The Power of Storytelling in Learning

‘A great story is the lesson learned’ – John Yorke, Into the Woods

I’ve been using storytelling as a development technique since my very first workshops.  But why does storytelling help learning?  John Yorke, one of the great TV producers of last fifty years, has written an entire book about WHY stories work – it’s because stories are how we make sense of the world.   So much of management training, personal development, coaching, setting goals, giving feedback is about trying to make sense of the world of our work – no wonder storytelling is a brilliant tool to engage learners at all levels of experience.

At 3C, we have specific stories built into our workshops, stories that highlight particular aspects of management responsibility, or tackle challenges facing all employees.  Other programmes use stories to examine the power of our actions.

One of my favourite storytelling activities features in our sessions on feedback.  It goes like this:  I ask participants WHY we should give our people feedback, and I get all the usual responses: keeping people on track, letting them know how well they are doing, etc.

Then I invite each person the share a story with the group about a time when they got some feedback at work that made a big difference to them.  I begin by sharing a story about myself when I got some much needed feedback and that the assumptions I had made about other people’s motivations were quite wrong.

After that, most people share very powerful stories, often about feedback they received a long time ago but has stuck with them.  Sometimes stories are about positive feedback and others are about feedback that was difficult to hear at the time.   Very often these stories have a strong emotional impact, because the feedback made such a big difference to the person.

After all stories have been shared, I ask again – why do we give feedback?  I don’t need people to answer – they have already given the answers in their stories.    Only then do I start on some useful techniques for actually giving meaningful feedback to colleagues.  As you might imagine, the engagement and impact of the session far outweighs a standard ‘here’s a feedback model’ session.

If you would like to learn more about how we use storytelling to transform performance in organisations – drop me a line on 01491 411 544 or click here.

Read more about our storytelling training workshops – all about the performance conversation:

A Year in a Day of Performance Conversations for managers

It’s My Performance Conversation – Forum Theatre for all employees


01491 411 544