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Storytelling Brings Theory To Life

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Storytelling Brings Theory To Life - April 28th, 2007

Storytelling Brings Theory To Life

William Pollard, ServiceMaster

Learning must come from application. Chairman Emeritus William Pollard explains why lessons grounded in tangible examples and stories have a much better chance of future repetition and success.
  • One great challenge organizations face is in getting lessons to spread throughout an ever-changing environment.
  • For lessons to be truly impactful, senior managers need to get onto the front lines and teach lessons through stories and by example.
  • A story makes the intangible tangible, and it works extremely well in teaching intangible management concepts.
  • By relating intangible concepts to factual situations, individuals see actual examples that they can then apply themselves.
  • Only when there is application in reality does learning truly exist.

Action Plan

  • As a senior manager, identify your strategic intercept points. Make a point to get out of the office and onto those front lines at least one day each week until you've seen each of the identified areas firsthand. Thereafter, get out of the office and onto the front lines at least one day each month.
  • Recall what it was like to be told not to touch the hot stove versus actually touching the hot stove for yourself. Which was the better lesson? Present this same scenario to company managers and encourage them to teach by doing rather than telling. Require managers to report back on successful examples of learning.
  • When training employees, be sure to include concrete examples in addition to guidelines and step-by-step directions. When possible, have trainees practice duties for themselves and role play the various situations employees may face once on the job.
  • Identify a key management concept that needs to be shared with staff or with which the staff is having difficulty grasping. Find an example that allows this concept to be taught through a story. Use that story when explaining the concept, paying careful to whether the staff seems to comprehend the concept.
  • As a manager, take an afternoon to think about how each of your employees learns best. Tailor how you teach based on each individual's needs. Encourage employees to ask questions whenever something is unclear.
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