Missions, visions, dreams and storytelling

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Missions, visions, dreams and storytelling

The following writing is a guest post by Roberto Espinosa,  an economist by training and a seasoned sales professional who has developed his career so far in the IT market. Passionate about technology and business, he helps entrepreneurs become better public speakers and storytellers.

Storytelling is definitely one of the words du jour in business talk. Nothing against it. You could argue that since the Homo Sapiens is Sapiens, we’ve been storytellers (and storylisteners). So this new interest in storytelling it’s just a realization of our own nature, and probably too, a call to those marketeers, engineers and executives who lost the plot along the road.

Despite all this attention to storytelling, I still feel Organizational Storytelling is not getting its fair share of spotlight. Of course it’s not as sexy as the storytelling in marketing, but yet, it’s been for years a key success factor of many organizations. And that’s why I’m so happy to write here in Alex’s blog. It’s definitely a must on this topic.

Organizational storytelling

Storytelling has been always embedded in the most successful organizations well before we coined the term Organizational Storytelling. That storytelling happens both in an conscientious and unconscientious way. Remember informal and uninformal culture within organizations? Same thing.

Lately I’ve heard that good companies are storytellers while great companies are storydoers. And it’s absolutely true. If you’re a great company doing great stuff, it’s easier to be a great storyteller. But what do you do if you’re not Apple or Google?

As companies mature, they usually become more left brained. They start to talk about data, facts and their storytelling becomes reporting. It’s easy to tell story about the struggling of the start-up stage, early wins, or some mythical moments of the early life of a company. The same way we keep telling stories about when we were young, but it’s harder to tell great stories of your life in the forties. The reality is that, we usually don’t look hard enough, or to be more specific, when we get into that left-brain mode, there are many extraordinary things that just go unnoticed because they don’t get processed while in such state.

How to break that vicious circle?

Look back at your company values. They’re probably somewhere in your desk dusted and hidden, but they’re there and most likely, those values are strongly embedded in your company’s culture even if you’ve forgotten about them. Once you’ve located them, remember what they really mean. Start looking for employees doing extraordinary things through the prism of those values. You’ll be amazed. You’ll see people, role modeling those values, inside the company, with customers, and even in their private live (think of volunteering).

Once you have a starting point, developing a story culture is easy. Everyone has stories to tell, and then all the rules of storytelling apply. How to make them interesting, engaging, and memorable, etc. Once some stories are out and start clicking with employees, you’ve got momentum. People will hear the story, and if it’s good, they will make it theirs and communicate it to someone else, powering the word to mouth snowball effect.

 Company mission

Organizational storytelling has been around since the beginning of the corporation. We somehow forgot about it and took it for granted. We’re rational, we want data, spreadsheets, figures, etc. If you think about it, though, one of the first things you learn at Business School is that you need a good mission statement for your company, that is, a good story.
Let’s look at some of today’s biggest international corporations to see their missions statements. I won’t tell you who they belong to, but when reading them, think if they talk to the left or the right side of your brain.

Our goal for XXX is to be the most respected global XXX company. Like any other public company, we’re obligated to deliver profits and growth to our shareholders. Of equal importance is to deliver those profits and generate growth responsibly.

XXX will produce superior financial returns for share-owners by providing high value-added supply chain, transportation, business and related information services through focused operating companies. Customer requirements will be met in the highest quality manner appropriate to each market segment served. XXX will strive to develop mutually rewarding relationships with its employees, partners and suppliers. Safety will be the first consideration in all operations. Corporate activities will be conducted to the highest ethical and professional standards.

At XXX, we believe that good people, working toward a common goal, can accomplish anything they set out to do. In this spirit, we set our goal to be the very best at serving the needs of our customers. Every action we take should be made with this in mind. We also believe that we can achieve our goal only if we fulfill the needs of our own people. To our customers and our people we pledge continuous improvement, and we make the commitment: “Every Day You Get Our Best”

Which organization would you like to work for? I bet many talked to the right side of your brain. Mission statements used to be the organization’s leader’s dream. Those dreams inspired others to join the leader and make it possible. However, at some point in time, everyone needed to have a vision. They became part of the corporate checklist and then visions became statements. Nevertheless, a true vision is a dream, and a dream, is a story.

Image: http://500px.com/photo/29370911

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