Story is Vision

“The careful telling of the story creates ripples for everybody; including me” – Brian Stiller, Tyndale Seminary (from a FreeFORM interview). Defining, redefining, revealing, and sharing our vision is one of the difficult challenges of leadership. There are endless resources on how to do this, but lately I’ve found the best and most intuitive way of doing it is through storytelling. In recent meetings with two groups where we worked on mission/vision/values matters we experimented with beginning the process by telling the stories of those moments where we felt our organization was performing at our best. Out of that comes not only an easily emerging picture of what we most want to be, but also an energizing reminder of what we’re all about. We end up with statements and stories that become central reflections for us and which we believe in at a deep level. And it’s wicked fun. As the appreciation for the value of narrative continues to move from the world of academic criticism and artistic expression into the realm of leadership and strategy the potential for better engagement of all levels of stakeholders is exciting. One simple process: -Ask your board/team/committee/etc. to spend a little in advance thinking about the very best moments and memories they have of your organization. these could include not only the work with your clientele; but fundraisers, staff interactions, resources embraced, board meetings, and more. the point is to uncover the times when you experienced the best of what you can be. -Begin the session with someone telling the broad story of your organization’s history. As they do; everyone is encouraged to note and post ideas from the story that might relate to Mission/Vision/Values. (We’ve handed out post it notes and put flip chart pages on the wall to capture these thoughts). -Invite all to add their own stories of highlight moments; and continue noting the themes. -When the stories began to run out, review everything posted to ensure understanding and adjust the location of notes where needed. -Synthesize these notes to expose the strongest themes and try to turn these into shared statements or even a simple image or narrative. Does it work? So far, so good. This is the revised Vision Statement for Catalyst: Catalyst is committed to developing leadership in compelling nonprofit organizations as their dreams become action to transform lives.