Tomorrow should see the publication of Melcrum’s Practitioner’s Guide to Employee Engagement – in which I’ve contributed the chapter on using stories and narrative. It’s been an interesting experience – having abandoned the attempt to fit a gallon into a pintpot early on, I aimed instead to convey the complexity (sic) and excitement of the issue and some hints of different approaches – only the readers can judge my success.
I also wanted to avoid too strong a focus on “storytelling” – as I say in the introduction to the chapter
Storytelling is a misnomer. It conjures up the image of a passive audience sitting listening to someone with the charismatic, persuasive power to entrance them. It revolves around a carefully-constructed story designed to carry you out of the day-to-day to somewhere else and change your thinking while you’re there.
What is on offer here is more powerful and more positive than that simplistic view. And while it involves storytelling throughout, some of the greatest opportunities for employee engagement lie in listening to stories, not telling.
The real power and opportunity for using stories in organisations is in listening to stories, helping others to create their own authentic stories and making sense of the stories told.
Even that, however, proved problematic. One of the points that I focus on early in any change workshop or project is that employee engagement and culture change do not fit straightforward, 12-step projects. And “best practice” varies – what works in one organisation will not produce the same (or, on occasion, even similar) results in another.
The editors – generous in their comments and advice – wanted something simple that anyone could pick up and put into practice. For me, it felt like the Mullah Nasruddin story that Dave Snowden references here (about 2/3rds of the way down the post). I’ve always liked it, but now see exactly how a propos it is.
In the field of communications, I’ve often felt we do ourselves disservices by dumbing down. Sometimes we need to stretch to reach that bit further. Stretch our minds in particular…