Using stories to illustrate values | S2 E11

First published: 6 April, 2021

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Engaging Internal Comms Series 2
Using stories to illustrate values | S2 E11

Using stories to illustrate values

Welcome to this short podcast episode which continues our theme of looking at organisational values. Our previous episodes having been about bringing meaning to work, determining your organisational values and whether your values are fit for purpose i.e., how well do your values support your decision making and strategies?

The resource we’re sharing in this episode is designed to be used as a team exercise unlike the previous resources which were more aimed at personal reflection. The resource is called ‘Using stories to illustrate values’ and as most people know our values really need to come to life so that our people can relate to them. We also need to help our people understand how our values fit within our organisation and what ‘good’ looks like when it comes to our values.

The exercise can but used with a small group but actually works best in big groups such as conferences and large events. It’s a really good way of drawing out your values but also something, that once people are used to, you can use at the beginning of every meeting or gathering of people just to keep that continual focus on your organisational values. It’s a story telling activity, designed to be high energy and with lots of engagement. Ideally this would be done with groups around a table but in the current circumstances this could be difficult, so it also works with virtual gatherings using break out groups.

The idea is that you get everybody into small groups of 6-8 people and ask them to share an example of someone they have worked with within the organisation who has demonstrated one of your values. You may want to give people a particular value to concentrate on or give them the freedom to choose one themselves. You want everyone to come up with a short story that lasts between 60-90 seconds describing what they saw, who was involved, what the situation was and how that highlights or typifies one of your organisational values. We always encourage people to use something which isn’t necessarily highly significant, it can be just a really small example of someone doing something that really illustrates values.

Once everyone has told their story the idea is to get everyone to ponder them for a few seconds and think about which of the stories really stood out for them and who told it and not to tell anyone but make a mental note of it.

The next phase is to get people to mix up and move around into different groups and then get people to tell their story again to the new group. Again, ask everyone in that group to mentally note which story stood out and who told it. Ideally this cycle should be repeated 2-3 times if the group is large enough.

After all the rounds have been finished you then ask people to stand next to the person that they felt told the most powerful story which illustrated your values. What you will find is that there is aggregation around 3-4 people who’ve told the best stories. You then ask each of those people to tell it to the rest of the people. In a virtual situation this could be done by nominating people through the chat bar or by having a polling feature.

What you tend to find in this exercise is that it’s a really strong way of getting people to understand and also articulate what it is your organisation is all about from a values perspective. It’s an extremely powerful exercise.

We’ve run this exercise on numerous occasions and it’s something that always lands really well, there’s always great feedback and in fact people can get quite emotional especially if they’re talking about a colleague who is present.

Almost universally people say “why don’t we do this more often?” or “why don’t we share stories of people living and breathing our values on a regular basis?” What we normally suggest to people is why don’t you do it at the beginning of your management meetings or your team meetings? Take time to go around the table and get people to share a story of something they’ve seen that week or taken part in which illustrates us living our values in a way that is meaningful and purposeful. As you can imagine, in terms of embedding your values and getting everybody confident to articulate what it is we’re trying to do from a values perspective, it can be incredibly powerful.

The exercise ‘Using stories to illustrate values’ is available to download from our website www.thebigpicturepeople.co.uk using the resources tab at the top. You can use it at your next team meeting, conference or online gathering to help your people better articulate your values.

We hope you find this and our other tools useful, it would be great if you could give us some feedback if you’ve used them and found them helpful. Maybe you have a story you’d like to share with us about how you’ve used them which would be fantastic. You can contact us via the feedback form on our website www.engagingic.com, or by emailing us at info@thebigpicturepeople.co.uk.

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