How to Use the Power of Story to Influence Others

Are you having a hard time inspiring your team to be more productive?

Individuals may represent much of the accomplishment of ministries at your church, but the real work of ministry is often done through teams. Whether a staff team comprised of full and part-time employees or a volunteer team comprised of various degrees of dedicated members, teams are the backbone of church ministry. And yet, most leaders at one time or another are frustrated by the lack of progress of the team toward accomplishing their assigned task.

To inspire and encourage the teams you lead to get the job done, tell stories.

THE QUICK SUMMARY – The Orange Revolution, by Adrian Gostick and Chester Elton

The Orange Revolution is a groundbreaking guide to building high-performance teams. Research by the authors shows that breakthrough success is guided by a particular breed of high-performing team that generates its own momentum—an engaged group of colleagues in the trenches, working passionately together to pursue a shared vision. Their research also shows that only 20 percent of teams are working anywhere near this optimal capacity. How can your team become one of them?

The authors have determined a key set of characteristics displayed by members of breakthrough teams, and have identified a set of rules great teams live by, which generate a culture of positive teamwork and lead to extraordinary results.

The Orange Revolution provides a simple and powerful step-by-step guide to taking your team to the breakthrough level, igniting the passion and vision to bring about an Orange Revolution.

A SIMPLE SOLUTION

Authors Adrian Gostick and Chester Elton have created a framework for developing breakthrough teams called “The Orange Revolution.” The Orange Revolution is depicted as a journey to breakthrough result, a journey that places the relationships among team members as a critical component. As these relationships evolve over time, it’s only natural that momentum slows down and the productiveness of the team begins to wane

The people on your teams are overwhelmed with information, and in your attempt to help motivate them to move forward, you may be inadvertently contributing to the slowdown. Already confused and overloaded, they assume that your added request will only make thing worse.

Enter the story.

Stories are the most powerful delivery tool for information – more powerful and enduring than any other art form. In the land of complex reality, story is king. Story makes sense of chaos and gives people a plot. Stories can help people who are stuck become unstuck.

There are no guarantees that using story to motivate your team will come out the way you want. But story, on the average, works much better than telling your team “this is the way it’s going to be.”

Story is like a computer app you load into someone’s mind so they can play it using their own input. The best stories play over and over and create the outcomes that fit your goals and ensure that your team keeps moving forward.

Great leaders use story to express their passion and illustrate, illuminate, and inspire their team to greatness itself.

When you want to influence others, there is no tool more powerful than story.

Teams that are focused on wow results have a charming habit of telling stories that exemplify what they are trying to achieve.

Great teams create a narrative. As teams succeed, they tell their stories again and again. They are partly their history, but they also explain to others who they are and what they do.

Breakthrough teams tell stories frequently and with passion. It is a secret ingredient of their success. The power of their stories is in the specificity and vividness, which are the very elements that make them memorable. They get repeated – typically with the same enthusiasm in which they are told.

Stories are vital in helping individuals understand how world-class results are achieved and in making the possibility of doing so believable. Such tales have a way of perpetuating success. The listener retells the story, and more important, internalizes its message and becomes part of the story.

Adrian Gostick and Chester Elton, The Orange Revolution

A NEXT STEP

As you use stories with your teams, you will be using a mixture of credibility, evidence and data, and emotional appeal. You cannot persuade through logic alone, or even logic supported by your credibility. You must persuade your team through the use of emotional appeals.

Look back to a recent story you told your team. Categorize the story into the three areas mentioned above: credibility, logic, and emotional appeal. How does the ratio of emotional appeal stack up to the rest of the story? If it is not at least twice as great as the next component, you need to rethink your content.

The next time you want to encourage your team to be more productive, weave a personal story from your own background into your conversation. The ability to tell a personal story is an essential trait of authentic leadership – people who inspire uncommon effort. By inviting your team on a personal journey, they will want to join you in your success.

Excerpt taken from SUMS Remix 2-3, published November 2015


Part of a weekly series on 27gen, entitled Wednesday Weekly Reader

Regular daily reading of books is an important part of my life. It even extends to my vocation, where as Vision Room Curator for Auxano I am responsible for publishing SUMS Remix, a biweekly book “summary” for church leaders. I’m going to peruse back issues of both SUMS and SUMS Remix and publish excerpts each Wednesday.

I’ve Got the Power

The range of ways people exercise and respond to power can be complicated.

I'veGotthePower

Think of power in this case as the ability to exercise influence.

Power is not intrinsically good or bad. We ascribe meaning to power and make choices about how we will use it or react to its use by others. Ultimately, power is a responsibility, and it exists as a function of the individual, one’s followers, and the situation at hand.

Nicole Lipkin is a corporate psychologist who has spent her career diagnosing and resolving typical and troublesome leadership dilemmas. Her book, What Keeps Leaders Up at Night? examines the underlying psychology that plays a big role behind those dilemmas.

One of those dilemmas, for instance, is understanding why people don’t buy-in to your thoughts, ideas, or proposals.

It’s all about power.

7 Distinct Types of Power

  • Legitimate Power – arising from one’s title or position in the pecking order and how other perceive that title or position. Those with legitimate power can easily influence other because they already possess a position of power.
  • Coercive Power – using threat and force to influence others. This power comes from fear, and failure to comply will lead to punishment.
  • Expert Power – derived directly from a person’s skills or expertise or from perceived skills or expertise. Expert power is knowledge-based.
  • Informational Power – possessing needed or wanted information. People with high informational power wield influence because they control access.
  • Reward Power – motivating people to respond in order to win raises, promotions, and awards.
  • Referent Power – dependent on personal traits and values such as honesty, integrity, and trustworthiness. People with high referent power can highly influence anyone who admires and respects them.
  • Connection Power – creating influence by proxy. People employing this power build important coalitions with others.

These seven types of power generally fall into one of two categories: Formal Power (legitimate, coercive, and reward) and Informal Power (referent, expert, informational, and connection). As a leader, you may be use most, if not all, of these types of power during a typical day.

But when it comes to influencing people without creating potentially negative side effects, referent, expert, informational, and legitimate power seem to work best.

Coercive, connection, and reward power require more careful application because they rely on a higher degree of trust and risk and therefore can become easily manipulative.

You’ve got the power…

…don’t blow it.

inspired by What Keeps Leaders Up at Night, by Nicole Lipkin

What Keeps Leaders Up at Night

Communicate to Influence…

…write to inform.

Communication is about getting others to adopt your point of view, to help them understand why you’re excited (or sad, or optimistic or whatever else you are.) If all you want to do is create a file of facts and figures, then cancel the presentation and send in a report.

– Seth Godin

I’m headed to Atlanta GA today for the 2012 Worship Facilities Expo (WFX). I have been very fortunate and honored to have been a part of every WFX since it began in Nashville TN in 2005. Because WFX held two events in some years, this will be the 10th time I have made a presentation (or two – or three) at the event.

I would like to think I’ve come a long way in my communication style.

When I look back at that first presentation, I cringe. Not because of the topic or content – it was well received. I just remember it being a very dense verbal communication that was all one way – a classic data dump. Coupled with my rapid-fire delivery, (I was born in Nashville TN, but must have been vaccinated with a phonograph needle set at 78 rpm. Note – anyone under 30 reading this will have to check Wikipedia for the scoop on that) I’m surprised the audience remained upright.

But they did (I actually have proof – two of the participants that day were on the leadership team at Alliance Bible Fellowship, and we started a conversation that day that eventually led the church to pick me and my company (at the time) for a $5.6 million dollar, multi-phase construction project that is in its third phase at this writing). But I digress.

Our brains have two sides – an emotional right side and a logical left side. When you show up to speak to an audience, you can be sure they are showing up with both sides of their brains ready to be engaged. If you aren’t aware of the way you talk, the way you dress, your body language, and by the way, your content, you may be tuned out by the second slide of your PowerPoint or Keynote or Prezi.

You can wreck a communication process with lousy logic or unsupported facts, but you can’t complete it without emotion. Logic is not enough.

According to Seth Godin, a home run presentation is easy to describe: You put up a slide. It triggers an emotional reaction in the audience. They sit up and want to know what you’re going to say that fits with that image. Then, if you do it right, every time they think of what you said, they’ll see that image (and vice versa).

A presentation isn’t an obligation – it’s a privilege.

If you’re in Atlanta attending WFX, drop in on one of my presentations Wednesday 9/19 at 11 AM (The Servant Blueprint) in A313 or 3 PM (Selling Change) in A314.

As Andy Stanly says, I’d love the chance to challenge your mind in order to change your life.

Using a Trimeth Lab to Boost Your Influence

The chemical and pharmaceutical industries have given us drugs for everything under the sun. You might be surprised to learn, however, that there’s a drug that could make you more persuadable if you take it and make you more persuasive if you give it to others. Perhaps even more shocking is the fact that this drug is now widely available through “trimeth labs” that are popping up in neighborhoods everywhere.

Before we explore that trimeth lab, a quick explanation: I’m wrapping up a series of posts from a great book entitled “Yes! 50 Scientifically Proven Ways to be Persuasive” by Robert Cialdini, Noah Goldstein, and Steve Martin. The information above (and expanded below) is a sample of simple but remarkably effective strategies that will make you much more persuasive at work and in your personal life.

Now – back to that trimeth lab.

The drug, known in the chemistry community as 1, 3, 7-trimethylxanthin, is more commonly known as caffeine, and these “trimeth labs” are more commonly known as coffee shops. Be it Starbucks, McCafe, or your local favorite coffee-house, the beverage you get there is a potential tool of influence and persuasion. We all know that caffeine can make us feel more alert, but can it make us more persuasive?

To test coffee’s persuasive prowess, scientist Pearl Martin and her colleagues first asked all of their participants to drink a product resembling orange juice. Half of the research subjects had their drink spiked with caffeine – the approximate amount that you might find in two cups of espresso.

Shortly after drinking the juice, all participants read a series of messages containing very good arguments advocating a certain position on a controversial issue. Those who had consumed the caffeinated beverage before reading those arguments were 35 percent more favorably disposed toward that position than were those who drank the plain juice.

The researchers also tested the effect of caffeine when participants read messages containing weak arguments. The results showed that caffeine has little persuasive power under these circumstances.

Given a choice, the studies suggest that you should make presentations when people are most alert – shortly after they’ve had their morning coffee fix, and never right after lunch. If you can’t choose the time of day, having coffee or caffeinated tea or other drinks on hand should make your audience more receptive to your message. Be aware that it usually takes about forty minutes for the full effect of caffeine to kick in, so time your presentation well!

Remember, the research suggests that this strategy is effective only if your arguments are genuine, thoughtful, and well-reasoned. So pour yourself a cup of coffee and write, edit, and rewrite your next presentation till it is absolutely on point.

Then break out the coffee for your audience.

If you have enjoyed this post as an example of increasing your persuasion, check out the others in the series from Monday and Tuesday. I highly recommend the book as well. The stories and examples contained show that persuasion is not just an art, but has many elements of science to it as well.

The Motivating Process

All communication is selling. People buy on emotion and justify with fact.

– Bert Decker, You’ve Got to be Believed to be Heard

This week I’ve been recapping a section of Bert Decker’s great book on communication, “You’ve Got to Be Believed to Be Heard.” He has created the following chart that shows the path from information to influence.

The end result of the process displayed above (and described in blog posts herehere and here) is that your communication will move from information to influence. You will be able to more effectively persuade your listeners, not just by the power of your person, but by the power of your presentation as well.

As leaders, we often think that if we say words, people will get them. That is not necessarily true. They might get the words and our message if we are enthused and confident – but not if we’re nervous and we block our message by inappropriate behavioral habits.

In the matrix depicted above, your communications reach their maximum effectiveness when they are in the active and emotion quadrant. In Decker’s words, you have moved from merely providing information to a place where you are influencing the listener. You have created a climate for motivation.

John Maxwell has a famous definition of leadership: “Leadership is influence.”

If you believe that, then what are you doing today to make your communications move from information to influence?

From Information to Influence

Jack Ryan, the historian-CIA-politician hero from author Tom Clancy’s fiction writings of the 1990s is always good for a quote:

Next time Jack, write a #@$!! memo!

He muttered this to himself as he was being lowered in a raging storm from a helicopter to a submarine, on the way to averting WWIII. His research led to an astounding discovery, but it was his willingness in presenting the information first-hand that led to the quote above. It may make for good summertime reading and an action movie, but there is actually an instructive lesson in it for anyone who seeks to become a better communicator.

The written medium is a cognitive, linear, literal, and didactic process that’s great for transferring information.

Speaking is the medium of action and influence. In speaking, we create an experience where people get us and our message together – and the two are inseparable. In speaking, we use information to influence. The power is in the presentation.

The two previous paragraphs come from Bert Decker’s book “You’ve Got to Be Believed to Be Heard.” Whenever I’m working on major presentations I always find myself coming back for a refresher course.

This week I’ll be posting excerpts from this book along with observations for ChurchWorld.