In the spotlight: Esther K. Choy, Founder and President, Leadership Story Lab
Backed by neurobiological evidence and publications like the Harvard Business Review, storytelling has serious power to make a positive, long-term impact and motivate action. Still, for many analytical-minded, data-driven business leaders, adding storytelling to their skillset sounds like a daunting proposition—or a pipe dream.
“At the heart of leadership lies persuasion. At the heart of persuasion lies storytelling. Whether you know it or not, you engage in both daily,” Esther K. Choy, who coaches managers and executives in storytelling techniques, assures anyone called to lead, whether on the sales floor or in the C-suite.
In her debut book, LET THE STORY DO THE WORK: The Art of Storytelling for Business Success (AMACOM; July 27, 2017), Choy demonstrates the potential of storytelling to elevate business communication from autopilot exchanges to authentic, compelling conversations that inspire and motivate employees, win customers, and advance careers. What’s more, she provides the tools, frameworks, examples, and encouragement to transform even the most staid stick-to-the-facts types into confident, effective, and captivating storytellers.
Focusing on classical storytelling, the book begins with mastering the principal elements. Distinct from an anecdote, a presentation, and a pitch (both sales and elevator), a story is defined by core components, from structural (beginning, middle, end) to strategic (“A story,” states Choy, “sparks an audiences’ imagination, causes them to relate to the situation in the story, and motivates them to act.”) To get novices started, Choy offers blueprints for five basic business story plots: Origin, Rags to Riches, Rebirth, Overcoming the Monster, and The Quest.
Building on these universal basics, LET THE STORY DO THE WORK moves on to the fun part: bringing stories to life. With a variety of engaging stories to illustrate every chapter, readers will discover great storytelling insights, such as:
How to look who’s listening
Tell a story through the audience’s point of view—“out of body” technique—to communicate empathy and increase persuasion.
How to tell stories with numbers
Master the formula for merging Big Data and a good story, seamlessly, to multiply the impact exponentially.
How to turn data into drama
Turn complex material—financial, medical, and more—into engaging narratives, using techniques such as comparing the unfamiliar to the familiar.
How to enhance stories with simple visual elements
“A picture is worth a thousand words, they say,” Choy reminds readers and then proves it.
How to become a collector
Listen aggressively and ask questions that will encourage the audience to share their stories. “Meanings emerge and deep connections are built when we are intentional about creating intersecting stories,” Choy attests.
That’s not the end. The book culminates with examples of stories in action. From other people’s stories, readers will learn how to use their own life story to build credibility and connection, to excel at networking, and to sell their brand, their products or services, or the social impact of their organization.
For people in the leadership ranks of corporate, academic, nonprofit, and community-based organizations, LET THE STORY DO THE WORK is a valuable ally for turning routine communication into rich opportunities to gain buy-in and build lasting relationships.
Esther K. Choy is founder and president of Leadership Story Lab, a Chicago-based company offering coaching on tapping into to the power of personal stories to persuade, motivate, enlighten, inspire, and advance. She also teaches in the executive education programs at Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management.