Stories provide context, model desired behaviors, connect staff to your values, and so much more.
I had the extreme pleasure of chatting with Eddie Hamann, Managing Partner of Andretti Karting and Games in Orlando during the most recent Experience Academy event earlier this year.
During one lunch, Eddie shared with our group some of the work that the Andretti’s team has been doing locally and abroad. They believe in giving back at least 10% of what they earn and do this in various ways. They build churches, give donations, help team members in need, and, through their #CheckIt4Andretti Foundation, they work to provide awareness of the importance of early screening for colorectal cancers. The foundation also helps fund screening for low-income individuals who are uninsured or underinsured, and who might not otherwise get this critical screening. At the time of the conversation, Eddie shared that they had already saved nine people’s lives by detecting cancer early.
I tell you this not only to remind you of the huge impact that you can have in your own community through your charitable giving but also to stress how important it is to communicate the work that you’re doing with your team.
Eddie explained that their management team makes a point to share stories of lives saved, churches built, people fed, and families helped often with staff. And by no means are they bragging, rather they do it so that each and every Andretti’s team member can understand the real difference they’re making every day come to work. It’s in stories like these that people can connect to your vision and business, earning you a committed team that is willing to go above and beyond for your guests and each other.
Storytelling is a powerful tool that the best leaders employ. Read on for five ways you can use stories to enrich training sessions and mentor others.
No. 1: Stories illustrate deeper meaning.
Like in the Andretti’s scenario, stories that highlight the great work you’re doing in your community can help your team find the deeper meaning in their jobs. This helps them better connect to your values and mission, and feel like they’re part of something bigger than themselves.
What we know about Gen Z workers, in particular, is that this connection to meaningful work is a critical part of what motivates them, which could make all the difference in retaining great staff.
No 2: Stories can provide context.
If you want staff to do things you ask them to, you have to provide the answers to “how does this pertain to me?” and “why should I care?” The Andretti’s team does a great job of demonstrating how important each team member is by connecting how their individual efforts make it possible for the company to thrive and help others.
In addition to connecting team members with the work that they’re doing, storytelling and scenario-based training can illustrate key messaging and demonstrate desired (and undesired) behaviors. Consider this:
Last Sunday, my husband left the house early to run errands before meeting me for lunch. Later, as we were catching up he shared the following, “I stopped on the way to the tire place to get myself a biscuit for breakfast. Well, two biscuits because I bought one for the lady at the tire shop… I told her I was going to because I called several places and couldn’t get through to anyone. But she answered the phone and was really nice, even calling several stores to get the right tires for my vehicle. No one wants to work at the tire shop on Sundays, and I really appreciated her doing it and being so nice.”
I hope I don’t have to tell you that this kind of story is guest service and teamwork training GOLD. If I were delivering this to staff, I’d bring it to life by following up with concept check questions, such as:
- “Why do you think the cashier’s behavior impacted him so much?”
- “What does his reaction tell you about the importance of attitude when you’re dealing with guests and each other?”
- “How do you think she felt when he brought her the gift? and for the remainder of the day?”
- “What do you think you could do for someone else to make their day?”
- “What do you think you want to take from this example? How can you do that?”
Stories can enrich the core concepts you’re trying to teach, and help staff discover how to apply their new knowledge.
No. 3: They make training memorable.
People aren’t likely to remember the bullets on your Powerpoint slide (sadly), but they are likely to remember a funny anecdote about doing the right thing or a somber story that illustrates the importance of diligent safety standards. Memorable training is sticky training, and that’s a good thing.
No. 4: They can help us develop empathy.
Stories help connect us as humans. These days, we are often so disconnected from others that it can be easy to develop an adversarial mentality with teammates and guests (and neighbors, family members, other drivers on the road, and and and.) Stories that share challenges you or others are facing or how you felt in a situation can help us put ourselves in others’ shoes and develop empathy for what they might be going through. Obviously, you should never share personal information about someone without their permission, but even hypothetical stories can remind us of how to treat others (and even ourselves.)
No. 5: They make coaching more enjoyable.
Bottom line, stories make learning and coaching more enjoyable. They build emotional connections through laughter, sadness, making us think, or filling us with renewed motivation. And they just make life a whole lot more interesting, don’t you think?
Have a story you’d like to share? We’re here for it. Send it to Showell@centeredgesoftware.com.
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