How to Develop a Storytelling Culture and Why
Storytelling, arguably, is one of the top skills leaders need to employ. It’s far beyond creative thinking and writing. It is a strategy and a tool to recruit and retain top talent, build empathetic leaders, build internal thought leaders and ambassadors and engage all constituencies.
When storytelling is woven throughout the entire organization, it becomes a culture where everyone is on the same page moving in the same direction.
As a storytelling consultant, one of the things I’m often asked: How can you tell if storytelling works? My answer: Think of the organization like Cinderella’s Castle in the Magic Kingdom.
No matter where you are in Disney World, you can see the castle – it guides you to the next destination. It’s the center of everything, it draws you forward. If you’re lost or simply need to be reminded of where you are, focus on the castle.
It’s the same concept for the organization. Every aspect of storytelling comes from the castle. In human resources, storytelling is used in onboarding, training and employee development. In marketing, advertising, attention and credibility is driven by stories. And in sales, stories are the language of authenticity and influence. When everyone in the organization can recite the rules of the castle across all departments, business moves forward – creating a cohesive message, a healthy culture, strong brand recognition, productivity and long-term investment.
Conversely, when storytelling is not the foundation of the organization, the adverse occurs leading to no clear vision, poor leadership, uninspired teams, high retention and turnover and toxic work environments.
Here are twenty questions to ask to assess whether the organization is on the right track to building a storytelling culture:
- Does the company have a clearly defined brand (mission, values, purpose, promise, etc.)?
- Do the employees know and understand the brand?
- Are the employees encouraged to live the values of the brand?
- Do the employees know how their position and work product fits into the overall brand?
- Does the leadership understand and appreciate the value of storytelling?
- Is storytelling a part of the recruitment and onboarding process?
- Has leadership and staff been trained in storytelling?
- Does leadership and teams actively share stories to engage constituents?
- Is there a process for collecting stories?
- Is there a process for constructing stories?
- Is there a process for sharing stories?
- Have you built a bank of stories to share when and where appropriate?
- Are the stories diverse and inclusive?
- Are leaders and employees constantly adding to the story bank?
- Are stories shared across all departments?
- Are stories communicated internally to strengthen teams?
- Are leaders using personal stories to motivate and inspire
- Can teams recite the brand story (mission and values) with cohesion?
- Do teams currently work in silos?
- Are stories translated in all mediums (written, video, social media)?
How well is your castle? Did you answer yes more than not? If so, the organization is well on its way to having a strong storytelling culture.
Written by Shereese Floyd.
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