The Transformative Power of Story
There is one skill you can develop that will enable you to transform your organization. Learn what that is here.
One of the most powerful things you can do for your organization, is learn how to tell stories. People remember stories far better than they remember facts or any other kind of information. Stories can shape your culture, they’ll shape your identity as an organization, they’ll define, ultimately, the kind of people we want to be. And the organization that we want to be. People will embrace stories and say “Yeah, this is an example of who we are.” There are few things that are more powerful at shaping organizations culture and identity than telling a story.
We had an experience in our family that really drove this home to me. A few years ago, I received a grant for a sabbatical and as part of that grant we got to take a family vacation. We decided to take a 7-day cruise to the Bahamas, and we hadn’t had a vacation as a family for a long time, so we were really excited. We got down there and we were like the first people in line, a couple of hours before the ship was open for boarding because we were so excited – we didn’t want to miss one moment of this whole trip. But as we got there, we were suddenly confronted with disappointment. The lady we were talking to said we couldn’t get on because my wife hadn’t brought her green card with her. My wife is a South African citizen and is here as a resident alien, and has a resident alien card, called a green card. We all brought our passports, her included, but she didn’t bring her green card. And the lady at the cruise said “No, we can’t let you board” She got her boss, and her bosses boss and they all said the same thing: No can’t let you on without your green card.
We were devastated. We had to get out of the line and we sat down in the holding area and tried to figure out what to do. My wife is being a trooper saying “You guys go on ahead and enjoy the trip. I’ll just stay here and wait for you” Of course we’re not going to do that, we’re all trying to figure out what’s going on, and I am totally deflated. All of a sudden my son, who’s about 15 speaks up, and he basically kind of rebukes our family. He says “No one in this family has any excuse for doubting God’s provision, or not expecting God to come through when we need Him. We’ve seen it over and over again, and we need to ask Him to do it again.” He gathered the family around and led us in prayer asking that God would make a way and open the doors that we had just been told could not be opened.
A little while later that lady came back and said “We do have one possibility” (we were down in Miami) “If you can get ahold of someone back in your home up in Chicago, and they can get your green card and fax a copy of it to us, and then mail it to us overnight so it arrives here on the cruise – we’ll let you on. We’ll let you on with the fax, but we need the actual green card to let you off. If you can arrange all that before we leave, then you can get on.”
Well, we were shocked. We all hit our phones and called everyone we knew – found someone, told them how to get in our house, told them where to get the green card, and they did it. They were able to fax it to the ship, and they shipped it to us, and it arrived. So we were all able to get on the ship. We were literally the LAST people to board the ship. We had been the first ones in line, and the last ones to get on, but we did it.
What was it that enabled my son to stand up like that? Well he’s heard stories his whole life of stories God’s provision, God’s activity. Every time something would happen, we would tell the story to our kids, and we told those stories over and over. So he didn’t just hear it one time, it was a regular diet that had. And so when crunch time came, he had been shaped by those stories and was able to step up and say “You know what? We know God provides, and we’re going to ask him to do it again. And now, as a family, we have another story of how God came through for us.
I want to encourage you, as a leader, to learn how to tell stories. They will shape the culture of your organization, they will define you. And as you tell those stories, and people get an idea of the kind of behaviours you are looking for; the things that are valued, what will happen is they will start doing it, and like our family, you will get more stories. It will reinforce and start to become a prophecy almost, you’ll hear more and more as it gets entrenched in the organization. Telling stories is powerful, it captures people’s attention and shapes their identity. Learn how to tell stories, and as you do, you will find the dreams you have for your church or organization will become reality. That’s going to bring a joy and satisfaction to you that is just wonderful. So go ahead and do that.
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Talk to you soon!