Managers talk numbers, but leaders tell stories
Finance professionals motivated by the idea of becoming a business partner to their clients, as opposed to carrying out the bean-counting function, would do well to tell more stories.
When Financial Accountant spoke with Gordie Smyth from Flower Accounting about business growth, he didn’t tell us how many square feet of office space he had leased, how many pounds he spent on staffing, or the percentage increase in brand awareness achieved by his marketing. Instead, Smyth told stories of months when revenue was less than £100, of lessons he learnt from being a manager of a football team, and of the days when accountants were invited to clients’ weddings.
The Q&A with Smyth was, strictly, about how he achieved business growth. But if you read it, you know it was more memorable than a list of figures or actions. In telling stories rather than stating facts, Smyth was ensuring a deeper level of connection with readers. According to research into the relationship between storytelling and leadership, he was ensuring people who came across his story experienced it and remembered it. And that skill, storytelling, is perhaps a key part of the growth of Flower Accounting.
“We’ve all listened to (and suffered through) long PowerPoint presentations made up of bullet points – bullet points that may be meaningful to the presenter, but lack the same punch for the audience,” wrote Lani Peterson from Harvard Business Publishing Corporate Learning, in a report called The Science Behind The Art of Storytelling.
Being boring makes an audience work harder – not just to stay awake, but to understand. And it increases the danger of misunderstanding, as the audience works to bring meaning to a checklist and, potentially, misinterprets and poorly remembers.
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