Fire service leaders need to be great teachers. And great teachers use storytelling to make their points memorable. Consider the stories told by Alan Brunacini about Mrs. Smith in Essentials of Fire Department Customer Service or the drawings by Paul Combs from Drawn By Fire. We read. We see. We hear. We remember. Reciting the department’s goals, pointing to a mission statement on the wall, and drilling on policies and procedures are not enough. We will ignite more emotion and spark more thinking by telling stories that convey the why, how and what we are trying to do.
Here are five elements that will help you tell better stories:
- Good stories will resonate within us. Good stories will connect with our mindset, or why we do what we do. The actions or the characters portrayed in the story will stir something inside of us, helping us to identify the right and the wrong.
- Good stories show accomplishments and lessons learned. Good stories will show the steps that lead to success and the errors that bring on catastrophe. We learn from both.
- Good stories point to a greater cause. Good stories help answer the question, “Why are we here?” They help identify the real purpose for being here and doing what we do.
- Good stories teach, but in a different way. To present the truth, we can easily present a chart, graph, or bullet points. But telling a story will allow people to see your honesty and passion for your cause.
- Good stories open the door for critical thinking. We don’t have to explain everything. Leave room for the listener to form their own ideas and ask questions.This allows for more dialogue and engagement.