Is It Important For An IT Manager To Be Good At Telling Stories?

Stories are an effective way to communicate with your team
Stories are an effective way to communicate with your team
Image Credit: Gerard Bierens

As an IT manager, it’s your job to lead your team. This leadership thing has always been just a bit fuzzy for most of us – just exactly how are we supposed to go about doing it? I’m more than willing to admit that there is a lot to having the IT manager skills that you need in order to be a good leader. However, I also believe that there is one vital skill that we all need if we want to be able to be known as good leaders – communication. The ability to communicate well with our team as we have learned in our IT manager training is critical and in order to do this effectively, it turns out that we need to be good storytellers.

The Power Of A Story

You would think that by now we’d all already know how to tell a good story. I mean, as we were growing up undoubtedly we were told countless stories by our parents and teachers, right? Well, it turns out that it’s a little bit more complicated to tell a good story instead of just sitting back and listening to one.

We just need to realize that mankind has been telling stories since the start of time. We tell stories in order to persuade, entertain, and to help others make sense of what is currently going on. As an IT manager, you need to realize that if you can get good at this storytelling thing then the members of your team will start to regard you differently. They are going to start to see you as someone who understand how to connect, how to share emotions, and in some ways is vulnerable. You’ll also be showing your team that you are interesting and articulate.

One important thing that we all need to realize about stories is that they are on some level very intimate. Telling a story to your team will be empowering for you because the team is going to provide you with recognition for sharing with them. The story that you tell will also be empowering for your team because it’s going to end up helping them to understand you just a little bit better.

How To Tell A Good Story

If we can all agree that becoming good at telling stories will make us a better IT manager, then the next question is just exactly how do we go about doing this? The answer is in a couple of parts. First, of course, is that we need to take the time to practice telling stories to our team. It’s only by doing this that we’ll improve. Next, we need to work on specific storytelling skills that will help us to tell better stories.

We need to keep in mind that story telling involves some very basic skills that we should all already have (if we can remember them). In your story there will be both lessons and the emotions that go along with them. These need to be true in the story, even if you are making the story up. An example of this would be the wildly popular Harry Potter stories – made up, but they felt real. The story must have a clear opening, middle, and ending. Every story must have some form of character development and if the character is you, then you’re going to have reveal some part of yourself.

In order to properly tell a story, you are going to have to set aside the time that this is going to require. When you are going to tell your team a story, you are going to want to find a time and a place where there will be no distractions and you won’t end up being rushed. While you are telling a story, you are going to need to banish all of the other things that you talk with your team about – timecards, parking spots, release planning, etc. This is time for you and your team to connect and you need to use the time wisely.

What All Of This Means For You

In order to be an effect IT manager, you need to be a good communicator. In order to accomplish this, you are going to have to master the skill of telling stories to your team in order to accomplish some IT team building. Mankind has been using stories since the beginning of time in order to communicate both what has happened and what we need to have happen in the future. This is a skill that all IT managers need to work on.

Stories are a powerful way to connect with your team. Learning to tell a story is a skill that we all need to develop – just listening to stories is not enough. If you can become good at telling stories, your team will start to regard you differently. Storytelling is an intimate activity. It will empower you and your team. In order to tell a good story you need to realize that your story needs to have an opening, middle, and ending. You are also going to have to find right time and place for you tell your story to your team. You want to make sure that you don’t get interrupted and you want to focus on your story and not other items.

In order for IT managers to be effective, we need to find ways to connect with our team. One powerful tool for accomplishing this is to become adept at telling stories. Stories allow us to communicate what has happened, what will be happening, and most importantly why things are happening. Take the time to develop your storytelling skills and you’ll become an IT manager who can really connect with your team.

– Dr. Jim Anderson
Blue Elephant Consulting –
Your Source For Real World IT Management Skills™

Question For You: When you tell a story, how long do you think that it should take to complete?

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What We’ll Be Talking About Next Time

So can we talk about our old friend: Mr. Email? I really don’t care how many social media tools you are currently involved in, I’m more than willing to bet that email is still your primary means of communication when you are at work. Now comes the big question: how good are you at using email? This can be a tricky question to answer because most of us despite our IT manager training use email in a “fire and forgot” mode. Is it possible that there is a better way to use email at work?