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The good, the bad and the ugly: how myths and legends shape your business

"The negative effect of a setback at work on happiness is more than twice as strong as the positive effect of an event that signalled progress” – Harvard Business School

Most of us don’t need academic studies to tell us that negative experiences have far longer lasting impact on us than positive ones. It’s human nature, but it’s damaging; even more so for businesses looking to drive engagement and cultural change.

So how can you dilute negative folklore with positive legends that help move your business forward?

Make storytelling central to your culture

We’re not talking sitting cross-legged on the carpet. Instead, use real life examples and case studies that reinforce your brand in as many communications and channels as possible. Trying to embed new values? Share examples and anecdotes that prove they’re true. Want to encourage good people to stay with your business? Share the stories of people who’ve been there, done that and kept on growing.

Don’t dwell on the past (but don’t gloss over it either)

When a business takes a knock, it can be hard to recover. Your people may still be feeling the shockwaves of redundancies three years after they happened and this might affect their ability to see all the good that’s happening now. Of course, it’s important to acknowledge their feelings, but don’t keep harking back to the bad times. Focus on the positives, communicate them clearly and trust that, in time, that historic hurt will lessen.

LESS MECHANICAL, MORE HEART: Make sure your legends tap in to people's emotions.

You don’t always have to think big

It’s not always about major achievements and wins; anecdotes have a lot of power. I recently worked on an engagement event where the MD went around the tables collecting rubbish and bringing people coffee. The impact that had on people’s commitment to the business far outweighed anything a strategy presentation could achieve. And those are the stories they’ll keep on sharing.

Focus on the bright spots

Naysayers tend to shout the loudest, but that doesn’t mean you should give them the most attention. Find the people in your organisation who are positive, pro-active and respected, and make them champions for change. When consistent messages flow from the top down and the bottom up, that’s when simple stories become the stuff of legend.

Need help finding your brand stories and making them stick? Give us a call on 07852 371075 or email


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