Storytelling for Data-Driven Change

Data Leaders Must Speak Like Change Leaders

Chief Data Officers (CDOs), Chief Informatics Officers (CIOs), Chief Analytics Officers (CAOs) and other information technology executives are providing solutions to previously unsolvable business problems. The promise of big data analysis lies with the truths it reveals, the opportunities it uncovers, and the competitive advantage it delivers. However, when data-driven initiatives leave the test environment, they collide with entrenched people, processes, and systems that are hesitant to adopt novel solutions.

In most facets of management, data-driven change leaders are similar to every other leader today who must adeptly navigate large teams and entire organizations through a rapidly shifting business environment. However, you face an additional hurdle: the weight of evangelizing a new paradigm of data-backed solutions that have the power to shake the business, leadership team, culture, and budget to its core. This is where your effectiveness might erode because without the buy-in and engagement of your people, the promises of analytics will never be realized.

An additional challenge is that your teams of data analysts, programmers, mathematicians, and computer scientists all speak the language of numbers. To you, the truths the data reveal are absolute. In your world, data predicts outcomes, guides your decisions, and points the way toward optimized processes.

Although the numbers make perfect sense to you, they are a foreign language to most everyone else. In business, data and technology leaders must sell their ideas up to the executives responsible for approving budgets and strategies, and down to the stakeholders who will operationalize your solutions.

In both cases, data executives will face resistance because of the numbers. Although executive leaders responsible for allocating resources, determining organizational priorities, and approving initiatives are eager for data-driven solutions to their biggest problems, they might not be eager to allocate the resources your work requires. That's because the numbers on leadership's mind are different from the numbers on yours; they think in terms of the bottom line, inventory, stock price, and market share.

Meanwhile, the mid-level managers and front-line employees responsible for implementing your data-driven solutions represent another barrier to change. They do not understand your data and they think in terms of a different set of numbers: bonuses, sales goals, and productivity targets.


Storytelling: The Language of Change Leaders

The secret to making your data-driven change stick is to find a common language.

It is the responsibility of CDOs, CIOs, CAOs, and their teams who are leading change, championing initiatives, and heading teams to learn to translate data into the language of people, and people love stories.

We know that stories are engaging – we tell them informally and people listen, understand, and remember. Yet few people in business - especially in the realms of big data, informatics, and analytics systematically harness the natural power of story in the workplace because they don't know how. Storytelling for Leaders training develops participants’ communications skills to harnesses humans’ natural proclivity for storytelling.

Storytelling for Leaders is a training program that combines practical communications frameworks with lots of opportunities to practice so that the workshop material gets used in the workplace and storytelling theory becomes a storytelling practice.

Why Data Needs Stories

The Data Doesn't Speak for Itself

Facts, statistics, and numbers aren’t enough to win hearts and minds. Even in the face of overwhelming statistical evidence, most people won’t change their minds or  alter their behaviors.  The data merely uncovers truths; it does little to motivate action.

The Numbers Don't Tell a Story

Data needs context to be understood. Taken alone, numbers can be misunderstood, warped, or manipulated. Coupled with stories, the data comes to life in the form of images and ideas that are memorable, relatable, and inspiring.

Visualized Data Isn't Influential

The evolution from the simple graph to the beautiful infographic is an advancement that makes it possible to visualize the complex insights of big data projects. However, no matter how assessable big data becomes because of dashboards and visualization, these tools alone will never persuade unbelievers.

Learn the Three Dimensions of Story-Work

Designed for Business Leaders

Storytelling for Leaders is business focused, practical, and designed to provide skills that can be applied immediately

Storytelling for Leaders teaches data-driven leaders how to:

  • Communicate by making your message stick
  • Overcome entrenched views by changing behaviors using Influence Stories
  • Build rapport through Connection Stories
  • Gain valuable insights by understanding what’s really going on using story-listening and sense making
  • Connect stakeholders with the big picture by co-creating Clarity Stories
  • Communicate business value using Success Stories

Storytelling Solves Date-Driven Change Problems

Cut Through the Noise

Facts are hard to remember and there are other projects competing for attention. Don't let your point get lost.

Improve Engagement

Inspire action while giving employees confidence in data-optimized solutions.

Align Teams

Teach your team to say 'no' to distractions that are counter to your big data strategy and 'yes' to moving faster in a coordinated way.

Manage Change

Explain not just what is changing, but why the change is important.

Model Good Behaviors

Turn your abstract values, priorities, and operating procedures into concrete examples.

Make the Business Case

Help the organization understand the need for enhanced analytics capabilities by demonstrating value beyond the numbers.

Sell the Strategy

Get buy-in for the approach by anchoring it to the organization's goals and mission.

Acquire Resources

Big data means big budget asks. Headcount, servers, computing cores, and warehouses don't magically appear.

Modify the Culture

Existing technology workers and others must adapt to the implications of data's influence on standard operating procedures.

Operationalize Big Data Projects

Even the best data-optimized solutions risk failure when they move from the test environment to the business setting.

Three Active Learning Opportunities

We help data-driven leaders become better oral storytellers
who speak the language of business


To change attitudes, beliefs, and behaviors, most people need to see the data-driven change you present within a logical context and with emotional appeal that they find attractive. This powerful combination is uniquely offered by storytelling.

Similarly, Storytelling for Leaders relies on a fundamental principle of change management: change does not happen upon first exposure to a new idea. After attending Storytelling for Leaders, participants are always full of inspiration and motivation to start using their new skills, but then they inevitably return to their offices and continue doing their jobs the exact same way as before attending the workshop.

One day just isn't enough time to truly change patterns and behaviors. That's why our approach includes a six-month program that encourages participants to practice storytelling in the real-world.

The fact is: the majority of learning occurs in the workplace rather than the workshop.

It’s this focus on practice and connection that starts in the workshop and continues through the six-month Deliberate Practice Program that makes the difference.

What Others Are Saying

  • Loyal and Enthusiastic Supporters

    Storytelling for Leaders has a Net Promoter score of 65, which puts in the league of Zappos, Amazon, and Harley-Davidson in terms of customer loyalty.


There’s loads of value in the workshop and it’s been a useful part of my leadership development activities. In my role as Chief Sustainability Officer I’m often using stories about how our clients’ thinking has shifted around sustainability… they’re often very powerful. The workshop has given me ideas and tools for actively including stories in presentations to give people a better sense of who I am and what I stand for, as well as to illustrate key messages. I know they’re having an effect because of the feedback I receive – that they reflect an authenticity that is engaging – and because I hear people sharing these same stories.

- Dr. Nick Fleming, Storytelling for Leaders participant

I walked through downtown that morning not sure whether this meeting would prove to be worth my time ... but after 15 minutes of listening to Amanda Marko, I was learning new ideas and practical tactics.  I think we all need reminding: our job is not to just send out information, but to shape the story ... because "whoever tells the best story -- wins."  Amanda's presentation is fun, inspiring and loaded with data (and stories) to convince anyone that strategic storytelling is essential in business communication.

- Gay Eyerman, workshop attendee

    Expected Outcomes

    • influence without the benefit of authority
    • deliver clearer, more memorable and inspiring communications
    • build rapport and connection
    • explain data-driven change in ways that connect with different audiences
    • argue the issues without alientating others

    About the Presenter

    afm capitolAmanda Marko
    President and Chief Connection Officer
    Connected Strategy Group

    Amanda Marko sees the world as a connected place and aspires to reduce the degrees of separation between each person from six to five.

    Technology leaders and business executives from around the world have looked to Amanda for communications coaching and strategic guidance during times of change. For a dozen years she worked every one of her dream jobs in corporate communications – from running the communications office of a United States Senator, to heading the communications departments of both a massive economic development organization and a global leader in the plastics industry, to living in England and guiding executive and employee communications in Europe, Middle East, and Africa for a multinational software company. The one constant through these positions was her role as the lead communicator responsible for messaging and coaching senior executives through incredible periods of change and disruption.

    Amanda networked her way into every position on her career path, then went on to found Connected Strategy Group to concentrate on helping leaders make powerful connections that increase their influence and the effectiveness of their business strategy.

    Amanda’s employee engagement and change leadership consulting practice is complemented by storytelling work. She was the first in the U.S. to partner with Australia-based Anecdote to deliver their Storytelling for Leaders program. The course and subsequent deliberate practice program has taught leaders from blue chip, global firms techniques to better influence, engage, and inspire others.


    Frequently Asked Questions

    • Q.What do you mean by 'leader'?

      A.Anyone who needs to influence, engage and inspire others is a leader. That means all of us.

    • Q.Do you have a separate program for executives?

      A.The Storytelling for Leaders is equally effective for all types of leaders, from mid-level managers to executives.

    • Q.Can you bring Storytelling for Leaders to my company?

      A.Yes. Corporations including Shell, IBM, and InterContinental Hotels Group have sponsored Storytelling for Leaders for teams, entire departments, and executive leaders. Some companies offer Storytelling for Leaders as part of their corporate academy or professional development curriculum. Inquire for more details.

    • Q.I don't like getting in front of groups of people. Does this require public speaking skills?

      A.The storytelling we’re teaching isn’t performance art. It’s designed to be used in a business-setting – across from your boss’ desk, around a conference room table, during a meeting with your team. However, leaders who give speeches will also benefit from the storytelling techniques when speaking to large groups.

    • Q.What do you mean by 'storytelling'?

      A.We’re not talking about epic tales or folklore. The stories that are most effective in the workplace are short – maybe 90 seconds. You could call them ‘examples’ or ‘anecdotes’. The unifying factors are that they are about a specific moment and they make a business point.

    • Q.Who created Storytelling for Leaders?

      A.Storytelling for Leaders was developed by Australia-based Anecdote, known around the world for helping leaders make their strategy stick using storytelling.

    • Q.What is your big data expertise?

      A.Through my work advising data, informatics, and technology executives from large organizations and global companies to communicate their business case, sell the strategy, acquire resources, modify the culture, and operationalize data-enhanced solutions, I have come to understand the unique challenges and incredible opportunities inherent in big data projects. Based on this experience, I have been a featured speaker on change communications at industry events sponsored by SAP, IBM, and others.

    For More Information

    If you still have questions or need more details,
    just request a 30-minute phone call using this simple online scheduling tool.

    I realized the importance of having a story today is what really separates companies. People don’t just wear our shoes, they tell our story.

    — Blake Mycoskie
    CEO, Tom’s Shoes

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