What’s the story?

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PowerPoint, memo, poster, coffee mug, t-shirt, mouse pad (remember those), data storage stick?

These are all things that can be used to communicate your company values.

Let’s add one word to that statement. These are all things that can be used to communicate your aspirational company values.

It usually goes like this – We need to articulate our values. Schedule a retreat. Look at other company’s value list. Make our list. Wordsmith. Emblazon the list on stuff. Get back to work.

The values we want are aspirational values.

Let me tell you a story. A customer came in and complained about the quality of our product. She said it didn’t work. The salesperson explained that she probably didn’t understand how it was supposed to work because a lot of customers are confused about how it works.

She asked for a refund. He explained that he could give her a store credit but not a refund. She was very unhappy. The salesperson thought she was raising her voice so he went to get the store manager.

The store manager explained that the policy is store credit and not a refund. He also explained that her being loud was not acceptable. Finally the customer took the store credit and left.

The manager updated the salesperson that he had handled the situation.

Horrible story isn’t it. Especially because this company’s value coffee mug had the words customer, quality, and honesty on it.

You see the coffee mug contained the aspirational values. The story underscored the real values. There is a bit of a gap isn’t there?

Here’s another story. Just last week Elle from IT was in the marketing department’s staff meeting and heard that they were frustrated with the reports on lead generation. She stayed after the meeting and asked a few questions. The problem was that the tags being used were inconsistent. Elle had our new intern create a routine to standardize the tags and within 24 hours solved the problem for marketing.

What does this story tell us – we cross department boundaries, we ferret out problems before they are even official problems, we’re creative in solving the problem efficiently, we work fast, we create value.

What are your stories telling people? Please realize that the stories exist whether you are voicing them or not. Everyone who is exposed to a story takes something from the story. What is it? Are the messages sent by your organization’s stories proving the values you aspire to?

If we espouse “crossing the boundaries of departmental lines to create value” the only way to make those words make sense is through a real story. Additionally, I know what to do if I’m in the IT department like Elle and face a similar situation. I’ll look for my own story.

Analyze the stories. All of them. People already know the truth. If the story isn’t what we aspire to the story can be valuable in teaching the necessary lesson. If the story is on point it can be a positive teaching lesson as well.

The ability of the leader as chief story teller can powerfully establish the values of the organization.

To do this week: Listen for the stories. What do they say? How can you enhance your story repertoire? How have stories helped your organization?

Let me know how it’s goes. Click the “comments” box below to participate in an on-going discussion via LinkedIn.

Jim Canterucci

I don't know everything. But I want to. The focus of our firm, Transition Management Advisors, is to develop leadership capabilities to create a championship culture, generate innovation, and successfully lead the resulting changes.

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» Leadership » What’s the story?
On August 29, 2018
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