Preface: I wrote this a few years ago, while a contributing author on Lifehack.org, and a recent happening brought it back to mind for me. I, and the managers involved, were talking story about the ‘baggage’ people can carry around with them at work.
Collect stories. Dispel myths.
Every company has a storied past. Are you aware what yours is?
More importantly, do you know why your stories are so important?
When old timers tell the newbies stories about “the good old days,” or “how it used to be here,” or “the first time we ever did this” what are they so fondly recollecting? Why in the world do they keep talking about past events, often making the retelling far more wonderful sounding than you remember actually living the experience of them?
Is there any value in this memorable nostalgia?
When stories are told in the spirit of retelling your company history, your storytellers are often capturing the memorable parts; what they remember is largely what they want to keep alive because it felt very good to them at one time.
Stories of what had been give us a look back at those things we once believed in, and want to keep believing in [The instinctive, natural selection of Wanting]. They reveal the values which had bound us together and still do, and why in the aftermath of the story’s events we kept pushing upward and onward.
Stories will often chronicle successes and achievements, and tell of what people feel was a victory, because by nature we want our stories to be good ones; no one likes to recount their failures. However whether victory, mistake, or outright failure, our stories undoubtedly recount lessons-learned too important to be forgotten. We feel we can keep learning from them, and we tell the story to re-teach the lesson.
The best advice I give in my new supervisors workshop is this: “Find a good listener you can tell your workplace stories to. Get those stories out of past history, and talk story about them.”
— The instinctive, natural selection of Wanting
Myths however, are a different matter.
I’ve learned to be more wary of myths, finding that for some reason, those who tell myths instead of stories need to fabricate a past that didn’t really happen. They want to feel better about explaining the present, and why things are as they are. What that tells me, is that our values aren’t aligned, and I’d best discover why that is.
Myths may sound plausible, but they are far more fiction than fact, and they are often riddled with half-truths and concocted history. They can be intriguing, they can be wistful and fanciful, but because they never really happened they don’t deliver those lessons actually learned, just the what ifs that might have been. The more credibility the teller strives to give them, the more dangerous myths become, for stated plainly, myths are lies.
With stories you have a solid foundation of the values which served you well; they become predictable values you trust to keep a company centered. Myths don’t deliver this foundation. Instead, they create a slippery iciness on which you frequently lose your footing. Because a myth isn’t completely true, you can’t be certain; you can’t be sure-footed and confident.
People who tell stories are proud to own them; they claim them as part of their own history. Those who tell myths are building a case for some reason; and great managers will work to dispel those myths so they can get to the root causes of why the myth exists. What they are looking for, is why the teller feels the myth must be told.
People only lie when they feel the truth isn’t good enough for them. However the great managers among us always prefer the ugliest truth over the prettiest lie, for that way they always know exactly what they’re dealing with. They honor the truth above all else, for in doing so they honor their own integrity.
Collect stories to celebrate the values you believe in, and use those stories to help people identify with those values and claim them with you. Dispel the myths and banish any confusion so that the truth of who you really are is honored.
A bit more context, this month of May, 2013:
Think of your workplace stories as the “look to the source” goodness of NĀNĀ I KE KUMU:
Nānā i ke kumu
This is the value of personal well being. Literally translated, Nānā i ke kumu means “look to your source.” Seek authenticity, and be true to who you are. Get grounded within your sense of self. Keep your Aloha at the surface of what you do daily, and celebrate those things that define your personal truths. To value Nānā i ke kumu is to better understand your sense of place, and to practice Mahalo for your sense of self: Do you really know how extraordinary and naturally wise you are?
You author your stories every single day in the actions you take. A conversation is like a drafted word; follow-up taken (or not taken) like a paragraph, and repeated practice like one chapter which will sequentially, and consequentially, lead to another one.
Another way to think of storied history more collectively (i.e. in what you share with co-working partnerships), in light of our recent focus here on habit-building, is that it traces the roots of your ingrained cultural habits.
What is culture?
Great managers know that CULTURE is simply a group of people who share common values, and operate within those values.
Culture is learned. Culture represents a series of agreements based on value alignment, and results from honoring those agreements.
The great manager, and the great PERSON, manages their own behavior by tapping into their values as their source of human energy. It’s the way they “lead by example” conducting themselves with ALOHA distinction, and it’s the way they inspire the culture they operate within.
Archive Aloha with related reading:
- Myth Busting with Aloha
- Managing: Learn how to ask “Why?”
- The First Time and the Insider’s Advantage
- Talking Story is Thriving. It’s What We Do.
- Back to the Beginning
For more reading paths, go to New Here? or click on the tags found in the footer.