Today, the world’s most successful companies have discovered that the best way to spread ideas and drive business forward—both internally and externally—is through business storytelling. Think about it: Steve Jobs unveiled Apple’s new products through riveting stories that compelled people to buy. Facebook and Instagram made sharing stories with friends and family easier than ever through photos and status updates.
So how can we evoke this same sense of inspiration and clarity through our everyday business communications? You know… those “un-sexy” project updates, quarterly business reviews, or even emails? The key is to build an organizational culture that speaks a common language of storytelling. But to get entire teams, departments, and companies to efficiently, consistently transform all their facts, data, and insights into stories that spur action… coaching. is. critical.
So, what can companies—regardless of size—that are eager to instill a storytelling culture do? It all boils down to peer-to-peer coaching.
Here are the three most essential coaching questions peers should be asking one another:
1. Does your story include all four signposts?
Every good story told at work, home, or anywhere else, takes you on a journey through four fundamental signposts: Establishing a Setting, bringing in Characters, introducing Conflict, and ultimately, offering a Resolution. Each of these signposts serve a crucial purpose in the story arc.
To assess how well a peer has established Setting, ask:
- Does it build context that brings your audience into a familiar market or company dynamic?
- More importantly, is it a situation the intended audience will care about?
Peers can also help one another assess if the story introduces meaningful Characters that clearly represent the interests of the audience. Ask:
- Do the Characters represent the audience you’re facing?
- Do the Characters face issues this audience actually resonates with?
Next, if there a clear Conflict, ask:
- Does it reveal understanding of the audience’s problems?
- Does the story identify outcomes for the characters if action (or inaction) is taken?
Finally, peer coaches should help each other determine if the story’s Resolution directly addresses and satisfies the Conflict. In many cases, the Resolution is where a storyteller gets into the details of their product features, actionable timelines, and recommendations. A good peer coach asks:
- Does the Resolution go into too much or too little detail?
- Will the Resolution achieve what was set forth in the BIG Idea?
2. Do you have a clear, concise BIG Idea?
There is perhaps nothing more crucial a peer coach can offer their teammate than helping them make absolutely sure A) the story has a BIG Idea and B) that it is the right BIG Idea. A powerful BIG Idea is the lynchpin of the story. Peer coaches should ask:
- Does the story state the BIG Idea clearly—with its specific benefit(s)?
- Does every fact and piece of data directly support the BIG Idea?
If peers can help one another draw a clear line from all secondary information to the BIG Idea, they help cut away the “noise” from a story which detracts from its impact.
3. Does the Resolution fully reinforce the BIG Idea?
A strong story concludes with the Resolution. For it to make sense in the story (and hopefully, move the audience to action) it must be the obvious route to achieving the benefits touted in the BIG Idea. This is what makes a satisfying ending to the story. And so, peer coaches should always help colleagues reassess that every detail included in the Resolution specifically pushes the BIG Idea forward. Ask:
- Does the Resolution include too much detail about a product, proposal, or recommendations that are unrelated to the BIG Idea? If so, this will distract from the key message.
- Alternatively, does the Resolution include too little detail? This will leave the audience unready to make a decision.
Peer coaching is vital to an organization’s storytelling culture
Nothing will build stronger stories and better collaboration than peer-to-peer coaching. In order to foster a stellar storytelling culture, peer coaching should be ingrained directly into the story-building process. Teammates can play a key role in helping one another establish strong, succinct messages and streamlining all supporting facts and data to elevate that message.
This not only helps individuals, but is also seeps into the broader language of entire teams, departments, and eventually, the whole organization. A culture of storytelling is born. Hooray!
Want more strategies for building a culture of storytelling at your organization, including resources like peer coaching checklists? You’ll love our corporate storytelling workshop for teams.