How Stories Create a Sense of Urgency

How Stories Create a Sense of Urgency

By Vitiello Communications Group

Sitting in the meeting, Brad thought to himself, “I guess she thinks facts will convince me that we need to switch to this new system. Does she know how hard it’s going to be to make this massive change? Just add another task to my to-do list!”

At the podium, Brad’s manager, Lisa, looked away from her carefully prepared slides, packed with graphs of market analysis and industry data, and out into the audience.  She saw frustration on her team members’ faces. She hesitated, and then closed the lid of her laptop.  “We’ll get back to the facts and figures in a minute, but let me start over by telling you a story.”

Change initiatives fail, not because they weren’t necessary, well-planned or supported by sufficient information; instead, they fail because they lack an acknowledgment of human emotion. Leaders who want to drive transformational change must be able to make the business case come alive – putting facts into context, engaging the senses, and calling on people to aspire. They need to tell a compelling story that connects people to the “why” of change, and not only the “what.” Stories help people understand what’s at stake and what their role is in effecting the necessary change. The first step in gaining your team’s collaboration in driving change is to establish a shared sense of urgency to solve the problem together.

Here are five quick tips on how to use storytelling techniques to create a sense of urgency:

  1. Cast your employees as the hero in your story. Show how their skills and talents will allow them to overcome the obstacles to achieving change.
  2. Plot a clear beginning, middle, and end. Acknowledge the positive and negative aspects of where you are now, identify some of the obstacles on the way to the goal, and conclude with the vision of a brighter future once the change is enacted.
  3. Draw on both the burning platform (why the change is needed) and the shining beacon (the benefit of making the change). Identify the villain – the one you are fighting to vanquish. It might be the dark forces of a fickle consumer base or the threat of a disruptive product or process coming to market.
  4. Identify the villain – the one you are fighting to vanquish. It might be the dark forces of a fickle consumer base or the threat of a disruptive product or process coming to market.
  5. Introduce a friendly mentor who will guide you successfully on the journey toward your goal. This role can be filled by the project management office, a consultant or coach, or a new way of working that will make the change palatable and profitable.

Based on these five tips, what story do you think Lisa should tell her team?

If you need to initiate a change urgently – whether it is switching to a new system, learning how to be productive in an open floor plan, practicing daily safety skills, or any other workplace behavior – start with the story that appeals to your team on an emotional level. You’ll connect with their deepest values and inspire them to greatness, creating the sense of urgency required to drive successful change.

Not sure where to start? Give us a call at 732.238.6622, and we’ll connect you with one of our change communication specialists.

Subscribe to Speaking Of, our monthly e-newsletter for leaders who are passionate about communicating to drive results.

Your privacy is important to us. VTLO will never sell, rent or share your personal information with others. Read our privacy policy for more information.