Storytelling isn’t just for kids

The first book we wrote was a business novel called ‘The Team Formula – A Leadership Tale of a Team who found their Way’.

We could have written a regular business book, to share our formula for how to work with teams. But we chose not to. Not because we couldn’t but because we feel so strongly about the power of storytelling.

And the impact was staggering – we have lost count of how many people have told us “you could have been talking about us, I recognised so many of those situations!” And that’s the beauty of stories, they make theories and ideas real, tangible, applicable.

We encounter it all the time when we work with individuals, with teams and with organisations, that dry facts rarely engage people – but more importantly, that they rarely remember what they have read or heard, because it didn’t involve them, it didn’t relate directly to them.

Because, as you know – stories draw people in, stories engage, stories put people in the characters’ shoes and therefore they get to experience what the character does – and lasting learning and valuable insights can happen.

“Tell me the facts and I’ll learn. Tell me the truth and I’ll believe. But tell me a story and it will live in my heart forever.”

Old Native American proverb

Storytelling is how knowledge has been passed on from parent to child, teacher to student, mentor to mentee – since the beginning of time.

It works, it’s as simple as that. And even if the world around us has changed beyond recognition since the early days of humankind, we, human beings, haven’t changed significantly at all. And neither has the power of the storytelling and the impact it has on us.

When you want to engage people around you – use your stories.

If, for example, you want your team members to see the benefits of a change, share the story of how it will feel for them when the change is in place, what they’ll be able to do, how a working day will look. Involve them in telling the story – ask them what they think it could look like and what it could mean for them. Storytelling as a dialogue is powerful and inclusive.

Or if you want your leader to understand the impact of a process change on a customer, tell them the customer’s own story of how they are affected, rather than just trying to relate the facts of the case.

And if you want new employees to understand what the company is all about, share stories from the frontline, real stories of customers and why they have chosen your company – or employees stories about how the work gets done, what the culture is like.

And if you’re the leader of an organisation going through change, talk about your personal connection to the change, how it affects you, your vision for the future and how it will impact others as well as yourself.

Some people don’t like the word ‘storytelling’ and that’s absolutely ok, we can simply rephrase or reframe it to the impactful practice of

  • giving examples
  • sharing experiences of how you have seen things work
  • giving context
  • telling the story of how you have got there
  • sharing how you have got to the end point
  • creating case studies

Because, as you no doubt know, what all stories (examples, case studies etc) have in common is that they touch something within us. It goes deeper than just the facts.

The stories create a sense of recognition, a glimmer of hope, a feeling of joy or anticipation, of insight or something else.

And this is why our following two books – “Leading Teams 10 Challenges 10 Solutions” and “The Leader’s Guide to Impact” – even though they are not written as novels – are sprinkled with stories throughout. We love stories and we know that our readers do too.

The important thing is that stories make us feel – and we are feeling beings, it’s when our feelings get engaged, that miracles happen.

Go on. Be a storyteller.

“I simply see life as one great story after another, and that’s the way I’ve always communicated. People remember stories.”

Marcus Sheridan

Author: Mandy and Elisabet

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