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How to connect with your team through storytelling

How people feel about work is only partly about the actual work. It’s equally important how they see their work – is it a mindless task or an irrelevant compliance activity? Or, do they see it as being part of something important and feel inspired to be connected to the bigger picture? Changing the way how people look at their work can change the way they feel about their work.

Storytelling has the power to present new perspectives and influence mindsets of others. The latest neuroscience research confirms that irrespective of the way we present the story – words, gestures or pictures – our brains create connections with the specific people and their feelings in the story and this connection is much more intensive compared to facts and data.

A leader without the skill to tell a great story is missing the opportunity to persuade and motivate others. To create and deliver impactful stories that create emotional connections, leaders should consider the following key aspects:

1. Know your audience

A story only works with the right audience. Knowing your audience helps to identify relevant stories and chose the best way to deliver them, so they trigger the intended reaction. Tell the right story at the right time, so you can create a connection between the challenges of your team and your story. Your team will be able to relate to the story and the characters. It doesn’t necessarily have to be the main character - your listeners can see the connection between themselves and the critical aspects of your story.

2. Draw your audience into action

You will never get a second chance to make a good first impression. Getting immediately into the action part of the story helps to set the tone and capture your team’s attention right from the beginning. Too much time spent on setting the scene can mean that you lose them early on. Strong stories are about emotions, empathy and thoughts, so it’s essential to choose situations with emotional impact and meaning.

3. Create a connection

Show your team that you understand the challenges and context of their situation to build trust. To create a connection, consider specific elements of the story and how they interlink and form the overall picture. Visualise your story to allow your team to create an emotional connection that can impact their thinking; presenting alternative scenarios and perspectives that they wouldn’t consider otherwise.

4. Use the power of silence

Any virtual artist will probably tell you that white space is just as important as the drawing. A composer would probably say that the pauses are just as important as the music itself. Similarly, silence is a powerful storytelling tool. Intentional silence draws emphasis – either on what has just been said or what’s coming next and gives your listeners the time and space to think of their own interpretation.

5. Avoid too much detail

Limiting the information helps to engage the imagination. Use less words and focus on the meaning instead. Provide your team with just the right amount of detail to give it context, but don’t overdo it, otherwise they will become overwhelmed and quickly lose interest, or even worse – get bored.

At Acumen we have over 18 years’ experience designing and delivering leadership development programmes that help organisations and individuals solve real life challenges and succeed. For more information about our programmes please contact Simon at

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