A storyteller in action. Woodcut engraving, published in 1872.

SAs the new year is underway I am reminded of a book I read many years ago about a seanchai (Irish story teller) who use to go round the different communities in Ireland and tell stories to the villages in exchange for food, drink and accommodation with the locals.  The reason I am reminded is that many are involved in setting their yearly goals in their role and that are meant to reflect their contribution to the overall organization and tell a story for them.  

When these goals are set up and reviewed with the teams and individuals what is often lacking is the ability of the department/division or individual leader to communicate effectively about these goals. Individuals and teams are left to reflect the basic questions of ‘why’ we are working towards these goals and how this will impact the organization or those the organization serves.

They haven’t grasped the vision, their role in it and the biggest flaw is they haven’t been told a story that they can relate to and follow. It had been distilled into a bullet list and become one dimensional. 

The result is that teams aren’t pulling in the same direction, they don’t have the engagement in the company vision and without that we all fail to move forward as much as we expect. 

Think about in our daily lives how much we can be enthralled by those with the ability to tell stories. We remember how much it grabs our attention and imagination regardless of whether those telling them are true story tellers, comedians looking to lead us to a punch line or salespeople hoping to sell us on an idea of product. They create a picture, a memory and something to literally grasp. 

One of the basic flaws I see in leadership is the inability to tell a story, create a vision, communicate a direction. We have become enamored with electronic communication and are starting to see the art of face to face communication diminish. 

Story telling involves planning, ensuring we can envision and see the goal and the art of engaging people on that journey through bringing them along with us. It is a ‘vision’ that we have to develop, but it also has to be a process where we can connect with people and their imagination and leave them with a memory. 

So as we sit to communicate goals take the time to develop the story, look at how you engage the team and how we bring people along with us on the journey.

Help bring back the lost art of the seanchai.


About chriscashell

I have been working in IT for most industries during my career and delivering change through solutions combining process re-engineering and software systems. This has involved taking a disparate group of people to form project teams and setting out on a mission to change the business and drive it forward to meet compelling goals. Building and being part of a successful team is a great experience and seeing organizations and individuals embrace change is a rewarding experience. I want to share my insights into those experiences and thoughts and find out what others believe can make change fun and enjoyable.
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