Inspire Your Team with Stories

Learning Objectives

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

  • Use five tips to help you tell inspiring stories.
  • Use stories to inspire your team.

How to Inspire with Storytelling

In this previous unit, we shared three types of stories: real life, inspirational, and informational. In this unit, we’ll explore more deeply how to inspire your team with a good story.

Relatable, Riveting, and Repeatable

You’ll probably remember that to best inspire your audience, your story should be relatable, riveting, and repeatable. In addition to those “three Rs,” here are our top five tips for using stories to inspire:

Build your own inspirational library
Understand the situation
Identify the theme of the situation
Personalize the message
Mind the time

Let’s explore each tip in detail.

Tip 1: Build your own inspirational library

Remember that “free little library?” Time to start filling it up.

Scour the internet for stories about successful teams. Subscribe to daily inspiration emails. Research, listen to, and remember motivational tales and store them in your own inspirational library.

Here are our top suggestions for sources of inspirational stories:

  • Real life—You’ve done something inspirational, right?
  • Movies—Are you hearing the theme from Rocky?
  • LiteratureThe Alchemist
  • History–How about your favorite inspirational biography?
  • Quotes—“If at first you don’t succeed, try and try again.”
  • Sports—Just look to the Olympic and Paralympic athletes.


Download our Online Inspiration sheet from within the Storytelling Pack for ideas on where to find inspiration at any time. We share our favorite resources and the best places to find inspiration online.

We’ve also compiled a cheat sheet called Inspire with Quotes. You can find it within our Storytelling Pack. It gives you quotes to use and the situations to use them in.

Like we talked about, you can also inspire your team by sharing about your own career. For example:

  • Talk about a specific time when you worked through a tough time.
  • Share stories about what you’ve learned in your career.
  • Share the story of your career journey and how you arrived at your current role.

Pro tip: By making things personal, your team will see a real-life example of what it’s like to have “been there.” We’ll share even more about this in a bit.

Another place to find inspirational stories is by sharing your directs, coworkers’ or other teams’ successes. For example, think of a time that you witnessed someone on the team demonstrate something truly inspirational or be really great at their job.

Click below to hear Scott Jorgensen, senior managing director, Customer Strategy & Innovation at Salesforce, share a great example of how to turn a direct report’s accomplishment into a wonderful success story.

“Look at what this account executive did! They thought really deeply about what was important to that CEO and their company…” —Scott Jorgensen, Customer Strategy & Innovation, Salesforce

Tip 2: Understand the situation

After you build your inspirational library, it’s time to put it to use!

There are tons of scenarios that require an inspirational push.

Cartoon of camper pushing beachball up a mountain

For example, maybe your team worked hard on a deal that fell through. Or maybe the whole team pulled together to launch a product, but the product wasn’t ready by launch day. Or perhaps your top performing direct report is slipping, and you don’t understand why.

It’s not one size fits all.

If you want to tell a story that reaches your team or an individual on your team, you need to understand the specific situation at hand. Ask questions to find out what’s causing your direct report to feel low or in need of inspiration.

Tip 3: Identify the theme

As you hear themes emerge, start to think of the different stories you’ve stored in your personal inspirational library and consider the quotes that you’ve collected. Then, match the situation to the theme to the story.

For example:

If your direct report needs encouragement because they feel like giving up, share a story about persistence and commitment. You can also use quotes.

Tip 4: Personalize the message

Tell a story in a way that will make sense and be relatable to your direct report.

Would you share a sports story with an employee who doesn’t watch sports? An obscure literary reference to 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 and connect with them.

Tip 5: Mind the time

Short and sweet. You want to avoid making the story seem like a lecture.

For example, one of your direct reports comes to you distressed about a deadline. You decide to call a “30-second time out.” (This is a sports analogy, so be mindful of who you use this on.) You share your story of how you “made that last-second shot” (closed the deal) “at the buzzer” (at the deadline) as “time ran out.”

You share a quick suggestion about managing deadlines from your experience that might help your employee. After you’ve spoken for 30 seconds, the “referee” blows the whistle, and you send your employee “back out to the court” to get it done. Short, sweet, inspirational, and hopefully effective.

Let’s Sum It Up

Not sure you’ve got it in you to inspire with storytelling? Never fear, we’re not expecting you to be the next Tony Robbins. But everyone and anyone can use the tips we’ve shared to motivate and inspire. It’s up to you to be the librarian for your team’s “little free library.” Stock up on great inspirational stories and quotes that will be sure to motivate and engage. And, learn to tell a story that grabs your team’s attention.


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