Think of a speaker that had a big impact on you. Chances are they spoke about their long term vision, their life mission and you felt aligned with their values.
Now, think about the last time you were trying to motivate someone to make a positive change. Perhaps you were talking to your team, or a client, or speaking at an event. Were you sharing your mission, vision and values? Were you telling them WHY you are suggesting they change? Many change leaders forget to do this.
Here’s an example from my life. As a teenager, I had a job as a banquet waitress at a university conference centre. I loved this job because all I had to do was serve buffet food to people going by, collect empty plates, pour coffee and smile a lot.
The best part of the job was that I experienced various conference speakers and events. One event in particular changed the course of my life. I saw three speakers. The event was about the environment. There am, I served the meal and I’m standing at the back ready to pour coffee. I’m in my polyester black and white, scratchy uniform. The first speaker I see is a politician. He’s listing statistics and policy changes that incentivize big business not to pollute. People’s eyes are glazed over. I had to pour a lot of coffee to keep them awake. Second speaker, a social activist. He’s yelling and raising his fist in the air about corporate self interest, and insincere politicians who do nothing. I see people wake up but they have a grimace on their face.
Finally, I see the third speaker. It’s is a woman. I’ve actually never seen a woman speaker before. Her name is Dr. Helen Caldicott. She’s written a book called “If You Love This Planet” and there is a documentary about it. Do you remember that book? She tells us that physicians are noticing more and more environmentally related diseases occurring in the population. They start Physicians for Social Responsibility in the United States to educate people on what’s happening and calling people to take a stand– not necessarily because it’s their duty as a citizen, or out of a place of feeling a victim of corporate greed, but calling us to…love this planet.
It was the first female speaker I had ever seen, and the first one who asked us to take collective responsibility for what was happening, and to do it out of love and not hate. You could hear a pin drop as she spoke. People were transfixed– mouths hung open, coffee cups hung in midair, tears were rolling down the faces of many of the listeners. Two things happened to change my life after that experience. One was that I decided to be more conscious of my behavior and to indeed “love this planet”. And the other was to become a speaker who could open people’s minds like she did that day. Those two decisions change thousands of decisions I made over the next 30 years.
What thought leader changed your world and what were the values they were sharing? Feel free to leave your comments below.
And, if you’d like a step-by-step way to use powerful stories in your business environment, check out Storytelling in Business.