As you might be aware we define Business Storytelling as ‘storytelling with a business purpose and for business results’. So what results can a purposeful business story deliver?
Take for example a client of ours, Michael Brandt, who is a Regional Branch Manager at a bank. Michael was responsible for 20 branches and at every branch, he had the same problem. His staff never seemed to meet their weekly targets of referring quality sales leads to the sales department.
He continuously talked to his team, and every time, they told him they knew what their targets were, and the importance of referring leads to the sales department. In fact, their targets were even linked to their annual performance bonus!
His staff told him that it was the one task they hated doing. For two years, Michael had this problem, and by his own admission, had tried everything. His frustration was tangible and you can imagine how frustrating it must have been for his staff as well.
During one of our workshops, Michael constructed the following story:
‘When I was a kid, I hated Brussels sprouts. Every time Brussels sprouts was served at dinner, I always left the Brussels sprouts till the end (of course I always hoped I could get away without eating them). My mother would never let me leave the table until I ate them.
One day, when Brussels sprouts was on the menu (yet again), I decided to eat them straight away so I could sit back and enjoy the rest of my meal. Do you think we could approach our quality sales leads targets like Brussels sprouts? We all know we can’t leave the table without eating them. Do you think we could get them out of the way early in the week and then sit back and enjoy the rest of our week?’
Two weeks later, we saw Michael at a follow up session where he told us he had been to 11 of his 20 Branches, and narrated his Brussels sprouts story. Michael advised us that in all 11 Branches, for the first time in two years, they had achieved their quality sales leads targets. We asked Michael if he had done anything different in those 11 branches (apart from telling the story) to which he replied ‘No, the story was the only thing I did differently’. He then told us that the term ‘Brussels sprouts’ had also become short-hand within the team for their sales leads: ‘How many Brussels sprouts have you eaten?’ ‘I have already eaten 3 today and it’s not even lunch time!’
Being consultants we took full credit of course for Michael’s success! His story worked because everyone can relate to it, it taps into a universal human experience of being forced to eat your vegetables by your mother. At a subtler level Michaels’ story carries a layer of empathy in it. Through the story he is saying it is OK to hate stuff in life but that doesn’t mean you can get out of doing it.
Michael used ‘Brussels sprouts’ for 6 months as every time he did it gave him powerful results. This is an example of how storytelling can work for you, if done purposefully. Here is another case study across an organisation of the results purposeful storytelling achieved.