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Change Managers & Story Time

Posted Monday, June 27th, 2016

Mrs. Murray was a demanding Grade 4 teacher. Multiplication tables had to be memorized and recited in front of the entire class. Spelling test results were posted in the classroom. Public speaking and book reviews were required weekly. Even our class trips were educational – to museums, points of historical interest or to experience and study the natural environment.

Mrs. Murray was a wise educator. She knew story time accomplished many things – we learned to listen attentively and as one. We stopped what we were doing and paid attention to the characters, their fascinating adventures and the plotlines. We learned to focus, to be engaged and to use our imaginations.

Close-up of businessman holding pen with opened book at desk.Science has recently proven what Mrs. Murray already knew. Listening to an engaging, coherent story aligns our neural pathways in a process termed “neural entrainment”. The higher order parts of our brain, the frontal and parietal cortex, become stimulated in synchronized response to the story-teller. The more interesting the story, the more our brains are stimulated.

These findings have powerful implications for change managers. If you want to engage employees, tell them a compelling, coherent story about the change they are experiencing. It may be accurate to say, “…Mainframe access will be discontinued as the new, web-enabled application is introduced to the business units…’ but it is neither stimulating or memorable. Instead, try something like “Janice sat nervously at her computer on Monday morning. For 22 years, she has used the mainframe to complete her customer transactions. But on Monday, she entered the world of web-enabled technology. “I was nervous at first, and kept pressing the old function keys. By noon, I got the hang of it and was amazed at the new functionality – part of which, I helped design.” Okay, it’s not Dickens, but you get the idea.

So if you want to connect with your stakeholders and have them listening calmly and attentively, you need to tell them a memorable, cogent story. Remember Mrs. Murray’s example – and create your organization’s own “story time”.

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