Sunday, August 29, 2010

Business Success through Storytelling

The universe is made of stories. Our lives are a series of stories woven together--our own stories and the stories of those around us.

Great leaders--religious, political or business--realize this and are good storytellers. Jesus spoke in parables. Krishna and Rama came to life through the stories they told.

In the business world, many successful top executives are very good storytellers. They entice us with their stories all the time, telling us how they started their businesses, what they stand for and where they are going.

Bill Gates continually told us of his dream of putting a personal computer on every desktop and in every home. That great story inspired Steve Ballmer--and probably others--to drop out of business school and join a small company in the far northwest corner of the U.S., even as Ballmer's mother, not having heard the story, wondered why anyone would ever need a computer.

Howard Schultz, chairman of Starbucks tells us the story of his trip to Milan and the passion for fresh, richly brewed espresso he discovered there and carried home with him.

Stories of ordinary people accomplishing the extraordinary inspire others to dig deep down and find the energy and passion to do the same. They help us--employees, customers, shareholders--derive meanings for everything a company does.

Stories are easy to tell and easy to remember. Therefore they're easy to spread. A leader can start a good story on its way and watch it take on a life of its own. As it does so, it creates a community. A CEO who has a great story and tells it has a much easier time reaching out to people, connecting to them and creating a sustainable community of them.

We live our lives by the stories we tell ourselves and tell others.

What stories are you telling to yourself, your team, and your customers?