Once upon a time

by Andrew Brown

When we tell stories – whether its to our children, our work colleagues, or our neighbour’s cousin – we help others make sense of what is, and what is not, important. That means storytelling is how we make sense of life.

Stories are everywhere in organizations

Given that stories play such a critical role in providing meaning, they have forever been part of how humans engage with one another. So, it’s natural that every organization is a hotbed of stories. And, we’re not just talking about those stories crafted in, or spread with the assistance of, a public relations department. For decades corporate storytelling has been shown to emotionally connect people – often a prerequisite for exceptional productivity and performance – and create loyalty to employers. Across industries, storytelling has become recognized as a key management tool to help in Sales, Marketing, Project Management, Risk Management, and Organizational Development.

Why stories resonate

But why are stories compelling? Why do they stick with us long after we’ve heard them? Why are they an essential part of an employee communicator’s toolkit? According to Paul Smith, the author of several books on the art and science of storytelling, “Recent cognitive studies have found that stories stimulate the logical and emotional parts of the brain. In other words, according to Smith, that means “we’re hardwired to respond to stories”.

Storytelling 101

We sat down recently with Smith, who trains leaders/managers on how to become better corporate storytellers, and discussed the issues Fearless Communicators face in harnessing stories and storytelling in organizations. Here are some of things we covered in our lively 50-minute conversation:

  • The components of a great story
  • Skills and traits of a great storyteller
  • Using stories and storytelling to navigate change
  • Dealing with leaders who think they’re great storytellers
  • How to capture corporate stories
  • Storytelling metrics
  • Dealing with negative stories (i.e. rumours)
  • The shelf-life of stories (and COVID-19)
  • The 10 stories all leaders should have in their repertoire

Nuggets of Wisdom

Some nuggets of wisdom from Paul about storytelling:

  • Use stories to illustrate and inspire
  • Structure stories with a specific objective in mind

Some nuggets of wisdom from Paul about stories

  • Keep your stories short and succinct
  • Include an emotional element in stories
  • When possible, include a surprise ending

Surprise Ending

We may think of storytelling as a one-way communications exercise – after all, the word ‘telling’ is in the name. But, the most effective storytellers deliberately build in listening throughout the process of crafting, testing, honing, telling, and re-telling stories. To make your corporate stories and storytelling as effective as possible, set aside time to listen to how people respond to your stories.

A Bit More

To get other practical tips on how you and/or your colleagues can become better at using stories and storytelling throughout your organization, be sure to check out our podcast episode, Once Upon a Time…A Podcast Episode About Corporate Storytelling.

Special Offers

Win a free copy of one of Paul Smith’s books (“The 10 Great Stories Leaders Tell” or “Selling with Stories”) by sending an email to info@AcademyofBusinessCommunications.com with a note telling us your greatest corporate story. We’ll choose winners from the notes sent to us and highlight the corporate story (and your name) in an upcoming episode of The Swear Jar podcast.

For a limited time, as a listener to The Swear Jar podcast, or subscriber to any Academy of Business Communications publications, you can also get a 20% discount at LeadwithaStory.com (by entering the code ‘LAUNCH’).