Essential Elements of Storytelling

Storytelling is a powerful business tool.  I was reminded of this during my visit to a meeting of the Ohio State Council of SHRM.  Although I was there as an invited guest speaker, I certainly feel like I learned much from others.

The stories being conveyed cover the range of good Human Resources tales.  As often happens when Human Resources folks gather, we are able to talk to others who live and understand the daily challenges that come into our world.  In many ways, it’s even a bit therapeutic to know that the weird event that happened at your workplace last week is not unique and that your reaction is considered normal in the typical human experience.

This provides a valuable lesson for communicating on a larger level as well.  So often, we are afraid to show some vulnerability to those around us.  Using stories as a tool can benefit organizations to incorporate others into an organization’s culture, its practices, and as a way to share information.  When using storytelling in an organization, there are three elements that can ensure we are being as effective as possible:

  • Does the story integrate some portion of your own story?
    People need some personal connection so they can incorporate the lessons into their personal meaning.
  • Does the story have an element that links the organization to others?
    This builds on the larger sense of belonging.
  • Does the story talk about the situation as it stands right now?
    A story must tie the organization’s past to the present day and the current situation.  It’s an opportunity to remind people that today’s challenges are often similar to those faced previously.

So, what’s your story and what does it convey?



About the Author

Spending much of his early life working in theme parks, first as a ride operator and later in public relations at Kings Island outside Cincinnati, Brad has had many unique and fun experiences since graduating from Indiana University. Brad’s HR experience began in policy development and training for International Theme Park Services and took him around the world to train including extended assignments in China, Mexico, & Brazil. Following that, Brad was hired as the first HR professional for a family owned printing company and established their HR practices from scratch before taking on the challenge as the Director of HR and Corporate Compliance for Stone Belt, a non-profit social service organization with over 500 employees in Bloomington, Indiana. After completing his MBA, Brad served as the Director of Human Resources for the 1200 employees and 8900 students of the Portage Public Schools in southwest Michigan. Staying involved with the larger HR community is important and Brad currently serves as the Director-at-Large for the Indiana State Council of SHRM, is a member of the SHRM social media team and has volunteered time for many other local organizations. Most importantly, Brad is kept well-grounded at home by his wife and their two children.

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