National Storytelling Week has arrived! Now you might think of storytelling as something that happened when you were growing up, sitting on the carpet while listening to your primary school teacher tell tales of farm yard animals with the inability to build secure homes, an unruly caterpillar on a binge, or a tiger who had the audacity to drink all of daddy’s beer. In a workplace setting, our stories revolve less around troublesome animals and more around our personal experiences in life.
What is storytelling?
Storytelling is the technique of sharing personal anecdotes to communicate information, ideas, and emotions to employees within an organization. These stories are often told in meetings, training, team building exercises, and even in day-to-day water cooler chat.
Why is storytelling important in the workplace?
Storytelling is an effective way of engaging employees, building relationships, and more importantly, creating a sense of community within the workplace.
Last year, we held an internal Q&A session with HJ Cone, our VP Customer, on the topic of women in leadership. HJ kicked off by talking about her experiences as a woman in leadership: the challenges, the opportunities, and the delights. In doing this, a lot of the women who participated in the Q&A came to realise that even the most successful of people still face big challenges and that things will always be okay in the end.
A lot of our stories come from a place of hardship, but more often than not, will finish with a moral and a happy ending. Within my first year of joining Snowplow, I gave a presentation on mental health at our company Away Week. The presentation started with me sharing a very personal story of my struggles with anxiety and dysthymia. After the presentation, a couple of my colleagues came up to me to thank me and to share their own stories. In sharing my experiences, my colleagues knew they were not alone and that they could talk things through with me if they needed to.
Storytelling at Snowplow
At Snowplow, we have a very open and vulnerable culture and quite often share our personal stories with each other on Slack or during our Donut catchups. Storytelling can help to build stronger, more effective, and inclusive teams. By sharing stories of past successes and challenges, team members can develop a deeper understanding of each other’s backgrounds, strengths, and weaknesses, which can help to create a more cohesive and productive team.
We also hold monthly company-wide Unconferences. An Unconference is an opportunity for anybody at Snowplow to step forward and give a presentation on anything they’d like. In the past, our team has held Unconferences on tattooing, crypto, rugby, and even a shared love of potatoes. By doing this, we really get to know our colleagues in a way we wouldn’t normally. You may have a colleague who you’d only speak to about work, but if you knew you shared hobbies and interests with them, you could start to build friendships, rather than just professional relationships.
One of our aims is to write and share as many Spotlight Blogs as we can this year so that you can really get to know our team. Here’s an example of one of our latest blogs. You can expect many more of these going forward.
With good storytelling, leaders can create an emotional connection with their team, communicate complex ideas and motivate employees. You don’t have to jump straight into the hard, pressing topics, but maybe you can start to think about some relevant stories which you could share with your team.