We all have a story.
A story that shows who we are, where we come from, what we value, what gives us energy, and what stops us from being ourselves.
A story that we bring with us every day.
In every conversation we have.
With family, friends, colleagues, and strangers.
Some of us are an open book of hundreds of pages. Others are just a few pages.
Or so it looks.
On the outside.
Because some of us are more comfortable sharing than others.
And some prefer to pull up a facade, hiding what is behind.
No matter how close the relationship is.
Here’s my point.
Every time I do a storytelling exercise with a team, each member acknowledges afterward that the team will work better now.Erikjan Lantink
Because people know each other better.
Because people are aware of what drives others.
It’s so insanely simple.
Allow people to tell their stories, and everybody ‘wins.’
Still, it hardly happens, especially in the work environment.
We don’t have time for that stuff.
We don’t want feelings and emotions in the workplace.
We’ve don’t that before, and it didn’t work.
I don’t understand the added value of such an exercise.
I’m just going to repeat myself.
Every time it gets done, teams get better.
I even used three exclamation marks to make my point.
Some of the above reasons may be valid, but they’re never the real story.
The real story is that people are afraid. Afraid of their own feelings, emotions, or image.
Afraid of how they will come across. They are protecting people on their team while they’re, in fact, trying to protect themselves.
But if you knew 100% that your team would perform better afterward?
Why would you not give it a try?
Here’s what I’ve learned by doing this exercise many times.
You simply ask people to share a story that has shaped them into who they are today.
Then you tell them only to share what they are comfortable with.
If they want to stay in their comfort zone, they can.
And then you let them talk.
Almost always, at least one person is willing to share their story, but often more than one.
Often, an incredible story.
Then the magic happens.
One person has opened up, shared her story, and paved the way for others to follow.
Sometimes people stay reserved during the first round, but once people start asking questions out of pure interest and curiosity, other stories will follow.
Almost always, the reaction is Wow!
If only I knew.
It’s pure magic.
And I don’t mean that from a theatrical point of view.
It’s magic because suddenly, people see clearly why someone behaves the way they do.
Within one story, they change their perception of someone, and what behavior that was always frowned upon and misunderstood suddenly makes sense.
That’s the impact one story can have.
Yes, it needs courage and willingness to cross the borders of comfort.
As long as people feel they’re safe to share whatever they want to share. It’s never a push but merely an invitation to open up a little.
And when done with respect, integrity, and care, it paves the way for better teamwork in the future.
Your turn: what’s your story?
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