People

The Power of Storytelling

Build and utilize a library of stories to inspire, guide, and deepen your connection with others.

The Case for Storytelling at the Workplace

“A story can go where quantitative analysis is denied admission: our hearts. Data can persuade people, but it doesn’t inspire them to act; to do that, you need to wrap your vision in a story that fires the imagination and stirs the soul.” – Harvard Business Review

Storytelling is a powerful but underutilized tool in leadership. A study of 18,000 professionals across 150 countries has revealed that good communication, with a strong emphasis on storytelling, is a “foundational skill” for CEOs and leaders in the next decade.

A compelling story can: 

  • Inspire and win over an audience 
  • Make an initiative succeed, instead of breaking it
  • Change an audience’s attitudes, beliefs, and behaviors 
  • Motivate voluntary cooperation 
  • Foster trust and loyalty 
  • Create deeper connections 
  • Build group identity

Further, when leaders tell stories at work, they are more likely to:  

  • Gain credibility for themselves and their ideas
  • Be trusted by their audience 
  • Cultivate a sense of ‘transcendent’ purpose among their employees 
  • Create a strong sense of moral motivation
  • Align teams and persuade others to join their cause
  • Inspire new recruits, customers, and stakeholders

Studies also suggest that storytelling can be a driving factor for employee performance — moving audience members to “think, feel, and respond the same way as a character in the story” they hear. It is one of the primary tools of human interaction, making it possible for others to engage with our experiences as their own.

Sources: Harvard Business Review, National Library of Medicine, Kilaru et al, Holand, Forbes 2022, McKinsey & Co. 2021 Study, and Accenture

Storytelling makes business sense: 

A whopping 66 percent of US employees are not engaged at work. Low engagement costs the global economy $7.8 trillion every year. And yet, studies have shown that there’s a simple — albeit often overlooked — tool to combat this: storytelling. Great storytelling “connects employees to their work,” thereby positively influencing how they engage with work.

Of the employees who report the highest morale at work, 94.4 percent report that their managers recognize them by telling stories of the work they’ve done. 

Most employees are “checked out” of work. The consequence is not only lower productivity at work — it is a lower quality of life. A Harvard Business Review study has shown that a leader can turn this situation around by helping their people establish and maintain a lively sense of connection to their work via storytelling. 

People’s feelings about work are only partly about their work. They are also (if not more so) about how they frame their work. Once their frame changes, so does their feeling. And research shows that nothing helps change a frame faster than a story. 

40 percent of information is forgotten by the next day. 90 percent of it is forgotten after a week. But when information is communicated through stories, its recall value goes up by upto 22 times.

People retain only 5-10 percent of information conveyed to them via statistics and 65-70 percent of information shared via a story.

Sources: Gallup, Harvard Business Review, Forbes, London School of Business, and Stanford University

Behaviors Learned

  • Prepare Thoughtfully, Learning & Growth Build a library of powerful stories
  • Use storytelling as a strategic tool to guide, motivate, and inspire others
  • Inspire People to Bring Out Deploy the power of storytelling to win the support of people

Core Ideas

Have a Clear Objective

Your objective could be explicit or implicit, like selling your strategy, building your brand, motivating people, or building a culture.

Craft a Clear & Coherent Narrative

Use the right facts in the right sequence so that your audience can follow the arc of your story easily.

End Your Story on a High Note

Craft a message of hope, opportunity, and redemption, even from stories about challenges or suffering.

Relate Your Story as a Conversation Among Friends

Make the story flow organically. Speak as though you and your audience are “in this game together.”

Rouse the Sleeping Hero in Your Listeners

Use your story to inspire the good in your audience. Be like a mirror where they can see the hero in themselves and be stirred to purposeful action.

Case Study

The Winning Power of Storytelling

Context

The telecommunications industry went through significant transformation in the last few years. In response to these changes — and to retain and solidify their positions as industry leaders — Ericsson heavily restructured their work environment in favor of increasing cross-functional and cross-project collaboration. This had quite a notable impact on how one of their foremost units, Research, operated.

Program

Ericsson partnered with Mentora to upskill their Research department — a global group of 700+ individual contributors and managers — so they could maximize their strategic impact in a work environment that was rapidly evolving. As a world-class department that was driving Ericsson’s technology leadership, they had to learn new and innovative ways to collaborate with other units to accelerate the organization’s growth and impact. Storytelling, thus, became one of the focus areas in the programs Mentora designed for this group to lift their ability to collaborate and lead change.

Delivery

Mentora delivered this program via a learning journey, which included:

  • A self-paced digital program
  • Practice exercises with peer-to-peer feedback
  • Opportunities to transfer their learnings to real life personal and professional contexts
  • A database of stories curated by Mentora faculty for participants to adapt and use as needed
  • Knowledge Checks to evaluate and increase retention

Impact

This program was offered to multiple cohorts within Ericsson.

Between 84 and 86 percent of participants in each cohort rated this program as being very or extremely valuable to their growth.

A positive shift in the overall ability to use storytelling was observed in 83 percent participants.

Further, participants experienced significant shifts in their ability to practice behaviors critical to Storytelling:

Change in Behavior % likely to practice this
before the program
% likely to practice this
after the program
Set a clear objective to my story 0 83
End my story on a high note 17 100
Adapt my story to my audience’s needs 17 100
Narrate a story as though it is a conversation among friends 33 83
Craft meaningful stories from my own life 17 83
Participant Voices

I have learned a lot from this program that will be valuable not only at work, but for life.

Senior Researcher | Ericsson

Participant Voices

This program motivated me to understand the principles and impact of storytelling. It offered practical tips to help me systematically develop this skill. I have honed my skills through Mentora’s prescribed methods of practice and hope to continue to use it in every walk of life to inspire myself and others through stories.

Senior Researcher | Ericsson

Participant Voices

This is a very well thought-out program. It had the broadest impact on my cohort. I now understand how powerful storytelling is as a tool and will try to use it as much as possible.

Senior Researcher | Ericsson

Participant Voices

I have learned that the process of mastering storytelling is practice-reflection-iteration. I have also started to dig deeper into my own memories to craft stories. This has helped me a lot in my interactions with others.

Senior Researcher | Ericsson

Participant Voices

I have now started to pay more and more attention to the words I use in conversations so that my audience can better understand my message.

Senior Researcher | Ericsson

Participant Voices

This program will help me convey my ideas to others in an impactful way so that they can stick and improve collaboration.

Senior Researcher | Ericsson