Building a future or telling a story?

I saw an interesting tweet today that said the role of CEO now needed them to be ‘chief storyteller’. It sounds like a phrase that hits all the latest fads and trends in communication. I have written before about the importance of telling stories to humans and how it can bring us together, making us more social. But I do have a problem with the connotation it brings to talk about storytelling.

Everyone wants the CEO to embody the principles, values and behaviour that are required for the organisation. People want the person at the top to be honest and have integrity. They want to know that whatever the boss says it will happen and it is not just hot air. This makes any discussion about ‘storytelling’ problematic because it feels as though we are being entertaining at the expense of truth.

We do require the CEO to be able to articulate the future of the organisation or business. They have to easily explain where we are now and where we need to be in the coming years. They have to be able to make the dusty plans become lively explanations relevant to the current workplace. It means the senior management have to understand what life is like on the frontline of the business.

They will not be able to bridge the gap between frontline and the corporate plans without having a detailed knowledge of the business from the frontline staff and user perspective. Without this knowledge they will lack authenticity and will fail to make the picture of the future relevant to the workforce.

The role of the CEO has changed now and has to be more things to more people. Our expectations of them have increased. In these challenging financial times we want to know that there is a plan for the future, what it means and how we fit into it. The person at the top has to make all that happen. This pressure means there are opportunities for professional communicators to step in and support the person at the top to make this happen. Perhaps it is more about building a future than telling a story.


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