Storytelling is your most powerful tool – are you using it to build your business?

I once saw a plaque at a restaurant that read: “Drink wine because no great story ever started with a salad.”


I began my Cultureneering journey three decades ago. There have been many books and individuals who have influenced the way I have developed my leadership style, my understanding of what Cultureneering and Culture-Driven Leadership is, and how powerful it can be for the successful and sustainable growth of an organization.


Storytelling has been a golden thread throughout this journey, both in terms of how I have understood and embraced Culture-Driven Leadership and in how I’ve communicated it to my team.


Whether or not you are a Culture-Driven Leader (or aim to be one), storytelling is one of your most powerful tools, from building a brand that your customers can embrace to a team that works to serve the business, your customers and each other.


Related: Culture-Driven Leadership


Lead by inspiration


It’s critical for leaders to find an inspirational style that allows them to connect with each and every employee in the business – remember, your employees are the people who drive everything that happens within your organization. The more they connect with you, the business’s vision and their own role within the company, the more they will enjoy serving your customers.


Stories are an unparalleled way to do this. When we share and celebrate stories of hope and achievement in an environment that we have created, we connect with everyone around us.


To find your leadership, storytelling and communication style, consider the following two questions: What excites you? What excites your employees? Storytelling builds a bridge between these two points, bringing everyone together.


If there was a process to inspire people, it would probably look like this:


  • Find your purpose and share this with your community
  • Be passionate about your beliefs but remain open to change
  • Share stories of your life and how you learnt the important lessons
  • Encourage people to go beyond their dreams and never let them settle for mediocrity
  • Look up to people, never down
  • Never allow success to go to your head and learn as much as possible from failure
  • Offer perspective and show that serving people is way more than a job – it’s a privilege


Storytelling is an effective and powerful tool to achieve all of the above, most notably point 3. At its core, storytelling helps build communities, which is ultimately what you want your business to be.


Related: Service and passion


Show respect to earn respect


Respect and trust underpin each and every building block in your business. They have nothing to do with status or seniority and even less to do with power. They are simply about humanity. You cannot hope to touch someone else’s life if you do not yourself display generous doses of the human touch.


If you believe in community, you need to think of the business as your home and not just your workplace. And what do you do at home? You share your life, your thoughts, your wins and losses… you share your stories. So does everyone else. Storytelling is the ultimate form of sharing and giving.


Sharing your story, including your failures, is also a way of giving your employees respect. When it comes to our experiences, emotions and what inspires us, we are all equal. More than that, you are demonstrating an interest in the lives of the people who make up your organization.


Here are three ways to start building a storytelling culture in your business:


  1. Lift the veil. Show your employees who you are. The most effective stories are stories of transformation that detail a journey from failure to success. To do this, you need to be willing to share and face failures. They make us fallible, but people will forgive that. In fact, they embrace it – we are more liked and respected when we are both admired and also human.
  2. Get your team involved. It’s not just about you sharing your story – it’s about everyone in the organization embracing a storytelling culture. A great way to do this is to simply have a discussion about everyone’s favourite movies. You’d be amazed what you can learn about someone when you start asking which movies have affected and influenced them and why. Discuss the powerful messages in the movies your employees love – this will slowly lead to people sharing their own stories. We all have a story to tell – your job is to create a safe environment that encourages the sharing of those stories to happen.
  3. Channel stories into how you do business. The more comfortable your employees are with their own stories and each other, the more comfortable they will be connecting with your customers. Business is a very human thing, and we often forget that. People do business with people – not companies. When you embrace a storytelling culture, everyone tends to remember the humanness of who they’re dealing with, which in turn fosters a passionate love for serving others.


Top tip: Use these three steps to craft your story of transformation:


  • Remember a point in your life where change was needed
  • Unpack what happened, the trigger point, that inspired you to change
  • Reveal how you finally overcame the obstacle that was holding you back to come out victorious with both courage and conviction


Note: you can use this framework to help your team members articulate their own stories of transformation as well.

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