Tanveer Naseer

Leadership Coach, Speaker, and Writer

How To Create The Story Behind Your Organization’s Purpose

When it comes to communicating the vision or goals you have for your organization, few vehicles serve to deliver your message as effectively as the art of storytelling. In fact, some of the most respected leaders have relied on storytelling to not only communicate their vision, but to encourage their employees to embrace the changes being put forth by their organization’s leadership.

For example, former IBM CEO Lou Gerstner used his man-on-the-outside perspective to introduce new stories that not only communicated why changes were needed to ensure their competitiveness, but of how his employees could play a part in creating this new reality.

Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh, on the other hand, used the story of the struggles the company endured going from simply being an online shoe retailer to a company that “delivers happiness” to remind his employees of how their culture and values help them to fulfill their shared purpose.

Unfortunately, despite the obvious benefits that comes from using storytelling to communicate a message or idea, these two leaders are among only a handful who use this medium to share their vision or purpose with their team. One reason behind this is that most leaders believe that they don’t have as compelling a story to use as a vehicle through which to share their ideas, goals and vision for their organization.

However, as Joanna L. Krotz points out in her aptly-titled piece, “Every Business Has A Story To Tell“, all businesses do have a story to share and impart to their employees and customers. The problem leaders face is more a lack of understanding of what’s needed to create that story, and how make it meaningful to those it will be shared with.

In her article, Krotz shares a number of ideas on how leaders can create stories that will help their employees and customers to understand the vision and purpose they want to create for their organization. Some of the suggestions she makes include:

  • Describing the obstacles you faced early on and what your team did to overcome them.
  • Defining moments over the course of your organization’s history that made you realize your business would not only survive, but thrive.
  • Revealing what fuels your sense of purpose and drive despite enduring hard times or even a rejection of your offerings.

As I’ve written before, the growing competition organizations now face at home and abroad demands that leaders make efforts to guide their teams to surpass expectations as a means to discover new approaches, in order to stand out amid in the growing and bustling crowd.

Through the use of storytelling, leaders can not only remind their employees of where they’ve been and the challenges they’ve endured, but they can also foster the emotional connections required to create a sense of meaning for their contributions. In so doing, your employees will become their own storytellers, helping to spread the message and inform others of the purpose behind your collective efforts.

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9 Comments » | Tags: , , , , , , , , | February 10, 2012 by |

  1. On February 10th, 2012 at 7:19 PM Ryan said:

    Thanks for these tips. Storytelling and organizing a story are very useful for creating a vision. Keep up the good work.

  2. On February 11th, 2012 at 4:06 PM Tanveer Naseer said:

    Thanks Ryan; glad you enjoyed it.

  3. On February 11th, 2012 at 7:48 AM Jim Matorin said:

    The Heath brothers in their book Switch addressed how important stories re: small steps of success over hurdles is a great way for an organization to implement change. Thank you for reminding us Tanveer.

  4. On February 11th, 2012 at 4:08 PM Tanveer Naseer said:

    My pleasure, Jim. Big fan of Heath brothers work shared in Switch; appreciate the connection.

  5. On February 12th, 2012 at 2:18 PM Sylvia said:

    Thanks Tanveer, true and real experiences really help to engage the audience to better communicate and share/deliver the message. As always, very enlightening and inspiring, highly appreciated!

  6. On February 13th, 2012 at 12:42 PM Tanveer Naseer said:

    Thanks Sylvia; appreciate the kind words.

  7. On February 13th, 2012 at 7:19 AM Jon Mertz said:

    Agree completely, Tanveer. If organization's understand their story and the story of their customers, it creates an amazing connection and builds solid brand relationships. Jon

  8. On February 13th, 2012 at 12:46 PM Tanveer Naseer said:

    Absolutely. While employees and customers might have been interested in our organizations because of what we do, the many examples we've seen lately of how transparent our interactions with these two groups now are – not to mention how easily news of these interactions can spread – has shown that the 'features' we offer are no longer the salient point of interest.

    Rather, what people want to know instead is why what you do matters and how it helps to make a difference. And the best way to communicate this message is not through flow charts or diagrams, but through the use of stories that evoke imagery of where we've been and where we want to go next.

    Thanks Jon for adding your thoughts to the discussion.

  9. On February 24th, 2012 at 2:31 AM michelle said:

    I enjoyed reading Delivering Happiness by Tony Hsieh.:) Anyway, I think that for a story to be liked, it has to be real, first and foremost. Second is that people can somehow relate to the values the story imparts.

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