Seattle HR Collective: Leveraging Storytelling as a Means to Building Culture

April 18, 2019
April 18, 2019 HRCollective

Seattle HR Collective: Leveraging Storytelling as a Means to Building Culture

Culture is what makes your business unique and is the character and personality of your organization. A positive culture impacts satisfaction and happiness in the workplace. It also attracts talent and affects performance. According to Founder and Chief Impact Officer of Story 19 Consulting Dan James, there’s a connection between storytelling and culture.

Having a strong understanding of one’s self and one’s story sets us up to be our most authentic selves. This understanding flows outward and affects team culture and an organization’s leadership. Dan recently joined Jennie Ellis at the April Seattle HR Collective Meetup where he led a workshop on how to leverage storytelling as a means to build culture.

Defining Your Story

As the workshop began, Dan shared his own story. He spent sixteen years as the U.S. Paralympic Coach for Wheelchair Tennis in the U.S. where he coached teams to eleven medals during his international career including three teams that won gold. In previous roles, he’s served as a non-profit director and corporate supply chain analyst, but he quickly realized it wasn’t the right fit for his personal story and leadership style. Dan is a coach, and that is his true calling in life. He encourages everyone to become more impactful storytellers and better communicators.

The basis of all communication is rooted in storytelling. Storytelling is any vehicle that delivers understanding to others. Can you define your own personal leadership style? What adjectives come to mind? These keywords may help:

Picture yourself as your true best self. Where are you at when you feel most confident? That person is an amazing leader, and that person is the protagonist in their own personal story. That is your story. Is this the same person that you are at work?

It’s easy to encourage others to embrace who they are (not who they think they should be). Before you do that, ask yourself are you doing the same for yourself? Is the true version of yourself the person you bring to work?

Creating Vehicles

If your story is a vehicle, how would you build it? The “what” and “so what” factors define the parameters of how your narrative is told and the impact it will have on your teams for the rest of their life.

  • What is your ultimate impact?
  • What is your team’s impact?
  • Does this tell your story?

According to Dan, some time in the future your team will come to you and tell you how you impacted their life. Your ultimate impact is the story you hope they tell you on that day. Now that you have the answers to those questions, does your story align with the culture and the culture you’re trying to create?

Defining Culture with a Culture Box

Your organization’s culture defines, behavior, communication, effort, measures of success and fun. In the next part of the workshop, Dan encouraged us to create a list of our own culture boxes.

  • Does your culture have a relationship to your Ultimate Impact?
  • Do you tell your culture story?

According to Dan, there are only as many cultures as there are leaders in a workplace or organization. We should be aware of the culture we are creating. A positive culture removes surprises and sets expectations.

  • Does your story create an impact?
  • Does it create a positive relationship?

Taking time to tell the right story is a short term loss and long term gain. Now that you know your personal story. You can create something amazing with what you put inside your culture box.

Building Culture

Are you ready to build culture? Here are a few things to keep in mind:

  • Embrace your leadership style
  • Define your ultimate impact and culture
  • Create a folder of stories
  • Tell your story
  • Make an impact

Thanks to Dan for presenting his workshop and Reflektive for sponsoring the event!


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