Stories exist because of our desire to communicate and connect. We spend a lot of time talking about the power of stories. However, can stories “go bad?”
Let’s say an organization is growing. That should be good news. The problem is that communication from leadership has decreased because leaders are in constant meetings trying to get processes in place that can support the growth.
The absence of communication means we have an incomplete story, and we compensate by adding our own, fearful, paragraphs. Following our tendencies for fight or flight, we make up stories that fill the void. Most of the stories begin with the following words . . .
It doesn’t even matter how remote the story source, we share the information because we want to be able to guess the end of the story both to satiate our curiosity and take control of the situation. To try and figure out the ending, we share play “telephone” and share what we know:
I heard that the CEO is meeting with another company this week in California, and we should be sold by the end of the month. That’s why leadership has been so quiet. And did you see those guys in the suits that are hanging around? They’re doing due diligence to prepare the company for the sale.
Stories have the power to drive positive change because they keep the lines of communication open. Stories also have power to destroy change efforts because they distort truth by retelling it in an uninformed way.
During times of change, leaders need to keep communication lines wide open, even if the news isn’t that great. Why? Because stories will be created with or without the appropriate information.
What stories are going bad in your organization today? How are your leaders contributing to those storeis?