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The Story Factor:Secrets of Influence from the Art of Storytelling


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"To be a person is to have a story to tell."

- Isak Dinesen

This book initially caught my eye because I've always had a soft spot for a good tale... After all, I come from a great tradition of North Carolina mountain storytellers like my grandfather whose colorful yarns never fail to mesmerize. By the time you finish reading The Story Factor, you'll be brimming with ideas for sharing stories from your own life experience to build trust, influence and engage others. A must for authentic leaders!

As Annette explains in this highly readable book, "Efforts to articulate 'our values' often end up laminated onto a card, posted on the wall, or recounted mindlessly like fourth-graders reciting the Pledge of Allegience...We say we believe in these things, but until they are woven into the story of our daily lives they don't mean anything."

Here's an excerpt from The Story Factor : Secrets of Influence from the Art of Storytelling by Annette Simmons. All rights reserved.

Skip looked into the sea of suspicious stockholders and wondered what might convince them to follow his leadership. He was 35, looked 13 and was third generation rich. He could tell they assumed he would be an unholy disaster as a leader. He decided to tell them a story. "My first job was drawing the electrical engineering plans for a boat building company. The drawings had to be perfect because if the wires were not accurately placed before the fiberglass form was poured, a mistake might cost a million dollars, easy. At 25, I already had two masters' degrees. I had been on boats all my life and frankly, I found drawing these plans a bit ...mindless. One morning I got a call at home from a $6/hour worker asking me "are you sure this is right?" I was incensed. Of course I was sure - "just pour the damn thing." When his supervisor called me an hour later and woke me up again and asked "are you sure this is right?" I had even less patience. "I said I was sure an hour ago and I'm still sure."

"It was the phone call from the president of the company that finally got me out of bed and down to the site. If I had to hold these guys by the hand, so be it. I sought out the worker who had called me first. He sat looking at my plans with his head cocked to one side. With exaggerated patience I began to explain the drawing. But after a few words my voice got weaker and my head started to cock to the side as well. It seems that I had (being left-handed) transposed starboard and port so that the drawing was an exact mirror image of what it should have been. Thank God this $6/hour worker had caught my mistake before it was too late. The next day I found this box on my desk. The crew bought me a remedial pair of tennis shoes for future reference. Just in case I got mixed up again - a red left shoe for port, and a green right one for starboard. These shoes don't just help me remember port and starboard. They help me remember to listen even when I think I know what's going on." As he held up the shoebox with one red and one green shoe, there were smiles and smirks. The stockholders relaxed a bit. If this young upstart had already learned this lesson about arrogance, then he might have learned a few things about running companies, too.

Trust Me. People don't want more information. They are up to their eyeballs in information. They want faith - faith in you, your goals, your success, in the story you tell. It is faith that moves mountains, not facts. Facts do not give birth to faith. Faith needs a story to sustain it - a meaningful story that inspires belief in you and renews hope that your ideas, do indeed, offer what you promise. Genuine influence goes deeper than getting people to do what you want them to do. It means people pick up where you left off because they believe. Faith can overcome any obstacle, achieve any goal. Money, power, authority, political advantage, and brute force have all, at one time or another, been overcome by faith.

Story is your path to creating faith. Telling a meaningful story means inspiring your listeners -- co-workers, leaders, subordinates, family, or a bunch of strangers -- to reach the same conclusions you have reached and decide for themselves to believe what you say and do what you want them to do. People value their own conclusions more highly than yours. They will only have faith in a story that has become real for them personally. Once people make your story, their story, you have tapped into the powerful force of faith. Future influence will require very little follow-up energy from you and may even expand as people recall and re-tell your story to others.

Whether your story is told through your lifestyle or in words, the first criteria people require before they allow themselves be influenced by your story is, Can they trust you? The story above demonstrates that even a zillionaire can have trouble influencing others. If influence were simply a function of power or money, Skip would have it made. He has power and money. But there are times when being rich and powerful is actually a disadvantage. Is his story a form of manipulation? Possibly. If it were manipulation it would begin to unravel as soon as Skip stopped talking. When a manipulator isn't present to maintain his web of influence the web falls apart. Manipulation (getting people to believe a story that isn't quite true) demands constant energy to maintain the desired outcome and the ethics are bothersome. Frankly, manipulation is an inferior method of influence. There is a much more powerful source of influence available to anyone with experience as a human being - telling an authentically persuasive story.

Click to order The Story Factor : Secrets of Influence from the Art of Storytelling by Annette Simmons and learn to share your own story more powerfully.

Click here to read the most recent GreenLeaf Tool Review.

Take a look at previous Tool Shed reviews:

Raising the Bar: Integrity and Passion in Life and Business
(The Story of Clif Bar, Inc.)

Shackleton's Way -- Leadership Lessons From the Great Antarctic Explorer Book

The Power of Travel Book

The Creative Whack Pack Card Deck

The Nature of Leadership Book

The Leadership Challenge Planner Workbook

Everyday Creativity

Visit The GreenLeaf BookShelf
For a bibliography of my favorite books

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