A few years ago I did not need a job. I was gainfully self-employed as a video content producer (aka storyteller) but I started getting curious about the functional power of storytelling in the real world. I believed that story could be a powerful mechanism for influence in everyday life.
A theory without evidence is useless and so I devised an experiment to test my theory and find the proof to substantiate what my gut told me was true.
First I needed to put myself in a situation where I’d have to opportunity to practice influence in a meaningful setting – one that was common enough that other people would experience and could, if they wanted to, recreate my experiment. Second, there needed to be a clear, objective measure of success. I needed a binary succeed/failed outcome.
Job interviews provided the perfect testing ground.
I applied to a whole bunch of jobs and over the course of a few months set up 10 interviews. Some of them were stretch jobs but most were totally attainable for someone with my background and experience.
The experiment had two rules.
- Be completely (and sometimes uncomfortably) honest.
- Try to answer every question with a story.
At first I found that sticking to the rules I had set for myself was difficult. Being courageously honest is hard…especially when it’s the job of the interviewer to measure you against a host of other candidates.
Further, telling stories in the interview was uncomfortable. It’s so easy to answer direct questions with direct answers and then simply move on. As I became more comfortable with the experiment I discovered that stories slowed down the rapid-fire pace of the interviews and simultaneously allowed me to provide more information to my interviewer as well as develop a better heart-to-heart rapport.
One by one the interviews wrapped up and the results were surprising. Out of 10 interviews I was left with 8 job offers! An utterly astounding result.
As I’ve watched the devastating toll covid & the shutdowns have had on the job market and the working class I’ve begun to teach the super-simple method of storytelling I use in order to help job seekers get back into the job market. So far it’s going well and I’ve helped more than a few people give better interviews and land jobs.
It can work for anyone
One gentleman I spoke with sent me this note a week after we connected. He had been in the job market for 7 months:
Hey Bryce, sorry for the late reply. Today has been nuts. In fact, I got a job! I’ll be starting on the 20th with a huge media company. Pretty nuts
A woman who learned and applied this method wrote:
From the bottom of my heart I thank you! I think you “showed up” just when I needed it the most. I’m almost desperate for a job and that’s not a good place to be in or the kind of energy I want to put out there. You’ve helped me bring my authentic self with confidence.
What it means for leaders
This experiment was confined to a very narrow field – job interviews – but the lessons learned reach far beyond the limits of this experiment. Most notably is that influence requires honesty & vulnerability.
So many of us in leadership confuse leadership with motivation. While motivation is the carrot on the stick leadership is more about forming a deep personal bond with those we desire to lead and inviting them on a journey. You provide the invitation, they bring the motivation.
By telling honest, real stories we allow ourselves to be seen by others in a way that is as inspiring as it is attractive – and over time our influence grows.