Why HR Struggles to Get Its Point Across

I like telling stories, it’s one of my favorite things to do.  I also love listening to stories.  If I’m ever in a Barnes and Noble and someone is reading a story out loud to a bunch of kids in the kid’s section, on those little benches – you can bet I’ll be pushing 3 kids off a bench, sitting front row captivated chewing on one of my fingers, listening intently.  Great story telling is a skill, and one that most people can learn if they give themselves enough chances, and feel some deep emotion about the story they want to share.

So, what does this have to do with HR and our ability to be heard?

Seth Godin recently had this to say on this blog:

“A statement of fact is insufficient and often not even necessary to persuade someone of your point of view.”

Powerful statement all by itself.  In HR we love facts, we use them like bullets in gun, firing shots across conference room tables.  Only to watch the head of marketing standup and and use his storytelling shield to stop each shot.  It drives us crazy to sit there and listen to some silly story, when we have the facts, and watch an executive side with the silly story over the facts, almost every time. “I mean really! You’re going to go with the story about how his kid fingered painted all over the walls of his new house, over the fact I handed you a spread sheet showing you we are bleeding turnover to determine who should get more money for their projects?!” Well, yes, actually.

More from Seth:

Politicians, non-profits and most of all, amateur marketers believe that all they need to do to win the day is to recite a fact. You’re playing Monopoly and you say, “I’ll trade you Illinois for Connecticut.” The other person refuses, which is absurd. I mean, Illinois costs WAY more than Connecticut. It’s a fact. There’s no room for discussion here. You are right and they are wrong.

But they still have the property you want, and you lose. Because all you had was a fact.

On the other hand, the story wins the day every time. When the youngest son, losing the game, offers to trade his mom Baltic for Boardwalk, she says yes in a heartbeat. Because it feels right, not because it is right.

Stories make connections.  Connections drive people to act and behave differently.  Things change when behaviors change.  Facts don’t do that – connections do that.  As HR Pros we need to make more connections for our employees, hiring managers and senior leadership teams.  I’m not saying don’t have the facts – you will still need those – just don’t lead with the facts every time.  Once in a while lead with that story about how you met your spouse, or found your dog, or got caught washing your kitchen floor in your boxer shorts on your hands and knees by your neighbors (I mean totally just as an example…).

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