In our most recent Transcribe Live in the Lab, we had a great discussion about the relationship between story telling, organizational culture, and leadership. Stories exist in organizations. They always have and always will. They shape and perpetuate an organization’s culture whether they are accidental or intentional, negative or positive, true or false.
Leaders often come to us and ask how to create a stronger culture. There are two ways we use story telling to do this. One way is to help them identify positive stories from their organization and showcase them in compelling ways. The other way is to create meaningful stories worthy of your organization’s aspirations.
A simple and traditional story structure includes a likeable hero who encounters barriers and emerges transformed. A powerful form of leadership in an organization occurs when people feel empowered to become the likeable hero in a story and create positive stories that resonate with an organizations culture and mission.
We saw a story play out in our office recently, literally in our physical office space. For months we had a desk in a small office that that we inherited when we added office space. We wanted to convert the office to a small conference room, but somehow a story had taken root that our CEO Matt wanted to keep the desk where it was. This was a misunderstanding and became a signal that people couldn’t lead by shaping their environment for the better. A small group of Transcribers decided to become the likeable hero and counteract this with a new story that reconfirmed the “leadership from all levels” value we have at CN. We dismantled the desk, moved it out of the office, and put it on Craigslist. The result was a much more collaborative space.
This is an example of how we help people achieve more together. Next time you try to shape your organization’s culture, highlight stories that matter and create new ones that help you achieve your aspirations…or better yet, empower those around you to do so.