To maximize the punch of stories, they should be debriefed with officers or recruits. Stories can be debriefed through questions, as was done with "Building a Cathedral," above. Questions invite the listener to engage with the story and create something new and meaningful with the speaker. If you're not doing this after a story, perhaps it's because the story is all about you, or not really relevant to the topic.
Stories motivate. Merely to announce what ought to be done without motivating people to do it is of little value. Enveloped in a cloud of dust, a county agricultural agent drove into a farmyard and bounced onto the old farmer's porch. The farm looked pretty much run down, and the farmer sitting in the creaking rocker did, too. The agent, a picture of enthusiasm, began sharing what he thought were exciting ideas for improving the farm, but the old man stopped him in mid-sentence. "Simmer down, sonny; I know how to farm twice as good as I'm farmin' already." Most people are not living even half the talent and truth they already possess. They don't so much need to know more as they need to be motivated more. Stories, especially when used to draw listeners in and engage them to share their own life stories help listeners feel the truth. And people mostly do what they feel like doing.
Corporate America is turning big time to storytelling as a leadership and training tool. Plug "storytelling" "leadership" "training" into an internet search and you will find a plethora of business journal articles, books and storytelling workshops, seminars and training--all recognizing that effective storytelling can accomplish something that issues of task and structure fail to do in the work place: In the Harvard Business Review, Stephen Denning said storytelling :
"...offers a route to the heart. And that's where we must go if we are to motivate people not only to take action but to do so with energy and enthusiasm. At a time when [work] survival often requires disruptive change, leadership involves inspiring people to act in unfamiliar, and often unwelcome, ways. Mind-numbing cascades of numbers or daze-inducing PowerPoint slides won't achieve this goal. But effective storytelling often does...Storytelling can translate dry and abstract numbers into compelling pictures of leader's goals."
One of the greatest football coaches was Lou Little. President Eisenhower included Lou Little as one of the greatest leaders he ever knew. When Little was a coach at Georgetown University he had a reserve end named Dennis Flaherty, who came into scrimmage every afternoon with an older man. On the day of their big game with rival, Holy Cross, Flaherty asked, "Mr. Little, can I start in today's game?
"Son," replied Little, "you're too small. I know you give your heart out in scrimmage. That's why I sometimes put you in at the end of the game when it doesn't matter."
"Well, Mr. Little. I've prayed. If I don't do everything an end should do, pull me out after the first 5 minutes."
Coach Little let Flaherty start and the young man played all 60 minutes that day. He blocked a kick, sacked the quarterback twice, intercepted one pass and caught another for a touchdown.
After the game, Little asked, "Flaherty, how did you know you could even play such a game?"
"Well, Mr. Little, that was my Dad that came with me every day."
"I gathered that," said Little.
"Dad was blind," explained Flaherty, "and last night he died. So you see, Coach Little, today was the first time Dad could ever see me play."
Do you have someone you love and respect watching you play? Play the game for them. Share your own personal stories and invite officers to share theirs. As a leader, followers won't buy what you're saying unless they buy you. Personal stories can build the trust between you and your officers necessary for the department to accomplish great things. Search for stories that will motivate and inspire officers about the greater glory of their work. Work hard to tell such stories well, much as you would practice being an honor guard. Invite your officers and recruits into the stories. Help them tell their own stories. Make them feel their importance and the meaning of the work they do. Why? Because, in the end, that is the story your life will tell.