Using Stories to Build and Unite Teams

Julie Jones

Are you and your team ready to be the heroes in your own action story? When did you and your team experience superhero moments during COVID? What are you most proud of? What challenged you? What made you laugh? Questions begin conversations. Conversations become storytelling. What do you remember and what do others on your team remember? During a meeting, ask questions such as—what did the team overcome? How did the team respond? What is most memorable? The dynamics in the room switch as people become the authors of the story and owners of the narrative. As more people share, the stories gain depth as more perspectives are added.  Team members build upon the comments of others. These stories form the foundation of a work culture and a sense of community and belonging.What is a Story?

Mark Travis, a film director, said that “A story is the telling of an event, either true or fictional, in such a way that the listener experiences or learns something just by the fact that he heard the story.” A story is a means of transferring information, experience, attitude, or point of view.” Travis also noted that many times that “stories feed ourselves, nourish ourselves, take care of, comfort and protect ourselves ”. “They are an essential tool to keep the (storyteller’s) psyche in check.”

Stories impact everyone involved the storytelling process which is why they are powerful tools to build personal resilience, as well as promote teamwork and community.


What Is a Story, and Where Does It Come From? (

Stories include a variety of elements. Think about how you can use these elements as building blocks for your story and how they impact storytelling.

  • Characters – who is in the story?
  • A setting – where does the story take place?
  • Conflict – what is the struggle, challenge, or conflict the characters encounter?
  • Theme – What is the central idea of the story?
  • Plot – What happens in the beginning, middle, and end?
  • Point of View – Who is telling the story?
  • Tone – What is the attitude or feeling of the story?

Consider how members of the team would use these story elements differently for the same situation or event. Magic happens when team members stories are combined creating a more robust version than any individual story.  

Types of Stories

COVID impacted you and your team in many ways giving you many different types of stories to tell. Think about a story you and your team could share using each type of a story format shown below.

  • The Quest – the main character(s) goes in search of something and encounter obstacles, to capture something worthwhile.
  • Voyage and return – the main character(s) embarks on a journey where they are changed as result of the process.
  • Overcoming the monster – the hero (heroine) challenges the monster to achieve a better tomorrow.
  • Rags to riches – the main character(s) changes and shifts to reach positive balance or positive state.
  • Tragedy – the main character(s) experience a tragic event, or the main character(s)assists others overcome a challenging or difficult time.
  • Comedy – the main character(s) experience a series of misadventures on their way to realizing the correct path or resolution.
  • The types of stories change how emotions are processed for individuals and teams. As the leader, you can shift the type of questions you might ask to change the emotions shared.  

Why are stories powerful?

Stories speak to your emotional brain more than logic alone. You remember stories better than facts alone when the elements of a story are woven together to describe situations. Stories impact both the individual storyteller and the listener in positive ways.

Stories allow the storyteller to self-reflect and process emotions. Stories can foster positive self-talk, offer a sense of pride and accomplishment, and promote learning. Stories can make the situation or event more approachable when compared to logic alone. For listeners, stories can create a shared experience, help shape the narrative of the memories and events, and also foster learning. Stories build resilience, provide a chance for healing, demonstrate accomplishments, and create a sense of belonging.

Stories weave the elements together - characters, setting, conflict, theme, plot, and point of view to make sense of the events and the impacts – physical, emotional, social as examples for those involved.  

Download the story prompts provided to begin your stories for you and your team.


A special thank you to Brian Dixson, a Regional Foodservice Manager with Geisinger Health in Pennsylvania, and Gina Feasby,  the Director of Nutritional Services for Adams Health Network in Northeast Indiana for sharing their stories during an Association for Healthcare Foodservice webinar this June.

What did you are your team learn about your emotions?

When Gina asked this question of her team, she was surprised by the responses and how easily her team shared their thoughts.  In the beginning of COVID, they were scared. As COVID wore on, her team spoke of being tired and getting irritated with each other more often.  And then one employee said, “Remember, when we got a code blue* every day. And when was the last time we heard one?” Members of the team then started to discuss what this meant, and Gina noted a feeling of cautious optimism among the team members. Gina noted how others processed this comment and added their own input to the discussion shifting the conversation in a positive direction.

*A code blue is an overhead announcement of a patient in critical status requiring lifesaving measures from a code blue team.

Brian noted how celebrating a success boosted the emotions and energy of his team. As the number of COVID cases increased and placed more stress on operations, his organization played Walking on Sunshine, by Katrina and the Waves, on the overhead paging system when a COVID patient was discharged from the hospital. This song helped the team recognize progress and positive outcomes.

Brian Dixson | LinkedIn

Regina Feasby | LinkedIn

What are your stories? How can you use them to support your team post COVID to build resilience, heal, and move past the events of the past year?  

Join our list and download
our "What's Your Story" Prompts

Use these questions to activate stories with your team!