What Netflix bingeing can teach us about great leadership

As the pandemic drove us indoors, our appetite for human connection has been challenged. Back in 2019, over 165 million hours of Netflix were watched daily across the globe – already an astronomical amount of time. But in the first few months of the lockdown, the company saw an incredible 72% jump in its users!  Many of us looked to stories for distraction from the chaos (a whole stage of our collective processing was practically defined by Tiger King), but so too did we tap into stories to sate our need for communion and empathy in the midst of physical distance. To point, the streaming giant curated a Black Lives Matter series as millions of viewers sought out stories and narratives to deepen understanding and empathy for the Black experience.

So what does this have to do with leadership? It’s all about empathy.  

We define storytelling as communicating to a specific audience in a way that engages them, while creating a clear and compelling picture of the problem that needs solving or the future you envision, and how amazing it can be with their involvement. Storytelling is, by definition, one-sided – but when done well, it takes your listener on a psychological journey as your hero. It allows them to access their own humanity through empathy, and that’s exactly what makes it powerful. You seek buy-in from your employees, your potential clients and donors, right? Telling them about your vision is one thing. Telling your story (to an audience you took the time to understand first) allows them to place themselves in the driver’s seat. Your struggle is theirs now, too – along with your triumph.

We can do better than “We’re in this together.”

Our filters for authenticity are sharper than ever. How many times have we heard some brand or leader mention that “we’re in this together?” It doesn’t matter how much conviction you feel when you claim this. If you don’t communicate with real empathy, the reaction will garner nothing but a few eye rolls. When the biggest predictor of team performance is communication, what can you do to make sure you’re incorporating empathy into your every day? The answer lies in truly listening to understand and seeking to genuinely connect – story makes that possible.

Use your Netflix bingeing as research.

Okay, so maybe don’t use Tiger King as your example – but as you’re watching your new favorite series or Hamilton for the twentieth time, notice how your pulse speeds as the hero is being pursued. Notice how your heart aches when the protagonist suffers, and swells when they overcome. Your bingeing can serve as research (or “research.” We don’t judge). If you want more formalized training in storytelling for business purposes, though, we’d also recommend our upcoming virtual course on this very topic. It’s coming up September 17 & 18. Learn more and sign up below.

Virtual Course | Sept 17 & 18, 2020
Storytelling: Communication that Inspires & Drives Results


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