One of my favorite quotes is from the author of “Kitchen Table Wisdom.” Rachel Naomi Remen often writes about storytelling as a vital process to the sharing of knowledge and to gain renewal.
“Everybody has a story. When I was a child, people sat around kitchen tables and told their stories,” she shared. “We do not do that so much anymore. Sitting around the table telling stories is not just a way of passing time. It is the way the wisdom gets passed along. The stuff that helps us to live a life worth remembering. Despite the awesome powers of technology, many of us still do not live well. We need to listen to each other’s stories once again.”
Storytelling was woven into my genes. I swear, I entered the world telling a story. Of course, no one could understand me, but I know I was telling a story. I once worked with a CEO who hated storytelling. He would communicate with fast, short, direct statements. He hated when I would tell a story in meetings. He left me articles on how to get to the point and I left him articles on the power of storytelling.
In truth, we both were correct.
There are times that factual, direct communication is needed and other times when the power of a story is what will engage the hearts and minds of the other storytellers.
Notice, I did not say listeners because when we choose to tell a story, we naturally invite the participation of others to contribute to it, which then becomes the story of many.
Reflecting on my former boss, years later he wrote me an email apologizing for his lack of understanding of the power of storytelling. He shared that he became exhausted and lost enjoyment in his work. He snapped at people and ended up quitting. He changed fields and found himself with a boss who loved telling a story to center the company on their mission. He acknowledged how the stories enriched the culture of the organization. He even went on to say that he was working on his own storytelling skills. Yes, you can develop skills of how to story tell.
Culture is what we say and do, daily. My former boss was a brilliant leader, yet in the end, he found himself exhausted and disenchanted. He spoke only to the immediate need of fiscal performance. He became disconnected from the richness of caring for human beings.
The pandemic has put healthcare into one of the deepest human resources crises ever seen by this industry. Long-term care has had its story told by many who know only the first two pages of a 200-page book. Many leaders whom I speak with across the nation are just like my former boss, exhausted and feeling disconnected.
One tiny step to change the trajectory is to listen to what is feeding your culture at this very moment. Are those the stories you want to be shared, or do you need to change the narrative?
If we look back in history, it has been stories that sustained people through tough times. It was stories that inspired people to rise above challenges and have a vision to go forward. I ask you again, what are the stories being told within your organization? Do they feed the culture you want and need right now?
I have posted on my bulletin board, “Culture is what we say and do, daily.” to remind me that words matter. They matter now more than ever.
Martie L. Moore, MAOM, RN, CPHQ, has been an executive healthcare leader for more than 20 years. She has served on advisory boards for the National Pressure Ulcer Advisory Panel and the American Nurses Association, and she currently serves on the Dean’s Advisory Board at the University of Central Florida College of Nursing and Sigma. She was honored by Saint Martin’s University with an honorary doctorate degree for her service and accomplishments in advancing healthcare.
The opinions expressed in McKnight’s Long-Term Care News guest submissions are the author’s and are not necessarily those of McKnight’s Long-Term Care News or its editors.