Smart Stories Smash Silos

The concept of the silo in organisations has certainly done the rounds for a long time.

It is a metaphor that has stuck with people for so long few would know its origins. But silos paint a clear picture of people working in isolation from one another.
And as much as we know the term well, silos continue to exist in many organisations. Marketing departments tell one story, executives another, and those out in the field, in sales, product development or where ever all talk a different story. Often there’s a fair about of cynicism about the ‘official’ story or brand of an organisation.
And when it comes to a vision statement or mission, they are not something that people tell great stories about.
Developing a culture where people share real and untold stories is a powerful way to build a high performing organisation.
Having people sing from the same songsheet’ is hugely desirable. It is not about everyone singing exactly the same note in some robotic way. The trick is allowing people to articulate things the way they are most comfortable with.
So a songsheet can have quite a few parts for different voices and instruments. Harmony, melody, and lyrics come together to make a sum greater than the parts.
And so do great stories of great organisations.
Great stories are about people being heard, recognised and acknowledged for their value and contribution and getting a clear sense that they are contributing to a great song, whether they are the triangle player or the piano soloist. And to be honest, music would sound pretty hollow and go unheard in a real silo.

When Good News Goes Bad

There’s a big temptation for many people at work and in relationships to put a ‘positive’ spin on things.
A lot of both professional and personal development work runs the risk of being ‘happy-clappy’ and of a ‘fist pumping in the air’ nature. Anyone that runs against the flow is ‘letting down’ the team.
A good news culture can be very dangerous. Realities can be glossed over and before we know it a business or a relationship is in trouble because no one wanted to speak out about what was really going on.
I have two Thought Leader colleagues in Australia, Rowdy McLean and Helen MacDonald who tell us we have to Get Real and be Optimists and not resort to dreamily and simply ‘looking on the bright side.’
The greatest stories canvas both the good times and the bad times, rags to riches stories, sad to happy, failure to success. They don’t edit the ups and downs out of the journey.
As great songwriter and poet Leonard Cohen says in his song Anthem, “Forget your perfect offering, there is a crack, a crack in everything, that’s how the light gets in.”
News media and the advertising industry create some of the biggest stories on the planet through working the angles of good and bad, happy and sad, success and failure. They play with our flaws as humans, and we remember this because it strikes a chord of reality for us all.
It is the story of our flaws, our vulnerabilities, our mistakes as well as our successes that will inspire, be remembered and acted upon.

Getting on the Same Page

I often say that cliches exist because they represent the truth.

One that has been doing the rounds for a few years is: Are we on the same page? It is a very simple concept. The fact I hear it so often shows how common it is that people are on a different page from one another altogether, suffering communication breakdowns.
So to flip the idea, what if everyone could ‘read you like a book’ ? I love the idea. It drips with the possibility of powerful connections. It intimates transparency, another popular cliche of our times. It suggests authenticity. It implies clarity. What is even more exciting is that I start to think about the potential of high performing teams where people ‘read’ each other, anticipate each other and work together with a powerful synergy. We see that most obviously sometimes in sport, where a player anticipates another to create some magic. They’ve read their mate like a book.
So to completely state the obvious, the way to get to be on the same page starts with stories. The stories we tell ourselves, and the stories we share about ourselves, as individuals, as teams as organisations. New York storytelling expert, Michael Margolis says to know a culture, listen to the stories, to change a culture, change the stories.