Currently, stories are in. Science has proven that when it comes to connecting, inspiring, and moving people to action, giving information and analysis, even when packaged in pretty slides, are insufficient. Wise executives know how to marry analysis with stories. As HR moves away from an administrative function to one that champions humanizing the corporate brand and environment, to foster a sense of community and belonging among coworkers, the role of storytelling in HR is increasingly essential. We need a tool to touch not just the head but also the heart.
Today stories are found everywhere, in newsletters, websites, and social media. But many of these so-called stories aren’t really stories. They are really a list of descriptions, assertions, and benefits, with a couple of names, places, and dates thrown in. Having the word story does not make something a story.
What is a story then? Without knowing what it is, we are unable to tell one. From my observation, many of us struggle with it. Though there is no shortage of literature out there on storytelling, it only compounds the confusion. Describing story as an expression of how and why life changes or a story is data with a soul are all well and good, but hard to put into practical use. What HR executives need is something actionable that we can put to effective use with ease.
"Stories, like clouds, can assume several different forms and to master one takes time. Every mastering of a skill requires a first step. Here I offer one, grounded in the basics and is practical"
Here, I offer a perspective of what is a story: It is someone, when confronted with a certain situation, makes a decision, faces the consequences, and learns something from it.
With this view of story, we can put it to practical use. Every day we encounter different types of situations and have to decide what to do. You were about to miss a critical deadline and you decided on an action that caused certain consequences, and you learned something. Two agitated coworkers got into a fight; you chose a path of intervention with an outcome and insight. Your colleague who was supposed to conduct the new hire orientation called in sick, you took up the baton, and how did it go? You get the idea.
A story is a recount of a set of events where we follow a character on a journey who pursues a goal or meets a challenge or incident (the situation), chooses a course of action (the decision), and that choice produces specific outcomes (the consequence), and from the account of the events, both the teller and listener derive an insight (the learning).
With this approach, you may not get a great story yet; you may have to layer in appropriate sensory details, develop a complication, dive deeper into a critical incident, or dig into the meaning of the narrative. But what this approach does is that it shines a light on our everyday life and turns many of our daily encounters and our reactions to them into stories. You may not get a great story, but you will get a story.
Stories, like clouds, can assume several different forms and to master one takes time. Every mastering of a skill requires a first step. Here I offer one, grounded in the basics and is practical.