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Mastering Storytelling

As management and leadership development consultants we use the power of storytelling throughout our programmes and training sessions with great success. One of our goals is not only to encourage our candidates to tell their own stories but to collect stories that help them understand their organisational values and culture. Stories make information easier to remember and understand. They are a powerful means of communication. Storytelling entertains, evokes emotion and triggers visual memories.

But how can we tell a good story? What are the characteristics of a good story?

Here is an example of a short and impactful story:

‘When Ray Kroc was running McDonald’s from its Oakbrook, Illinois headquarters, he often drove by Chicago area McDonald’s restaurants. Usually he asked his driver to stop so he could check things out. One sunny July afternoon, they were about to pass a McDonald’s; Kroc told the driver, “We need to stop at this one”. As they pulled into a parking space, he noticed that the flowering bushes were littered with shake cups, colourful Happy Meal boxes, messy napkins and other trash. Inside, Kroc asked for the manager. Only the assistant manager was there, so Kroc called the manager and waited for the anxious man to rush in after a speedy drive from his nearby home. “What can I do for you, sir?” the manager asked Kroc. Kroc led him to the parking lot, “Look! We don’t want trash around our sites”. So all three – driver, manager, and Ray Kroc – worked together to pick the trash out of the bushes. You’d better believe there was never again any trash in the parking lot of that location!’

A good story evokes images and feelings. It pulls you into the scene and makes you experience the feelings the character feels. It can touch something familiar in each of us, and yet, show us something new about our lives, our world and ourselves. In our learning programmes we encourage participants to use The Five Sequential Steps of Storytelling (Davis, 1993).

Let’s see it on our example:

1. Setting Time, Place, Players and Context
‘When Ray Kroc was running McDonald’s from its Oakbrook, Illinois headquarters, he often drove by Chicago area McDonald’s restaurants. Usually he asked his driver to stop so he could check things out.

2. Build-Up: A sequence of events that warns the listener that “trouble’s coming”.
One sunny July afternoon, they were about to pass a McDonald’s; Kroc told the driver, “We need to stop at this one”. As they pulled into a parking space, he noticed that the flowering bushes were littered with shake cups, colourful Happy Meal boxes, messy napkins and other trash.

3. Crisis or Climax – The key event which the plot leads up to.

 Inside, Kroc asked for the manager. Only the assistant manager was there, so Kroc called the manager and waited for the anxious man to rush in after a speedy drive from his nearby home.What can I do for you, sir?” the manager asked Kroc. Kroc led him to the parking lot, “Look! We don’t want trash around our sites”. 

4. Learning – What the central character learned.

So all three – driver, manager, and Ray Kroc – worked together to pick the trash out of the bushes.

5. Behaviour or Awareness – The moral of the story.
You’d better believe there was never again any trash in the parking lot of that location!’
To develop impactful storytelling skills you need to understand and practice these five steps and understand the attributes of a good story.

 

Ok, so now we have a structure, would you like to share your story with us? Send your stories to contact@xceedagroup.com

 

References: 

Bell, C.R. (1992), “The trainer as storyteller”, Training and Development, September, pp. 53-6. 

Davis, D. (1993), Telling Your Own Stories, August House Publishers, Little Rock, AR.