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Using stories to illustrate values: resource

6 April, 2021
Illustration of a happy team using stories to illustrate values

Using stories to illustrate values‘ is part of our series of free resources for you to download, designed to make you think about the challenges facing us as Internal Communicators. Some are personal reflection exercises, others are team based. This resource will show you how powerful storytelling can be when we use it to illustrate and communicate our organisational values. It is a team exercise – and the bigger the team the better. It works incredibly well in a conference setting but can still be used with smaller teams and online. It will make people think hard but it should be fun, high energy and interactive.

Employee engagement through storytelling

Why storytelling? Don’t we include our organisational values in staff inductions? No doubt you do, and some of your employees might be able to recite them – but do they really understand how they form part of day-to-day working life? Stories are a great way to communicate your business values. Humans find stories compelling in a way that a linear presentation of facts or statements cannot match. They reach people on a deeper human level. Storytelling is a powerful art that is scientifically proven to capture people’s attention. In doing so, it stimulates the parts of the brain in charge of empathy, relationship building, driving actions and improving memory.

Values in action

In this exercise, you will ask everyone to think of a story or experience. An example of how someone within the organisation has demonstrated one of your values in action. It could be a very simple thing but it must illustrate how one of your company values works in practice. You could ask them to focus on one particular value or give them free rein to explore all your organisational values. People may need a few minutes to think of a good example. Then separate the audience into several groups, ideally of 6 – 8. If you are online, they will be in breakout groups. Each person then has around 90 seconds to tell their chosen story to their group. At this stage, there is no discussion of the stories. You simply ask everyone to think about all the stories they have just heard and decide which one was the most powerful or impactful. They don’t share this decision, they just remember who told it.

Next, you shuffle the groups around and do the same thing again. Everyone tells the same story they told the first time and, at the end, they decide which story at that table (or breakout group) really stood out. How does it compare to your choice in round one? Of the two, decide which is stronger? Again, don’t share this information just yet. Just remember who told the best story across both rounds. We suggest that you do either two or three rounds, depending on the number of participants. Each person will now have one storyteller and one story that they think best demonstrates your company values in real life.

Debrief

Now gather the entire team in a space large enough for people to move around. If you are online, you will probably use the chat or poll function for this next bit. Ask everyone to find (or nominate) the person they thought told the most powerful story then put a hand on their shoulder or stand next to them. It may sound odd but trust the process. You will find that the group will have identified two or three really powerful stories that illustrate how people live your company values. You should then ask the two or three people to tell their stories again to the whole group. Afterwards, with everyone back in their original seats, get them to reflect on the stories they heard. What did they learn? What did they like about the activity? Were there insights into the organisation that they hadn’t thought of?

Living, breathing values

After an activity like this, people often ask, ‘Why don’t we do this more often?’ It’s a good question. Why don’t we? Values are something that should live and breathe. They are not just for induction day, and they shouldn’t be just a list of phrases on a wall. Stories are a way of showing your values in action. So, why not do this at the beginning of every meeting, with every team or department? Recognise best practice, behaviours and the people carrying them out. Do this consistently and build up a view of what ‘good’ looks like in your organisation. It is a great way of keeping a focus on your organisational values, reinforcing positive behaviours, and embedding those values in the hearts and minds of your workforce.

Download the resource

The next step is to download the “Using stories to illustrate values” resource and start planning your next meeting. Whether it’s in person or online, maybe start off with a pertinent, powerful, 90 second story of your own to get the ball rolling. Have fun and let us know how you get on. We hope you find this and all the other downloadable resources useful as a way of prompting ideas and providing inspiration for your internal communications. If you haven’t checked the others out yet, you’ll find the links below. Feedback is always appreciated so do contact us – and if there is a specific issue you would like us to cover, just get in touch.

Previous topics:

Bringing meaning to work

Determining your values

Assessing your values

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