Sunday, June 12, 2011

Chief Storytelling Officer: Benefits for the school leader

storytelling-full One of the school leader’s most important role is what I call being the CSO – Chief Storytelling Officer – for the school.  I have written before about telling good stories well, I neglected to include why storytelling is a vital skill for the leader.

School Culture and Tradition

Sure, your school may have an archive and the library may have an entire collection of past yearbooks, but being able to “tell the tale” of how your school has evolved into the paragon of virtue and scholarship is a key part of your school culture and tradition.  Here’s a hint – find the teachers or staff members who have been around “forever” and LISTEN TO THEM!  There are great nuggets of wisdom in their stories.  You will be surprised to learn what they maintenance worker, cafeteria assistant, bus driver, or 7th grade history teacher remembers about how the school operated in 1989.

Recruiting and Retention

Telling the story of your school is a powerful piece to any recruiting or retention plan.  This applies to any type of recruiting and retention effort – faculty, staff, or students.  Powerful stories about your successes and your students’ successes are among the most important and effective parts to recruiting and retention plans.  As proof, have you ever read a book, watched a movie/TV show, or visited a website that you really liked and found enlightening?  Probably so.  After, did you check out another book from that author?  Watch another movie from that director/actor?  Set the DVR for the next TV episode?  Bookmarked the website?  Also likely.  Good stories keep people coming back and help attract new people to you.

Fund Raising and Development

Of all the areas school leaders are involved in, this one is often among the ones the leader has the least amount of experience.  This is because most school leaders are former teachers, not professional fund raisers.  Funds and volunteers are more eager and generous when they feel they are making a genuine impact for the betterment of a cause that is seen as most worthy of their time, money, and energy.  School leaders who can tell the school’s story – or more importantly a story of how the students benefit from similar generosity – make a significant impact on the success of fund raising and development efforts.  Investments follow value, but the school leader is critical in communicating that value to the larger community.


Finally, and maybe most obviously, school leaders who tell the story of their school well are INTERESTING!  School leaders often need to speak publically.  They use their school’s stories in those addresses.  Be interesting, avoid putting you audience to sleep.


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