How Can Organizations Leverage Storytelling In The Workplace?

🕑 4 minutes read | Jul 26 2021 | By Becky Gendron

If you do a quick search on LinkedIn you’ll discover something interesting – there are currently over 36,000 results for “Chief Storytellers.” 36,000 people whose sole focus is crafting a story and that number continues to rise. It shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise because many organizations know the value of storytelling and its significant impact. However, many businesses are still searching for where to begin and how they can leverage their story. In this blog, we’ll share ways storytelling can be leveraged in the workplace by both leaders and for corporate training.

How Can Storytelling Be Leveraged For Leaders?

Behind every great leader is the ability to tell a story. Dr. Howard Gardner, a professor at Harvard University, once said, “Stories constitute the single most powerful weapon in a leader’s arsenal.” Leaders are known by many characteristics, but great leaders are known for their ability to communicate, motivate, and to ignite their teams. Storytelling is a flexible tool that allows leaders to convey lessons, instill an organization’s values, and acknowledge a team’s contributions. So, how can leaders leverage storytelling?

Begin each meeting with a short story. Share a relevant personal experience, a client success story or a failure, or a lesson learned story. Author Jonah Sachs, says “Once you tell a very compelling story, the first thing someone does is think, ‘Who can I tell this story to?’ So, for the extra three minutes, you spend encoding a leadership communication in a story, you’re going to see returns that last for months and maybe even years.”

  • Encourage employees to share their stories. Storytelling isn’t an innate skill that everyone excels in, however, it is a skill that can be taught, nurtured, and perfected. A recent guest on our podcast, “Bring Out The Talent”, Dennis Rebelo author of “Story Like You Mean It” says that each of us has a story to share, a mixture of lived experiences—planned and unplanned—that come together and give our existence shape and identity. With repetition and instruction, employees can learn to communicate with ease and connect with others by constructing a self-narrative with intention and purpose.
  • Develop your team to be company evangelists. There is an old Native American proverb that says, “It takes 1,000 voices to tell a single story.” Every business has a story, a mission, and a purpose. When leaders share that story with employees, employees will be able to represent the organization through a shared frame of reference and bring the organization’s core values to life.

How Can Storytelling Be Leveraged For Corporate Training?

Research suggests that messages delivered as stories can be up to 22 times more memorable than facts alone. Why? Because stories make us use our brains differently. Stories that are personal and emotionally compelling engage more of our brain, so they are better remembered and help to build a new connection. A scientist by the name of Dr. Paul Zak has found that hearing a story causes our brains to release cortisol and oxytocin – the chemicals that trigger our ability to connect, empathize, and make meaning. So, now that we understand why storytelling is so impactful – how can organizations incorporate storytelling into corporate training?

  • Go beyond “checking the box”. Every organization has the “must do’s” from onboarding, to diversity training, to even large-scale rollouts – storytelling in these environments can have a lasting impact. According to Susan Weinschenk, Ph.D., “you are literally using more of your brain when you are listening to a story. And because you are having a richer brain event, you enjoy the experience more, you understand the information more deeply, and retain it longer.” Corporate learning can go beyond the proverbial ‘check the box” and can make significant transformations.

Incorporate Storytelling into your visual presentations. From instructional videos, sales pitches, and webinars – we’ve all experienced a yawn-inducing slide show. In fact the Wall Street Journal reported that bad PowerPoint presentations cost companies $252 million per day in wasted time. However, visual presentations can be a fantastic opportunity to share a story and make an impact. Aleks Krotoski, Social Psychologist, says that “Stories are memory aids, instruction manuals, and moral compasses.” Many people turn to the help of instructional designers and custom content developers to help craft and visually deliver a compelling and influential presentation.

  • Storytelling with data. Good decisions are made when everyone understands the story behind data, but numbers and charts can lead many to tune out, lose interest, and think about “what’s for lunch?”. Psychologists Daniel Kahnema once said in an interview that “No one ever made a decision because of a number. They need a story.” So, knowing how to make data concise yet impactful can be achieved through storytelling.

Many organizations recognize the effectiveness of storytelling. So much so that in 2020 and even now into 2021, we have seen an increased need from our clients for Storytelling. More than just the “Principles of Storytelling”, but a more applied and focused approach. We have run programs focusing on “Storytelling with Data”, “Storytelling with Visual Presentations”, and even “Storytelling for Leaders.” If you are interested in learning more about ways to improve your organization’s storytelling reach out to a TTA Learning Expert today!

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