Once Upon A Time…In Organizations

CPC Business Development

By Sandra Summerhayes.

Why Fortune 500 Companies are Using Stories to Drive Organizational Results

Not only do we communicate through stories, we also learn from them. Terrance L. Gargiulo author of Making Stories: A Practical Guide for Organizational Leaders and Human Resource Specialists states: “Stories are an efficient way to convey, store and retrieve information. Since story hearing requires active participation by the listener, stories are the most profoundly social form of human interaction and communication.”

So why not use stories in business? Many successful businesses such as Microsoft, Lands End, Verizon and Molson already do! These companies have found that stories help people to better understand business processes; to create and modify corporate culture; to manage and facilitate change and to assist in the management of knowledge and its transfer. Stories act like glue between people. In other words, stories show how our sets of experiences, memories, hopes, fears and desires match with someone else’s.  Stories also help to develop, coach and mentor others, improve training and help us behave and interact with others in the organization proactively. It has also been proven that people remember stories more readily than numbers, statistics and policies.

Stories come in all shapes and sizes. Storytellers use personal stories, anecdotes, scenes and characters from movies, cultural stories, daily observations and interactions, newspaper articles, jokes, metaphors and quotes. They choose whatever they feel will reach their audience best and will demonstrate what they want to achieve best.

As a leader, stories can be used to share the values of the organization with employees so that they understand. For example, reading a mission statement to a group of people is not as effective as telling a story that illustrates what the mission statement can achieve. Fundamental change happens when there is a good understanding of the beliefs, values and assumptions of an organization and its employees.

As a coach, stories are invaluable. For example, by asking your employee or client to tell you a story about a time when they felt really good about their career, not only will you begin to understand what really makes them tick, but he or she will also begin to have a better understanding of themselves.

As a trainer, the stories you choose to tell will help you to engage the audience and teach complex principles. By asking your participants to share stories and experiences, it will help to bind the trainees together and build better teams.

As a recruiter, stories can assist you in finding out what motivates your prospective employee, what they value and if their values will match organizational values before you hire them.

Regardless of your role, stories will engage your audience because listeners participate by creating images of what they hear and instantaneously make a connection to the story and the speaker.

Tom Peters says, “The marketplace is demanding that we burn the policy manuals and knock off the incessant memo writing; there’s just no time. It also demands we empower everyone to constantly take initiatives. It turns out stories are a –if not the—leadership answer to both issues.”

To find out more about storytelling in organizations, attend the Leadership Expo on April 7 & 8 at the Four Points Suites by Sheraton. Visit www.leadershipexpo.com for more details.

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