Listen to the storytellers

This week I took a small groupĀ  of my senior staff, all talented leaders in their own specialist fields who were either new to my firm, to the PR industry, or moving into new roles internally. Nothing unusual in that, we all do it all the time.

They were all successful in own right, and I and they want to be even more successful together in our business transformation goal.

We were guidedĀ  by a very talented and empathetic facilitator and coach, Caroline Montagu, who I have worked with for many years. (She is outstanding, gets marketing, gets people. I cannot recommend her enough.)

Some of the team I had worked with or known for years, others for a few short months. I thought I knew some of them well, as colleagues and friends.

Caroline got us to tell our life stories, with all the ups and downs.

It was electrifying.

Suddenly people who I thought I knew, I realised I only knew in one or two dimensions. Suddenly, they went 3D or even 4D. All through the telling of and listening to engaging, often moving, stories.

Whoever said “the personal has no place at work” was indeed a fuck wit.

We talk a lot about storytelling in our various comms businesses. But how often do we take the time to listen?

PR people especially pride themselves on dialogue, but as one PR training consultant said to me recently – we train our people to talk, but not to listen.

Taking the time to listen, really listen, transforms our view of people, ideas, new thinking. Transforms our understanding of what shapes the people we think we know, their hopes, dreams, fears and desires.

So if you are planning a team building session (and not one of those grim build-a-raft or paint balling days), please please please build in time for people to tell their story, and for people to listen to those stories. Scales will fall from eyes, enlightenment will descend, hearts will move and all your aha! moments will arrive at once like so many London buses.

My mother frets about the speed I live at, the pressures and responsibilities I juggle. Like me she loves the simple pleasure of seeing things grow in the garden. Her favourite phrase for such occasions is “stop and smell the roses”.

Let me paraphrase.

Stop and listen to the stories.