"Storytelling is the most powerful way to put ideas into the world today."
Robert McKee – Screenwriter, author and master storyteller
People tell stories every day at work. Sometimes the stories are positive – “We closed the deal!” Sometimes they’re not - “This strategy isn’t working.” or “I don’t have a role here.” The tone and type of stories told have an impact on morale, the way people work together and how well the organization performs.
Whether you lead a company, a team or a project, one of your key tasks is to share, and encourage others to share, positive stories about the business – its Purpose, its Value and its Future. Telling these stories builds trust, aligns people behind a common purpose and inspires everyone to deliver extraordinary results.
I’ll highlight one type of story in each of the next three In each of the next three Coach’s Blogs.
Purpose stories focus on meaning. What do we stand for as an organization? Why did we start this business, division or team? What passion do we have for solving a specific problem or serving a certain type of customer?
These Purpose stories are a powerful tool for building culture. At NIKE they talk about how the late Oregon track coach and NIKE co-founder, Bill Bowerman, poured different rubber solutions onto his wife’s waffle iron to create a revolutionary new sole for running shoes. It’s not a story about how to destroy small kitchen appliances. It’s a story that highlights one of NIKE’s core values – innovation to serve athletes.
These type of stories connect with people on an emotional level, so employees move beyond just thinking “I have a job” to believing “What I do has meaning”. You can also use Purpose stories in difficult times to engage people about how to adapt to change while preserving core values and principles. The stories help people to look back and honor the past, as part of moving forward.
What You Can Do:
Revisit the passion, principles and purpose the led to the founding of your organization. If you are a team/project leader, review the key elements of your group’s charter.
Craft stories where people do things that highlight those elements.
Incorporate props (Bowerman’s waffle iron), images and symbols that add impact.
Encourage people to create their own Purpose stories. One client started a formal “Why I Stay” program where they videotaped employees talking about why they stayed with the company. The response was very positive and the program also gave leaders a sense of how to connect individual employee’s Purpose to the overall Purpose of the organization.
My next blog post will focus on how to tell stories about the value your organization delivers.