By Andy Kovacs
(1-Minute Read)

To motivate people to reach certain goals, you must engage their emotions; and the key to people’s hearts is story telling.”

– Robert McKee


How motivated are you to do things which you really don’t care about?

What if I were to tell you it was really important and that I wanted you to do it?

I’m guessing tasks like these don’t even make it on to the last page of your to-do list. At the end of the day, motivation is one of the 3 ingredients in getting people to act. And it’s incredibly difficult to summon up the motivation to do things we don’t care about.

But when I ask most leaders what their tried-and-tested tactics are for getting their stakeholders, peers and teams to care about what they’re asking them to do, I’m usually met with an awkward silence – followed by a statement like this:

“Well, I tell them that it’s really important and that I want them to do it.”

If this tactic doesn’t work on you (and I know it doesn’t work on me!); then I’m struggling to see how it would work on your people.

So how can you make others care enough to follow you?

Let me tell you a story

Over the last 30 years, the neuroscientist Paul Zak has conducted numerous studies to try to understand which communication approaches make people care enough to act when they’re asked to.

One such study involved asking a group of subjects to donate to a children’s charity.

The subjects were split into 2 groups. Each group was told a different story while their blood chemistry was monitored.

The first group was told a story by a father about his trip to the zoo with his 2-year old son.

The second group was told a powerful story by a father about his 2-year old son’s serious illness.

The blood chemistry results between the two groups were astonishingly different.

The first group, who heard the story about the zoo, recorded no change in blood chemistry. But the second group, who heard the powerful story about the child’s serious illness, recorded dramatical blood chemistry spikes for 2 hormones:

Cortisol: the stress hormone which makes us pay full attention to the stimulus which causes it.

Oxytocin: the empathy hormone which makes us act with more generosity, charity and compassion.

Guess which group donated more to the children’s charity when asked?

The second group’s donation behaviour increased by 87%; and they donated 50% more than the average donor.

ELC Consultants is a global training and consultancy company which has been creating bespoke learning programmes to empower the communication of professionals in companies like BP, Bayer, HSBC and Vodafone since 2005. If you’d like a digital copy of our Leadership Communication Catalogue, drop us a line on