We asked 5 professionals and company owners engaged in business as mission to share how they have experienced stories being used to build company culture:
We often use stories of our past experiences to show empathy and encourage our staff. When we feel they are having a hard time on a project or feel uninspired by their current workload, I tell them about times in my past of how I have felt the same, but sticking through it has helped me grow and become who I am today. We have a family-like company culture and we want our staff to feel their boss or manager is not a distant authoritarian figure but a father/mother or big brother/sister figure whom they can respect yet find comfort with. – Yumi, Southeast Asia
Story telling from THE book we follow has certainly been a way forward to introducing true freedom in our company. We tell stories from the Bible each and everyday in all our business units and this also helps with setting culture! Life stories are also shared as women are brave enough, this then becomes a wonderful way of talking about freedom – we often use the term “freedom journey”. Life stories also are powerful when recruiting and encouraging other women to leave “the trade”. When they are told about women who have managed to do that, and the transformation that can happen as a result, that is a powerful inspiration to do the same. – Kara, South Asia
A business I was working in had a strong ongoing emphasis on embedding its core values. One of its initiatives to do this, paired a senior manager and junior up-and-comer, to present on a company value to the entire company from the Board down. Inevitably each presentation was peppered with stories of the value being implemented meaningfully within the organisation. The process was very effective in personalising the core values of the business and positioning them as applying to the ‘day-to-day’, rather than being aspirational words on a corporate document. – Jai, Australia
I heard a great example of a story that helped build culture. One of the company’s key core values was servant leadership and early on a few employees were travelling together to a conference. Two of the senior employees travelled a lot and therefore got upgraded to business class, leaving the two juniors behind… that is until they decided to swap and give up their upgraded seats. That practical act of service became a part of company lore and a tradition after that to live out servant leadership. – Mark, South Asia
We do use and share stories to build company culture. Three observations to make: First, the stories told will always be not “central” or “HQ” stories, but stories out of the mouths of our clients. Second, the stories we tell will align with prevalent company culture. Lastly, the stories must verify the data. Data is critical, but the stories make the dry bones of data come alive. – Liam, Australia
Compiled by Jo Plummer with thanks to the BAM Practitioners who shared.
Jo Plummer is the Co-Chair of the BAM Global Think Tank and co-editor the Lausanne Occasional Paper on Business as Mission. She has been developing resources for BAM since 2001 and currently serves as Editor of the Business as Mission website.