Monday, February 8, 2010

Leading by a Tale: How To Put Storytelling To Work In Your Salon or Spa

Of all the leadership tools I’ve brought to my clients, the one that was easiest to learn, as well as the most transformative, was storytelling. It’s also the most fun! With this skill you can inspire your people to act in unfamiliar ways as they navigate the transformation you require.


The purpose of any story is to establish trust between you and the listener. Your teams wants to trust your abilities, and believe in your plan. They want to make the business “happen,” as much as you do. That takes immense trust. Gary Morris, CMO of Marketing Advocate, in Centerville, MA said it best: “Only authentic trust accrues into a predisposition to try anything, whether it’s a new product or a new idea.”


The most important story you’ll tell is the Vision story. A vision story takes your listeners from where they are now to where they need to be, with comfort and trust that you truly see and feel your vision.

The Vision Story takes some courage, says Annette Simmons in her book, ‘The Story Factor.’ Its purpose is to “shrink today’s frustration in light of the promise of tomorrow.” The process for change and perspective should be modeled in the story, as in the bricklayer’s parable. All three construction workers are doing the same job, but when asked, one says, ‘I’m laying bricks.’ The second says, ‘I’m building a wall.’ And the third says, ‘I’m building a cathedral.” Your focal point has to include affirmation of the process in all three jobs, while guiding their thinking and activities toward the vision of the completed cathedral.


Empowering the listener to visualize the needed transformation, and then to act on it, can be achieved by exposing your own motivation toward the change. At what moment did you know things had to change? Frame that experience as an obstacle for which you have discovered a solution. What if the solution works? Paint for the listener how things will look once the solution is realized. Make it subjective, from the fountain of passion that brought you to this business in the first place. Lead the listener into the future with a vaguely detailed strategy of how victory over such road blocks will champion any innovations already realized, that progress is in the process of evolution, as a team.

Steve Denning, author of ‘Squirrel Inc.’ knows from his experience at World Bank that “people are more likely to overcome uncertainty about change if they are shown what to aim for rather than what to avoid.” By making your story overwhelmingly positive, with the problem right up in the foreground, you’re presenting yourself as a protagonist in the story.


You have enormous potential to change the minds of your followers - that’s the business you are business truly in! The secret is to learn this method as a way to support the rational analysis that is ever present. Lean on your human intuition born millions of years ago in caves, gathered around the camp fire recanting the days adventures. We’re all hunters and gatherers deep down.

Your followers will rise with abundant energy, mirroring your own, prepared to retell your story whenever they encounter an associate who needs a boost. With storytelling in your tool bag, you’ll now be able to harness your own imagination, and tether it to your company’s evolution—onward and upward!

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