Now, I’m not trying to be nosy or anything, but what’s your story? I don’t mean your life story although I’d love to learn more about you. What I mean is your story for today? What’s your future story? What’s your story that you tell yourself to motivate you? What’s your story today that you are telling to lead others? What’s your story?
In my last blog post, we discussed how confluence is a part of leadership as much as influence is leadership. We talked about how the word influence means the capacity or power of persons or things to be a compelling force on or produce effects on the actions, behavior, opinions, etc., of others. Influence comes from the Latin words meaning to flow into or upon. From the root meaning of the word, it actually means to exert an unseen power over people.
I proposed that before we can effectively influence others we must first confluence with them. (Yes, confluence is currently only a noun, but I’d like to verbify it.) Confluence means to flow together.
One of the questions that I was asked was…
“How do you do that?”
Since everything on the planet is encompassed in axiology, (and I love it!!) let’s take a quick axiological look at this and then give you a few key steps that you can take right away…
Axiology is the science of value and valuations and value judgments. It’s mathematical foundation tells us that there are 3 hierarchical dimensions of value. Here’s a quick chart of these dimensions as you’ll see them everywhere (if you look) and how they might relate to the fluences.
So, I see influence as being about a system and the power to be a compelling force in producing effects. (I’m not saying this is a bad thing, just less valuable than the others on the list. It’s ok if you disagree. I’d love to hear your comments below.)
The effects that you produce from the inflow will either lead to affluence (the flowing to or toward usually with respect to money, property, and other material goods) or to effluence (the flowing out or away). You see your influence can have positive or negative effects.
Have you ever had a micro-manager who flowed into your office and told you what to do and how to do it? What was the effect? I remember thinking “Does she not think I know how to do my job?” or “Doesn’t he have better things to do than interrupt me?” or “Maybe if you’d do your own job, I could actually do mine.” So, did the influence of the micro-manager produce affluence or effluence? In my case, it was effluence because rather than focus on my work, I was now focused on my emotions, his/her reactions, assumptions, innuendo, and other non-productive activities.
Have you ever had a coach who flowed into your world and told you how you might improve your performance? Gave you a few tips and techniques that you might want to try? And then left you to your own volition? When my basketball coach told me to keep my elbow in and under the ball when I shot so that my accuracy improved. That was very helpful and produced an affluence of points.
Stories allow us to achieve Confluence
Without stories our brains go wherever they want to go. Have you walked into a meeting that just jumped into the facts? Most meetings start off with the obligatory and brief niceties. Then, they proceed right into the data dump… metrics for this, numbers for that, status for this, issues with that… blah, blah, blah. A whole lot of information… but who really cares?
Telling facts and figures INFORMS. It involves only the rational and logical part of the mind.
Telling stories ENGAGES. It involves your entire body, your mind and your spirit.
The greatest value and confluence comes from touching hearts and souls.
Why you won’t tell stories…
I know, I know, I talk to leaders all over the country and I understand what your own mental stories are saying. You may be hearing things like:
- “I don’t have time to tell stories. People have jobs to do and they should just do them.”
- “I don’t have any good stories to tell. Besides no one has time to listen.”
- “If I spend time telling stories I’ll be setting a bad example. People need to be working on their tasks and getting stuff done not telling stories.”
- “I shouldn’t have to bring people together. They’re getting their paycheck. They took this job. They should do their work without any motivation from me.”
If human beings were just human doings with heads and hands and without hearts, those statements above might work for you. As you know, human beings are much more than that.
More with less –> More with MORE
In a world where getting “more with less” seems to be norm. Real leaders are learning how to get “more with more.” You see, the human being already has a heart. If you’d learn to use more of the human being, you’d be able to get “more with more.”
Stories will help you do that! Purposeful stories will inform their minds and more importantly will engage their hearts.
I know, I know, you may be saying “I don’t have any stories.”
That reminds me of a story… When you go into kindergarten and ask, “If you can sing, raise your hand.” Virtually all of the children’s hands will go up! When you go into middle school and ask “If you can sing, raise your hand.” A few hands will go up. By the time you get to college, VERY FEW hands will go up. Why is that? Do children become mute as they grow older? No, but they do put their own parameters and their own “stories” around the question. They don’t hear “if you can sing”, they hear “if you can sing WELL”.
If you have not spent the last couple of years living under a rock, you have stories that you can tell. They may be good stories or they may not. That’s not the point. The point is that stories ENGAGE people. Stories pull people in. Stories touch lives.
Stories help you with confluence so that you can then influence.
Telling purposeful stories is a skill that can be learned. It takes a little practice, but the dividends are immense. Here are a few tips:
- Define the purpose of the story. This purpose should be around a core value or values that you want your team to exhibit or experience. (It ideally should be aligned with your organization’s core values.) If you want people to be more accountable or responsible, more open, more giving, then make this the purpose of your story.
- Develop a routine for questioning your team members and others around these values and their experiences. Listen, don’t judge. It’s their story, there is nothing to fix! If your value is innovation, you may ask “What’s the most creative idea you’ve heard today?” If your value is around accountability, you may ask “Which of your strengths have you used to produce your results today?” Make it a habit to ask questions.
- Collect responses and turn them into stories. Don’t just try to do this in your head. Write them down or put them in a document. Create a folder (physical or virtual) and take time every day or every week to add to it. Some folks email their responses to themselves from their smart phone right after the conversation so that they don’t forget. Find a way to collect the potential information for your stories. Maybe you can use online tools like OneNote, Evernote or Dropbox.
- Start every meeting with a story. Yes, I mean EVERY meeting. It could be a team member story, a customer story, a management story. You could ask someone on the team to share a story. Just… Pick a story! What good is a meeting if bodies are present but no one’s head or heart is engaged? Most of the informing that you do will go in one ear and out the other… unless they are wholly and completely engaged.
I know that you may believe this is a LOT of work… that it takes too much time. Yes, at first, while you are practicing this skill, it may be a lot of work and it may take a lot of time. But a lot of truly worthwhile things in life take work and time.
One thing for sure is that if you learn to ENGAGE before you INFORM, if you learn to CONFLUENCE before you INFLUENCE, you will be touching hearts. If you learn to touch hearts, the heads and hands will follow. You will be truly leading human souls and not just managing human doings. Your influence will be leading to affluence.
“PowerPoint presentations may be powered by state-of-the-art technology. But reams of data rarely engage people to move them to action. Stories, on the other hand, are state-of-the-heart technology—they connect us to others.” – Peter Guber
SIDE NOTE: Some of your stories will fail to make the point. That’s OK. I’ve done that in front of thousands of people. Just keep moving forward. You’ll be making a point with the failed story that it’s OK to fail. 🙂 Keep trying. You’ll get better with practice.
Improve your connections and confluence one thousand-fold by learning to tell purposeful stories.