Tell a story that humanizes you

Many leaders stay in touch with employees with email blasts filled with facts, figures and organizational news. There’s nothing wrong with that.

But if you really want to connect with staffers, writing sterile business updates will only get you so far. They may appreciate the information, but view you as an intimidating, numbers-oriented boss.

To bond with people on a human level, you need to communicate more fully—and reveal more of yourself in the process.

Consider how Sandy Coletta strengthened her relationship with 2,000 employees at Kent Hospital in Warwick, R.I. As Kent’s president, she wrote an article in the internal newsletter that delighted and intrigued her workforce.

In the article, she describes how she keeps a large pet lizard at home. One day, the lizard escaped from its cage and Coletta couldn’t track it down.

Coletta reflects on her feelings about allowing the lizard to get loose. She also shares her strategies to find it.

She concludes by drawing lessons from her experience about adapting to change, managing stress and seeking creative solutions to potentially serious problems. Her ability to make these points flow from her homespun anecdote—rather than just spout advice or directives—impressed her readers.

Soon after the article appeared, employees stopped her in the hall to comment on her story. Someone even bought her a cage.

“It was an amazing way to break down the barriers between staff and leadership,” she says.

People began to feel more comfortable approaching her because she opened up to them. She discovered what many leaders learn: When you’re willing to tell stories about your life and impart real challenges you’ve faced, it brings you closer to those who might otherwise keep their distance.

—Adapted from “Tell Me A Story,” Michele Weldon,