Storytelling in Business?

I believe in the power of stories. In fact, as many of you know, my first book is a compilation of stories of the people I have met along my journey who have taught me so much just through living their lives and how they intersected with mine.  Each and every one of us have the opportunity to learn and teach through our lives.

It was incredible to read in The New York Times a few weeks ago, The Corner Office interview by Adam Bryant of Russell Goldsmith, chairman and chief executive of City National Bank in Los Angeles. When asked about the culture of his company, his answer was validating and insightful:

“We talk a lot about stories. They’re a really important part of how we teach and reinforce the culture, and how we reward behavior. Maybe it’s because I came out of the entertainment industry. If you had talked to me about a project when I was at Republic Pictures, I would have said it’s about story. With movies, if you don’t have a great script, forget it.

One of the things I noticed at City National is that we have a lot of great stories to tell. If you look up City National, one of the stories you will see is the story of Frank Sinatra’s son who was kidnapped. The first C.E.O., Al Hart, was a real friend of Frank Sinatra’s and famously opened the vault on a Saturday and got the ransom money. That happened in the early ’60s, but people are still telling that story. It’s a source of pride.

We brought in consultants to teach people how to share stories in a more organized way that underscored the culture. We do something called “Story Idol,” and every quarter there’s a competition among our 79 offices. It’s a way to give colleagues a pat on the back and a moment in the sun for doing the right thing, and it democratizes and decentralizes positive reinforcement. We then have a Story Idol competition for the year in a big meeting with the top 300 people in the company. People tell stories about what they did that promoted teamwork or helped a client by going the extra mile. It’s like telling stories around a campfire, but they’re doing it around conference tables.”

The entire article is worth reading.  There are many ways to foster story telling within your company and amongst your teams. Alignment, Inc. has several approaches we use with our clients to share individual stories, life journeys and the lessons we can share from our experiences. This is a resource virtually untapped within the majority of businesses in corporate America. Tap it!  You will be amazed at the richness of your most valuable asset  – your people.

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