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What's Your Story?

Tim Eisenhauer begins an article about storytelling by--you guessed it-- telling a story. From the beginning of this lengthy and informative piece, Eisenhauer is able to skillfully challenge and guide the reader through a powerful process. Although this piece is slanted toward large companies, using frequent references to internal communications managers, it is very plausible for anyone to glean helpful employee engagement ideas, which the author also adeptly gives instructions to implement. So although through a simple approach, Eisenhauer details real methods of connecting employees using storytelling.

Trust, Cooperation and Stories

Wading fearlessly into faded memories of Dr. Seuss and Little Red Riding Hood, Eisenhauer debunks the myth with cold, hard science. He describes how the human brain responds differently to stories than to facts-- can you say articles with bullet points?-- showing that a whopping all five sensory areas in the brain light up to the descriptions of a story; versus only two areas of the brain when the words are just facts. When a scent is mentioned in a story, it’s like the reader has smelled that scent themselves! Your entire brain joins in the story.

Great, you may be thinking. How can a bunch of stories impact my business? According to Eisenhauer, scientific research has shown that listening to stories about others can produce oxytocin, the “trust, cooperation and positive connection” neurochemical. Trust goes hand in hand with team work, and moving everyone in your organization toward the same goal. Logic and reason have their place, says Eisenhauer, but emotional engagement results in connection, camaraderie and solidarity.

The Nuts and Bolts

Getting down to business, the author details many implementation strategies for storytelling, emphasizing that authenticity will make the biggest impact, and you’ll need to tell many, many stories to make a difference. He pairs ways that storytelling is effective with specific goals you may have in your organization.

These goals could be:

  • Inspiration

  • Motivation

  • Buy-in

  • Humanizing Leadership

  • Connecting disparate teams

  • Awareness

  • Communicating change

What’s the story here?

So, here’s what you may see in your organization that could communicate one of the above goals:

1- A big win. Recognize that individual or team when you see it.

2- Small wins- especially during tough times or changes.

3- “A day in the life” snapshots- does one half of your company have any idea what the other half does all day? This can build trust and solidarity like nothing else. Get to know your co-workers.

4- The truth behind the tabloids- Eisenhauer relates that leadership in big companies can often be painted in a negative light by news. A story giving a personal glimpse of what’s going on up top, the backstory, or strategies that did pay off, show that leadership are humans, too.

5- Community or volunteer features- if your company does anything good in the community, spotlight those food drives, fundraisers, and kids’ programs.

Eisenhauer next skillfully details how to interview employees, to be able to have stories