Overview – Storytelling

Storytelling is the use of narrative and metaphor to convey meaning. The aim is to spark a vivid picture in employees’ minds that connects at a rational and an emotional level. Storytelling is an effective tactic because emotional connection helps build personal conviction.The clearer the picture, the more memorable is your message. If employees can readily re-create that picture in their minds, they’re more likely to become advocates by re-telling your story to others.

The use of metaphor is effective in this regard. It creates a picture in employees’ minds of something they readily recognise and draws an association between that known thing and something that is more difficult and complex to understand. For example, organisational audits sometimes create employee anxiety about their purpose and assumed impact. Using the metaphor of an iceberg helps explain audits as a tool to identify organisational issues lying unseen beneath the surface. If left unexamined, those issues could ‘sink’ the organisation’s competitiveness or reputation.

Grey TickThis tactic is useful for:


 Building understanding about complex or emotionally charged issues.
 Fostering an emotional connection.
 Making your communications memorable.

cloudyThings to consider:


Determine your desired outcome. For example, an outcome might be to win employee support for the planned off-shoring of certain functions. This is an emotionally charged issue so it’s important your communication cuts through feelings of uncertainty and fear. Applying business logic and citing the numbers won’t do that. Whereas a metaphor can help employees associate off-shoring with something they know well and feel comfortable about. For example, your story could exemplify how, in the area where your employees live, work has ultimately shifted to locations where it can be done most cost-effectively and efficiently. Today, employees’ shoes are no longer made by a local cobbler.
Source suitable metaphors by:
– Drawing on your own personal experiences.
– Adapting others’ stories.
– Tapping into your organisation’s events, people or history for examples of behaviour or decisions that illustrate the point you wish to make.

Tone BulbHelpful tip:


Create a ‘Metaphors File’ with suitable ideas so you don’t have to start from scratch every time. Once your ‘metaphor antenna’ is tuned in, there are gems everywhere to suit your specific storytelling purposes: in the news we watch, the songs we listen to, the heroes we admire, the villains we revile, and the human endeavours that inspire us.
Category: Face to Face