How to Use Stories to Nurture the Culture

In his Harvard Business Review blog, Peter Bergman shares an example of a CEO who listens to employee input. He tells of Bill Black, a former CEO of Maritime Life, who asked all the company’s employees to help create a values statement. Then he asked a team of employees to write a newspaper containing stories that illustrated how the values were enacted in various departments.

So, in other words, one makr of an effective leader is the commitment to involving everyone–by asking, listening, and giving meaningful assignments that keep the desired culture alive and well. And if it becomes clear that the culture is veering off course, the leader steers it back in the right direction. The best way to do that is to change the stories that are told.

A related use of stories is to help with integrating the cultures of different companies following a merger. I worked with one major organization that had just bought two smaller companies. I guided the sales team through the process of crafting a new corporate story based on the shared values of the three organizations. The outcome was that the salespeople left with a solid story to tell their current customers, assuring them that the “new” company would continue to deliver the outstanding service they were accustomed to.

How about you? What stories is your organization telling that make the core values crystal clear?

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