When was the last time you were taught something to – or worse – preached something to? How did it feel?

Here is a story about something that happened a few years back at one of my clients.

“The New Rules”

A couple years back, I was leading change management for a Higher Education institution. One day, all department consultants and employees were called to attend a presentation regarding new policies and processes around accessibility.

For change management, this meant designing communications and training with people of different abilities in mind, an important lesson for us all.

The 2 hour long meeting presented the “new rules.” Things like colors that should and shouldn’t be used; modalities that should and shouldn’t be utilized; support and training capabilities to implement, etc.

Unfortunately, most of the audience were on their social media, only pretending to pay attention and take notes.

The question is, why did the audience not give more importance to such an important topic? Do people just not care about the disabled?

Stories Remind Us to Care

Over the years, I have attended many such presentations and workshops, and most of them are missing one thing: Stories. The unfortunate thing about the human mind is that as important as we might know something is in theorywe also often need reminders.

How many non-African Americans were as conscious of racism and bias in modern society, until the recent George Floyd incident took place?

Sure, everyone knew it was a problem, but let’s be honest. Most people weren’t paying much of their limited attention spans on it. Even DESPITE knowing similar, gruesome stories in the not too distant past: Rodney King, Eric Garner, Trayvon Martin, and so many others.

Yes, unfortunately, it’s only now that this real-life story has occurred and come into our awareness again that people are, again, consciously making diversity and inclusion a priority. Companies are again revitalizing their Diversity and Inclusion programs as a major effort.

In an Increasingly ADHD World, Storytelling Training is Essential

The truth is, we humans have limited attention spans. Our attention quickly gets usurped by our day to day happenings and priorities.

Thus, leaders can’t run the risk of ASSUMING that their organizations know why a change is important and just ‘skip over’ that part.

Stories remind, stories evoke emotion, and stories compel action. Not theories, not rules, not processes.

So, want people to behave differently? Learn how to tell stories.

The Accessibility presentation at my Higher Ed client would have had a completely different impact, if the presenters had started off with a compelling true story that the audience could relate to.

Perhaps, the story of how a blind freshman at the University recently suffered lower grades, simply due to the fact that he couldn’t access materials communicating important IT changes that had been made. OK, that got my attention. Now, what do I need to change?

Leaders need to invest in storytelling training for themselves, and then role model storytelling in the organization. Ideally, they will make stories an integral part of the company culture. Because sharing stories in the workplace increases employee engagement, improves collaboration, and allows for increased inclusion.

And above all, stories spark action.

We use storytelling training to help companies navigate organizational change.

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