Four stages of implementing strategic storytelling

by L&D08 Aug 2016
L&D professionals face a number of challenges including employee engagement, talent development, increasing authentic leadership, communicating strategy, rolling out values, and the list goes on.

What if there was a silver bullet that significantly contributed to addressing all these challenges?

“Unfortunately there isn’t a quick fix, however I believe that storytelling gets close, said Gabrielle Dolan, author of Ignite: Real leadership, real talk, real results.

She added that implementing storytelling strategically into an organisation involves four stages, with authenticity being at the heart of the strategy.
  • Equipping leaders, key influencers and support specialists with the skill

  • Capturing stories throughout the organisation
  • Sharing stories both internally and externally
  • Generating stories by your actions and decisions
Dolan explored these stages in more detail below:


The first stage of the process is to skill all the necessary leaders, ideally including the CEO, senior leadership team and the next few levels down. It is important for the most senior leaders to be role modelling the use of business storytelling throughout the organisation.

Companies should avoid training leaders purely according to hierarchy by including key influencers and support people in the organisation, such as internal communications and human resources specialists.

This allows them to support and encourage the use of storytelling throughout the organisation. BUPA did exactly this when they invested in skilling up not only their key leaders in storytelling but the Corporate Affairs team that continue to play a critical role in supporting their leaders.


This is about developing formal and informal strategies to capture stories throughout your organisation. The focus of the stories you gather should celebrate the past, acknowledge the present and paint the future.

Therefore, it is critical to capture stories from a diverse range of people, including people of different age, tenure, position, location and race.

When running story-capturing sessions the questions you ask are critical. The biggest mistake people make here is asking for stories. If you ask for a story you will rarely get one but the right questions will naturally generate stories.

Throughout 2015, BUPA conducted several story capturing sessions bringing together a diverse group of people from all over the organisation to capture stories about employees living their values.


Once you have captured your stories you need to share them. The obvious place is sharing them with the leaders you have skilled so that they can start to use the stories in their day-to-day interactions with employees, customers, potential customers and other stakeholders.

It is also important to share stories across your traditional communication channels such as your website, newsletters and employee briefings. However, don’t neglect the most important communication channel you have in your organisation...the grapevine.

Your aim with sharing stories is to influence the grapevine without controlling it. Overall, these stories should encourage the behaviours and culture you want within your organisation.


It helps to understand the concept of how the actions and decisions of your leaders and employees generate stories. When delivering change that involves new strategies or values, organisations need to empower all employees to demonstrate congruent actions that generate positive stories.

You can also maximise the impact within your organisation by being aware of the ripple effect of stories.

The first step you need to undertake when implementing business storytelling is skilling your leaders. Many organisations stop there, which is reasonable, as your leaders will be communicating in a more engaging and effective way once they have learnt the skill.

However, the ones that reap the most benefit are the ones that focus on all four stages.

If you’re looking to address organisational challenges including employee engagement, talent development, increasing authentic leadership or communicating strategy, business storytelling may be the silver bullet you’ve been looking for.