Organizational Change By Telling a Story

Modern culture is inundated with mountains of information on a daily basis, and often times it can become a dull roar in the ears of the hearers. In an organization, information sharing is paramount for efficiency and functionality, however, if members feel information overload, then critical information can be lost and rendered ineffective. It is vital for leaders to break through the information monotony and have their message heard, understood, and gain buy-in from members. An underutilized, but powerful leadership tool that needs to be used more often is the use of a compelling story.

As organizations are trying to adapt to a changing multigenerational workforce with a more relational Generation X, and a community minded Generation Y (Elmore 2010), they are becoming more familial. This requires leaders to realize individuals have a strong sense of individual identity, but also desire a strong group identity (Blum-Kulka, 1993) with multigenerational connections (Thoreson, 2013) and behavioral guidelines (Kellas, 2006); these vital elements are best communicated through storytelling. (Thoreson, 2013, p. 88)

Stories serve to open minds to new ideas. (Marko, 2014) There are four practical story types leaders can use to help build a great organization, given by Amanda Marko (Lahey, n.d.). First is the connection story which can help build relational ties between leaders and followers. Next is the influence story that combines data with a compelling story to change the way individuals perceive situations and circumstances. Third is the success story, which acts as a dramatized case study, showing how a problem or challenge was overcome. Finally is the clarity story, which acts as a means to cast vision and paint a picture for the future. Leaders who utilize these four methods of storytelling will be able to frame necessary change in a compelling way.

References

Blum-Kulka, S. (1993). “You gotta know how to tell a story”: Telling, tales, and tellers in American and Israeli narrative events at dinner. Language in Society, 22(03), 361–402.

Elmore, T. (2010). Generation IY: Our Last Chance to Save Their Future. Poet Gardener Publishing.

Kellas, J. K., & Trees, A. R. (2006). Finding Meaning in Difficult Family Experiences: Sense-Making and Interaction Processes During Joint Family Storytelling. The Journal of Family Communication, 6, 49–76.

Lahey, J. (n.d.). Engaging Leaders. Retrieved from http://www.engagingleader.com/106-4-storytelling-frameworks-to-lead-change-podcast/

Marko, A. (2014, October). When Managing Change, Don’t Just Defer to Data. Retrieved from https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/20141001042838-15041224-when-leading-change-don-t-just-defer-to-data

Thoreson, A. R., Rittenour, C. E., Kellas, J. K., & Trees, A. R. (2013). Quality Interactions and Family Storytelling. Communication Reports, 26(2), 88–100.


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