Karen Eber is a culture and leadership development strategist with over 20 years experience working with global corporations like Deloitte, Hewlett Packard, and GE. She helps them shape leadership development, culture, and team effectiveness, by using strategies such as storytelling. She joins Todd Schnick and Mike Wood to discuss how she uses storytelling to help companies create culture.
What is Culture?
Todd comments that culture is one of those concepts that everyone would define differently. He asks Karen how she defines the term. She responds that culture is everyone’s experience of how work is done. Culture is all of the moments of how we interact each day, how work gets done, and what we encourage or discourage. That’s why everyone's definition is different, she explains. She teaches leaders that it comes down to the environment they create, so they need to model the culture they want to create, yet leave enough room for teams to work out how they are going to live out those values. Mike agrees that the culture is going to develop at the lower levels on its own, and it just needs some guidance from the top to reinforce those positive behaviors. Also, the more people are recognized for the positive attributes they bring to the company culture, the more likely they are to stay at that company.
The Power of Storytelling
When Karen started using stories to share values and leadership behaviors, she saw employees begin to discuss those ideas, reflect on them and become more intentional in following them. This proved to her the power of stories to start a conversation, to impart new thinking and to allow for reflection and intention to take place. She even uses stories to get leaders to understand the power of stories!
How to Tell a Story
Karen’s storytelling model is very basic: a story has a beginning (the context), a middle (the conflict), and an end (what happens). She explains that she helps people to build a toolbox of stories from their experiences, then write out a sentence for the beginning, middle and end. This tightens the story and gives people a takeaway. It also helps them develop their storytelling muscles. Mike asks how you can stop people from telling boring stories. Karen says that it starts with finding stories from your own experiences. Think of some nugget of information that you want to communicate and start there. Don’t ramble on and on.