Select Page

For thousands of years, we have communicated with each other through stories. We’ve told stories about our history, our successes and our failures.

Leaders need to take on the role of storyteller. I think they should become the Chief Storytelling Officer.

As the Chief Storytelling Officer, the leader looks for real and valid stories connecting the work their people do with the higher purpose of the organisation. Why does this matter? Because one of the basic psychological needs that motivate humans to do great work is a sense of purpose. A feeling that what they are doing matters.

Adam Grant, the author of Give and Take and creator of the WorkLife podcast, describes a call centre in the United States. The call centre operators had the thankless task of making cold calls to seek donations to support disadvantaged students. Performance in the call centre was flat, and morale was low. As you can imagine, making multiple calls every day asking for money can be a difficult job psychologically, especially when the rejection rate is high.

Then the manager of the call centre had an idea. He found two of the disadvantaged students who had benefited from the fund and asked them to come into the call centre and meet with the phone operators. They revealed how they had received a good education and achieve success, all because of the money the operators had elicited from donors.

Performance and morale in the call centre improved when the operators could see what they were doing was making a difference.

Closer to home, I recently worked with a leader looking to motivate his team of data analysts. He embraced the role of Chief Storytelling Officer. He showed the team how the numbers they crunched formed the basis of a report that positively changed the way the company interacted with its customers. Showing those data analysts the results energised them for the next task.

Many people work for us, with us or around us that may not be able to make the connections between what they do and a more significant positive outcome. Often, this is because they are too close to their work and are unable to see the longer-term effects.

As leaders, we can provide people meaning to the work they do through real and valid stories and motivate them to perform at their best.