We are the stories we tell about ourselves

The use of language to define one’s world, or at least one’s experience of the world is at the centre of much of my work. Through speaking, listening, and symbolic representation we make the world. Lately I’ve been asked to help organisations “change their cultures”, by which my clients often mean – “collaborate, be constructive, accept that things change, take responsibility”

It strikes me that culture can be defined as “the stories we tell about ourselves”. During my childhood, I was told what to expect, what the world is like – by my parents, my friends and neighbours and by the behaviour and talk of those in my community. As I grew I started to tell myself some new things, as well as hang on to some of the old stories. In my professional and personal life I have seen people recover, survive and build a better future by appreciating things around them and make what they want from the future become more vivid and possible though the process of describing and sharing it.

I particularly liked this talk from the film maker Shekhar Kapur. He describes what would seem to some as his somewhat shambolic approach! He also talks about India and how important stories he tells himself, about himself is important to his creative process.

Hope that you enjoy it too


Getting the most out of Team Meetings (when you don’t have them too often…)

Like many managers who manage staff who are based elsewhere, the group of administration managers I recently worked with were very keen to use the time with their people as best they possibly could. In order to do this we came up with the following list –

  • Make team meetings accessible – work hard to ensure that people know where and when they are, that they take place when your staff can attend.
  • Make team meeting attendance a requirement – be mindful there is some subtlety in presenting something as a requirement from which they will benefit on one hand and “mandatory” on the other. Your staff will want to know what is expected of them, they won’t want to be kept “prisoner” without good reason.
  • Start by asking everyone present to say 3 things (2 at a push) which are true and positive about themselves – it just works and serves to start the meeting in a resourceful manner.
  • Keep them brief – as long as they need to be and not a minute longer. Developing a lively chairing style. Plan meetings for unusual lengths of time – try 45 minutes rather than the full hour.
  • Encourage discussion about solutions – respond to negative comments by asking what people would like to see be different.
  • End each meeting with by asking people to comment on what has gone well in the meeting, drawing out where people are appreciative of their team members.
  • Model the team meeting behaviour you want to see in others.
  • Keep calm and Carry On – a useful phrase which (like all useful phrases) has become a cliché. However when times are hard in your team, keep promoting meetings as crucial, encouraging appreciative and solution focused discussion where you can.
  • Tell “positive gossip” about your team and it’s meetings
  • Ask people to pool their ideas, solve problems, share experiences, perspectives and information
  • Give each member an agenda item
  • Use the meeting to help connect the work of the team to the “umbrella” organisation
  • Check understanding, make it OK to say when you don’t understand
  • Comment appreciatively when people contribute, however small the effort


Hope that helps!


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