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Books: The Best Leaders Are Storytellers

By Cory Tefft, CMA
November 1, 2021

Storytelling is a skill that finance leaders can use to become more influential and boost their careers.

 

 

Management accountants and finance professionals shouldn’t overlook the ability to craft narratives as a factor in achieving long-term career success (see “Developing Creative Accountants,” April 2021). In fact, the Accenture study From Bottom Line to Front Line found that 81% of finance executives list data storytelling as an essential skill for today’s finance professionals. Stories that Stick by Kindra Hall details how to create a story to communicate data, findings, and more.

 

Hall begins with the neuroscience behind storytelling, explaining in accessible language how listening to well-spun stories releases chemicals in listeners’ bodies and even rewires parts of their brains, causing them to feel more emotionally connected to others. That’s a powerful, persuasive tool that finance leaders can implement to inspire employee loyalty, influence the organization’s strategy, and spearhead financial planning and analysis.

 

The elements of storytelling that Hall describes are fundamental for finance professionals to understand when translating detailed financial data to leadership of various backgrounds. The many anecdotes and processes that Hall describes to craft strong stories can be used to spark creativity and change the way we view data. These ideas can turn dry presentations that fall on deaf ears into stories and conversations with leadership and clients that result in strategies, initiatives, and investments to drive growth and create lasting change within an organization.

 

Once Hall makes the case for the value of storytelling, she breaks down how to utilize narrative elements to improve their communication skills. Hall outlines four components of a solid story:

  • Identifiable, relatable characters
  • Authentic emotion
  • A significant moment
  • Specific compelling details

 

These components must then be embedded into a simple storytelling framework with a beginning, a middle, and an end—a notion that Hall presents in the following format: normal (things how they are or used to be); explosion (something happens); and new normal (things are different now).

 

After providing this foundation, Hall explains how to implement this narrative framework to produce four types of essential business stories that finance leaders can use to get buy-in for their vision: the value story, the founder story, the purpose story, and the customer story.

 

Stories that Stick is loaded with instructive examples, how-to guidance, and ideas for management accountants to create captivating stories based on these narrative building blocks. Readers will be well prepared to transform the way they communicate for the better.

 

Cory Tefft, CMA, is a financial analyst on the FP&A team at SurePoint Technologies and a member of IMA’s Blue Grass Area Chapter. You can reach him at chtefft@outlook.com.
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