The Canadian Public Relations Society

What’s The Story?

In Mentorship, Uncategorized on December 9, 2010 at 12:49 am

On November 25, Bob Chartier, author, teacher and public servant, came to speak to the mentors and mentees of the CPRS Mentorship program. Thinking this was a holiday / social event, I arrived sans paper and pen. Uh-oh. This lapse ended up being a blessing in disguise as the narrative for the evening danced around two themes: the story and listening. What better way to challenge your listening skills than to not have the safety net of the mighty pen? So, I listened.

Mr. Chartier started things off with an introductory story about his background and then turned the floor over to us. We each told a story that was unique, wrought with both challenges and successes. The natural result of all this sharing was a platform from which Mr. Chartier would soon share tools of advice under the guise of the story. Through the power of story Mr. Chartier shared specific ways to help us in whatever our individual quests might be.

The first tool – er, story – was about an open space. Say you are working for a large organization with a number of stakeholders and things are starting to get a bit, uh, stale. Why not host an open space where you invite all your stakeholders, put them in a room and ask them what could make your relationship better. Obviously this is the truncated version of the story, but after the different activities of questioning and sharing you are left with a number of ways to improve relationships, your stakeholders feel like you have been listening and that you value their opinions, and now you can better serve your clients’ needs. Not only have you created a forum wherein which your stakeholders can tell their stories, but you also have a plethora of ideas to present to your organization. You are now a Superstar.

What’s the Story? The next tool was a question. If your organization doesn’t have a story – find it. Bringing the story into a company could be very helpful when navigating your career within such an organization, especially if an organization is young, small or doesn’t immediately value the art of the story. Every organization needs a common thread to build upon in order to better serve its clients, customers, stakeholders and community. Knowing the story will help you effectively and efficiently do your job as a communicator within the organization and so if issues arise you can go back to that bottom line, the base story, and work from there.

And then I spoke. Based on my story, I got two tools to think about within my practice, which I have blended together. Although I am at the beginning of my communications career, I seem to find myself in roles where after a while (and perhaps not such a long while) the expectation for me to manage or to delegate becomes clear but has yet to be discussed. Mr. Chartier suggested to me, that I build a regular schedule of mini-meetings (12 minutes to be exact) with all the people I interact with to keep lines of communication open, to establish boundaries and to simply connect. In those 12 minutes we can discuss anything, but based on his other tool for me (asking for and giving feedback), my 12 minutes would be a discussion of what is working well, what is a bit tricky and where we can find improvement.

Towards the end of the evening I looked around the room. We had four flip charts with instructions, we were each armed with a number of tools to implement in our practice and I had not a pen nor piece of paper in front of me. In listening to the stories of my peers, I felt more attuned to their struggles and successes and realized that I am not alone. Everyone wants to be heard. Everyone wants to be valued. And everyone wants a place at the table. Whether we are learning how to manage others, trying to balance job and practice, or just starting out, we are all simply writing a story.

Naddine Madell-Morgan
CPRS Mentorship Program

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  1. Well written, Naddine. This is a great summary of the evening for those who weren’t in attendance. I would certainly recommend Bob as a contact/resource for any organization. This session with Bob really highlighted the important role stories play in our lives.

  2. I agree with Naddine that it was a fun evening and good learning too. We all received a copy of his Bob Chartier’s book “Tools for Leadership and Learning: Building a Learning Organization” 2002 3rd edition, published by the federal government’s National Managers’ Community. If you’re interested, check Bob and his tools out online at
    http://www.managers-gestionnaires.gc.ca/chartier-eng.asp

  3. […] regularly. We each learn a great deal from our personal mentors, but have also found value in group events and meeting with other […]

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