The coronavirus pandemic is creating an epidemic of loneliness and changing the nature of workplace culture. But there’s a simple way to help employees experience connection and belonging no matter where they are or what kind of mess the world is in: storytelling.
Storytelling is as ancient as humanity itself, and cutting-edge neuroscience shows that our brains are wired to respond profoundly to stories. Researchers have found that when we listen to stories, our brain activity starts to synchronize with the storyteller. That connection helps us develop empathy and can even improve our attitudes and behavior.
In the workplace, that means stories can drive deeper relationships with colleagues, a stronger sense of team unity, and better performance. Here are a few simple steps you can take to weave storytelling into your organization’s culture.
Storytelling begins with an invitation: I want to hear your story. Depending on the size and structure of your organization, that invitation can take many forms. Here at Avanoo our teams are small, so we often invite each other to a story or two during quick daily check-ins; we also get the whole company together for weekly and monthly meetings that include storytelling as a way of reporting on recent successes, learnings, and progress. We’ve also coached CEOs and executives to weave their stories into keynotes at annual gatherings of thousands of employees. Involve leaders and managers at all levels to create the right opportunities for your employees’ stories to flourish.
Storytelling is most powerful at scale, and that means finding the right communication tools to help stories spread throughout your organization. We’ve developed a purpose-built storytelling platform, the Avanoo StoryApp, that makes it easy for all your employees to record, share, and hear each others’ stories as short videos. Company-wide chat software and social media platforms can also be effective channels for sharing stories.
And check out our eBook Using Stories to Support Connection & Belonging During the COVID-19 Crisis for more tips on how storytelling can support your team right now.
Culture often comes from the top, so executives and leaders need to set the example. Personal stories can help to humanize senior leadership or reinforce key messages that all employees need to connect with. And when leaders share stories about challenging topics like vulnerability, failure, or critical feedback, employees see those qualities are truly valued – which helps them feel safe to open up and share their own stories.
Organizations of all sizes and across all industries can benefit from telling more and more powerful stories. And that goes double during this pandemic when the physical and social distance between us and our colleagues is at an all-time high.
So give these storytelling practices a try. Your brain, and your team, will be glad you did!
—Ted Burnham, Avanoo Lead Content Marketer
Ted Burnham loves the power of words – to tell stories, explain big ideas, and help people connect. He is a writer, editor, multimedia producer, storyteller, and “professional combobulator”. Ted’s work has appeared on NPR, Popular Science, and elsewhere.
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