Today’s post is more personal than informative. I have a pet peeve about people writing “how-to” articles about story-telling. Doesn’t that defeat the purpose? The reason for telling stories is that they speak to people and help someone engage with a message. So why would you write an article about how to write a story rather than just write a story?
I have a million stories from my years in business, and a lot of them involve people I’ve worked with. There lies the peril. Good stories are sure to offend at least some people, since good stories involve a protagonist, a conflict, and a resolution of that conflict.
So today, I choose to write a story about someone who will forgive me.
Once upon a time, I had the opportunity to work for a boss who genuinely cared about people. So much so, that when we would have our update meetings, he would never ask about the status of projects, but only about how the people on my team were feeling about their roles, their assignments, and their satisfaction with our business. I kid you not. That was the only thing he was interested in. He assumed the rest.
I took some time to study his secrets. One was that he always - when speaking to a group, which he loved to do - would address people by name. That made people sit up in their seats and pay attention so that in case he named them they would not be caught nodding off or otherwise not paying attention. But he surprised even me, when at my graduation ceremony from my MBA program – where he sponsored me, by the way – he was chosen as a speaker because he had just been named the president of the alumni association. This was a big ceremony: tons of graduates, more family, all disciplines. His job was to offer congratulations and welcome people to the alumni association.
I was sitting with my family and listening to his speech. He said: “I’d like to welcome all of you – and especially you Jeanne – to the alumni association.” It was profound, stunning, any word you would choose to assign. But it was intensely personal, meaningful, and reinforcing of the reason for everyone’s undying loyalty to him as a leader.
Simple truth. If we were lemmings we would have followed him off the cliff. Never have I met or had the immense pleasure to serve at the feet of a man like this. Since I don’t have his permission for the post, I won’t name him.
And believe me, I could tell so many more stories about him and others. I’ll save them for another day. But tell your stories. Others will benefit.