How business stories emerge and become good ones to tell

Posted by  Shawn Callahan —August 28, 2013
Filed in Anecdotes, Business storytelling

Ric Holland is the CEO of Melbourne City Mission. MCM has a long history in Melbourne being established at the time of the gold rush in the 1800s. The enormous influx of people to Melbourne back then created unprecedented homelessness and MCM was created to help people find a place to live. Fighting homelessness is still a major task for MCM today. Ric has led MCM for three years.

One of the MCM programs is called Gateway Reconnect. It runs out of King Street in the CBD and the relatively young volunteers in their 20s work on the street and meet young people who are vulnerable to homelessness.

One day a man in his forties, wearing a suit approached the volunteers on King Street.

“Are you with MCM,” he asked

When they said yes he pulled out a small photo album and then started to describe the pictures.

“This is me and my wife. We got married 10 years ago.”

“This one is of my two beautiful daughters.”

“And this one was a big day for me. It was when I got a big promotion.”

The volunteers were puzzled at first but then they worked it out. The man went through the Gateway program 20 odd years ago. Apart from his immediate family he didn’t really have anyone to show the great things that happened to him. So he decided to go back to where it all started.

This is more or less how Ric told me the story. He reenacted how the man showed each photo in the album. It was moving.

Then Ric said, on the day this happened the volunteers came up to the office and said, “We had a guy in a suit show us his brag album today. He went through the program 20 years ago and has done well.”

As you can see the first telling was a little anaemic.

But Ric knew it was a good story and asked questions and worked out the bigger story.

Now, if a story is something that happened.
A good story is when you can see what happened.
And a great story is when you can feel what happened.

Ric was able to help me see and feel what happened.

The ability to see the potential in a partly told story is one of the skills leaders must develop to enhance their narrative intelligence.

About  Shawn Callahan

Shawn, author of Putting Stories to Work, is one of the world's leading business storytelling consultants. He helps executive teams find and tell the story of their strategy. When he is not working on strategy communication, Shawn is helping leaders find and tell business stories to engage, to influence and to inspire. Shawn works with Global 1000 companies including Shell, IBM, SAP, Bayer, Microsoft & Danone. Connect with Shawn on:

Comments Off on How business stories emerge and become good ones to tell