The Business of Story Telling (part 1)

Once upon a time, in an office far, far away, there was a stagnating business with disenfranchised employees and bored management…no, no,no… There was a thriving business with motivated employees, vigorous management and satisfied customers…

We all tell stories about our lives, our experiences, our expectations. And we all listen to them too. A compelling story can fascinate, intrigue, inspire, make you laugh or cry. A story can change your behaviour, your thinking, your actions. Humans are defined by their faculty for language, and stories, be they written or told, have the capacity to fire the imagination in ways that simple recitation of facts and figures cannot.

Good leaders harness the transformative power of an interesting story to inspire and motivate their teams. A CEO’s vision for the company can become a legend. Stories can reverse negativity, create a positive culture in the workplace, clarify understanding, inspire action, break down barriers, and above all, add a human dimension.

So what makes a good story? How can you become a persuasive motivator for your team? How do you excite your clients? No-one is looking for a never ending homily like the ice-fishing story offered by Louis CK to Bradley Cooper in the movie “American Hustle” , but there are six main types of story that are suitable for the workplace.


Who am I stories are particularly helpful when you first take on a new team or a new client. They help break the ice and reveal your personality, particularly if you share a personal flaw or a foible (as long as it’s not a major defect) that will help the team realise that you are a fallible human being like themselves. An ability to laugh at yourself will make you more approachable and shows that you trust them with this information.


Telling a story to illustrate your motivation will help alleviate fear and suspicion in your team or your clients that you are “out to get them”. Similar to the Who I Am stories, Why I’m Here stories serve to eliminate any hidden agendas and build trust. You’re in this role for a reason: communicate your enthusiasm — it could well be contagious.


Share anecdotes and observations that will help your team learn. Inspire empathy in your colleagues for the customers they are serving. Share details about a time you were personally served very well or very badly and what you learnt from that experience. Teaching stories remind people of why they are doing something in the first place and can emphasise what is going right as much as what is going wrong.


Sometimes a team can lose sight of their goals. The day-to-day grind has worn away the memory of the reason they come to work every day. Vision stories are ones told with confidence, from the heart. Tell a vision story to raise morale, inspire hope, stimulate action. Help people see the importance of their own role in this overarching achievement. If your vision is clear — share it.

By Paul Rattray

This article is provided as general information only and does not consider your specific situation, objectives or needs. It does not represent accounting advice upon which any person may act. Implementation and suitability requires a detailed analysis of your specific circumstances.