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Wednesday
Nov022011

Chapter 11 - “Once Upon a Time” –The Power of a Story

Most don't want to admit it, but we all know this to be true: Structuring an initiative properly, packaging it attractively, and communicating it clearly are all necessary to get to the finish line.

Think of it as good story telling.

Story telling is as old as time; it’s the communication method that we know best. Stories can often “get the point” across to difficult employees and it can allow more people to understand a lofty corporate vision. A clear "line of sight" from the CEO to the newest hire is critical if the company is to meet its target. It's also easier to lead people who have a good understanding of where they're going and why.

Sounds simple doesn't it?

It's not.

A good story and a good storyteller can make all the difference. Stories bring corporate “vision” to life and they can be used to guide behavior. The stories don’t even have to be accurate, but they do have to be true to the company’s core values.

Years ago, Ray Kroc, the founder of McDonald’s was visiting (OK, he was inspecting) some of the Canadian operations while on his vacation. As was his custom, he entered the restaurant unannounced and unrecognized.

It was nearly noon and the lines were longer than usual, but he waited patiently. When it was his turn to order, he made a simple request – he "needed to see the manager about a minor matter".  He was told that the manager didn’t have time right then; he was busy with paperwork.

“How long do you think he’ll be?”  Kroc asked.

“Oh, it usually takes him several hours or so. At least, the greater portion of the day.  But, you can come back later, if you want.”

Kroc left.

Once back at his office headquarters he sent out teams of carpenters. Their job was to “remove the backs of all office chairs” at every restaurant in the chain.  “Give them stools to sit on – maybe they won’t sit quite so long that way”.

It was done.

And everyone got the point: Customers are the reason for the business. Paperwork comes second.

Every time.

Now, nobody really knows if this story is true or not. It doesn’t matter. The word got around McDonald’s “grapevine network” quickly and changes were made.

That’s the power of a story.

I have to tell you, I really like his idea – real or not – about those chairs. More stools and fewer chairs just might be the way to get those "non-customer facing" associates - including office managers and accountants -  out of backrooms all across this country. Do you think I could expense a new power saw?

Every new project (and team) has its strong points as well as its weaker ones. Communication skills may soon be the difference between success and hearing the word, “Next!”

Becoming a better storyteller can be a powerful thing. And it can help us deliver our message to both employees and clients.

After all, the future may give us no other choice.

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