This month I’m starting to work with two new organizations that decided to build a new strategic narrative.
The first thing I don’t do is to produce new communication.
Instead, I help the entrepreneurs and leaders. I work with something more critical first: listening.
I engage in a listening phase through a series of interviews that will happen with stakeholders and members of various departments, levels, and sides of these companies.
I also interview people from the outside. Indeed, a strategic narrative brings people along inside and outside the organization.
So, I will interview clients to understand their perceptions of each company.
Don’t forget this listening phase if you decide to engage in a strategic narrative process.
Why is that?
Listening builds empathy, and empathy brings solidarity within a group.
When people feel listened to, they will trust you more, they will feel heard, and if you care enough to value their input and use it for real, you will bring them along to collaborate in creating new possibilities.
They will have their fingerprint on your narrative, and you will make them feel committed to your company’s future.
“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” Maya Angelou
Don’t assume that building a strategic narrative is about telling. Although I know it’s kind of a natural direction to take.
I often want to jump into “messaging” mode because I’m wondering what I could say to convince.
But the reality is that building a strategic narrative is not about convincing. Instead, it’s about inviting.
The first thing I try to remind myself is to slow down and listen.
Listen to things like:
- what people care about,
- their needs,
- what has your business brought to them,
- what they desire,
- what they want,
- how they see the environment around your business
- Did that environment make your business either crucial or completely irrelevant?
These are essential nuggets of qualitative data that you need first to take the time to gather, process, and organize in the various dimensions of your strategic narrative.
A strategic narrative is something you build socially.
It’s not something that you can delegate to an agency because they are better communicators than you.
It consists of bringing people along so that they share something critical to the success of your organization.
Building a strategic narrative is an act of leadership.
And the first thing great leaders do is listen.