The Power Of Stories – How Do You Use Them?

Why do great leaders use stories to make their points?

We all like to hear a great story, but are you utilising stories in your speeches to ensure the audience understand your message quickly and efficiently?

Today I'm going to be looking at three books that make the most of this concept of telling a story to make a point. Check these out in today's blog!


Book #1 - The One Minute Manager - Ken Blanchard and Spencer Johnson

This book tells the story of a young man in search of an effective manager. Along the way, he comes across an "autocratic" manager, a "democratic" and finally an "effective" manager. The "effective" manager is interested in both getting results and the people, resulting in a win win, where both the management and people benefit from his style of the directorate.

The effective manager shares three secrets to his success and allows the young man to establish why these work.

Why does this story work? 

  • Relatable - we've all come across the three types of managers described in the book, but we haven't necessarily examined the fundamental differences between them.
  • Easy to understand - the language used is the end user-friendly. Although this is a business book, it could easily be read and understood by the vast majority of people.
  • Easy to implement - for those individuals who want to make changes, the actions recommended are simple to apply.

Book #2 - Rich Dad, Poor Dad - Robert Kiyosaki

This book tells the story of a young boy growing up in Hawaii. The book is split up into a series of parables, ostensibly based on Kiyosaki's life.

He tells of what life was like having two different Dad's when one of them is "poor", and one of them is "rich". While making it clear that no Dad was "better" than the other, he advocates the benefits of what he learns from his "Rich Dad" - financial education, financial independence and wealth building.

Why does this story work? 

  • Offers different perspectives - by contrasting the two Dad's beliefs and actions, the benefits of each are clear for the reader to understand.
  • Shows lessons learnt as a child - we all make mistakes as a child and want to have strong mentors in our life that can show us a better way to live. Robert Kiyosaki offers the reader a metaphorical guide and gives many examples of how he's benefited from this himself.
  • Offers the reader hope - even though he was born into an unprivileged family, he shows that it is possible to become wealthy from any starting point.

Book #3 - Outliers - Malcolm Gladwell

This book examines what it takes to achieve a high level of success in anything.

As part of this investigation, Malcolm considers the 10,000-hour rule as a key to making world class expertise in any skill. He examines this practice across a wide range of topics including ice hockey, music, business and wealth.

A fascinating story is at the heart of each lesson in this book, and no one had previously told them in this context.

Why do these stories work? 

  • Offers an insight into people's success - we all have different definitions of what success is, but we all want to be successful at something. This book offers insight on what it takes to be one of the world's most successful.
  • Makes a strong case for mentors & coaching - while dedicating 10,000 hours to a single skill might seem a little extreme, this wasn't the only important key lesson. The other aspect was that the best people practised for the 10,000 hours the "right" way. You can only do this when you know what the "right" way is. Mentors and coaches are an integral element of this.
  • Shows highly successful people to be human - people often judge people on their results and can assume that luck is a significant component of their success. While acknowledging that luck is an element of success, Malcolm demonstrates that there is a lot more to it than that and hard work is a large part of it.

How can you benefit from stories in your speeches?

John Kotter, a renowned expert on Leadership at Harvard Business School had the following to say when writing for Forbes in 2006:

"Over the years I have become convinced that we learn best–and change–from hearing stories that strike a chord within us...

Leaders who understand this and use this knowledge to help make their organizations great are the ones we admire and wish others would emulate. Those in leadership positions who fail to grasp or use the power of stories risk failure for their companies and for themselves."

John Kotter

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What Stories Do You Use In Your Business?

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Martin J O'Connor

In 2015, Martin was the District 17 Toastmasters Table Topics Champion and came third in 2014. He was in the District 17 final of the Humorous competition in 2015 and is in the District 17 final of the Evaluation competition in 2017. He is very proud to be a founding member of Competitive Speakers Perth Toastmasters club.