of failure and moments of triumph.
People really connect with these sorts of stories. They make people feel like they’re not alone. They’ll very likely feel safe in sharing their stories with you. You’ve bonded. And now if you want to implement new processes in your organization or if you’re working toward closing a deal, these negotiations are being built on a much more solid foundation.
Your stories are what people are going to remember
Of course, there are a lot of people with whom you’ll be speaking with that are interested in the data. There are all sorts of listeners and learners out there. But one of the fascinating things that Kindra has learned through her work and that I’ve seen through my own, is that those personal moments, those moments that illustrate snapshots of our lives are the ones that end up imprinted on people’s memories.
This is especially true for those of us who are leaders of teams. There’s always a bit of separation between the leaders and their team members. It’s by design. But it can also create difficulty. If you’re not careful, and if you’re not mindful of what’s happening in your team, that separation can very quickly become an “us vs. them” mentality, which can be very, very difficult to come back from. This is where great storytelling comes in.
Using the power of storytelling, whether it’s relating to them those moments where you were in a similar place in your career or in appropriate aspects of your personal life, can create deeper connections with your team members, humanize you, and show every one of your reports that you achievements are things that they can also aspire to. Providing them professional challenges and opportunities will, too, but your stories will paint a much broader picture of who you are.
Sharing stories can help create great teams
We’ve already mentioned the concepts of compassion and empathy and how storytelling can bring these ideas to life, and this is also true when it comes to how it can be used within your team.
We can all be really focused on our own to-do lists, our own priorities, and our own ambitions, but when it comes to team dynamics, focusing solely on the self can be detrimental to your progress.
Using storytelling in team trainings, in using it as a collaborative tool for upcoming pitches or new sales techniques will help your team members feel compassion and empathy for one another, and it will help them to create new stories together, helping them to bond and see that our individual goals are designed to support our team goals, which in turn will help us achieve the overarching organizational goals. In this sense, we’re all contributing to the same story!
Storytelling stretches you — it takes fearlessness
If I’ve learned anything from Kindra and from my own experience in using storytelling in a professional setting, it’s that it’s not easy, but it’s well worth the effort.
We don’t often think about our work in terms of storytelling. We have KPIs and goals and presentations and reports that we’re responsible for, and our professional mind will remove the concept of storytelling from those equations, placing the concept in a more personal realm.
We’re all doing ourselves a disservice by making this separation. We’re all human. We all have stories that we can share, or relate to, or be inspired and motivated by. Sometimes, we’re faced with stretch goals or new initiatives that seem impossible to achieve, and yet with the right perspective and support, those same goals that once seemed impossible are long in the rear view, and we have all new achievements that we’re working towards.
Storytelling, great storytelling, can absolutely change your life. What story do you want to tell?
Interested in learning more about the power of storytelling? Check out Kindra’s books! Want to learn how you can use storytelling and other skills to transform your direct reports into a high-performing team? You need TeamWork! And don’t forget that you can download my Alignment Guide right here. I want this year to be your best one yet. Take the first steps in making that possible with these great resources.