The great idea for this formal recognition day originates from Sweden 1991.
Storytelling, however, has always made us human and hence has been around for some time.
My personal reflection is that better food, longer life span and the art of communicating without throwing rocks at each other provided Cro Magnon with that social knowledge management based comparative advantage that enabled them to beat the Neanderthals. Who knows? It sounds like a good plot though? If you pay, I can write the script?
By the way, we Swedes don’t get another six weeks of vacation or parental leave because of this. We do have a work to go to you know (even if all Americans wonder) being one of the top 4 innovative countries in the world.
There is a lot of buzz around story telling these days and picked leaders from top executives to foot soldiers are sent away to expensive off site meetings to become better in oral communication – oh, not only top executives, everyone should tell stories!
I really like the idea of storytelling but I do have a problem with this: not everyone CAN tell a story.
Many top executives (leaders) I met are real assholes and it’s really not genuine when they bring along a fabricated ghost written story about a cat that was run over on their way to work which made them think of their “grandma who had a cat and the major memories she had of the cat was putting out the milk saucer every morning and you know what, the same day that the cat was squashed the saucer broke (sigh!), which made me realize that our sales pipeline that sucks and is related to ….” Storytelling must be genuine.
There are many opinions about the Iron Lady. I love one quote.
“Watch your thoughts, for they become words. Watch your words, for they become actions. Watch your actions, for they become habits. Watch your habits, for they become your character. And watch your character, for it becomes your destiny. What we think, we become. My father always said that. And I think I am fine”.
Words are important. They reflect your thoughts and form the culture around you. It is sad that the art of building strong company cultures is taken so lightly but it starts indeed with the words or the company story that attracts the people working in it. Ask around today for top ten recent anecdotes/discussions of the company that are not related to financial success, downsizing, an idiot decision etc.! Are they inspiring you to a heroic act? If your contribution does not create order or inspiration it is far better to shut up. Why gossip? Sometimes silence is way more powerful than words.
I have had different sales / client facing roles for my entire career with a lot of focus on business development, pipeline management and creating what we call value propositions for complex deals (here, in IT industry). It’s a pretty lonely and bi-polar role. When things are great you are a hero and you will suddenly realize there are many around you for a while. For most of the time people have no clue what you are doing and rather look at you as a waste of skin. It takes a lot of effort and time to go from a cluster of white space clients to a refined list of defined opportunities. The early stages of the cycle cost a lot of money and cannot really be outsourced. It’s like all the early trappers that was eaten by bears or killed by natives, or missionaries for god knows which religion that was killed in their quest building the first temple of worship: Ungrateful endurance by people no one will ever remember.
My role is one of those.
The biggest dopamine kick comes twice, when closing the deal and when getting the bonus. Rest of the time is a constant battle against the elements of the industry. Now the inspiring words in our industry are primarily focused around the deal closure. The closer you get to a qualified opportunity the more stakeholders you attract, like flies around shit. The rest of the time the stories around you are normally not very inspiring. I personally get a monotone constant kick from the daily challenge and battle against time and logic with prospective clients to understand what they really need. My untold stories are my way of reasoning.
Looking back, the majority of the meant-to-be-inspiring cat stories came from pipeline reviews, questioning and beating up on actuals, not on the heroic acts or role modeling. Top executives are bound to be on top of very deal signed. It’s inevitable. I was on a sales ceremony once where the top executives got more medals on their chest than anyone else. Awkward. Even that symbolic act failed.
Once I told another top executive I reported to, after an hour of patronizing me, to actually tell me one positive or inspiring thing about that particular meeting. He was stunned. “What do you mean?” “Well, you have not told me anything I already did not know. You personally pushed for this agenda. As a global leader you must inspire some energy into the people around you. Even if we failed this tactical mission we both need to get back into the cross fire again. Without your mental support, how fun is that from my side when you fly back to XX? What is the story of this company actually besides <add any financial metric>?” Puzzled, he squeezed out something positive and generic:
My point is that Story TELLING is extremely important but the story DOING is way more important and relevant for most of us as we all can indeed influence that with integrity and professional dignity.
At Chalmers University of technology, our director Henrik Nittmar of the “Spex Gutenberg” (a major student amateur show), instilled the vision for our year:
“We are not to tell stories. We are going to create stories”. Great inspiration & quote!
Actions comes after words, but actions can be done by everyone and the way we chose to do these actions create the atmosphere around us, in the book about our individual life. So don’t fret if you can’t story tell. Shut up. Do instead. Daretozlatan and stop take crap elaborations (like this, if you think I am off target).
PS Always remember that EVERYONE you meet has a story to tell, especially old people.