Channel Your Inner Mark Twain . . .

I’m reminded when I step into a classroom of how powerful stories can be in facilitating the learning process. Stories engage us and kick our brains into gear as well as help us process our emotions. They are personal. We see ourselves in them.

In Made to Stick, the Heath Brothers say that stories can be like simulators — they get us ready to take action. Experiencing a relevant story can even enable skill-building, because at times it can be the next best thing to actually doing something. So, stories can serve as effective antidotes to passive learning.

This came to life for me again as I facilitated the training of executives responsible for rolling out a program aimed at enhancing on-the-job learning in their teams’ everyday work.

The morning part of the session focused on explaining the program components. Leaders quickly grasped the ‘what’ and began grappling with the ‘how’ — forming questions like: How do we make this work? How do we get our teams to embrace it?’

Voilá – enter a panel discussion comprised of other executives who had already implemented in their teams. They shared their stories of successes and ‘lessons learned’ which provided:

  • Motivation: hearing specifics of how it was put into action and how challenges were addressed motivated our group to tackle their planning process with greater confidence and commitment.
  • A Real-World View: stories took the knowledge out of the conceptual and into a true-to-life framework.
  • Mental ‘Practice’: through those stories, learners had opportunities to do mental rehearsal of how to execute in their own teams.

So when preparing to facilitate learning — whether in the classroom, a coaching session or even on-the-job — make sure you have some good stories in your hip pocket to share!

Elise Cary is a partner with PeopleResults. You can reach her at or Twitter @EliseCary.  Sign up to receive the PeopleResults blog at Current.