We’re Bigger Than This
Helping Colleagues See the Larger Story
Bad manners and ill-treatment make headlines in personal conversations at most of the companies I’ve worked for. Just like in our newspaper or aggregated news sources online. People often say they wish the newspaper published good news, but they would not read it if it did. Good news—things going right for a change—few have time or interest for that.
Naturally this is so: stories of the people around us always take top billing in our conversations. Family, colleagues, neighbors, we love hearing what each other did and we love to relate a story about someone else, especially if funny or it has some emotional content that will get a reaction. It is the emotional content, whether funny, sad or repugnant that we really want to get across to each other.
It is our way of connecting: we want to stir a reaction.
It takes a concerted effort not to talk about the people who are not there. Leaders see personal interactions as an opportunity to steer interest toward something larger. But that larger thing is not the mission statement produced by the top brass or Human Resource, which is typically a lifeless bit of plastic. The real stories, the ones that make leaders out of ordinary citizens, are those stories where something of the corporate or group mission has made its way into and through an ordinary life.
One boss related a conversation she had with a far-away department. The department director praised specific people on the team and told of specific details that helped their group move forward. When our boss told this to the team in casual conversation, people blossomed.
We need more connection with larger mission—even if it seems hoky at the time. And we need less stories about how bad/abnormal/demonic are the people not present.
Image credit: Kirk Livingston