We all want to be seen. We all want to be heard. We all crave deep connection with others.
What if you could have these things in your place of work? You can.
Your boss, employees, and co-workers are no different from anyone else. We all innately want and need the same things.
A lot of today's companies and organizations are hyper-focused on inclusivity and diversity. This is great! But, it's time to go a little deeper. It's time get beyond our labels and find a way to see each other for who we truly are. That can't be done without sharing our lives, our fears, our hopes, our dreams, our goals - OUR STORIES - with those that we are surrounded by on a daily basis.
It's time to go past diversity and inclusivity: it's time for connection.
We have to make time and provide a safe space for people to get what they truly need from a healthy and stable working environment that promotes individuality and enhances creativity.
In the storytelling workshops that I have done in the past with college students, researchers, team leaders, non-profits...the feedback has all been the same in the evaluations: "I feel more connected to my team more than ever before." Research shows that meaningful connections in the workplace boosts employee engagement, reduces team member stress and improves operational outcomes.
It's simple, if employees aren't fully engaged, and don't feel cared for, productivity suffers. So, how do we create a work culture that supports the listening to and sharing of our own vulnerable stories?
This is a question I am still fully immersed in as a vulnerable storytelling expert. I don't have all of the answers, but here are some ways to engage your team on a deeper level:
Create a question that your team can answer. Give each team member time to work through the question. It's helpful to set a deadline - like a week or two. A great example of a question is: What story do you feel like is keeping you from moving forward in your work and life? Be creative or make it relevant to your own team.
Have your team members write their answer - their story - out completely, individually, and in their own time - every detail, every emotion - without trying to make it perfect.
Decide on how you want to share your stories as a collective. Do you want to do it on a zoom call? Do you want to do it in person as a group? If so, how much time is realistic for each person to share? Keep in mind that we speak about 100-130 of written words per minute.
Have everyone edit their stories down to the amount of words that you have decided to give each person. The edits should include the components of the vulnerable storytelling arc in order to have the most powerful affect. (I can provide a training around what that looks like, or wait for a later post or video from me covering this storytelling arc).
Create a safe space and ground rules for your "share time." I can help with these as well. Rules like: stay present and quiet while someone is sharing their story, have everyone agree (written or verbal) to keep all stories confidential and within the team, etc.
I have found that it is always most important that the leader/manager of the group go first. It sets the tone and creates an even safer space.
When everyone has taken a turn then have everyone go around and say one thing they learned from someone else's story.
While I am aware that doing a workshop like this does create deeper connections in the moment, it would benefit any company or organization to continue doing exercises like this on a quarterly basis in order to keep morale strong and to move the company culture into one that rallies around acceptance and meaningful connection.
I'd love to see more companies and organizations put this kind of time and effort into their teams in order to show how valued - and valuable - everyone's stories are.
Will you be one of the leaders to make this happen?