There he goes again. (How many times has he told that story?)
Stories are a powerful mechanism for teaching or strengthening a culture. But what about those tales that have out-lived their value? How to get teammates to quit telling old stories can be tricky, but it can be done.
A trip back to Psych 101 may provide insights into why teammates repeat the same old stories. The story could be:
- A defense mechanism: I’m telling you this tale again because I want you to be aware that I know what I’m doing.
- A plea for validation: I keep telling the same story because I want you to know I’m relevant. You must know that this challenge we’re facing and the work we’re doing…I’ve done this before. When you listen to my stories I feel validated (momentarily).
There are other reasons tales are told, of course. However, it’s useful to consider that stories told may be mini lifelines being thrown: “I’m telling this tale because I want to know I matter.” If this is the case, rolling or diverted eyes in response can prompt the storyteller to . . . tell the same story again.
With that empathy, your next step is easier if you have authority over the storyteller. You can ask: “Why do you tell your stories?” And say, “Rather than anchoring us in the past, it’s important that your stories inspire a stronger future. What will you do to help the newer members of the team tell their own story that’s relevant for all of us?”
If you’re not in a position of authority, feedback is a good option: “You tell a lot of stories. The ones that work best for me are those that make the entire team the hero and have a clear lesson we can leverage in our business today.”
Ignoring or ridiculing a storyteller is to dismiss a life that’s been lived. Everyone wants to tell a good story. Leadership requires being active in enabling people to create a narrative that inspires.