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Episode 65: Uncover Strengths Through Stories

podcast Apr 25, 2023

“How do we figure out what our strengths are in the middle of all the chaos that we are dealing with that tends us towards focusing on what’s wrong or what we need to fix?”

Let’s dive into a way for you to work with your team to change the narrative through a storytelling activity. Listen to the podcast for the full description and use the instructions below as a guide if you’d like to facilitate your own team activity. 

PREWORK:  Set a meeting time – 90 to 120 minutes. To prepare for the session, ask participants to think of one or two stories BEFORE they come to the meeting. 

Plan your meeting in 3 steps!

STEP 1. Uncover Stories

Have everyone think of their one or two stories they prepared on how they experienced the team at their best. Ask them to write down a few notes on a piece of paper to remind them of the story. Give them 5-10 minutes. Use these question prompts:

  • What happened? 
  • What contributed to making that experience good? 
  • What was the result of the team working at their best?

STEP 2. Explore Stories

Everyone takes a turn sharing a single story - round robin style. It’s okay if someone wants to “pass”. They can still contribute to the discussion, because there are two roles to play:

  1. The storyteller shares what happened, what made it good, and what was the result of the team being at their best – and in 2 minutes or less. You’ll need a timekeeper. It’s not a deep dive into one story – but seeing trends across many stories. 
  2. The audience in the room writes on post it notes a word or phrase that describes the strengths that they hear demonstrated in the story.
  3. After the storyteller is done, the audience shares their post it note and places it on the wall.
  4. Then move on to the next story 
  5. After everyone who wants to share has told one story, you can wrap around again to people who might have a second story to share.

You can’t have too many because in the next step we will narrow it down. 

STEP 3: Identify Strength Themes 

After you’re done storytelling, leave the last 30 minutes of the meeting to step back and cluster like post-it notes together as a group. Which ones are duplicate words that came up across the stories? What are similar themes that emerged through the storytelling? If your list still seems too big and a little unwieldy, then have the group vote on their top three with check marks or sticky dots. When you’ve narrowed it down, ask the group to reflect on the strengths they see and ask a few reflection questions like:

  • How do these strengths make us a better team?
  • What are we doing right now that could benefit from leveraging more of our strengths?

Sometimes strengths go unnoticed and then underutilized. By mining for strengths through storytelling you can find ways to “formalize” the use of strengths in the way you structure work or project timelines. You end up solving problems without overfocusing on what’s wrong, instead you’re focusing on what is right about the team.

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