Do you want a simple way to increase the bonds of trust between you and your direct reports? It all starts with “Once upon a time.” Stories are a powerful tool to communicate, and one of the best ways to use them is to convey information about yourself. A well positioned story can help those around you, see who you are, what you value, and what kind of person you are. Instead of telling people you value loyalty, tell a story from your life that demonstrates this. Instead of telling your staff that fairness is a high priority, tell them a story from your life where they can realize this themselves. A boss can tell her staff that she values integrity, but when she tells the story about the time a major client wanted her to fudge some numbers and how she refused, even though it meant losing the contract, integrity becomes a picture and no longer just a word.
Stories also speed up time. As your staff learn pieces of your history, they begin to feel like they know you more, or have known you longer. Whether we feel we know someone or not is a key piece in building trust. Stories also have Ninja-like powers, sneaking into our brains and forming pictures and meanings that stick with us for a long time. Stories also arouse emotions, that, when paired with a thought or idea, form powerful new beliefs. Stories are especially valuable in building trust when relationships are new. If you have recently taken over a new team, then regular story telling should be part of your plan. Not only will stories make you more interesting, but if they are purposeful and pointed, they can speed up the trust process. Here are a few tips.
1. Figure out what you most want your staff to know about you. What are the things you value most? Is it honesty, work ethic, fairness, loyalty, high standards, determination etc?
2. Each week find a story from your past that demonstrates one of these values that you can share with team members either at a team meeting or in passing conversation. Keep in mind that these stories don’t always have to cast you as the hero. Telling a story about how you once compromised your integrity and the consequences you paid for it, can also serve as a powerful portrait from your life.
3. Keep in mind that these stories are not lessons you are trying to teach people like one of Aesop’s Fables. The goal of these stories is for people to get to know you. When you tell a story that shows how important personal example is to you as a leader, your people make subconscious mental notes, “The boss is someone who always strives to set an example.” Because it was communicated in story form, it sticks with people and changes the way they feel about you.
4. Make it natural. Be careful not to force stories on your people. Find natural times where you can insert them.Whenever you are teaching people in a team setting, inserting stories can usually be done with ease.
5. Make it true. Never make up a story about yourself that is not true. Remember, our good and not so good moments can serve to build the bonds of trust.
A large part of trust is the quality of our character. When we tell stories it is a way for people to see what we are like, even if they are just meeting us. Don’t underestimate the power of some well places stories about your life.