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Where to look for stories

Great stories are everywhere in your organization, and in your past experience. I often get asked about where to find stories, and I am equally often told that an organization does not have enough stories to tell. Poppycock. Perhaps it was my journalistic training, but I have never, ever been short of good stories. I find them all over the place whenever I go into organizations. Fascinating stories that tell you about the organization’s culture, beliefs and behaviours. Stories that tell of breakthrough discoveries and delighted customers, heroic staff and supportive suppliers. The real issue is about being able to tune in to good stories. You have to learn to be alert to those that you can retell, or be alive to incidents in your own experience that can be turned into a story.

Once you have found them, keeping a note of them is crucial.

I often give my clients Moleskin notebooks to use as story databanks. I tell them to keep them in their jacket pockets or handbags. Every time they hear a good story, they should write it down. If you do this, you will soon fill it up! Simply pay more attention when you hear something interesting. Let part of your mind be recording incidents as they happen to you, because every experience can be turned into a story. There are various places to look for stories (see Figure 11.2):

· Stakeholder needs stories

Listen out for stories about customer needs, or experiences of your organization both good and bad. Do the same with suppliers, shareholders and other stakeholders whose views are relevant to your own business. This will help you to build a rich picture of external views of the organization, and enable you to talk to the needs they all have of your organization. These stories can be the most compelling. A need is a problem unsolved.

· Strategy stories

Try to bring your strategy alive by telling a story about a day in the future. What will be happening and why? How will you be measuring success? Why will this be important to people? Who will be benefiting most? When you tell a story about the future as if it already exists, it becomes a powerful motivator. Demonstrate your purpose at work, or how a member of staff has moved you closer to a strategic goal.

· Values and behaviours stories

Watch employees and find examples of them living your values, or not, as the case may be. By doing this you make heroes out of your employees at the same time as reinforcing the values you really want to see everyone else living. Every day your employees are making choices, deciding to go the extra mile and do something extraordinary for clients or customers or their colleagues or even their local communities. These are the heroes you need to talk about – much more often.

· Quality stories

Find stories that demonstrate the extraordinary lengths people in your organization go to when producing your products, or how much research has gone into developing a service.

· Stakeholder benefit stories

Use the customer’s voice to describe the benefits of your products – or how one product benefits lots of customers in lots of ways. This will be one of the richest areas of all to explore. As a leader, you should have dozens of these stories. (See Chapter 6 for much more detail.)

· The ‘who you are’ story

Think of the seminal experiences you have had in your career, the ones that have shaped what you believe and how you make decisions today. Craft those into stories that you can tell. Not only will the stories say something about you, but you will also be able to share knowledge and your own values through them. The more you can find ways to tell the stories in a self-deprecating way, the more people will relate to you.

Figure 11.2: Where to look for stories

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