Skip to content
Storytelling in Feedback Meetings: Employees on the Hero’s Journey
Campfire – Employer Branding Tools 25 January 2018

Storytelling in Feedback Meetings: Employees on the Hero’s Journey

The appraisal interview with the line manager has a fixed place in the calendar of most companies. However for many employees, the appointment does not exactly trigger great anticipation, as they are primarily a little nervous about the feedback from their boss. People often think about their own weaknesses, which creates a negative feeling. But quite the opposite – an annual review is an opportunity for managers to see employees as heroes and accompany them on their journey. Instead of interrogating them like an interrogation and working through your own list of questions as a superior, storytelling in feedback meetings signals appreciation and attention to the other person. For the boss, this means being able to listen with the aim of recognizing the motives, values, emotions and needs of employees, motivating them and supporting them in their development. But how can you support employees on their adventurous journey and tease out their potential?

The employee is on his own personal hero's journey and has packed a large rucksack for it

Mentor instead of supervisor: supporting employees on their adventure journey

Joseph Campell examined many myths and stories of mankind and found a common thread – the hero’s journey. At the center of this journey is, of course, the hero or heroine. So why not simply send your employees on this exciting journey? As those who have to leave their comfort zone, defeat opponents, overcome trials, and find a treasure or elixir of life in order to reach their goal in the end. The general question is where the employees are right now: in the valley, in the middle of the ascent or already close to the summit? And what is your goal? What have they achieved so far and what do they still have to do? The hero’s journey is the ideal starting point for asking the right questions as a boss during an annual appraisal. The examples below show which “most important” stages of the Campbell / Vogler Hero’s Journey are ideal for use in an employee appraisal guide.

Familiar world

In classic stories: The hero or heroine lives in their familiar, “ideal” world and everything runs smoothly. You know your way around at home.

Question to the employees: Where did the employee stand after the last feedback meeting? What was his or her usual world and typical tasks like a year ago? What was his/her comfort zone?

The call

In classic stories: The hero or heroine is asked to leave their familiar world and forced to do something: protect a village, retrieve the Golden Fleece or look after an abandoned child.

Questions for employees:What has changed unexpectedly in the last year? What inner or outer voices motivate him or her to develop or change professionally? Where does his/her motivation come from?


In classic stories: The hero’s first reaction is often not to answer the call. Reasons for this can be fear, but also the feeling that they may be needed more at home.

Questions for the employees: What doubts (internal or external) stood in his/her way? What held him/her back?

Meeting with the mentors

The career path is planned.

In classic stories: In the decision phase, the hero or heroine usually meets his or her mentor, a teacher or friend who supports him or her in the form of equipment, knowledge or even magical objects. But the hero’s inner voice / self-reflection can also take on the role of mentor.

Questions for the employees: Which supporters were/are there? What tools does he/she need from the mentors (superiors, colleagues, etc.) to overcome the hurdles? What has helped him/her professionally and personally?

Exceeding the first threshold

In classic stories: The hero or heroine leaves the old, familiar world behind for the first time and enters an unknown world that has its very own rules and dangers. For the emancipation of the protagonists to become heroes or heroines, this is the decisive step towards taking fate into their own hands and thus changing themselves.

Questions for employees: What was the “point of no return”? How did that feel? Did he/she have to make important decisions and deal with the consequences? What consequences did this decision have for his/her future career?

Trials, allies, enemies

In classic stories: The hero or heroine is challenged and must grow. His/her “self” changes. In the process, the traveler gains allies and makes enemies at the same time.

Questions for the employees: What obstacles stood / stand in his or her way? When and how did he/she accept the challenge? Have these challenges been tackled or mastered so far? How were they overcome? Which colleagues were able to help? How has he/she defined his/her own role in the team?

The reward

The employee's hero's journey is crowned with success

In classic stories: The hero or heroine wins the treasure – the king’s daughter in a fairy tale, true friendship or self-knowledge. The new meaning of life is the real treasure.

Questions for the employees: What were your personal moments of success along the way?

Way back

In classic stories: The hero or heroine returns triumphantly to the old world as a changed person. The journey is not over yet. Is the new “me” stable? The opposing force has not yet been finally defeated.

Questions for employees: What has improved since then? What did he or she learn during the year? What are the next hurdles he/she still has to overcome to reach his/her goal?

Return with elixir

In classic stories: The hero or heroine is “whole” again thanks to the elixir, the old wounds are healed. The hero or heroine thus lives and serves others in his or her original homeland.

Question to the employees: Where does he/she stand today? What is different now? What are the new tasks? Where has he/she developed further? What is he/she particularly proud of? Has the position in the company changed? What are his/her strengths? What specialist knowledge was acquired? How has he/she changed as a result of the adventure? What would he/she like to pass on to the other colleagues? Has he/she already been a mentor for other colleagues? What goals would he/she like to achieve in the upcoming year? What would the new world look like? How would he/she like to develop in the coming year?

There is great joy at the top of the mountain.


The Hero’s Journey can be the ideal method for a feedback meeting and positively depict the journey for employees with all the weaknesses, hurdles and challenges they face along the way. The employee puts himself or herself in the role of the hero or heroine and can thus shed his or her insecurities, as suddenly the weaknesses are no longer cast in a negative light, but are seen as important components of personal and professional development. In addition, the line manager takes on the role of mentor. This has a decisive effect on employees: Because many still see it as a sign of weakness to ask for feedback, advice or even specific help.

The Hero’s Journey can help managers and their teams to change these attitudes, because this is where the roles of hero and mentor come into play. Nobody is demoted as a loser if he or she makes use of the mentor’s advice. Quite the opposite: in many cases, their part is indispensable to motivate the heroes to take on new challenges. With this feedback culture, employees see fewer barriers to asking their superiors or colleagues for advice.

Share this article