Marshall Goldsmith blog - 5 Storytelling Tips

5 Storytelling Tips Every Coach Should Know

09 Aug 2019

Everyone loves a great story. For thousands of years, stories have taken people on emotional journeys, changed their patterns of thinking, and moved them to action. A powerful way to create greater impact in your practice is to harness the power of storytelling in your coaching. 

The Power of Storytelling

Sharing the right stories can:

  • Overcome any predisposed notions and paradigms
  • Challenge thinking without having to challenge the person
  • Demonstrate complex issues in an easy-to-understand way
  • Unlock out-of-the-box ideas and innovation

Crafting the Perfect Story

Further, you can foster more momentum while facilitating leadership change when you have the appropriate story for every situation. Here are the 5 steps to guide you towards crafting the perfect story:

1. Begin with the goal in mind

First, consider where you want the leaders to be at the end of your story. What do you want them to know, feel, and do? Then, think about where they are at the moment: their current experiences, motives, and backgrounds. How can you take them on a journey from here to there?

2. Let leaders come to their own conclusions

It’s tempting to explain the “moral of the story.” However, we naturally stop thinking when we are told what to “understand.” Instead, let your listeners process what you said and find their own answers. They will be much more willing to act on it because they own the conclusion.

3. Create characters that are relatable and act as a role model

Leaders, like everyone else, mostly care about themselves. They need to hear a story about someone they can easily relate to and who is in a similar situation. When that character is following the right steps towards success, it provides a role model the leader can easily emulate.

4. Challenge beliefs

The characters in your story have the power to introduce ideas which may be too extreme for you to suggest directly. Now, you can present an idea through your story that may challenge the leader.  The leaders can decide for themselves to which extent they want to follow those ideas.

5. Use an established, repeatable structure

Our minds like to follow structures, and you can use this to your advantage. A simple storytelling format to follow is SOAR:

S: Situation and problem

O: Objectives

A: Actions

R: Results and Implications

Your listener’s thinking will naturally flow from one step to the next, and your message will have a greater impact. 

You can leverage stories not only in one-on-one coaching sessions, but also in talks, articles, and team meetings. A compelling story can bring any interaction to life. 

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