Storytelling in leadership development

Edimo team coaching  This week I was facilitating a new leadership development programme with a group of directors.

For the past couple of years, the company has been going through some challenging times due to being acquired by a large global organisation resulting in changes, restructuring and shifts in culture.

There was a feeling of powerlessness and a sense that change could not be affected. The sponsor, new to the organisation, and on the executive board, was brought in on acquisition and passionate about attracting and developing women leaders.

Story telling

To help set the context and inspire the group at the start of the programme, I invited the sponsor to share her own journey and how she has affected change within the organisation.

Learning about leadership within the context in which it will practise is important as it enables participants to see real and immediate value in gaining new behaviours and learning from those who have been through the process.

In helping the sponsor craft her story we focused on:

– Being authentic, speaking from the heart and tapping into emotions through use of language and metaphors  

– Relating the story and experience to the company’s challenges, strategy and context

– Pitching the story at a level which is appropriate so that the participants can visualise themselves in it. Whilst the story teller drew on experiences from her previous organisations and at an earlier stage in her career, she related them to the current organisation

– Grabbing attention and connecting emotionally by talking about struggles, challenges and dealing with them, making tough choices. The energy to progress, to drive forward emerges from the things that makes us suffer, causes us anguish and emotional turmoil   

– Engaging participants in dialogue at the end – what might they have done and felt to include the ‘being’ and ‘doing’ of leadership    

– Reflecting on what they have learnt and this can be turned into action

The whole process took less than 1 hour and was invaluable in getting the programme off to a great start. With a 360 feedback process completed, a 2 day dialogue, developmental plans were created with following up action learning sets.    

People will tell stories within organisations. The trick is to choose which ones they tell by you telling them first. Forget lists, slides and bullet points. Get into the habit of telling compelling stories which arouse emotions and energy. Build shared experiences and realities by engaging with others using the old fashion human way – story telling.

Do you use story telling and in what context?

How are you developing your story telling skills?

Read my other blogs on Storytelling 

2nd image courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.Net

Vera in 2012I am a professional coach (MA in Coaching & Mentoring) working with women and leaders to build their confidence and know how to progress, make successful changes, leverage their influence, impact, presence and communication. I am a part-time lecturer in leadership and work within organisations to develop high performing teams, mentoring schemes and facilitate skills training in leadership and management development.


About verawoodhead

I'm an executive coach, leadership facilitator and learning & development consultant working with managers and leaders to develop the skills and behaviours to inspire performance and drive results; achieve promotion ; make successful career changes, be resilient and thrive at work. Within organisations, I help to facilitate better conversations, design learning interventions which deliver practical and lasting solutions aligned to business strategy and goals. Connect with me on Twitter @verawoodhead
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