…because some thoughts are worth remembering
Building a common ground is essential to team building and effective communication. Successful management requires more than specific instructions for success but inspiration that needs to be communicated by showing. One way to show is by sharing stories that inspire or make a point without you having to tell it. The power of these stories lies in being short with a strong metaphor, their ability to “speak” to people from different backgrounds, and how simple it is for us to refer to them after, again and again, to make our point and to remind ourselves of the common ground we now share through the story telling. The Cathedral Builder I first heard the following story told by Dewitt Jones, a National Geographic photographer, who uses his work to illustrate the importance of vision (skip to 1:30 of the video). Here’s the gist of it: There was a man amongst big blocks of stones chipping chunks out of them. His tired posture matched his heavy eyes, and his arms seemed to drop in disappointment after every stroke he made. When he was asked what he was doing, he replied, “I’m chipping stones.” Another man on the other side was also chipping away, but his eyes were bright with a sense of purpose. He seemed to celebrate every stroke he made. When he was asked what he was doing, he replied, “I am building a cathedral.” If anyone doubts the value of establishing a vision, tell them this story. Two Wolves This Cherokee legend has been mentioned by other cultures, both western and eastern. I first heard it on a Buddhist podcast! A Cherokee elder tells a boy that there are two wolves within every being. One is evil, full of anger, jealousy, greed, resentment, sorrow, etc. The other is good, full of joy, love, peace, humility, compassion, etc. The boy asks which wolf wins. The elder simply responds, “The one you feed.” This story doesn’t have to be just about morality but the choice we all make to feed one side, that we can exercise that control. The Lost Key Many business books mention the story where a policeman sees a drunk looking for his keys under the street light. When the policeman asks where he might have lost the keys, the drunk answers, “I think I lost them in the park, but the light is better here.” It’s quoted in business books because the story presents an observational bias (now coined the Streetlight Effect), where we tend to look for things in places that are easiest for us to search rather than the most likely places. What God Looks Like I’m not sure where this story comes from originally except that Ken Robinson starts his book, The Element, with this story. A little girl is concentrating on completing her picture. Her teacher asks what she was drawing. The girl answered, “I’m drawing a picture of God.” “But no one knows what God looks like,” said the teacher, to which the girl responded, “They will in a minute.” I love the chutzpah of this little girl, though for her, she was simply stating what she was doing. It reminds us that we are born with self-assurance. Having been a teacher once, this story reminds me of the tremendous responsibility we have with our speech and interaction with children, to one-sidedly imprint your own biases onto them rather than exploring their point of view. There are more stories I find myself remembering or retelling, but I can’t recall them at the moment (and I’m sure there are more!). I just remember the power of these and other mini stories and that I should jot them down so I have them handy, and throwing them out to the blogosphere to see what other interesting mini stories are out there.