"Leaders think they have to present data and that there is no room for storytelling", says Karen Eber
a culture transformation expert; however, stories can be a powerful tool to connect people to information. Here’s how they can help:
Engage your audience
When we listen to a story, our entire brain lights up, engaging the frontal, temporal, parietal, and occipital lobes. This phenomenon is referred to as neural coupling, where we (the listener) mirror the speaker's activities as though we are feeling the same things. It’s similar to watching an action movie – we might be sitting on the sofa, but our hearts are racing. The power of storytelling helps our listeners to engage with the message, whether it’s setting out a company vision or defining an organisation’s values.
"Good storytelling generates shared levity and joy, which builds strong ties within social networks", explains Dacher Keltner, a psychologist at the University of California. Stories encourage us to empathise with different perspectives, helping defuse disagreements at work and building stronger inter-team relationships. Start with a basic "situation, complication, and resolution" structure, and then gradually introduce more complex layers, such as metaphors or a call to action.
Studies show that one of the best ways to shape positive organisational culture is through storytelling. Great stories communicate what leaders value and can help connect a particular campaign or new procedure rollout with the organisation's broader vision. A powerful narrative can highlight how the changes relate to a company's future strategy and inspires teams to get onboard.
Find out more about how storytelling can make or break leadership.