Storytelling is a tool with many uses in the workplace, finds Iain Lang

We often think about workplace storytelling only when preparing for a job interview: telling stories about when we demonstrated leadership, worked in a team, or dealt with conflict. You can’t show the panel how you lead so you tell them a story about it.

For Annette Simmons the applicability of stories is much broader and storytelling in an organisation is an effective part of communicating to inspire, to change behaviours or to lead: “You can walk into a room and say one right thing and earn trust for a decade - or you can say one wrong thing and blow it for a decade.”

The book describes what we need to do to “think in story” - recognise that for some things there is no proof, that relationships are non-linear, and that we can’t always reduce events to root causes.

The move towards thinking about stories is like the move from quantitative to qualitative research: sometimes qualitative accounts are more convincing.

Simmons outlines six types of story: “who I am”, “why I am here”, “teaching”, “vision”, “value in action”, and “I know what you are thinking” with examples and tips about how to find and develop your own to best effect, and a chapter about how to listen to stories.

Simmons emphasises how stories can boost the credibility of both the message and the messenger and shows why storytelling is a key element to communicating effectively in and about organisations.

Dr Iain Lang is a specialist registrar at the public health directorate, Devon PCT, and epidemiology and public health group, Peninsula Medical School.

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