YOUR EMPATHY PROPHET T - ISSUE 3/ FEBRUARY 2009 STORYTIME 20 This is a true account of how a group of managers of a well- known regional newspaper publisher in the Northeast of England were asked to firstly describe their Monday morning meetings and then write a story about how they would like the meetings to take place. Over the past decade I have met many people who promote storytelling and most have done their best to overcomplicate and frighten people from using it to its best advantage. We are all storytellers - it is what we, as humans, do to communicate. The most influential meeting I had on the subject on storytelling was with a great friend and frequent recharger of my batteries - Nigel Barlow. Nigel runs a company called Service Legends Limited ( based in Oxford) and he is one of the most inspirational people I have had the privilege to meet. What I learnt from Nigel was both simple and effective. Apologies for the language in places but this is expressed in their own words. THE UGLY DUCKLING: WHY WE HATE MONDAYS Most people arrive at the office between 8am and 9am, stepping over the pigeon shit at the entrance and braving what passes for wit ( most people would call it abuse) from Ron on the door. The lifts aren't working ( again), so it's a shattered team that gets together for the Monday morning briefing on the 4th floor. At least, most of us get together as Arthur and Sally are late ( again) and Steve B ( the Managing Director) leaves a message that there's a crisis with the Group Director ( again). He says we should get on with it and he'll try to be there for the ' action summary'! THE POWER OF CHANGE THROUGH STORYTELLING THE UGLY DUCKLING PRINCIPLE Storytelling is - essentially - the method used by humans to communicate. JAMIE LYWOOD relates an example that shows how storytelling can be used as a powerful problem- solving tool.
© 2009 HARDING & YORKE 21 Dave was meant to have emailed us the agenda on Friday, but said he couldn't get it to us because of a pressing deadline. How often have we heard that one from Editorial?! As usual, Pete dominates with his latest special- edition- brainchild. This one's called Pink Paper, targeted at gays and lesbians in the Newcastle area. After 20 minutes extolling the power of the Pink Pound in Geordieland, a treasure trove for the ad people, Jo has her weekly moan about problems with the distribution chain. No coffee as the machine is f*** ed again. Just as we try to get a sensible agenda together Steve phones again to say he doesn't look like he's going to make the meeting, so please could we email him the minutes. Fred barges in and says do we realise that the conference room's booked for a production team meeting at 10, so we'd better get our arses in gear. Jackie looks efficient and sharpens the pencils while the rest of us bugger off to Starbucks for a put- the- world- to- rights session. Stepping around the dustbins at the entrance we pick up Arthur and Sally who are just arriving together looking rushed and flushed. Another perfect start to the week! THE VERY FINE SWAN: WHY MONDAYS ARE OK Most of us get together around 4 p. m. on Friday. It's been a great idea to allow staff to organise proper coffee facilities in- house, and, as Pete is a fanatic about these things, we have the best Gaggia possible. Jackie's brought in fresh- baked donuts from the deli down the road and has made sure the conference room is clean and has fresh flowers ( which we now know last until the following Thursday). We briefly chew over last week's ups and downs and set the agenda for Monday TOGETHER, with the proper time allocations. Even Pete agrees, and we have time to think about the items over the weekend so we're already tuned in when we get together on Monday. When we arrive on Monday we see that Ron has cleaned the pavement. He gives us a warm welcome. The lifts are working, everyone's on time, including Steve. It was a good idea to say that we wouldn't have these meetings unless he was there right at the start. He had a word with the Group Director who now knows this time is sacrosanct. We decided a year ago to rotate the chairing of the meeting, so even Arthur's here on time ( with no lipstick on his collar). Everyone has their say, and Pete's got used to keeping his latest BHAG ( Big Hairy Audacious Goal) down to ten minutes. Jo tells us what she's actually been doing to fix distribution problems. They're not all resolved, but the worst glitches have been ironed out. We have a laugh together about the competition's failed freebee and go off to work, decent coffee in hand, knowing that we're all pulling in more or less the same direction. Put yourself in the shoes of this team. Having realised that they can all take some responsibility for the problems of Monday morning and now, having visualised how they can solve the most important issues, you can't imagine them going back to the ' old way'. In fact this team can solve virtually any issue they face by using the same storytelling technique. In 2004 I asked my entire senior team to write their own stories based on a ' day in their life' in three years time - with outstanding results. Only then did I truly begin to understand the level of commitment they all had, but their ideas and contributions have been the inspiration behind most of Harding & Yorke's greatest successes over the past four years. If you do this with your people I know you will find the process both invigorating and thought provoking. Imagine the stories they could tell - not to mention the happy endings! For more information on Storytelling contact: Jamie Lywood, Harding & Yorke - JL@ empathy. co. uk Nickie Hawton, The Empathy Academy - NH@ empathy. co. uk Nigel Barlow, Service Legends - nigelbarlow@ servicelegends. com Having realised that they can all take some responsibility for the problems of Monday morning and now, having visualised how they can solve the most important issues, you can't imagine them going back to the ' old way'.