I tell a lot of stories. This I know. A boss I once had explained to me that telling stories is a good way to change culture in an organisation. I remember that conversation vividly…not least because my boss always told stories and I always wondered why.
I don’t actually remember an explanation as to why ‘story telling’ can change organisational culture. But I have a hypothesis. I like a hypothesis. A hypothesis is just a theory that merits further investigation. We thrive on hypothesis in research. A hypothesis can be of more value than a thesis…and much easier to produce!
My hypothesis is that by telling stories we are sharing our experiences. We all develop our beliefs…our values…based on our own experiences. If we share our experiences (in an engaging story) we create opportunity for others to share that experience and opportunity – potentially – to influence beliefs. Culture is based on beliefs – culture is simply how things are done around here. Our beliefs dictate how we do things.
I also use quotes a lot. I quote well known people. And I use quotes that I find memorable or impactful. I remember them and they have impact on me. I haven’t got a hypothesis on why quotes work. But memorable and impactful is a pretty good starting point!
I haven’t got a favourite quote. It varies day to day let alone situation to situation.
Well over fifteen years ago I attended a global leaders meeting ahead of a big acquisition. I remember how positive the whole meeting felt; the enthusiasm we sensed from every senior leader. Every day. Every topic.
But I also remember one evening we had a guest speaker. He was introduced as an expert in Crisis Communication. That’s right. In amongst all the excitement, positivity and enthusiasm we had a guest speaker who was an expert in Crisis Communication! I wasn’t the only one to find myself wondering quite what we were about to experience….
‘People want to know that you care before they care what you know’.
That was his quote – the expert in crisis communication. It is everything I like in a quote. Simple. A play on words. Impactful. I even wrote it down on my napkin. I didn’t need to. It was already engrained in my memory. Impactful and memorable.
It wasn’t our expert’s quote of course. The most common attribution is to Theodore Roosevelt. Makes sense. But my Crisis Communicator passed it on to me.
The play on words is important. Somehow a play on words is more engaging…encouraging me to repeat the quote several times (to myself and my dinner partners that evening) to make sure I had the order right. And it pulled me in to think about what the quote was saying…what it meant…and did I believe.
Today I know Theodore is right. I believe this to be true. I act on this basis. The quote (and maybe the story of when and where and how I heard it) changed my beliefs. And by the way, our crisis communicator also shared stories of successful and unsuccessful communication to exemplify his quote.
Since then I have had personal experiences (fortunately not often crisis communication experiences)…experiences where I ensure I share how much I care about a situation, topic, person, project before I share what I know. Or experiences when I have been communicated to by someone who doesn’t let me see that they care.
And I know Theodore’s quote has helped me. And still does…Theodore is right.
A significant moment. A memorable quote. An impactful story. Beliefs altered. How I do things around here changed…