The Power of Small Stories

Great Article by Richard Andrews from Todd Nielson’s blog

power-of-stories-richard-andrewsSmall Stories are flying round every organization every minute of every day. Like mosquitoes over a lake in summer they get everywhere: in the corridors, the restrooms, the stockroom and the kitchen. They hover around the photocopier and the water cooler, they get under the door and through the smallest gap in the window. They settle for just an instant on some exposed skin and, almost unnoticed, they give a little bite. One bite’s no problem, but over time there’s one more then another; Ten, twenty, and they start to have a real impact!


Small stories are those little one-liners that are a great indicator of an organization culture.

A single story:

“I see the boss is out on the golf-course again”

tells you very little. But if the same kind of story is being repeated again and again, it becomes a big deal and whether truth or perception, it certainly has an impact on people’s beliefs and behaviors.

“I hear that the boss really bawled out Molly at the meeting last week”

quickly becomes a perceived truth that managers are disrespectful, abusive and don’t value the staff team. Forget about what it says in your values statement, it’s the Small Stories, truthful or perceived as truthful, that create the culture!

Leaders and managers are great ‘Big Story’ tellers: the annual staff day where the CEO delivers an upbeat PowerPoint about the great opportunities ahead, the monthly sales meeting, the annual appraisal, the staff newsletter and more! But most times leaders and managers don’t do small stories; they don’t like small stories. They get dismissed as ‘rumour or ‘gossip’. They’re seen as viral and uncontrollable, needing to be suppressed.

Using stories to turn negatives into positives and develop a great workplace culture.” Richard Andrews Tweet this!

You can spend a whole lot of energy trying to eradicate Small Stories but you’ve got no chance! Give up trying to kill your organization Small Stories and embrace them instead!

Small Stories don’t all need to be negative, there are great Small Stories too. What’s important is the balance between positive and negative.

So how about getting into the Small Story business?

Instead of trying – and failing to control those pesky mosquitoes, how about releasing a few of them yourself?

“It was great that Julie went that extra mile to close a deal.”

“The way John helped out in making sure that customer had a great experience of us made me feel really proud of our organization”

“There’s been a real feel of enthusiasm this week!”

Power-Small-Stories-Richard-Andrewsall have the potential to buzz around the workplace infecting people and counteracting any negative stories that may be hanging around. And if you and your management team are each releasing twenty Small Stories each week the balance between negative and positive will soon start to swing.

Positive emotion is just as contagious as negative.” ~ Richard Andrews Tweet this!

Be careful what your Small Stories are saying.

“Jane has really embraced the new strategy and has won a great new contract!” 

is enough. It’s positive and everyone can draw whatever conclusion they wish to from it.

“Jane has really embraced the new strategy and has won a great new contract! It’s a shame everyone else isn’t as proactive as she is.” 

ruins the whole impact! Suddenly we’ve got a story about how resistant and unhelpful the boss thinks the workforce are! What a waste of a good Small Story!

Equally, the thing that gives your Small Story wings is its truthfulness. If it’s not true, genuine and heartfelt it becomes nothing more than cynical manipulation.  Don’t be fooled, your people will see through that in an instant!

Please don’t ditch the Big Stories. The staff day’s fun, it’s informative and it makes your people feel they belong. Instead, add to it with a simple Small Story strategy. If you can stick to it, you might notice those mosquitoes giving way to butterflies!

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