“Stories are the single most powerful weapon in a leader’s arsenal,” said psychologist Howard Gardner, developer of the ”Multiple Intelligences” theory of learning.
I would challenge this statement, by saying, “They need to like you first, or it won’t really matter how good your story is.” I believe likeability and storytelling are equally important. I’m fanatical about their value as power tools for powerful communication. (I cover likeability and storytelling as integral parts of the course objectives in Institute’s Messaging and the Media course.)
I’m also in the process of writing a book on professional storytelling with my colleague Arch Lustberg. I am looking for true stories that helped you change the way you do business or the way you see the world.
Here’s one of my favorite personal stories that I think makes a powerful point about the value of likeability:
Likeability Wins the Acquittal
I was having dinner one night with a group of experts in the sports world. Most of these experts had other day jobs. The lawyer sitting across from me was also a players’ agent and TV analyst. The sports contract expert had spent the last couple of decades as a criminal judge in a major city.
The lawyer/agent asked me what I did, and I told him I train people in the arts of storytelling and likeability. I said that I thought that likeability is usually the final decision maker. He agreed that storytelling was important, but he didn’t buy into the importance of likeability. He said in the courtroom, evidence (facts & figures) is the final decision maker. He didn’t think it mattered if someone liked you or not. I disagreed and said, “Let’s let the judge decide.”
I had never before spoken with the judge, so I realized I was taking a risk. I interrupted his conversation and asked, “In all your time in the courtroom, how many people have you found guilty that you liked?”
He thought for a couple of seconds, and said, “None.”
None? I was a bit shocked, I didn’t expect “none” . . . and I followed with, “Okay, how many people did you find innocent that you didn’t like?”
He smiled, almost realizing for the first time the strangeness of the truth, and he again said, “None.” Then almost to himself, “That’s interesting; I guess I never thought about it before.”
As you can imagine, the lawyer was blown away. I was blown away. I think the judge was as well.
Every day we are being judged. When you hear the power of the judge’s realization, I hope you will work everyday to show people your most likable self! It will be an essential element of the final verdict.
That’s what I call a professional or leadership story. While it may make you question our judicial system, it also delivers a powerful lesson in the value of being your most likable self. It could change the way you do business or the way you see the world.