What story are you telling?

The other day my husband and I had a quick lunch at a local sandwich shop in our downtown. It’s a place known for their homemade bread, soups and sandwiches. As we got up to the deli counter, I ordered my turkey sandwich on their Chinese bread. My husband asked for his smoked meat on the same bread. When the person went to make his sandwich, she recommended he get the deal of the day which was the smoked meat. However, if he wanted to pay the deal price, then he couldn't have it on the Chinese bread because the sandwiches were pre-made. This also eliminated any topping choices he might want to make.

In the end, my husband did go with the smoked meat deal, but was overall disappointed. A deal should make you feel like you are getting something special and of value, and he felt he got neither of these.

The sandwich shop tells a story about their many bread choices, and made-to-order sandwiches, however, their daily deals tell quite a different story.

Human beings are wired for story. We make sense of ourselves and the world we live in through stories we are told, and – more importantly – tell ourselves.

Stories are everywhere, including in our workplaces. The companies we work for are telling a story, whether they know it or not. The best companies take an active interest in their company story. They ensure it is grounded in their beliefs and clearly narrates their purpose to customers and employees.

This allows people to connect with the company, binding them through common values and worldviews. And the more absorbed we are in the story, the more it changes our behaviour, creating strong affiliations.

The best storytelling companies weave their story into their corporate culture and encourage their people to own it and build on it themselves.

Nike, for example, understands that its heritage is an invaluable part of its corporate culture and plays a large role in maintaining the spirit of innovation the company is known for. Many of the senior executives spend much of their time acting as “corporate storytellers” – keeping the stories alive in the minds of Nike employees and keeping them invested and committed to the company’s core beliefs.

Stories are a company’s access point to a whole new level of customer and employee engagement.

What story is your company telling?