Holiday rituals bring up stories that bind us and help us to connect with each other in new ways. Recently, I hosted a holiday get together for one of the CEO Forums that I facilitate. Spouses and significant others were also invited. The dialogue was lively with many conversation strands going on at one time. About half way through the time together, I asked the entire group if they were willing to share a past holiday story that was significant to them.
To my surprise, the most reserved of the CEOs went first. He grew up poor and relayed a memory of a meaningful Christmas with his parents where they finally celebrated the holiday with a tree and gifts. Another told a story about his deceased mother who started an “at the time questionable” tradition of hiding a pickle in the tree to see who could find it. Now that his mom is gone, the entire extended family continues the tradition of hiding the “pickle ornament” in the tree. It binds them and enhances the celebration. As each person shared their story, the energy shifted and people seemed to connect at a deeper level.
When I see how business focused many company cultures are, it’s not surprising that employee engagement falters. Sharing relevant stories that people are willing to discuss about their lives can humanize a fast paced environment and build trust among the group. Cultures grow strong when they develop traditions together. For example, one of the CEOs that I’ve worked with for many years and his leadership team cooks steak and eggs for the employees when set goals are achieved; it has become a tradition that all eagerly anticipate.
What are some ways that you can initiate storytelling and build the culture of your organization or team? The end of the year is often a time for reflection. What has worked well? What could be improved upon or changed? How could the simple tools of storytelling and building traditions enhance your work and that of others in the New Year?
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