The latest trend in business is bringing storytelling to your organisation. Here’s how it works, writes Gabrielle Dolan.
Storytelling is the new black in business today and many organisations are considering how they introduce the concept. The key to success with business storytelling lies in implementing it strategically throughout your organisation and ensuring it is true to your purpose and values.
Strategic storytelling involves four stages:
1. Equipping your leaders and influencers with the skill
2. Capturing stories
3. Sharing stories
4. Generating stories
Authenticity is at the heart of this entire strategy. Storytelling is not about marketing spin, manipulation or focusing on the positives whilst avoiding the negatives. Storytelling needs to be both authentic in the telling and in the intent.
The first stage of the process is to skill all the necessary leaders, ideally including the CEO, senior leadership team and the next few levels down. It is important for the most senior leaders to be role modelling the use of business storytelling throughout the organisation. Companies should avoid training leaders purely according to hierarchy by including key influencers and support people in the organisation, such as internal communications and human resources specialists. This allows them to support and encourage the use of storytelling throughout the organisation.
You also need to provide leaders with the opportunity to practise their stories and to obtain feedback.
This is about developing formal and informal strategies to capture stories throughout your organisation. The focus of the stories you gather should celebrate the past, acknowledge the present and paint the future. Therefore, it is critical to capture stories from a diverse range of people, including people of different age, tenure, position, location and race.
When running story-capturing sessions the questions you ask are critical. The biggest mistake people make here is asking for stories. If you ask for a story you will rarely get one but the right questions will naturally generate stories.
Once you have captured your stories you need to share them. The obvious place is sharing them up to the leaders you have skilled so that they can start to use the stories in their day-to-day interactions with employees, customers, potential customers and other stakeholders.
It is also important to share stories across your traditional communication channels such as your website, newsletters and employee briefings. However, don’t neglect the most important communication channel you have in your organisation …the grapevine. Your aim with sharing stories is to influence the grapevine without controlling it.
Overall, these stories should encourage the behaviours and culture you want within your organisation.
It helps to understand the concept of how the actions and decisions of your leaders and employees generate stories. When delivering change that involves a new strategy or values, organisations need to empower all employees to demonstrate congruent actions that generate positive stories. You can also maximise the impact within your organisation by being aware of the ripple effect of stories.
The first step you need to undertake when implementing business storytelling is skilling your leaders. Many organisations stop there, which is reasonable, as your leaders will be communicating in a more engaging and effective way once they have learnt the skill. However to maximise your return on investment and to drive organisational change, the next three stages can be very powerful. It is also important to note that the stages of capture, share and generate are not linear and should be conducted in an ongoing, circular fashion.
Gabrielle Dolan works across Corporate Australia helping leaders humanise the way they lead by being more ‘real’. Her latest book Ignite: Real leadership, real talk, real results (Wiley), is available online and at all major retailers. To find out more head to www.gabrielledolan.com