Chatty Treasures

People are known to collect coins, comic books, antique dolls, pez dispensers, vintage tees and even Japanese erasers! But what about stories? How can one become known as a “story collector”?

Simply put, get others to tell you a story.

Oddly enough, few people harness the natural power of storytelling in the workplace, but learning how to spot an oral story will lead you to “winning hearts and inspiring action”.

I had the recent pleasure of attending the Stories that Change workshop by the Association of Change Management Professionals – Washington, D.C. Chapter, with keynote speaker Amanda Marko, President and Chief Connection Officer of Connected Strategy Group. Below I will share with you key takeaways, including how personal experiences and stories are more impactful than pushed facts, as well as tips to challenging generalizations – by creating emotion-filled stories out of something normally presented generally.

If it has a business point, then it’s a business story. Soon, you’ll go from “story collector,” to “story teller,” to a “story leader,” but to get there we must first understand the formula, and an essential skill in the work environment, of how to spot an oral story.


Business setting (time, place or person marker) + Series of events (of consequences) + People (names and dialogue) + Element of surprise = Business Story


In government, it is hard to make your audience care about your cause. With all the promises of the cloud lately, how can you make an idea stick?

Within your agency, it is also hard to align your company’s values and missions to those of your employees. Employees take notice to leaders who can impact culture – by what leaders’ control, measure, pay attention to, and especially how they respond to crises. When you don’t push facts, but instead pull true stories, you’ll signal leadership.

Think about an instance you had limited time to sell your product or service. Did you spend it discussing hard numbers or pulling at the heartstrings? What if a potential customer asked about the success rate of your past events, you could say “we had a 38.59% show up rate last year with a 45% increase over the last 10 years,” or, you can share a testimony of why to attend. “It was exciting. There was high-energy conversations about transformational projects that were taking place around the country, and the best part was, everyone was engaging and easy to approach,” expressed by a past attendee of GovLoop and Young Government Leaders’ Next Generation of Government Training Summit.

A story alone won’t seal the deal, but with open hearts and new ideas, you’re on your way to driving change. Here are ways storytelling solves business problems:

  1. Cut through the noise – don’t let your point get lost. Use storytelling to make your message memorable.
  2. Improve Engagement – inspire action while giving employees confidence that the company is heading in the right direction.
  3. Align teams – teach your team to say ‘no’ to distractions that are counter to your business strategy and ‘yes’ to moving faster toward corporate goals.
  4. Manage change – explain not just what is changing, but why the change is important.
  5. Model Good Behavior – turn your abstract values, priorities, and operating procedures into concrete examples.

As a leader, you want concrete, replicated skill sets, but you need to start noticing your own experiences as they happen and linking those experiences to business points. Here are leadership questions you can ask yourself to provide a better perspective of your character and your values as a leader. To view more, download the free eBook, Character Trumps Credentials.

  1. Have you ever been in a situation where someone without formal power is the one who inspires people to take action?
  2. When have you seen a leader make a gusty move against the odds and come up trumps?
  3. We are defined by the challenges we take on. What challenges have you taken on that defined you as a leader?

Learning to ask questions that trigger an emotion or a strong mental picture can be effective in the workplace, and your behavior will be absorbed and transmitted by your employees or colleagues. Check out the full presentation of Stories that Change to learn more about winning hearts and inspiring action and be sure to register for GovLoop’s premier event for generation X & Y government employees, Next Generation of Government Training Summit.

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Patrick Fiorenza

This was a great and sounded like a fun event! Never hurts to keep honing your story telling skills – in any setting it’s so important. Working with clients, writing, editing, presentations, the ability to use stories as a device to inspire, make analogies, or provide additional context is invaluable.

LaRel Rogers

Thanks Pat! I agree, a fun, memorable story will resonate far longer than the general context given in a business setting.

Toni Messina

Coincidentally, I read Andy Goodman’s works for the first time this weekend. Made me think about how stories could perk up my own writing and transmit some of the City’s messages more effectively. You might be interested in Corporate Legends and Lore: The Power of Storytelling As a Management Tool Paperback – May, 1993 by Peg C. Neuhauser .

LaRel Rogers

Hi Toni,

Thanks for the recommendation, I will have to check it out! Always interested in learning new ways to deliver effective messages.