Employee Engagement: Engage with Stories (MMP#16)


Employee Engagement: Monday Morning Percolator #16

by David Zinger

Stories engage us and we can foster engagement with stories. This is the final of 6 reviews about the book: Made to Stick. Make your ideas sticky by making them simple, unexpected, concrete, credible and emotional as you communicate your ideas within stories.

Stories are a way to embrace the principles of Made to Stick. They are concrete, they often have both unexpected and emotional elements, they can be simple. You might not even have to create a story. You may just need to take some time to spot the stories that come out of experiences.

Take this quick memory test:

  1. What do you remember about the story of the 3 little pigs?
  2. What is the plot of the tortoise and the hare?
  3. What is your organization’s strategic plan?
  4. What percentage of your employees are fully engaged at work?

Chances are you will remember stories better than facts and figures. Do you also remember to use stories to make your ideas stick? Stories are the glue that holds listener to speaker and reader to writer.

The power of story is

it provides simulation (knowledge about how to act) and inspiration (motivation to act)…a credible idea makes people believe. An emotional idea makes people care…the right stories make people act.

For example the authors cite the use of Jared’s inspirational story as a spokesperson for Subway. His story mobilized people to eat at Subway after Jared lost so much weight from his original 425 pounds after eating only Subway food for a year. It took some perceptive people within the Subway organization to spot the power of this story and to recognize the value and stickiness of the story.

… springboard stories mobilize people to act. Stories focus people on potential solutions. Telling stories with visible goals and barriers shifts the audience into a problem-solving mode.

There are 3 main structures that create effective stories. When you are trying to spot stories to foster engagement look for stories that have the themes of overcoming challenges, making connections or creative development. A really good  story might have all three themes woven into the telling.

To start filming a movie a director may shout: lights, camera, action! Use engagement stories and engaging stories to enlighten, help people get the picture, and create action to move into high levels of employee engagement.

Marcus Buckingham, a leader in the strengths approach to work, has a 6 part DVD series about putting our strengths to work: Trombone Player Wanted

Buckingham is a skilled speaker, the strength focus is vital for employee engagement, yet what adds stickiness to the 6 videos is the use of a story involving a young boy who is stuck playing the trombone in the school band yet really wants to be a percussionist. By the end of the final video, the boy has found someone else who loves the trombone to take his place and he is drumming with delight. The story in relationship to strengths development embraced challenge, connection and creativity. The school band subplot demonstrated that it wasn’t easy, it was important, and if a young boy can do this than any of us who are disengaged at work can make moves to foster much richer levels of employee engagement.


Added bonus to the Monday Morning Percolator:  If you would like to read David Zinger’s 18 page free booklet on the videos with suggestions for action click on the following link to a PDF E-booklet .

Trombone Player Wanted – Free E-Booklet.


Get Perking:

  1. Uncover the stories of your workplace or life that can be shared to mobilize others into engaged action.
  2. If you are going to make a major presentation on employee engagement try ditching the PowerPoint slides and hitching your message to 3 or 4 powerful stories that create a real power point of engagement between you and the audience.
  3. When you spot a good story develop a method to keep track of it for later use. This can be as simple as creating a document, call it stories, and everytime you encounter an experience that would make a good story put a few key words and perhaps a title in the document to remind you of the story. If you don’t track your stories you can easily lose that you could use. Review the document when you are looking for a good story to make employee engagement sticky and to mobilize actions.

Picture credit: gluey harmony by http://flickr.com/photos/giveawayboy/414806681/


One response to “Employee Engagement: Engage with Stories (MMP#16)

  1. I somehow missed this one, David.

    The whole stortelling thing is vastly overlooked –and sometimes dismissed–in an age of bullet point slides.

    Yet, as you lay out, there is proof in the power of stories.

    Is it just too simple in a world that values complexity?!

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