Tell me the facts and I’ll learn. Tell me the truth and I’ll believe.
But tell me a story and it will live in my heart forever.
Native American proverb
Can you tell your company’s story?
When a candidate asks about your corporate culture during a job interview, do you hear yourself saying things like, “We believe in teamwork…innovation…exceptional customer service…”
You’ve invested time and resources creating a winning culture. Make sure you know how to share your success in a story.
Why corporate storytelling is important
One of my favourite job descriptions is “Grandma”…
I’ve happily spent hours reading to my littles – tales about villains and heroes, underdogs and leaders, foes who become friends, families, and communities that overcome adversity.
Aesop’s Fables are quite unabashed in their teachings…but most children’s stories introduce concepts about social norms, personal growth, and learning how to adapt to a changing world. They resonate because they’re wrapped in relatable terms.
It’s the same for your business. Your winning culture is the result of hard work by real people who were all influenced by their own experiences along the way. If you’re able to tell those stories to your customers and to your new recruits, they’ll embrace your culture more quickly.
a story, poem, or picture that can be interpreted to reveal a hidden meaning, typically a moral or political one.
Howard Schultz, Founder and former CEO of Starbucks, is a master storyteller.
If you’ve ever heard him speak about the ascension of the coffee giant’s worldwide brand, you’ll likely hear one of three allegories:
- His first experience at the original Starbucks in Seattle.
- His education in “the ritual and romance of coffee bars” in Milan.
- His father’s struggle to find dignity and meaning in the workplace.
He tells these stories to make a point…
Corporate culture is people culture
That last story – of his family’s humble roots, his father’s injury, and the demoralizing experience that resulted – drives Starbucks’ human resources policy. In 2016, Schultz famously said…
Every day, I strive to build the kind of company that my father never had a chance to work for, one that not only cares for its people but gives them opportunities to be their best selves.
The story paints a vivid picture for current and future staff. They can relate to his father and his struggle. They understand Schultz’s motivation to “do better”. They want to be a part of a bigger solution.
You can – and should – collect data about your company’s performance. Stories about the numbers speak to a person’s intellect. But your organization isn’t made up of charts and graphs and dashboards. It’s made up of people.
Your organization didn’t just break $1M in revenue. The people in your organization created that breakthrough moment. So talk about those people. Not the numbers.
Stories, unlike data, stir your employee’s imagination…can even ignite a fire within them.
Numbers can intimidate. Stories can motivate.
A winning culture: getting your story straight
Think back to that job interview. The candidate asks you about your corporate culture – and your company values pivot on teamwork.
The easy answer? “We’re all about teamwork.”
Here’s your answer…the one that will ignite your future employee:
You’re familiar with our ABC software? Well, about three months before rollout it looked like the installation was coming off the rails. We were falling behind schedule. Three of our engineers, Bill, Karina, and Jawad, decided to hunker down and get the launch back on track.
They brought in other experts for new perspectives. They worked into the night and came up with a plan. They got the installation back on schedule and it was delivered to our customer on time…and we still have their business today.
Our culture is about people like this, who are willing to work together, get creative, face a challenge, and overcome it together. They’re the kind of people who make our company successful.
We’re all about teamwork.
Now tell your stories
Your values and beliefs are based on your own experiences. And they shape your corporate culture. So, how do you translate them into concepts that can be shared with your team?
Spend some time thinking about the stories that have inspired you. Stories of innovation, perseverance, resilience, times when someone has exceeded your expectations…examples that illuminate the motivation that gets you out of bed in the morning.
Authentically sharing your experiences will help crystalize the things that are important to you, the kind of company you want to build, the people you want surrounding you. Your team can’t read minds. They need clarity of expression.
Now more than ever, a clear vision for your company is vital for team cohesion. Your team members are probably working remotely…and keeping a connection is challenging in normal times.
Your company’s culture can be the villain in your company story or the hero. As a leader, it’s your job to write a storyline that is inspirational, resonant, and relatable…to showcase your winning culture.
Are you concerned that your current culture isn’t aligned with your values? Are you unsure of how to identify the attributes that make your company successful?
Did you enjoy this article? You might find these helpful as well:
Was Organizational Culture Key to Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” Movement?
Could Your Company Policies be Revealing Nasty Secrets in Your Workplace Culture?
How to Reveal the Barriers to Business Success Concealed Within Your Culture
This article was originally published in 2016, but has been updated in 2020 just for you!