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Increasing Performance - 5 August 2008

The American presidential candidates, Barack Obama and John McCain, have mastered the art of storytelling to compel millions of people to vote for them. Ultimately, the winner of this year’s presidential election will be the greatest storyteller – not in a fictional sense, but in a way that triggers emotions, arouses hope, and motivates people to believe and take action.

Similarly, look no further than the power of stories to improve your employees’ performance.

Stories of struggle: While serving in Vietnam, John McCain became a prisoner of war and was tortured for many years. Your personal stories of overcoming adversity will do more to motivate your staff than your successes. For example, be open about the times when you were personally under-performing and share what you did to turn it around.

Stories of inspiration: Barack Obama was the first black president of the Harvard Law Review, broke fundraising records during his campaign, and is the first ever African-American presidential candidate. Inspire your employees by talking about the impact their work has on clients' lives and the world in general, and tell the tales of heroes in your company.

Stories of connection: John McCain’s campaign bus has been aptly named “The Straight Talk Express”. He’s made a connection by explicitly stating that he’ll always tell it like it is. Likewise, your conversations need to be frequent and frank. Find common ground with your employees and use a bridge between each other’s stories to create a trusting bond.

Stories of vision: Barack Obama’s mantra of “change we can believe in” promises a new style of politics that has mobilised America’s youth and brought hundreds of thousands of supporters to his rallies. His vision of the future has stirred enthusiasm not seen in politics for decades. In your case, paint a picture with vibrancy and passion of what you aspire the future of your team to be like. Create commitment by excitement - not obligation.

We learn, we think, we change, we decide, and we evolve primarily by the stories that we hear and tell. Choose your stories carefully and you’ll find they’ll improve your employees’ performance more dramatically than a boring statistic ever would.

 

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