People love a good story

People love a good story

Leading With Nice is pleased to present this guest post by Mark Miller, author of The Secret: what great leaders know and do. In the tenth anniversary edition of The Secret, Miller reminds readers of a seemingly contradictory concept: to lead is to serve.

As I mentioned in a previous post entitled Why Story Matters, I recently attended the Story Seminar conducted by the legendary Robert McKee. It was fascinating and grueling – Robert taught for 32 hours over a four-day period!

Since I have returned from the event, I’ve gone through my notes several times. I’ve been attempting to sort through pages and pages of amazing content to identify a few ideas that will help leaders be more effective storytellers.

As you craft your next presentation, be sure your stories include:

A hero people will care about – People want to know the hero. What is she like? Why should I care? Can I relate? Can I see some of myself in this person? Do they possess qualities or attributes I admire? In a well-told story, we want the hero to prevail!

An inciting incident – Something must start the story. It can be a big event or a small one – an individual decision or a tsunami. Both count, as long as the incident serves as the catalytic event to launch the story.

A quest – The hero must want something of value – consciously or subconsciously. The story reflects the journey towards the goal. If there’s no goal or object of desire, there’s no story.

Obstacles & conflict – Stories advance through conflict. If the journey is easy, the audience will not be engaged. Every story moves forward and retreats in the face of conflict.

Hard choices – Stories driven by circumstance or coincidence do not inspire. Our hero must make choices. Over the course of the story, she may make many of them. Each one should be more challenging and costly than the previous ones. The ultimate choice the hero must make is the moment of climax in the story.

Resolution – All stories don’t have happy endings, but all stories have endings. Sometimes, the most powerful lessons can be learned when the hero fails. If the choices made are the wrong ones, or the hero is not strong enough to overcome the conflict, there will still be lessons to be learned.

Here’s my abbreviated version of a story I heard from the CEO of a hotel company that uses the elements I just described.

Manuel was a first generation immigrant. He worked two jobs to support himself and to send money home to his family in Guatemala. He didn’t mind the hard work; he said he was born to serve people. (The Hero)  

One day, he found a guest had checked out of the hotel and left her laptop computer in the hotel room. (The Inciting Incident)

Manuel knew he had to get the laptop back to the customer. (The Quest)

He discovered from the concierge desk that Ms. Jones was en route to Hawaii for a sales meeting. She was supposed to deliver the keynote address the next day. (Obstacles – both time and distance)

Manuel knew what he had to do. He told his co-worker he was headed to the airport – he was flying to Hawaii. He didn’t trust the airline to deliver the laptop safely and on time. (Hard choice)

When he arrived in Maui, Ms. Jones was delighted to see him. She said she’d not only be a customer for life, she would tell the world about Manuel’s heart and commitment to serve his customers. He then boarded the next flight and returned home. (Resolution)

Now, you try it! Determine an important idea you want to communicate to your organization. Use these same elements to create a compelling story that reinforces your message. I’d love to hear how it goes!

Mark MillerMark Miller, Vice President of Organizational Effectiveness for Chick-fil-A, believes that leadership is not something that’s exclusive; within the grasp of an elite few, but beyond the reach of everyone else.  In the tenth anniversary edition of The Secret, Miller reminds readers of a seemingly contradictory concept: to lead is to serve. With more than 600,000 books in print, Mark has been surprised by the response and delighted to serve leaders through his writing.

The 10th anniversary edition of The Secret will be released September 2, 2014.

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