always loved telling stories. In grade
school, I scribbled away at picture books.
In high school, I wanted to write novels. And in college, I directed plays. Theater intrigued me because it demanded
collaboration. Actors and designers,
dancers and electricians all came in with their own stories – their own ways of
talking, attitudes, perspectives – but to shape a narrative that touched an audience,
all those different people had to harmonize.
Until I understood the people, there was no play. In my career, I never want to lose sight of
that simple point: Great big stories depend on lots of little ones.
after college, I was far away from the theater – working in Manhattan
skyscrapers and suburban office parks, my desk strewn with board reports and
org charts. But when evening fell and I
watched from afar as commuters' cars emptied the corporate parking lot, radio
on and windows rolled up, I would think back to those theater days.
that behind each of those car windows, there was a person playing back their
day. Some folks were driving home with a
grin, remembering a success, a joke made in passing, an unexpected kindness. Others were angry about a call with a
customer, nervous for a presentation to an executive, uncertain about how to
manage a new hire; all of them reliving moments, writing their own stories about
the day just past.
easy to ignore all these little stories – but in my career, I want to stay
focused on them. A company’s big narrative
isn't only written by management gurus, in corporate retreat workshops, or on
project plans. In the end, a company's great
achievements are just so many little stories that – with time and work, with resilience
and leadership – add up.