Goodnight Moon. Hello Storytelling.

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For as long as I can remember, I have loved a good story. If you think back to some of your earliest memories from your childhood, they probably involve you hanging on your parents’ every word as they read your favorite bedtime tale. In fact, you probably remember those stories, and maybe you have even read them to your own children. Storytelling, and even storytelling at work, is powerful. Why do stories hold the power to resonate and stay with us?

Storytelling sparks a function in the brain called neural coupling, which allows the audience to relate the ideas presented in the story to his or her own ideas and experiences. This practice makes each communication more personal and relatable and taps into the emotions of the listener. When you use your emotional intelligence to communicate effectively using storytelling at work, your important message to staff, leadership, and key stakeholders becomes memorable instead of forgettable.

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I remember a time when I was asked to speak to new employees during a company orientation. At that point in my career, I was the director of business development for a hospital. Ultimately, my job was to market the hospital, but I was mainly responsible for revenue being brought in by maintaining the hospital census. The day before this particular orientation, I had a bad day. Or, at least I thought it was bad. Then, I met 14-year-old Elizabeth.

Elizabeth had been in a horrible car crash a few weeks before I met her. She had a brain injury and was having trouble communicating and showing emotion. None of the therapists were quite certain of the extent of her injuries, and her family had been devastated by the incident, unsure that she would ever regain full cognitive function.

We found out that Elizabeth was a huge fan of Cody Simpson, who was basically the Australian Justin Bieber. He just so happened to be in town for a concert, and the staff had reached out to his people to see if he would visit her at the hospital. Turns out, Cody’s dad was a former physical therapist and understood the importance of what a visit like this might do for someone like Elizabeth. Cody came to visit her and sat on her bed. He told her that he heard she couldn’t make it to his concert, so he wanted to bring the concert to her room. He had his guitar in his hand and began serenading her within minutes of arriving. Tears started streaming down her face when she heard the music, and that was the first emotion she was able to communicate since the accident. I remember telling her parents that I thought I was having a bad day, but they really showed me that every single day is a gift, and I should never take that gift for granted.

I walked into my presentation the next day and abandoned everything I had planned to say to those new employees. Instead, I told them Elizabeth’s story. I told them that caring for our patients and our families and treating them like our own family is really our first and most important job. The only census I cared about that day was how many people we helped get back to their lives because of the inspiring work that happened in that hospital every single day.

I will never forget Elizabeth that day, and how there wasn’t a dry eye in that new employee orientation class. Stories in the workplace can affect change, evoke emotions, and drive people to want to DO better and BE better.

So, how can you use storytelling at work? And what story will you tell tomorrow?

Headshot of Heather Zell
Heather Zell

Heather Zell is a communications professional and certified emotional intelligence coach with more than 20 years of experience in various fields such as media relations, marketing, business development, TV production, and coaching. Her career began in entertainment television as an intern at Late Show with David Letterman. Since that time, she has worked for several businesses, healthcare companies, and advertising agencies, and has a background in television news. She has developed communications plans for corporate clients, nonprofit groups, and national organizations. In addition, she has won national awards for her public relations and outreach work.

She is happiest when helping clients build their businesses through training and helping them overcome obstacles that ultimately achieve business goals and objectives. In addition, she has a passion for emotional intelligence coaching and speaking to companies about how to best tell the story that reflects their brand.

Outside of the office, Heather enjoys spending quality time with her family and friends, drinking a nice glass of wine on the beach with her mom, podcasting with her sister, and sailing with her soulmate. Heather is a pop culture and TV junkie, and you can often find her eating Pringles and watching well-scripted TV on the couch with her best furry friend, Mr. Fletcher the bernedoodle.

Connect with Heather on LinkedIn and at

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