5 Keys to leading in disruption & uncertainty – Storyteller
One of our key roles as a leader is to be the CRO – Chief Reminding Officer. As leader, we are the custodians of the purpose of the organisation. If it is to remain alive and healthy, then people need reminding of it every day. Uncertain and challenging times call for this even more so.
This is the third of our blog series on 5 keys for leading in disruption and uncertainty. How to lead at a time when the organisation has not been in this place before requires these 5 things
· Non-binary problem solving
Last week we looked at Authenticity. This week, we examine the importance of being a storyteller.
Maybe your first question is why tell a story? Why not just tell them, this is what you need to do? Scientists have tracked the brain patterning of storytellers and listeners and they found that the brain patterning of the storyteller is mirrored in the listeners. It forms deep connection and the listener makes deep connection with the story, Why do we watch soap operas? Because we are nosey and are interested in people’s lives and the story. Story has an immense power to convey meaning and is more memorable for the person. My most powerful engagement is when I have told story.
“I know times are difficult. But, let me tell you about how James is doing a fantastic job at the moment. Maybe you don’t know James, but he works in the housekeeping department. He noticed that a guest who normally puts out his shirts for cleaning each night had not done that yesterday. He knows that our reputation for first class service as a hotel is crucial to maintain business, and so he phoned the room of the customer, apologised for disturbing them and checked if the shirt clean was needed. The customer was so appreciative ad they had forgotten and he had an important meeting the following day that the shirt would have been needed for. As a result the customer told social media all about James and his service.”
Or, the manager could have just told everyone to ‘be good at customer service’. Which method has you more engaged? The story of James or ‘be good at customer service’?
What is the story?
A key leadership phrase is, ‘Be clear and get others clear’. If we want people to be focused on the purpose of the organisation, then we need to be clear ourselves. If we are clear on the purpose, the vision, the values and then the behaviours that we want, then we can tell the story. For example, Everyday Leader’s purpose is to ‘Inspire & Equip’, our core values are ‘Authenticity & Integrity’ and our vision is to use coaching, training and resources to help people see themselves as leaders. So, when we tell story, we tell stories of people like Tanya* who was a leader who had lost sight of her strengths and was not enjoying her job as it had a lot of it that was not a good fit for her. Through a Strengthsfinder assessment and coaching sessions we helped her to see her strengths again, know what jobs suited her and this helped her decide on her next career move and she confidently performed at interview, resulting in her new job. (*name change) When you know your purpose, then you can tell stories around that purpose.
What is the story for now?
During times of uncertainty, your purpose probably remains the same, but there will be key strands that you will want to emphasise. They will be key things that are crucial. For example, it may be about keeping Covid safe? It may be about quality service so people keep using your business?
“I just want to share with you what Gemma did yesterday. You know our key focus as school is to ‘bring security’, well Gemma took the welcome board where children are greeted at the door with handshakes or hugs and made it Covid non-contact friendly, replacing it with things like air hugs, air high fives and waves. I loved this as it kept children safe but also gave them the security of the same routine, but safe. Thanks Gemma for modelling this.” Telling Gemma’s story enables the listeners to understand what the focus means in practice.
Whatever it is, look for examples of good practice and tell the story. In uncertain times, you need everyone focused on one purpose. Patrick Lencioni in how book on silo thinking, says that one thing that reduces silo thinking is a crisis as it can focus people on one core purpose – getting through the crisis. Story is a way of helping people see what they need to do to conquer that crisis.
People of the story
As Chief Reminding Officer, your role is to help people become the people of the story. Find the James’s in your organisation and tell their story about how they are demonstrating the focus needed. When people hear of others who are doing it right, it creates ‘Meerkat Moments’ where like a meerkat their ears prick up, their attention is grabbed and then they too try to model that. They want to be noticed by the leader too. Your aim is to help the listener become the storyteller too.