Every effective leader in history has used storytelling to communicate their message because human beings need to be inspired - and “reason” and “logic” has never been an inspiration.
“Tom is gay. The entire team jokes about it but Tom doesn’t seem to mind. He’s never complained. He knows its just a joke. But when Mark is assigned to work with him the jokes turn on Mark - ‘ooh what were you both getting up to last night?’ ‘Working late? Is that what they are calling it these days’. Mark cannot handle the jokes and he asks for a transfer.”
From the Tyco Guide to Ethical Behaviour.
In 2001 the corporate giant Tyco fell victim to enormous financial and ethical fraud.
The numbers had been splashed across new papers - $2200 for a waste basket, $6000 for a shower curtain, $15000 for an umbrella stand, about $15million dollars in assorted personal expenses for CEO Dennis Kozlowski.
But these were easy-to-spot problems.
The real problem were the ethical frauds - because with todays legislation what is legal and what is ethical are 2 entirely different things. And it was the ethical shortfalls that had really shaken the confidence of the shareholders.
It was so bad that it had become a matter of disgrace even to be associated with the company. People had, quite literally, stopped wearing the Tyco T-shirt.
Eric Philmore, Senior VP Governance decided that the first thing to do, to bring the company back to its feet, was to regain the trust they had lost amongst people. Because once the people were on board, everything else would follow.
On advice from corporate coaches he had commissioned an extensive set of manuals on the “Guides to Ethical Conduct” listing all the behaviours they wanted to change and imbed as part of company culture.
But one look at the huge manuals - great big fat tomes - and he had realised that no one would ever actually read any of these.
And that’s when he had turned to storytelling.
The manuals were rewritten with each chapter headed by a carefully crafted story.
As a leader your challenge, no mater what the issue, is essentially one of persuasion - of convincing your people to agree on a specific path and a set of goals and get them to work productively towards it.