Most leaders and companies are only going to be mildly successful with storytelling. Results are lackluster or don't last. Sometimes it results in "Oh, we tried that here. It didn't work." Find out why and what to do about it.
"As I pondered these questions for my own best response to the current conflicts we face, I looked at the JIT Core Values on the wall in my office; values that lie at the foundation of how we strive to engage with each other, connect with our diverse volunteers, and create partnerships with the young people we serve."
I recently had a great time interviewing Rich Sheridan, CEO and Chief Storyteller of Menlo Innovations based in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Rich is the author of the wildly popular book Joy, Inc.
With Five Inc. magazine revenue growth awards, invites to the White House, speaking engagements around the nation, numerous articles and culture awards and so much interest the company is doing a tour a day of the Menlo Software Factory™. Something is going right and Rich shares with us that that is.
During this interview Rich talks about the role of storytelling in building a strong corporate culture that beats the competition. We chat about why this happens. I love Rich's story of the Viking helmets, along with his thoughts on corporate culture, and about storytelling being a critical part of his CEO duties. And the results for Menlo have been amazing.
Listen to this podcast or download it for later this weekend. There are solid tips here and our conversation was both fun and enlightening. Enjoy this gem.
5 Important Ways To Be Storytelling
I'm sure you've heard this expression: "People leave managers, not companies." Substitute "leaders" for "managers" and the result is the same. When you combine this piece of wisdom with the latest research showing 70% of US workers are either not engaged or actively disengaged at work, all I can say is "Yikes!"
So how do you make certain you are not chipping in to the 70% club?
I always say that storytelling is not the answer to every problem, but when it comes to leadership it's a critical core competency. Especially if you understand story dynamics. We tend to think the focus is on storytelling. But the twin to storytelling is story listening. Story listening embodies specific behaviors and attitudes to gain the maximum value out of the experience. It's like 2 halves of the same coin. Story listening is one part of story dynamics. Story dynamics covers the entire spectrum of storyteller and audience experiences when caught up in a story.
Here are 5 ways story dynamics moves you to the exclusive 30% club of engaged employees:
1. Increase your openness and transparency to build collaboration. Don't converse like a talking head in boring business speak. Drop the jargon.
- Are you using the dynamics of story sharing to connect, build relationships, and collaboration in order to achieve something extraordinary?
- Are you willing to be vulnerable, and are you willing to be changed by the stories you hear?
2. Speak to current reality. It's a relationship, social, and experiential economy these days, and you need to attract, focus, and keep talented employees.
- Have you shared the "why" stories about their work and what's expected of them?
- Do you leverage the behaviors and attitudes of story listening to convey your recognition and praise for doing good work?
3. Trust is a keystone your leadership needs to stand on.
- Are you sharing a story and then modeling the positive behaviors the story is about? You move from storytelling to story doing when you walk the talk.
- Are you being authentic and transparent in your stories and habits?
- But even more importantly, are you story listening? Story listening come first for any trust to be built at all.
4. A sustainable culture creates an environment of learning and growth.
- Are you repeatedly sharing stories about how employees are reaching their potential?
- Are you sharing stories demonstrating that growing people is one of your priorities?
- Are you sharing stories about experiencing organizational values in action?
- Or stories about being best-in-class?
- Or stories about incredible mentors/mentorship in your company?
5. And last but not least -- in fact, it should probably be #1 -- is self development. Storytelling is an inside-out job. A self-aware leader is a resilient leader. Are you asking yourself questions like:
- What's the story I'm telling myself (about my beliefs, attitudes, values), or what's the story I'm telling about others -- and are these still valid?
- Where did my stories about power, anger, fear, withdrawal, optimism, openness and assertiveness come from? Are these still valid?
- How do I rewrite the story to live into a new or revised narrative?
- What role models do I admire, and what are their stories that I can use to help guide me?
These 5 ways to be are the heart of leadership. Because as the famous author Salman Rushdie says,
"Those who do not have power over the story that dominates their lives -- the power to retell it, rethink it, deconstruct it, joke about it, and change it as times change -- truly are powerless, because they cannot think new thoughts."
Find your stories. Listen well. Story on and flourish!
For coaching or workshops on Storytelling For Influence (for alignment and better decision making), Transformational Leadership (for transforming self and others; leaving a lasting legacy), Data Storytelling (for finding knowledge, understanding, or transformative insights), and Inspiring Presentations (to enroll others in your vision), contact Karen.
Changes Are Coming!
Well, as you probably have noticed. I haven't curated an article in over 4 weeks. Until today. Good grief! What the heck is going on?
After 5 years of steady curation I needed a break. And I wanted the time to think deeply about what's happening in the field of business storytelling, ways to reflect these trends, the kinds of articles to curate, and how to reorganize the curation to better serve you.
So here is where my thinking and observations have led me:
- I'm going to focus on the topics of transformational storytelling, storytelling for influence, and data storytelling. These are the biggest needs and trends.
- Transformational Storytelling covers storytelling for leadership, personal development, change, and culture.
- Storytelling for Influence covers presentations, customer relationships and anything to do with how to work with stories for greater influence and impact in your world.
- Data Storytelling sounds dry, but it's a critical need it today's data driven world. There's some great stuff out there about how to tell the story of the data, and lots of junk. Data scientists talk about story, but many make a lot of mistakes. Business storytellers sometimes say things that are going to get us into trouble with the scientists. Over the last 2 years I've been talking to both scientists and academics about the topic. I don't have all the answers, and I'm sure I'm going to make my own mistakes. But I hope to bring more clarity to this hot topic.
- I'm still hunting only for the best articles I can find. It's getting harder to find these. So I may end up curating only a few times a week.
- I'm going to check all the links on the articles in the collection to verify they are still good. I've already stumbled upon a bunch that are not. Give me at least 6 months to do that.
- Over the next 6 months I'm also going to re-tag all of the articles in the collection (2,000+) so everything is easier to search. I'll create a document showing you how to easily search the collection, and post that too.
I'm excited about these changes and still bringing my passion to you! So....new directions and some cleanup work is on the horizon. LOL, this will keep me busy plenty while my business continues to grow :)) Please continue to send me your support and ideas. I love to hear from you.
Many thanks for your patience while I've been going through this re-adjustment/re-focusing process.
I look forward to the new upgraded Just Story It curation and hope you do to! Chat with you soon. All the best,
Healthy Adaptive Organizations Have More Fractal Storytelling
David Hutchens is a long-time friend and fellow business storytelling colleague. I was interviewing him yesterday for the Storied Powered radio show, normally hosted by another colleague, Lianne Picot. As the guest host I asked David to join me to talk about his recent book where he talks about Fractal Storytelling.
I know you are wondering, "What the heck is Fractal Storytelling!?" It's the basic idea that stories people tell in organizations do not exist in isolation, they are always part of a larger shared story. Stories in an organization are linked together, parts of a greater whole.
The more Fractal Storytelling you have reflecting the themes and truths that define the company's bigger story, the healthier your organization is.
As David says in his book Circle Of The 9 Muses: A Storytelling Field Guide For Innovators And Meaning Makers, "Imagine the power and adaptability of an organization in which everyone is creating aligned -- though wonderfully varied -- stories."
I love the notion of Fractal Storytelling. There are two whole sections of the book devoted to it, where David shares activities you can do to get at this fast, and create your organization's metanarrative. 'Gotta love that!
The activities he shares in the book include using Story Circles to surface Values In Action stories from people in your company. Then there's a great process for articulating your company's institutional memory and journey over time. He moves on to give us simple activities to do to work with the Hero's Journey that combined with the previous activities lead to the figuring out your metanarrative.
This will save you tons of time and is fun to do. No more bumping around in the dark wondering how to tap the multitude of stories within your company and understand the overall metanarrative they are telling you.
But that's not the only topic David and I chatted about yesterday during the interview!
We started off the conversation talking about how our storytelling has changed over the years, why David felt the need to write Circle Of The 9 Muses, what processes in the book excite him the most, and why Fractal Storytelling is so important.
You can listen to our 50-minute conversation here. Go grab the book (it's my current favorite in my library), check out other interviews by Lianne on the Story Powered radio show, learn more about Lianne's Story Powered Institute, and if you are looking for tons of free resources, check out my Just Story It business storytelling curation on Scoop.it where I've reviewed over 2000 quality articles on the topic.
Have fun and story on!