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Inspire Your Team with Stories

Learning Objectives

After completing this unit, you’ll be able to:

  • Explain the purpose of inspirational stories.
  • List four techniques for effectively sharing inspirational stories.

Why Should We Inspire?

As you learned in the previous unit, good inspirational stories are the “3 Rs”: relatable, riveting, and repeatable. More specifically, successful inspirational stories reach the audience on an emotional level, allow them to imagine what’s possible, and motivate them to take action. 

A typewriter with a piece of paper that reads, “Relatable, Riveting, Repeatable”

Inspirational stories can truly transform, and because of this, they’re an incredibly powerful tool that people leaders can use to guide their teams.

So, how do you craft a captivating inspirational story that reflects the “3Rs”? All it takes is a few simple techniques. 

Follow These Four Techniques

There are four techniques for crafting an effective inspirational story that really sticks with your audience:

  • Build your own inspirational library.
  • Listen closely.
  • Personalize the message.
  • Make it short and sweet.

Let’s dig into each one. 

Technique #1: Build your own inspirational library.

Remember the “free little library?” that we mentioned earlier in this module? It’s time to start filling it up!

Begin by thinking about your own experiences and accomplishments. By making things personal, your team will see a real-life example of what it’s like to have “been there.” For example, you might consider sharing:

  • A specific time when you demonstrated resilience.
  • A business decision you made that resulted in a good outcome.
  • An instance when you helped someone reach their goal.

Another place to find inspirational stories is in your direct reports’, coworkers’, or other teams’ successes. For example, think of a time when you witnessed someone on the team go above and beyond in their role.

Finally, fill up your inspirational library by reading stories about successful teams, subscribing to daily motivational emails, or listening to poignant podcasts. Don’t forget, however, that cliches are not inspiring. When possible, tap into stories that are personal (or at least close to home) for maximum impact. 


Download our Storytelling Pack for more ideas about where to find inspiration at any time.

Technique #2: Listen closely. 

Remember that before you share your inspirational story, you need to listen closely to your team. This will help you understand the situation at hand. For example, maybe the whole team pulled together to launch a product, but the product wasn’t ready by launch day and morale is low. Or perhaps your top-performing direct report is slipping, and you don’t understand why.

Show sincere interest in your direct report’s wellbeing—ask open-ended questions beyond, “How are you?” and pay attention to the answers. Connecting with your direct report as a person first will help you establish a safe environment for sharing and will make your support all the more meaningful. 

Technique #3: Personalize the message.

As you hear themes emerge in your direct report’s story, you can offer up inspiration that feels appropriate and relevant. For example, if your direct report needs encouragement because they feel like giving up, you might share a story about persistence and commitment. 

Tell your story in a way that makes sense and is relatable to your direct report. Would you share a sports story with an employee who doesn’t watch sports? An obscure literary reference with someone who’s more into pop culture? If you’ve gotten to know your team and their interests, you’re more likely to find a story that will resonate with them.

Technique #4: Keep it short and sweet.

When sharing a story, be mindful of its length. You want to be respectful of your direct report’s time (concise stories are typically more memorable, anyway). Also watch your tone: an inspirational story is not a lecture!  

Now let’s see all of these techniques together at work. 

Imagine that one of your direct reports is stressed out about a project deadline and comes to you for a little pep talk. You decide to call a “30-second timeout.” (This employee just happens to be a huge sports fan.) 

You share a story of how you “sank a shot” (closed a deal) “at the buzzer” (right at the deadline). Then, you offer a few helpful suggestions for managing deadlines based on your experience. After you’ve spoken for 30 seconds, your direct report is feeling more optimistic about making the deadline, so you send them “back out onto the court” to get the project done. 

A people leader and direct report having a conversation

There you go: Your story’s relatable, riveting, repeatable—and effective. Nicely done!

Ready to discover how to apply your stellar storytelling skills to business communications? Then head on over to the next unit.  


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