The truth is that we don’t actually tell stories. Because the stories already exist within your organization, it’s not our work to tell them, but to find them and elevate them up through your organization. Only then can we craft them and get them in front of your audience. That’s done through a series of intentional, thoughtful steps that help the world to see the true nature of your organization and to give those inside the organization a more clear view of why it matters.
They come in, put a camera in your face, ask you questions, and prompt you to come up with canned responses. All while your coworkers are standing around listening to your every word. Don't forget that your manager will see this video as well - better not say anything that will get him in trouble. Determined to get beneath the surface, we approach it differently - spending time with the employees we interview and building a relationship with them. At the end of the project, we often hear how much we're liked and how different we are. "You guys listen and let us actually share our stories."
We came together with our friends at Detroit Lives to produce this piece about the amazing work the United Way and CEO Mike Brennan did with the Detroit schools of Cody and Osborne. Creating 4 smaller schools from 1 large school, they were able to alter thousands of lives in the Detroit Public School system.
Such as the lives of our stars, Kymoni and Stefa’n.
Much Love has been viewed all over the world and "forever altered the trajectory of the United Way organization," according to Mike.
UNITED WAY Much Love Campaign
As soon as I could walk I had a basketball in my hands. And as soon as I had a basketball in my hands, my dad was teaching me about the game. We watched it, we studied it together, we played it together... It was our thing. Like any good leader, he used my love of basketball to connect with me in other ways. He would talk about commitment, hard work, and team work to accomplish something. And many of these connections were through stories that he would write to me. He had an old type writer down in the basement, and whenever something big was happening in our lives we would hear him pounding away at it. "Clack clack clack clack clack" - And sure enough, the next day there would be a well written story sitting on my bed or slid under my door.
I never forgot these stories, and one of them is legendary in our family, "The Zone." I think it was a way for my dad to share parts of himself that the world didn't see, and that stuck with me, as did his love for reading and writing. Life went on, I graduated high school, went to college, and entered the work force. As I grew in my career, I realized I was I working jobs I didn’t enjoy, reporting to bosses I didn’t admire, and supporting companies whose missions I didn’t believe in.
That all changed for me when, in 2008, I got sick and received a shiny new kidney from my Aunt. Shortly after, I quit my job and used the inspiration from my dad's writing as a launchpad for Final 5. In the beginning, we produced videos. But it didn't take long for me to understand the power of story and for me to shift the direction of the company. I realize now that the same way he used story to connect me to important things that he believed in, organizations can use story to connect their audience with what's important to them.
All without the drudgery of basketball practice. Whew.
I spent my entire life believing that the only way to success was to be the smartest person in the room. And if I couldn't be that, then I needed to at least act like I was. My job out of college was as an account manager at a large asset management company. It was an interesting journey with that organization. On the one hand, I learned more about fulfilling a client's needs than I had ever thought was possible. But on the other hand, I never felt like I was bringing my true passion to the work. It was certainly important work, both to our organization and to the people whose money we were managing, but I often found myself wondering if there was more.
The pressure to appear perfect built over time. It was my responsibility to send out the newsletter and on one instance, I sent it out to each of our clients to thank them for their patience during market volatility. Rather... to thank them for their "patients."
The number of letters we received confirmed that the simple misspelling of a word (one that couldn't be caught by spell check) was more than a small fuck up in this world of perfection. Most of the responses to this "disaster" said something along the lines of "how can I trust you to manage my money when you can't even spell?" I would spend years after this second guessing everything I said or every email I wrote.
After so many years of pretending to be something I wasn't, I'm finally learning to embrace the value that I bring to work I care about. And even more important to me, I'm using the talents I've developed in other facets of my life, like previous jobs and in my role as a mom, in new and different ways. Where I once wondered if I was wasting them on investments, I can now clearly see the import of them to work that matters and the import of everything I learned along the way.
I've traded in my suits for jeans and my catered lunches for bagels at DIB.