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How Leaders Use Storytelling to Optimize Teams

Sean: How do business leaders use storytelling to get the most from their people? Why use storytelling at all and what are the benefits?

Henry: We’re tackling that today on another episode of The Inflection Point, brought to you by that affable bunch at Pivotal Twist.

Sean: The affable bunch. I like that. Reminds me of an updated version of an old TV show, of course.

Henry: And if you’ve gone completely nostalgic on us, you’ll remember the opening line from the song, right?

Sean: Here’s the story. Da da da da da.

Henry: I’m glad you’re not continuing. Sorry to interrupt you, but of course, we would have to pay royalties. That’s completely on point for the topic today, right? Because story is, in our estimation, one of the best vehicles for effective leadership communication.

Sean: That’s right. Because stories communicate. They are able to convey information, attitudes, and feelings better than anything else. Heck, we’ve told stories ever since we’ve been in caves, so we’re hardwired for them.

Henry: Stories resonate. They affect us both intellectually and emotionally. Data alone can’t hold a candle to the way stories inspire and motivate.

Sean: And stories stick precisely because they communicate and resonate so well. They’re hard to forget.

Henry: Which is good news for leaders because naturally you want effective communication to really break through the noise and have maximum impact in times of great change. Stories will get you there.

Sean: Which reminds me of a story. It’s a story of spite. When I was 9 or 10 years old, I was on the soccer team. My dad was the coach. And this particular game day, the goalie called out sick. So my dad asked for volunteers. Nobody volunteered. And so he said, Son, you’ve got to play goalie. Well, I hated playing goalie, but I accepted the challenge… And proceeded to let every ball go right past me into the net.

Henry: Dinner at your place must have been a total joy, Sean.

Sean: I made my point but didn’t make any fans that day.

Henry: Well, that is an example of a cautionary tale, right? A story of what could go wrong. No stretch of the imagination to imagine how business leaders can do something similar.

Sean: Totally. Tell your team a story of how clock-watching can lead to massive unhappiness and they’ll get the point.

Henry: Or how you were passed over for a promotion because you didn’t go the extra mile. I mean, that moral is crystal clear.

Sean: Of course, uplifting positive stories work just as well, if not better. For instance, a story of how a manager can show appreciation for their team members can make a point very effectively.

Henry: Yeah, I’ll give you an example. Right. Picture this. Good afternoon, team. I know so many of you have been working 18-hour days. Phil and Susan. Lily. I just want you to know that I acknowledge how hard you’ve been working, and this is not going to be the norm. But I so appreciate the effort you’ve put in. When I started 20 years ago, you all remember Stan. He’s since retired. But, you know, he made it a point when I was a new joiner to always give me positive reinforcement anytime I did anything extra. He did two things. He acknowledged it. And he also told me the positive impact it created within the business and it really motivated me and inspired me and made me feel a part of something bigger. You know? So kudos to all of you and thank you for really living those values that Stan imparted on me many, many years ago.

Sean: Oh, yeah. That kind of story can work wonders. Why? Again, because a story like that communicates, it resonates, and it definitely sticks.

Henry: And at the end of the day, your teams will be much more motivated, inspired, and ultimately more loyal.

Sean: So tell more stories to your people. Stories that touch them, that move them to action. That leads to achievement.

Henry: It doesn’t cost a dime, and you’ll find it’ll help you as much as it helps them.

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