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Unexpected Lessons on Influence.

What going on 10 job interviews taught me about leadership.

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Photo by fauxels from Pexels
Photo by fauxels from Pexels

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.

  1. Be completely (and sometimes uncomfortably) honest.
  2. 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.

The Results

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.

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