How to Train Your Team in Leadership Storytelling

A company founder engaging in some leadership storytelling as she addresses her new employees.

Many of the most successful business leaders are experts in leadership storytelling. Effective leadership requires strong communication skills, and storytelling is one of the most powerful ways to communicate.

Storytelling creates strong connections between speakers and their audience. It can help motivate customers, investors, job candidates, and employees to engage with your business. These steps will help you train your team to employ storytelling to engage employees and other stakeholders and grow your bottom line:

  1. Create enthusiasm for storytelling
  2. Focus on the value of storytelling
  3. Define the elements of a good story
  4. Refine the structure and sequencing
  5. Encourage revision and practice
  6. Remember the purpose of storytelling

Step 1: Create Enthusiasm for Storytelling

Getting your employees to understand the power of storytelling is the first step in helping them master this valuable skill.

Underscore that storytelling can:

  • Motivate others
  • Build trust
  • Strengthen your employer brand
  • Encourage teamwork
  • Teach employees and other stakeholders
  • Attract and retain top talent

Step 2: Employ Effective Teaching Methods

As you teach your employees about leadership storytelling, keep in mind some of the key elements of effective teaching, including:

  • Clear expectations
  • Practice
  • Frequent check-ins
  • Positive feedback
  • Encouragement and recognition

Step 3: Focus on the Value of Leadership Storytelling

Injecting stories into presentations can help contextualize data and make your messaging more memorable. Stories can help you:

  • Gain your audience’s attention.
  • Establish credibility, authority, and relatability.
  • Illustrate complicated concepts.
  • Prompt audiences to remember key points.
  • Drive home the message you want employees and stakeholders to remember.

Step 4: Define the Elements of a Good Story

The most compelling leadership storytelling anecdotes include:

  • A timeline: Storytelling is engaging because there is a clear beginning, middle, and end.
  • A protagonist: While the audience may care about multiple “characters” in the story, they will likely be most interested in the leading character.
  • An inciting incident: Sometimes called a catalyst, these events occur near the beginning of a story and compel the protagonist to take action.
  • Challenges and obstacles. In the middle of the story, obstacles produce conflict, tension, and drama that forces the protagonist to change. These trials test, reveal, and shape the protagonist’s character.
  • A turning point and resolution. Near the end of the story, there is a clear conclusion for the protagonist such as solving the problem.

Step 5: Refine the Structure and Sequencing

Encourage employees to study exemplary leadership storytelling by watching “Ted Talks,” especially those presented by people in your field. As they watch these master storytellers, encourage them to ask questions about the presentations they are watching, like:

  • How do effective speakers construct the stories they tell?
  • In what order do they tell their stories?
  • How do they build toward their conclusions?
  • What emotions do their stories elicit?

Step 6: Encourage Revision and Practice

Once your employees have constructed a draft story that employs all or most of the elements in steps 4 and 5, it’s time to finetune. As you work with your employees on revisions, focus on the following leadership storytelling best practices:

  • Concision and clarity: Encourage employees to pinpoint the most important takeaways from any speech or presentation and help them trim extraneous information.
  • Emotional connection: The reason people remember stories long after they forget facts and data is that stories engage emotions. In particular, telling a personal narrative in a business setting can make your business more relatable.
  • Tailor for the audience: Help your employees repurpose stories for a range of audiences. For example, you might have them structure their story in a more casual, personal manner for a companywide event and more formally for a presentation to potential customers or investors.

Keep in mind that many people have a great deal of anxiety about public speaking. The first few times an employee attempts to use storytelling as part of a presentation, it’s likely that it won’t go perfectly. Remain encouraging and provide gentle, constructive advice on how to improve.

Step 6: Keep Sight of the Purpose of Leadership Storytelling

As you work to perfect your employees’ storytelling technique, don’t lose sight of why you’re investing so much time in developing this skill. Stories are useful because they are the best way to provide answers to questions that are key to all business transactions and relationships, like:

  • Why is your business unique?
  • Why do they want to buy your products or services?
  • Why should they want to work for your company?

Storytelling is an excellent way to spark interest and enthusiasm for your products and services and boost customer loyalty and employee engagement.

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