business Storytelling

6 Storytelling Lessons For Any Leader to Use Around Their First 100 Days

As we approach the Trump Presidency’s first 100 day mark, much discussion has ensued over whether the importance of great accomplishment in the days out of the gate is fact or folly. It is no surprise that leading Democrats are calling it fact, while top Republicans, including the President, are crying folly.

In my opinion, what’s most important about the first 100 day milestone of any new leader’s tenure, is establishing a clear and accessible vision for the future that people can trust in and rally around.

While it is impractical to imagine any type of true significant progress in under 100 days, it is reasonable to expect a respected and visionary leader to use the early days of his or her leadership to assess the state of affairs, harness insights from sources inside and out, and then align the go forward vision against those key learnings.

The early days of leadership, whether in the private or public sector, are as much about optics and narrative setting, as they are about charting progress. Consequently, harnessing storytelling as a vital business competency in the early days of any new senior role, with an eye toward creating a steady cadence of interaction with key publics, is vital.

Here are a 6 easy things to keep in mind when framing the communications or storytelling architecture around any first 100 day leadership scenario whether you are an entity on K Street, Wall Street or Main Street:

1) Work with senior leadership to craft a compelling overarching narrative that articulates the new leader’s vision while also being inclusive of a representative sampling of key constituents, inside and out of an organization. The narrative should aim to bridge the best of the past with the best of the future, setting an aspirational, yet authentic tone that people find accessible, purposeful and can believe in. Harness narrative as the through line in all communications to create consistency and singularity of vision around all strategic initiatives.

2) While framing vision, be extremely mindful of landscape you are currently operating in. A strong leadership vision is acutely attuned to the culture both inside and out of an organization if it is to be resonant and effective. Too often leaders take a tone deaf approach created in a vacuum. This establishes a negative spirit from the start and immediately sets the table for dissention and dismay. To be effective, be immediately responsive to the current environment and use it to lay out a prescriptive approach that is measurable and responsive.

3) Clearly articulate what a new leader’s vision is in broad terms to drive aspiration and excitement, while tying to culture to be timely and responsive. However, be sure to be surgically precise in outlining a new leader’s step by step plan of attack. Outlining lofty goals is certainly vital to successful leadership and vision, but failure to put the appropriate roadmap and step by step process in place can derail progress and lead to distrust and dissention.

4) Create editorial sounding board comprised of senior leaders across the enterprise, inside and out, to test messaging and narrative articulation, while also getting feedback on how to structure strategic imperatives and game plans to be as effective as possible. Use editorial board to help keep the vision on course, while also being able to respond to emerging issues and potential hiccups in real time. The hallmark of any successful first 100-day push is to be authoritative and adaptive at the same time.Creating a through line of such an approach in all communications can drive significant momentum, enterprise wide buy in, while also setting a tone of collaboration and a team driven culture.

5) Demonstrate results and showcase value as soon as it is authentically possible to do so. Do not overpromise and under deliver as a result of succumbing to the pressures of progress in the first 100 days, but do build a list of wins to share that are demonstrative of momentum and a positive future. It is important to remember that to gain trust, support and favor, wins do not have to be grandiose to count, they have to be authentic and offer a window into how the CEOs vision will play out. Creating a steady drumbeat of these type of stories, including outside voices, wherever possible, to demonstration inclusion and collaboration is critical.

6) Remember above all else that communicating as much about WHO the leader is and WHY he or she is in charge is even more important than telling stories about what they will do. People, be they employees, consumers, customers or constituents, today are far more inclined to rally around someone who shares their values, inclusive spirit and sense of purpose, then they are to be lured by great promises of what’s to come. Tell stories that demonstrate empathy, elicit emotion and drive connection around your leader as much as a person as a professional.

Billee Howard helps brands use storytelling as a competency that informs business strategy, culture development and growth. She also wrote WeCommerce, a book on collaboration in the new economy.

Note: This article first appeared on Billee Howard’s Forbes blog.

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