As leaders, it’s our job to ensure that goals we set for our team are not just achievable, but also exciting, meaningful and understandable. In the same way that storytelling enhances employee engagement, it seems to me that success lies in making stuff more fun than ANYTHING else they could be spending their time doing, otherwise you risk losing their focus and desire.
Lessons from a teenage son
This really hit home for me last weekend when I went away with my youngest son on a bonding trip to Norfolk. The original idea was to spend time together, have fun and get to know each other better. We thought we’d go camping, but the goal of putting up a tent in the rain at 10pm didn’t sound exciting or fun, so we plumped for the glamping option of a hut instead. Despite our late arrival, and the (disconcerting to a teenager) surroundings of fields, fields and more fields, things started well. We had a shared giggle at the initial challenge of finding the right hut and then played a couple of convivial board games.
The true test of my leadership and engagement skills arrived on Saturday morning when we headed to the coast on our bikes. Destination reached, I felt we’d achieved an important goal of spending quality time together, but from this point the journey was clearly less exciting for my son, who insistently wanted to know, “Where are we going now?”, “How long will it take?”, “Why are we going this way?”.
It was clear I’d lost his focus when his mobile phone came out. The need for continuous stimulation was high, yet the surrounding natural beauty and diversity clearly wasn’t hitting the spot. More than once I explained that life was about the journey and not the destination, but this was met with a huff and puff. I was failing to tell a story which engaged him, the fun had gone, and we had lost sight of our shared goal.
Despite the mixed success of our trip, I will persevere.
Don’t give up
The fact is, storytelling isn’t a one-time thing, it’s a continuous, repetitive process. To maintain employee engagement and achieve ongoing success, we must tell our story over and over and over again, finding new and interesting ways to sustain each team member’s enthusiasm and drive.
But how do you do this without it becoming boring, or tailing off into background noise?
1. Find different ways to articulate and illustrate the story. Freshen up the delivery while the core message remains the same
2. Involve your team in the story so they can own it too
3. Keep checking back: is the message still clear, understandable and inspiring?
4. Whatever you do, make it fun
I’d love to know your best storytelling tips for keeping your shared goals alive and enhancing employee engagement, so tweet us @iTSLeadership.