“Tell me the facts and I’ll learn. Tell me the truth and I’ll believe. But tell me a story and it will live in my heart forever.”
Native American Proverb
There is a groundswell of recent energy related to storytelling being a critical skill of effective leaders. Am I surprised by the fact that the best leaders integrate storytelling into their management repertoire? Absolutely not.
However, what does surprise me is that most companies have not figured out a strategy for effectively capturing and leveraging stories across their company as a way to connect employees’ minds, hearts, and their work. Stories alone can help companies close the gap between what they can imagine and what can be accomplished.
What we set out to do almost 15 years ago at Brand Integrity was to help our clients literally create a storytelling engine. What our clients began to see was that if they could truly master the discipline of strategic employee recognition, what they were really doing was mastering the way to tell and share positive stories throughout their company, and the recognition was the fuel to power the storytelling engine.
When we recognize someone in a way that highlights the behavior and experience they deliver, connect it back to the values of the company and what it is leading to for the company, we are telling a story about our culture. A story that can be shared so other company leaders and employees can learn from it and tell it again.
Most corporate recognition programs these days are simply using technology to facilitate ways of saying thank you. You don’t need technology to say thank you, just say it. While gratitude in the workplace is a critical component to fostering a strong work culture, saying thank you to someone is not storytelling. Stories involve characters, settings, plots, conflicts, and resolutions.
It makes me think about bedtime for my 4 children—when the expectation many times is that my wife and I tell a story. Imagine me lying in bed next to my 6-year-old son and I just say, “Thank you. Goodnight. That’s my story, see you in the morning.” Can you imagine the backlash I’d get? “Dad, that’s not a story, all you said was thank you.”
Don’t let “thank you” get in the way of capturing and telling stories that bring your culture to life every day. Stories go well beyond thanks and recognition.