Did you know that there is a magical relationship between listening and telling!? One that can enhance not only your personal life but your professional life too. This week’s special guest Jerome Deroy is here to tell us more. Jerome is the CEO of Narativ Inc. Narativ is driven by the power of storytelling – helping businesses across the globe transform their ways of communication and behaviour from the inside out through their business storytelling programs, one-on-one coaching and workshops.
Jerome’s career was sparked by noticing a severe lack of engagement within the corporate world. In this episode, Jerome unpacks the magic of storytelling in business and reveals how people can craft their origin stories, find their authentic voices and create engagement through storytelling and listening. We also learn the barriers and obstacles that get in the way of effective listening and how it takes more than a salary to establish job satisfaction. So, if you are ready to transform your communication skills to become a better leader and wish to build deeper connections, you will thoroughly enjoy this episode. Key points throughout the discussion include:
– An introduction to Jerome Deroy
– The importance of listening and storytelling in the workplace
– The three elements of career satisfaction
– How to create a safe space for storytelling and overcome obstacles to effective listening
– How to effectively express your origin story
– How integrating storytelling can benefit the employee onboarding process
– Why living values in the workplace matter
– Establishing a sense of belonging in the workplace and having permission to speak up
– What Happier at Work means to Jerome.
“Once you create that open listening environment, you get stories that come up that are really specific, really unique, and universal. That’s kind of the magic of it, I feel.” – Jerome Deroy
THE LISTENERS SAY:
Do you have any feedback or thoughts on this discussion? If so, please connect with Aoife via the links below and let her know. Aoife would love to hear from you!
Book: Powered by Storytelling by Murray Nossel
Connect with Happier at Work host Aoife O’Brien:
Happier at Work is produced in partnership with www.podlad.com
Aoife O’Brien 00:03
Are you looking to improve employee engagement and retention? Do you struggle with decisions on who to hire or who to promote? I have an amazing opportunity for forward thinking purpose-led people first organisations to work with me on the first pilot Happier at Work program for corporates. The program is entirely science backed and you will have tangible outcomes in relation to employee engagement, retention, performance and productivity. The program is aimed at people leaders with responsibility for hiring and promotion decisions. If this sounds like you, please get in touch at Aoife@happieratwork.ie. That’s A O I F E at happieratwork.ie. You’re listening to the Happier at Work podcast. I’m your host Aoife O’Brien. This is the podcast for leaders who put people first, the podcast covers four broad themes, engagement and belonging, performance and productivity, leadership equity, and the future of work. Everything to do with the Happier at Work podcast relates to employee retention, you can find out more at happieratwork.ie.
Jerome Deroy 01:14
That’s really the impact. Once you create that open listening environment. You get stories that that come up that are really specific, really unique, and universal. That’s kind of the magic of it, I feel.
Aoife O’Brien 01:26
Hello, and welcome to another episode of the Happier at Work podcast. I’m so delighted to have you tuning in today. My guest today is Jerome Deroy. Jerome knows the power that stories have to share culture viscerally in an engaging and lasting way. He is the CEO of Narativ, which helps companies leverage personal storytelling for business. He teaches companies how to find, craft and tell stories that resonate through a repeatable and scalable method. Narativ offers listening and storytelling training programs, one on one coaching and virtual workshops for sales, team building leadership development and onboarding. Now we have a really interesting discussion about the power of storytelling in business, we talk about the importance of listening and actually spent a good bit of time talking about this idea of listening and how to create safe environments where people are listening to each other, what gets in the way of us listening to each other as well. Towards the end, we touch on this idea of values and the importance of values and how to tell stories around that and where our stories actually come from, and how to use stories to really connect with people. We use this specific example of onboarding, which I know is a huge challenge at the moment with remote and hybrid, how to actually onboard someone properly. And I’m sure if you’re listening to this podcast, you have experiences of both good and bad onboarding experiences, wherever you’re working. So do stay tuned till the end, I as always, I do a synopsis of the key points that were taken from our discussion on what actions you can take as a result, and what can you implement immediately. Do get involved in the conversation, I always post on social media. So you’ll find me on Instagram happieratwork.ie, or LinkedIn Aoife O’Brien. You can also head over to the happier at work website, that’s happieratwork.ie. Connect with me that way as well. You can send me a direct message through there, and I would love to hear what you think of today’s episode. Welcome, Jerome to the Happier at Work Podcast. I’m delighted to have you as my guest today. Would you like to introduce yourself to listeners, tell them a little bit about your background and how you got into doing what you’re doing today?
Jerome Deroy 03:47
Sure. Thank you so much for having me. It’s great to be here. Yes. So I can definitely introduce myself. Well, so yeah, it’s Jerome Deroy. And I, I run a company called Narativ Inc, which is based in the US, we have a couple of colleagues in, in London that also do this work, and a few people a little bit all over the world, really. And what you know, who I am, I grew up in, in France, actually, my father’s French, my mother’s American, with some roots in Ireland and other places. And, and so I said there’s an affinity there for sure. But really where my story begins, is probably when I went to Hong Kong, right out of business school. I had been doing an internship in Paris as part of a the business school that I was at, which was based in Paris, and at the end of that internship, there was I learned of an opportunity in Hong Kong for a 16 month contract, and I jumped on the opportunity and got the got the contract. And so this was really my first real job out of business school. And I got there. And I think it was 19. Actually, I know that it was 1999. And because the the 2000, the year 2000 was about to to arrive, and there was lots of trepidation around that y2k. Exactly.
Aoife O’Brien 05:18
Cast our minds back that far.
Jerome Deroy 05:21
Those are the kinds of things we worried about at the time. Right. It seems almost quaint now. So yes, so y2k was on the horizon. And I arrived about three weeks really before, you know, before New Year’s, and, and I had never been even to Asia before, so this was all new for me. And I got to the, to the 15th floor of this glass tower building that was overlooking the Hong Kong Harbor, with really kind of butterflies and my heart beating a little bit faster, and jumping a little bit in place. And I got to the door, the main, the main lobby, and this person welcomed me and said, Welcome to BNP Paribas, that was the name of the company and, and she said, You know, I’m the HR director, I’m going to show you where you’re working, etc, and show you the ropes essentially. And so she said that actually, your your office, your desk is going to be in this office space. And there’s a big open space, and I could see it through this glass door. And she said, but we’re not going there today. And so we moved, and I followed her through a hallway that got darker and darker and darker with less and less light and less and less view, as we were going along until finally, we arrived into a room that only had one table and two chairs. And there were two big binders on that table. And she said that’s the compliance binder. And that’s the employee engagement handbook. I’d like for your employee handbook, sorry, I’d like for you to read those two in the next 48 hours. So that’s how I spent my first 48 hours there, went back home only to sleep and then come back and finish those binders. And it wasn’t until about a week later that I met a human being that was even remotely related to my to my job. And it’s was really thanks to that human being whose name was Philippe, that really, he kind of mentored me into into this position, because I think it took another week or so until I met my direct supervisor who had been on on vacation. And then I met her boss who was the managing director, maybe three weeks later. And so there was really no sense of engagement where I was, and especially what how I noticed that was that every few weeks, there would be people walking into the managing directors office, and they would say that they quit. And they had these huge smiles on their faces as they pass. And my boss would always say, Well, I know. And he said, Well, I guess that’s because other banks pay better. I’ve got so many people leaving. And about three and a half years later, that was me walking into his office and saying to him Lawrence, I quit. And and when he asked me Are you leaving just like everybody else, because others are paying better. I said, No, that’s not it. He said, Well, what is it said, Well, I’m leaving, because I’d like to do something more creative and meaningful. And he said, Well, what’s that going to be? And I said, I don’t know. I left. And I went to New York City, where I had a sister. And and I knew the city a little bit and and I looked for a job essentially. And about three months into it, I met a film director, and that film director, his name is Murray Nossel. And he is now my business partner. Because together, we created these storytelling programs for businesses for corporations. And our two stories kind of collided, because he came from this creative background had created this methodology. And, and was coming from that world. And for me, I was coming a little bit disappointed by the corporate world, let’s say and, and I said, you know, the problem is that there’s a lack of engagement and and I could see it day on a day to day basis. And I still see it today in 2022. And so that’s really what we came together to do is to help people find their stories, craft their stories, and really find a sense of their own voice, their true genuine voice. And, and with that, to be able to say exactly, and more in a more precise and specific way, but mostly kind of connecting the heart and the mind, for their audiences around who they are and what they do. And that’s what we found to be really, really effective is is to create engagement through storytelling and listening, which is an also big part of our methodology. But that’s that’s the story of how I came to do what I’m doing today.
Aoife O’Brien 09:49
It’s such an interesting story as well Jerome. Thank you so much for sharing that. I mean, there’s I think there’s a lot of parallels, a lot of commonalities that we have already and and I like how you described it as if, you were kind of disappointed with corporate essentially, you know, had that experience. And I think that’s similar for a lot of people who start their own businesses because they become disillusioned with how things are being done. And they see a better way to do things and to educate people in that way. And there’s probably an awful lot of people who are disillusioned and disappointed, but they’re still staying in those roles. And so maybe the conversation we have today can address some of the issues that people are having, and, you know, help them to take action towards creating better engagement at work, better sense of belonging and, you know, yeah, it’s just, it’s, it’s so, so interesting, but also interesting from the perspective of the managing director, who was only asking people after they left or after they were putting in their notice, you know, rather than thinking, Well, why are people staying? Or why are why? You know, why rather than think, you know, it’s too late then to find out after someone has resigned, why they’re resigning, or maybe addressing some of the issues or addressing the issues from the perspective that, okay, if other banks pay more, what can we do differently to mean that people stay? Even if they’re being paid less? You know?
Jerome Deroy 11:15
Yes, yes. Rather than sort of throwing your hands up and sort of saying, well, there’s nothing I can do about I mean, I literally heard those words, you know, my, my hands are tied headquarters won’t give us more money. So as if, as if there were no other, I’d, like you said no other kind of solutions or incentives. And it’s interesting to me, because, you know, of course, this was, you know, more than 20 years ago, but there’s still that dynamic going on that, you know, and especially with the talk of the great resignation, and how do we retain people etc. You know, there’s still today, a lot of people who are still kind of looking at the financial aspect of things only, and I was kind of talking to someone you know, recently about that. And, and it was interesting, because there were these sort of three dynamics that she had identified, when people you know, seek something, and, you know, maybe it is to feel that sense of belonging, but there’s kind of three elements to it. And the one is the paycheck, of course, I mean, it is important. But then, if there aren’t these two other things, which are passion, and environment, which is your work environment, who you actually work with, then, you know, it doesn’t really work very well. And it was interesting to me, because the more I thought about it, the more I thought it’s true, these three elements, you know, how, how passionate Am I about the topic that I’m working on, you know, this thing that I’m doing in the world? Is there a sense of greater good for some people that’s really important, you know, a sense of impact, making a difference? Is there that or, you know, what is my passion and my, you know, passionate about numbers passionate about tech, whatever it is. So that that aspect, but if you don’t have the right paycheck to go with that, then you know, it’s not going to stand or if you don’t have the right team to work with, because I’ve certainly would have been in situations, you know, before my current status now, and the one that I talked about, on the way certainly had lots of experiences where I really loved the people that I was working with, you know, but on the other hand, one of those two things wasn’t there, either the either the patient the paycheck or the passion. So I think these are things that a lot of companies and people in general fail to, to see as a combination, you know, what’s the right balance of things? And I think the more that people, you know, not just the leaders of companies, but even as a job seeker, or anyone really, as an individual, kind of thinking of those three things. And, you know, what is it that maybe there’s a priority among the three, but what’s that balance that you want in your life?
Aoife O’Brien 13:55
Yeah, yeah. No, it’s it’s a good point, I think, to question and how important is that, and it might be that it’s different things have different level of priority for different people. And that might change throughout their life as well. So if you know, one thing that comes up a lot, I think here, especially, and at the moment, there’s a housing crisis, there’s house prices in Ireland, especially, are really high. And you know, I was reading something the other day about house prices being overvalued, and heading towards a bubble situation where, you know, if the bubble bursts, and you know, the houses are going to lose their value, basically. But things like a paycheck become really important when you are looking to go for a mortgage. And that’s when that becomes kind of maybe at the expense of those other elements, that becomes more important. But I think for long term, and over the long term, it’s really important to consider the other things like who are the people I’m working with, and what is the impact that I’m having?
Jerome Deroy 14:52
Yeah, and it can and should evolve, you know, my priorities in my 20s were not the same as they are today in my 40s You know, so So yeah, I think I think that’s, that’s true. And you know, what I’m, what I really see almost on a day to day basis is that, you know, if you’re able to kind of connect with the experiences that you’ve had, and, you know, what are what are the stories that you have in your own life? And what can they show you essentially about, you know, the path ahead? That’s sort of, you know, it’s almost like a way of taking stock or inventory and sort of seeing, you know, what is that story that’s been that’s been running through my mind and through my life? And, you know, how do I, do I need to change it? Absolutely. Yeah.
Aoife O’Brien 15:41
And, and, you know, I’m so fascinated by this whole concept of storytelling, and especially when it’s the stories that we have in our own head. And yeah, you know, what is the story you’ve been telling yourself about your career, and I talk an awful lot about impostor syndrome. So you know, that’s kind of the story that could be running in our head is, I’m not good enough to do that. I’m not good enough to go for that promotion. But there could be a broader story that we tell ourselves about our entire career, or people from that place, don’t do that thing. Or who do I think I am. And especially in Ireland, we have this concept called notions and you know, people get notions above their station, then it’s kind of you want to take them back down again. So there’s all of these different stories, I think that we have kind of societally but also inherent in how we think about ourselves, and how we narrate our own story. So if we’re telling our career story to someone, how are we explaining that? You know, what is what does that kind of mean?
Jerome Deroy 16:40
Yeah, well, you know, the interesting thing about that is that it really all starts with listening. And, you know, so, as I, you know, as my intro story kind of alluded to, when I met Murray Nossel, who’s the, the founder of Narativ, you know, he was the one who really kind of created this methodology. And it was born out of the out of a crisis, a health crisis at the time, that’s not so unlike the one we’ve been through the last couple of years. But except that at the time, it was it was HIV and AIDS. And it was when people were dying, because there were no medications that exists today. And he He’s originally from South Africa, and came to the US to, to become a playwright, after having been trained as a clinical psychologist, and then he went back to school to pursue a PhD in social work. And as part of his PhD in Social Work, he was placed in a program that took care of people with HIV and AIDS, and this was in the early 1990s. And, and he could see that all around, you know, in the different areas of New York City. At the time, you could see these young people who were kind of hunched over walking with canes and big black marks on their, on their faces, and other parts of their bodies, and then they would just disappear. So it was a real crisis. And a lot of mystery, like, people didn’t quite know what to make of it, and also a lot of very detrimental assumptions that were being made, especially about the gay community, and you know, that it only happens to them and et cetera. So there was very much them versus us narrative going, and very much out of the mainstream. And so when he got to this program, he noticed that people in the program, they most of them had a diagnosis of AIDS, which meant that they were going to die very soon. And yet, everyone was quite happy. They really, you know, had found a sort of family, they had chosen a family that was very different from the one that sort of shunned them. Actually, many people were either shunned by their families or society at large. And so here in this program, they had found each other and they didn’t feel alone. And so they were, you know, tap taking tap dancing classes, they were doing crafts, they were doing arts, and, but the one thing that one person said to Murray, was that, you know, we’re have you as you’ve noticed, we’re not really afraid of dying, you know, we’re actually quite happy to be in this program. And we, and we don’t really need your tools of therapy, you know, as a psychologist in social work, because, you know, we’ve come we’ve kind of accepted our own death. The one thing though, that we are really afraid of, is that we won’t be leaving anything of ourselves behind that no one will remember us. And that’s when Murray had the idea of starting a storytelling group and coming up with some guidelines for people to tell their stories. And the idea was that by telling their stories, and being witnessed by other people, those witnesses could carry their stories, you know, outside of those walls that they were in and certainly after their deaths, and and so little by little people came in, and he came up with these kind of listening guidelines, first of all, so that people would feel safe and comfortable sharing their stories, and a lot of it. And now going back to what you were saying earlier, a lot of it had to do with obstacles to listening, what we call obstacles to listening in our methodology, which are the things that really get in the way of our ability to listen to someone else, but more importantly, to listen to ourselves. And those are the judgments and the, you know, I’m not good enough for whatever syndrome we might have that’s going on in our heads. And it really keeps us from being present to ourselves and to other people, because we have this running, you know, monologue going on in our heads all the time. And so the moment that people started to recognise those as obstacles that were not unique to them, but that most people in the group had, if not everyone, then they could start to feel like okay, I’m not alone in this. We’re all struggling with the same things. And what if, now that I know what these obstacles are, what if I could set them aside for the next five minutes, 10 minutes, 15 minutes up to an hour, or whatever it might be, or a day even? And then, if I set those aside and just solely focus on the person who’s sharing a story with me right now, what am I bringing to that person? What does that do for that person? Well, the result was pretty impressive, because people started to share stories that were deeply personal that they’d never shared before. And they started making video of those stories so that they could leave them behind to their loved ones. And then what happened is that when the government threatened financial cutbacks to programs like this one, they took their their videos of their stories and left them on the desks of legislators and said, watch my story, listen to my story and tell me I don’t deserve the same care as everyone else. And it’s on the basis of these stories that those cutbacks didn’t happen. And then, of course, you know, nationally and internationally, this became a very, very successful social movement, maybe one of the most successful of the 20th century for sure. And so, you know, that power of like, looking at what’s getting in my way, first of all, and once I, I can set those aside, not get rid of them, not sweep them under the table, but just actually be transparent about it. This is what’s getting in my way, can I find a way to address that? Or can I just let it go. And what happens when I do that? What happens when I offer my full open listening to someone free of judgment, free of opinions, free of interpretations, free of assumptions, free of stereotypical preconceptions, all the things that really get in our way. And then once I do that, what comes out of the other person’s mouth is something that is surprises, even them. And you know, that’s really the only way that you can get to a story. That’s personal. And, you know, genuine, really,
Aoife O’Brien 22:58
Yeah, yeah. I mean, there’s so so, so much to unpack there. And one of the questions sort of sprung to my mind was, how do you create this safe environment? But I think you’ve sort of answered that with the the later statement about, it’s really about listening, but listening without judgment, listening without having our own narrative going on in our own heads, without any preconceived notions would would add anything and really listening for the sake of listening, not listening for the sake of answering not listening for the sake of solving a problem, but just really listening to someone’s story.
Jerome Deroy 23:30
Yeah. And that’s easier said than done. But but you’re right, that is the step. But, you know, in order to get to that, where you are offering up your, your open listening, you first have to kind of do the work of identifying what is getting in the way. And and really unpacking that, you know, like, what is that? Is that something that recurs for me? Is it something that’s just occurring to me in this moment, in reaction to my environment? Is it something that’s more internal? Is it external, you know, and so, so we actually do this with people where we help them identify what those obstacles we call them obstacles to listening. And the idea is that if you can, you know, we call them obstacles to listening, because the idea is that there’s a relationship between listening and telling that’s reciprocal, meaning that the way that I’m speaking to you right now, is shaping how you’re listening to me. And how you’re listening to me is shaping how I’m speaking. So we’re in this kind of loop right now of Dave people called dialogue, right? Yeah, conversation or connection. But the minute that obstacles get in the way, then that loop stops. And even if I’m still nodding my head, and it seems like I’m listening to you, those obstacles gradually are kind of clouding how I’m listening to you and that’s going to affect how you speak. It’s going to affect what you say next. It’s going to affect whether you feel trust or not, whether you feel safe or not, and, and so a lot of times, these are, these are things that we can’t quite put our finger on. And yet there’s something in ourselves that says, I’m not going to share that with that person, because they don’t seem to be quite there with me, we may not be saying that to ourselves that way, but we sense it. And so we help people just to identify what those obstacles are. So that, you know, everyone, it kind of levels, the playing field, if you do this in a group, when everyone puts their obstacles on the table, and then rather than saying, you know, that’s wrong, or do it a different way, it’s just about noticing how common these obstacles are, that we all have them. You know, we all have these judgments, these opinions, these interpretations, these doubts with, you know, all these things that really get in the way. And then, as a group, we all commit to saying, well, for the next little while, we’re going to endeavor to set these aside. And as we go along, we are going to tell each other when we have obstacles to listening, so that it’s not about so that you as a speaker, or storyteller or presenter, you’re not, it’s not your responsibility to take care of the people that are listening to you. It’s their responsibility to take care of their own listening, and the way that they listen. So we kind of put the onus on the listener, rather than the storyteller, and that takes off the pressure. And that’s also part of creating that safe space, is, you know, a lot of times when you feel the pressure that you walk into a room and I’m going to have to speak, your heart beats faster. You know, I think I think public speaking is like the worst fear worse than death. Yeah. So you know, it’s, it’s something to work with. So rather than saying it’s all on the storyteller, it’s actually on the listener. Yeah. And it’s amazing that once people really do that work, and they endeavor to set those obstacles aside, then people feel much safer and much more comfortable. But it does take it takes some work around listening first. Yeah.
Aoife O’Brien 26:57
I imagine it does. Can you share what some of the obstacles are? So if people have opinions or judgments, what kinds of things? If you’re sitting in a group? What kind of common things come up for people?
Jerome Deroy 27:10
Yeah. Oh, that’s great. I love that you asked that. So So yeah, we’ve actually categorised five obstacles to listening, or, yeah, five categories. And the first is just, you know, what, what would be what we call external or environmental obstacles, so things that have nothing to do with you. But it’s could be, you know, just that there’s a loud noise going on in a room or outside, you know, some drilling or things like that. Or maybe even, you know, kids in the background that are getting in the way. So external obstacles, that’s kind of the first one, and people usually notice those pretty quickly. You know, and you may be able to do something about it. So if there’s a lot of noise in this room, you might be able to move into a room that’s less noisy, right? The second obstacle is around your body physical obstacles, you know, is there, is there a place of pain? Are you thirsty, are you hungry? Are there physiological biological needs that you have. And then if someone starts to speak to you, while you have that need, it’s very hard to listen to someone. So we ask people to notice that as well. And that will come up a lot. If we’re doing a training, and it’s about 12 o’clock, or 1230. People are ready for lunch. And usually, it’s like, yes, that’s the obstacle I have right now. But again, you might be able to do something about that you could you could go to the bathroom, if you need to go get a drink, you know, whatever, whatever you need to do. The ones the next three are much more difficult to do anything about. The third one is internal obstacles. And that’s kind of the to do list. It’s what’s going on in your head around tasks, you know, did I forget to do this? What am I going to do after this? And you’re kind of thinking about what’s next all the time. And you’ve got this sort of chatter going on in your mind. And I’ll get back to these last three that I’m talking about in terms of addressing those. The fourth, we’ve alluded to it, that’s what we call, meaning making obstacles. And that includes judgments, opinions, interpretations, right? So the minute someone walks into the door, even unconsciously, we have an opinion about them. We have a judgment about them based on their shoes based on their haircut, whatever it is, accents, you know, things like that if there’s something that happens, and then the last one is relational. And that’s the relationships we have with other people. And just to give you an example, you know, for instance, if someone is meeting with the CEO of a company, well, maybe that creates an obstacle, because I’m not the CEO and they’re the CEO, maybe they know better than me or whatever, or I have to impress them or, you know, judge or police or whatever. There’s these associations that we make with certain labels and certain titles. And so for these last three, you know, we always say that there’s, it’s not like there’s any, any magic solution. To address those. The first step is just to notice that it’s there, what of these five obstacles are recurring for you, you know, are you noticing things in your environment, but you’re willing to put up with thinking that they’re not important, even though clearly they’re getting in your way? If you’re no, if you’re constantly noticing, that there’s noise that there’s people around? Maybe that’s something you can address, maybe start to look at that, right, and see how that changes? How you listen? And for the last three that I mentioned, the internal the meaning making and the relational? What are those relationships? What are, you know, do you have a lot of opinions that occurred to you with certain people, maybe, you know, people that you’re used to talking to in a certain way. So for example, in my own life, maybe this is happening to me right now, because I’m visiting my parents. And so, you know, these are old, I mean, the oldest relationships, right? Since I was born. And so there’s a lot of, you know, judgments and assumptions and just, you know, this is the way things are, this is the way that person is. So every time I meet with my mother, you know, at some point, she’s going to tell me a story, because she’s a fantastic storytellers from the south in the US and has all these great stories and comes from that background. And, and so she starts to tell me a story. And I get excited, I always get excited first, and then I remember that it’s hard for her to get to the point. And then I, I, and I realised that I’ve heard that story before. So I kind of have to stop her. And then it becomes very frustrating. And I often and now I’m asking myself, well, what if I put that aside, that frustration, that judgment of I know what’s coming next. Next, the moment she opens her mouth? What if I stayed in that place of excitement? What if I set for myself an intention of listening to my mother with excitement, with curiosity, with a sense of discovery? How much might that change what comes out of her mouth, and, and our whole dialogue after that, rather than immediately after 30 seconds of listening to her, Oh, I know where this is going, I’m going to stop it, I’m going to stop everything. And I’m not even listening to what happened in the next three minutes, while I was figuring out a way to start to tell her to stop write in a sort of diplomatic delicate way. So that’s just an example. But we have these relationships in our lives all the time, and especially at work, which is you know, 70% of our of our life, most of the time, right? That’s what we’re doing all the time. We’re dealing with people all the time. And so there’s these obstacles that emerge that we may not even be conscious of. And so the more we can become conscious of that, the more we can sort of look at it, rather than saying, taking for granted, that the way I listen to someone is just the way I listen, it’s just the way I am or the way that someone is speaking to me, that’s just who they are. It’s just the way that they are, I actually can shape how I listen to them. And if I can shape that in a way that’s more positive, then maybe what’s going to come out of their mouth may surprise me, right? And maybe I can be more open to that person and kind of come at it with a, you know, sort of thinking presuming positive intent, right. That’s an expression I heard once in a in a in a corporate conference. And I thought that was great, you know that someone would would receive emails. And rather than saying, Oh, that person’s emailing me again, to ask me something that they should know. Well, rather, she turned it around and said, No, I’m going to assume positive intent on every email I receive. And it really changed the relationships between her and her team members into something much more positive, where they felt a lot more empowered. Because she realised that the reason that people were kept asking her stuff is because she didn’t really delegate that much. And so people didn’t really feel empowered to come up with answers themselves, you know, but it has to start with you. That’s the thing we often think it’s, it’s my leaders problem. It’s my mother’s problem. It’s my brother’s problem. It’s this person’s problem, my partner, whatever. And we don’t realise that actually, there’s something we can do. And that’s just look at what is getting in your way. What’s that obstacle that you’re creating, you’re creating that obstacle, out of habit out of history, whatever it might be, you probably haven’t really good reasons for that obstacles to be there for that obstacle to be there. But it’s really good to examine that and to see, you know, maybe it doesn’t have to be there. How is that? How is that obstacle negatively impacting me and my relationships, right? And once you start doing that, you know, then then things start to open up a little more. Yeah.
Aoife O’Brien 34:56
Brene Brown talks an awful lot about assuming positive intent in I can kind of all contexts, you know, I think it’s, it’s great. And again, easier said than done. But some really, really interesting insights there as well. And I love this idea of just just noticing it to begin with. I would love to understand a little bit more about the the other side of that, so if we’re creating this space to allow people to share their stories. What’s the impact on the storyteller?
Jerome Deroy 35:29
Yeah, yeah. So you know, yes, you’re right. I mean, after we’ve, we’ve gone through the, the exercise of working on our listening first, stories start to emerge. And the stories are around, you know, particular experiences, right. And our take on this is, is it’s really about finding a story of your own, as opposed to something that happened to somebody else. And using that as an example, right? For us, it’s about finding an experience of your own that relates to the topic at hand and to the audience that you’re trying to give this message to. So these are the kind of first things we start to think about, you know, is like, who is this for? Why do we need to tell his story, why at this moment? And then we sort of look at, well, how do we actually tell that story and the stories that sort of emerge, once we’ve created this level playing field where there’s open listening, they’re usually around, you know, what is really important to a person. And I’m talking now, in a general sense, it doesn’t have to be about your career, but it could be, because usually, those things are really tied to one another. And so there’s something in your personal life, that’s led you to who you are, to who you are, and where you are now. And so we ask people to kind of actively look at that, and, and we even ask them, you know, what’s a moment, or a person, something or an event that shaped who you are today, and we may put in a, you know, shaped who you are as a fill in the blank, you know, as a leader, as a manager, as this as that, as a father, as a mother, you know, whatever it might be. And usually, in a kind of open listening environment, like the one we’ve created, you know, there’s some, there’s some things that will come up that are from childhood that people hadn’t thought about, or a teacher, you know, that said something to them when they were younger, and that really kind of set them on a path or maybe a parent or grandparent. So these are the kinds of stories that will emerge, you know, we like to even call them origin stories. You know, it’s it’s, except that, I don’t think that to this day, I’ve had anyone who was in a garage building or building the new billion dollar company, even though I’ve had, you know, people who, who built very successful companies come through our doors, but they’re usually not that it’s not, that’s become like, kind of the mythical thing to the two white guys in a garage, that, that are creating the next big thing, I think, there were like, YouTube was that way, and Microsoft was that way, Apple was that way, you know, so it’s sort of like, that’s a little old now. But you know, so the stories we get, they’re super diverse. I mean, it’s really, that’s where you kind of see the diversity of, of our humanity, essentially. And yet, they’re universal. That’s the thing is that, you know, I forget who said this, but you know, there’s a kind of a famous quote, there’s only three or four stories in the world. And it’s like, love death, and you know, these kinds of things. But, but it’s, it’s quite true. In my experience of listening to all these stories, and helping people with their stories, there are themes that are very, very universal, even though the stories themselves are so unique and specific to that person’s experience in life. And yet, it completely speaks to me, as a person who’s got a really different background from that person who just told me a story, and I feel connected to them. That’s really the impact. Once you create that open listening environment, you get stories that that come up that are really specific, really unique, and universal. That’s kind of the the magic of it, I feel.
Aoife O’Brien 39:21
I’d love if we could to go back to the start of our conversation where we where you shared your own story about, let’s call it the onboarding experience. And, you know, that you had in Hong Kong and and that experience. I mean, for me, I think it’s a huge challenge at the moment for companies to create a really great onboarding experience in remote situation, which a lot of companies still are in or a hybrid situation, you know, the hiring and the onboarding process. And I’d love to know how can you use stories or or, you know, in the context of what might you have done differently and what did that inspire in you to do differently as a result of the experience that you had.
Jerome Deroy 40:05
I mean, it informed all of my work. You know, subsequently, I think, I think really seeing this stream of people, including myself, you know, quitting a job and, and seeing the lack of responsiveness from leadership and, and all the people that were in charge of onboarding and culture and all of these things, and really just engagement with a capital E, you know, there was really not much interest in that. And the, and the impact was, was really huge on on that part of the company. And so, you know, it really informed everything in terms of then finding this company narrative and starting to lead its programs with storytelling, noticing that the stories that we have our you know, once you tap into a story that’s your own, and that you believe in, you really feel like, okay, I’m in charge of my life, right? This is it’s not this kind of random stuff that’s happening. And I feel like I’m, I have I have a little more Yeah, authorship over it. And ownership, you know, so you feel more empowered, essentially. So then what we did is we applied that to the onboarding system, essentially, and sort of looking at when you look at the life of a, of an employee in a company, it really starts right on that first day, and that first week, and how are people getting on boarded? Are they meeting other people from their team? Or are they going through a compliance exercise or watching training videos and things that really don’t have much to do with their work, but they have to check the boxes? How is that integrated into the onboarding? What are the stories that these employees are are being exposed to during those first few days? first few weeks? And how much listening? Are we doing? of them? Right? What are we giving them a chance to tell their story back, so that not just for the sake of listening to his story, and to their experience, but so that it gets integrated into the culture of our company? And we can sort of see, is this a fit or not, you know, on either side, I now know people who are who have quit jobs during their first week of onboarding, and taken the other job that they had been offered and said, Well, I’m gonna go with this Well, no, because actually, your onboarding system looks better. So even though it was the job they wanted, and they had some of those elements that I was talking about earlier, they still went to the other one, because of that onboarding system that are onboarding process. So So what we try to do is to integrate storytelling into that process, and sort of making sure that at every level, there is a story that’s being told that’s very pointed. And and that’s a compelling in terms of, is it related to my job? And how I can, you know, perform as quickly as possible? Is it related? Is there a so that’s the first category? Is there a story that’s related to the culture, that gives me a sense of belonging, that gives me a sense of who these people are, that I’m now going to be working with, that’s super important for the remote world, in particular, because there’s a very strong sense of isolation. When you especially when you start, and you’re not seeing other people, you’re not able to meet anybody at the watercooler or the coffee machine, that sort of thing. So are there opportunities that we can create for that? You know, and so that it’s not just like, the throwaway cocktail hour on Zoom? You know, that’s, that’s voluntary, but rather, where you’re going to have coffee with three other people at this time that have that are from different sections, you know, not exactly you’re not exactly your department, but other departments that are related just so that you can meet other people. And you’re going to have a conversation around these three topics, right. So it’s much more directed. And so that’s kind of how we help companies think about that is like, what are those universal themes that are linked to the values of your organisation? And what are the stories that we can now tell these new employees? And what are the stories that we’re going to ask them to tell us so that we can start a dialogue and it usually starts with those values? Which are way too often sitting in a drawer somewhere or in an email or on a wall? Or posted on the wall? Oh, yeah, exactly. Nobody knows really what it means, you know, because those words, especially values, right, I mean, those words are, they’re always the same. You know, there’s always some version of trust system, integrity, accountability, you know, all those things are in there. But we don’t know what it means for that company. And the stories are what show you They they show you the evidence, really. And we always do this exercise in companies that we work with, is we ask them to tell us stories that are linked to these values. So it could be when did you? When was that value challenged? So when you’re asking something where something was challenged, you really get to see what the response was and how it ties back to that value. Right. So when were you, when did something happen? That was out of integrity? And how did you get it back? Right, that will really show us how this company lives these values, rather than just saying that yeah, we really believe in integrity. Well, you know, who doesn’t? But how do you actually
Aoife O’Brien 45:40
Who, who ever says that they don’t have integrity? Or they don’t exactly integrity? Exactly. You know, that’s right, reception of ourselves tends to be favorable, let’s say,
Jerome Deroy 45:51
Yeah. And we’re always asking, you know, tell me the story. But don’t use the word integrity, if that’s the value, right? And then I will tell you, as a listener, what values I heard. So that’s kind of how we start these dialogues, as well, as that we asked, we asked, you know, usually leaders or people in managerial positions to tell stories around that we prepare them for it, then a new employee comes in listens to that story. And we ask the new employee to say, well, what values Did you hear? How does that relate to some of the things and usually they’ll get the word, but they’ll get other ones too. And that’s kind of a gift for the organisation? Because it’s like, oh, yeah, we’re not just about there is that word integrity, but there’s other things that we’re about that we may not realise we’re about, and maybe it’s time to actually include those in those words in our values, if they keep coming up, you know, so it’s kind of an evolving thing as well.
Aoife O’Brien 46:45
Yeah, I’m so glad you brought up this concept of values. It’s something I talk about all the time. It’s something I’m so interested in. It’s we’ve spoken on the podcast multiple times in the past, it’s what I did my Master’s dissertation research on. So I’m hugely, hugely interested in this concept. And I love the idea of challenging it and finding out like, what are the real values, because, exactly, as you said, your own you know, a lot of the time they’re, they’re generic, or they’re the same as other companies. But we really what’s important, is understanding what what makes your company different, not the same. It’s understanding what makes your company different. And using storytelling for that, I think is brilliant. The other thing that I wanted to highlight was I can so relate on everything that you’re saying in relation to the onboarding, if I think about the box ticking exercise, and oh, well, you have to do this compliance online, or you have to do something for it, or you have to sign this form for HR. And then the other side, where I haven’t been asked what my background is, and what I can bring to the organisation and what my story is. And it’s only now that you say that, I feel like that was something maybe that was very lacking, because I had all of this global experience behind me. But I was never spoken about in any conversation I had with anyone in that organisation. And when I did try to bring new ideas, you know, I was swiftly told, that’s not how we do things around here. And I thought, okay, so this is not a safe place to save my to share my ideas. And, you know, I and therefore, I’m reluctant to share any more ideas, you know,
Jerome Deroy 48:22
Yeah, yeah. I mean, it’s, it’s, it’s the sad truth. But you know, I think it’s spot on, because permission is is such an important word here. And many, many, many people in businesses don’t feel like they have permission to use their voice to bring some other part of who they are, that maybe their colleagues don’t know about, but that could really contribute to what it is that they’re trying to do. Because they don’t feel like they have, they have permission from their leader, their manager, their colleague, whatever it might be, something got stifled along the way. And there’s something that’s getting communicated in the culture of that organisation that tells you, you don’t have permission. And, and so I think that’s really important. I remember doing a training for, you know, a big financial company, and, and it was a diversity and inclusion initiative where they were essentially gathering stories. It was right after here in the US, the George Floyd, murder in 2020. And, you know, the lots of social upheaval at the time. And And finally, kind of a moment of reckoning for a lot of companies, especially with their black employees. And, and so this company had taken the initiative of specifically, they called it the black leadership forum. And, and they had, you know, they wanted their executives who were not all black actually, far from it, tell stories that could be relatable and could open up a dialogue around diversity and inclusion specifically where their black employees are and how the murder of George Floyd, a lot of times that came up in the stories of these executives. And it really did a lot to open people up because this was a company that had values that they acted on and you know, kind of guided their behavior. But nobody was really understanding what those were anymore in light of what was going on in society. Yeah, and they just didn’t feel like well, who’s who’s reflecting that, really. So when they started to hear the stories of these leaders, they felt a greater sense of permission to just be able to share, this is how I really feel on a day to day basis. And this is how it impacts my work. This is how it impacts my commute to work. And it’s how it impacts my relationship with my kids, you know, and then the executive, it started with the executives not being afraid of going to those more personal places, and many of them talked about their kids, and one of them talked about having autistic kids and what a challenge that was for them. But it was all around, you know, what stories do is that they’re always stories are always about conflict. And they’re always about challenging things. And and it’s always, you know, and what we try to do is to find, in that story, how you over overcame that, what you did in the face of a challenging time. And that’s when we start to relate to people this very human desire that we have to overcome our challenges, rather than just kind of stay in a certain place. And that really opened people up and it made it made them have a much more fruitful dialogue than if they just said, Look, these are our values, we have to follow our values. And you know, we should be fine. If we if we keep doing that. I don’t understand why, you know, why we need to have a special thing for a group of employees at this moment, you know, let’s just follow our values. That’s that doesn’t really work. Right? You have to sort of back that up with something more concrete.
Aoife O’Brien 51:55
Yeah, you need to acknowledge it in some way and show what what’s the implication now, for the organisation. I mean, we could probably continue talking for another few hours on all of this stuff. I love this concept of permission. And maybe one of the challenges for people who are listening today is to think where they feel they don’t have permission. So yeah, and it’s probably not a word I would have thought of, but it’s it’s certainly stuff that’s come up in other aspects of my life where I’m like, maybe I feel I need permission to do something. And, you know, can you give yourself permission? Or do you feel like you’re restricted in some way in what you’re doing that you can’t share your your full self that you don’t have permission to share your ideas. And so it’s a really great word, I think, this idea of stories and stories actually emerging from conflict and challenge. And you’re still right, it is kind of the hero’s journey, really, isn’t it where you are the hero in your own narrative, and it’s identifying who the guide is, and how you can be a guide for someone else in their story. So we read really interesting from that perspective, I think. And I think in the interest of time, we probably should wrap things up, but definitely interested in continuing this conversation another time, Jerome, what I’d love to know and get your thoughts on, what does being happier at work mean to you?
Jerome Deroy 53:17
Hmm, well, I definitely started out my career in a very unhappy place. So I now I’m in a much happier place. So I do have some perspective on this. But I think happier at work what it means. I mean, I guess I’ll go back to this idea of permission, right is feeling like you have permission like you, you belong in that particular culture that you’re in, I really believe that we each have our own culture in ourselves, that’s been brought to us, you know, either in childhood or the way we were raised, or educated, etc. And then we walk into society, and that’s culture. And then we walk into a company and that’s culture as well, it’s work right? And so all these cultures kind of collide. And to me about being happier at work, it really is about harmony between those three things, between those three kinds of culture is a myself, you know, my my world, my environment that I operate in when I’m not at work, and then my work and how do those is there the right balance there and and I think once you found that balance you you will be happier because you have a sense that you can bring all of who you are to work and so that’s really what that means to me.
Aoife O’Brien 54:34
Yeah, love that. And if people want to find out more about what you do, if they want to connect with you online, what’s the best way they can do that?
Jerome Deroy 54:42
Well, the best way is our website which is narrative which is spelt narativ.com. So it’s just one hour Note II as some people like to say it’s like a five year old would spell it and and as well, we have a book that’s out Since 2018, that’s called Powered by Storytelling and it’s by my business partner who I mentioned, Murray Nossel. And you can find that anywhere you find books, electronic versions, hard copies. It’s published by McGraw Hill education. And the thing that I would recommend to people is also to follow me on LinkedIn, Jerome Deroy, on LinkedIn, because I post a lot on LinkedIn in terms of blogs, and we have a podcast of our own that we started last year called The Story Talks. And so you’ll find new episodes there, too, of course, everywhere you find podcasts, but that’s usually where we, we advertise and promote, promote things and blog posts. There’s lots of resources on on LinkedIn, if you want to learn more storytelling and listening and all of these ideas that we talked about today.
Aoife O’Brien 55:50
Brilliant. Absolutely. Love it. Thank you so much for your time today. I really, really enjoyed our chat. And I’m hoping that listeners took as much away from our discussion as I have. Thank you.
Jerome Deroy 56:01
Well, thank you for your for your outstanding listening, listening, really appreciate it.
Aoife O’Brien 56:05
Thank you. That was Jerome Deroy, talking all things storytelling, and how we can use that in business to drive better connection. I absolutely love that conversation, we probably could have gone on for another few hours. And we’ve definitely continued that at another stage as well. Whether we record that conversation or not, that is yet, TBC. Let’s say, if you would like to share your own story, if you would like to connect and continue the conversation or get involved in the conversation, do feel free to reach out to my website, happieratwork.ie, Instagram happieratwork.ie or on LinkedIn Aoife O’Brien, I would love to connect with you there, just let me know where you found me where you heard about me, if we’re not already connected. We spent a lot of our time talking about this idea of listening in the context of storytelling and the importance of listening and what actually gets in the way of that. And I really liked that approach. So really, the crux of everything is that there are three elements to what we do at work. It’s the paycheck and you know, in brackets, I sort of have the, there’s prestige associated with the paycheck as well. There’s the passion, so like, what is the greater contribution that you’re making with the work that you’re doing. And then there’s the environment, and that’s the team or the people around you as well. So from a starting point of that, and that is the context of work. It’s about connecting people to each other with experiences and stories. And I think really, at the heart of everything that we were talking about, it’s It’s this feeling of being accepted for who you are. The other element of it as well that that came up was that we want to as people, we want to leave something behind. And it’s it’s almost like a legacy, like, what is the legacy that you’re leaving, whether that is through a story or telling your story, and having your story told by others, and that your story lives on after you pass away through the impact that you have had, whether that is you know, and I have talked about this on the podcast before the big P little P, but the little p being maybe more immediately within your own community, within your friends and family, what is the impact that you have had. So in order to be able to share these stories, we need to be in a safe and comfortable environment. We talked about the obstacles to properly listening to people. And you know, I think another fundamental part of this is that we can’t change other people, we can only change ourselves. And so if we approach things differently by listening to someone else in a different way, then they will show up differently because they know that they’re really being listened to that they’re really being heard. And the first step towards doing that is identifying what is getting in the way. Is it a reaction that we’re having? Is that something that’s internal inside of us? Is it something that’s external. And we talked about this concept of trust, and sometimes you don’t trust someone, but you can’t quite put your finger on it. But that’s probably because you’re harboring or they’re harboring an opinion or a judgement about you. So it’s really when it comes to listening, it’s about setting aside and being open about the obstacles that we have. Now the the obstacles that Jerome shared were the number one was external, number two was physical. So that can be like your body, it could be pain or thirst or hunger. Number three is internal. So that’s something that’s maybe going on in your head where it’s, you know, what’s my to do list? What do I need to do next? What are my what’s getting in the way what could I be doing instead of listening to this person? Number four, then is meaning making so what are we making this mean? Or are we translating this into something? meaning for ourselves, we are meaning making machines after all. And number five, then is relational. And that could be in relation to the power dynamics. So the example that Jerome shared was if you are talking with the CEO, for example, and you’re not the CEO, there is a power dynamic there that you need to be aware of. And that could be the obstacle. So the first step is about noticing that it’s there by becoming conscious about it. And he did say that when he works with groups, when people start sharing about these obstacles that they have, you know, and people may have very different stories or very different reasons for having these obstacles. But there’s a lot of commonality in what they are in fundamentally in the kinds of obstacles that people tend to come up with. And in that shared, you know, or in rather, in that sharing of what the obstacles are, it brings us closer together and shows us that we have more in common than not. Another mindset shift that we can have is to always assume positive intent. And I know, I certainly have seen Brene Brown talk about this a lot. So if you just shift your own mindset, to one that believes that when someone shares something, or when someone approaches you, or ask for your help, that they are doing that from a place of good, that they’re not trying to fool you that they’re not trying to trip you up or harm you in any way, from the storytellers perspective, then, it’s about thinking, who is this for? How do we tell our story? And why is it important to tell that story now. So I think really, again, putting the focus back on ourselves, you know, and something that we didn’t necessarily touch on the podcast, but thinking about who hears your story and who deserves to hear your story, and have you reach that stage where you have that level of trust, to be able to share that story with someone as well. I’ll also challenge you to think about how you tell your own story. I know certainly how I tell the story of how I founded my business, you know, it comes from a place again, going back to to this idea of conflict and challenge that I had in the workplace, and I saw an opportunity to improve things. And the way Jerome describes it is if you can create a sentence that says moments that shaped who you are as a blank, so that can be anything it can be in your professional life, it can be in your personal life. And the types of stories are the types of things that come up from asking yourself those questions or, or understanding where your story comes from, as a blank, you know, whatever it is that you want to define yourself as whether that is personally or professionally, we call these the origin stories. And typically, he said that there’s universal themes around, you know, that could be love, it could be death, you know, and it’s about connecting to each other through these stories. So while the specific details might be different, the underlying theme could be similar. So when you share those types of stories that really connects us with other people through the challenges and the conflicts that other people have had in their career or in their personal life as well. Now, based on Jerome’s own story that he shared, I was really curious about the onboarding, and what he could learn from that, and what can he do differently. So he does offer that as part of the services that he does with his organisation. And I was really curious to hear about that. And it’s, it’s thinking about what stories were sharing when people join an organisation, but also asking people to share their stories, and what can we learn from them. So I thought that was quite an interesting approach. We talked about this idea, we touched on values and values being really, really important and how we tell stories about our values and values to me. And again, I have multiple other episodes addressing the concept of values. It’s something I’m personally very passionate about. It’s something I work with companies on as well. If you do want to know more do reach out to me. But this concept of values and how we tell that in our stories, and how it shows up in our behavior, and really challenging those and the values we say we have, when was the last time that was challenged? And how are they really showing up? You know, in our organisation, or are they showing up? Or do we have different values? Or do we have additional values that we didn’t necessarily list out previously. The other aspect as well is this idea of permission. And I love that idea of its permission to be able to speak your mind. It’s permission to be able to share your story. And I just I loved that concept because it it really resonated with me and I hope it resonates with you as a listener to okay, where am I not giving myself permission? Or where in the organisation do I feel? I don’t have permission to do a specific thing. So really think about that. And I would love to know, I’d love for you to get into the conversation of what would you do differently as a result of of listening to today’s podcast episode? I mentioned the social media channels previously happieratwork.ie is the website and it’s also the Instagram channel. Feel free to reach out to me on email or connect with me through LinkedIn and I would love to continue this conversation. We have another great podcast coming up for you next week. Do keep your ears and eyes out for that. And I will be talking to you next week. That was another episode of the Happier at Work podcast. I’m so glad you tuned in today. If you enjoyed today’s podcast, I would love to get your thoughts head on over to social media to get involved in the conversation. If you enjoy the podcast, I would love if you could rate, review it or share it with a friend. If you want to know more about what I do or how I could help your business head on over to happieratwork.ie