Craft a Narrative to Instill Optimism (HBR)

“We do have a conscious say in selecting the narrative we will use to make sense of the world,” writes New York Times columnist David Brooks. “Individual responsibility is contained in the act of selecting and constantly revising the master narrative we tell about ourselves.”

Brooks’ explanation about choice of narrative can apply to leaders seeking ways to navigate our recession. The relentless tide of bad news may tempt those in charge to adopt a pessimistic view point, but leaders owe it to their followers to spread optimism. Without excluding reality, leaders need to inspire not simply hope, but also resilience. Storytelling can help in this effort. Here are some suggestions for crafting your own story to make sense of adversity.

Start at the beginning. Focus on what is happening. Be straight about the challenges your organization is facing regarding external factors like the economy and competition as well as global influences. Talk about what your company did right as well as what it might have done better to prepare for the downturn.

Develop characters. An organization is a collection of individuals. Discuss how you need the skills as well as the will of your team to survive. Make it clear you don’t want to go through the motions, you want new ways of doing things. Highlight the good things that people are doing despite the tough times.

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First posted on 12.17.19