The Only One

When I’m sitting around a table after work with my friends sometimes it’s fun to go around the table and tell our “the only one” stories about how one of us has been the only one who’s done something, knows something or has seen something at work.  A few of my favorites to tell are:

  • Years ago a young officer claimed that I was likely the only person to ever bring a purse into the engine room of the USS Asheville (SSN 758).  He declared this to me in a rather shocked and bothered tone.  (In my defense, a purse seemed a perfectly logical place for me to carry my pen and paper.  Am I right ladies?)
  • You could maybe tell from my first story that I work in a shipyard.  Yesterday I painted my nails while standing just inside the turnstiles to that same shipyard.  By the end of the day I started to wonder if I may be the only person to have ever stopped there to paint their nails.  An entirely non-scientific poll of my friends suggests my assumption may be right. [If you’re wondering what would ever possess me to paint my nails on my way into work, well…I’m very busy at home and I’m nothing if not efficient with my time.  My walk to my office is the perfect nail drying time.  I can’t let that time go to waste.)

These “only one” stories are fun after hours, but when you’re driving change in your organization you can’t afford for long to be the only one who has done something, knows something or has seen something.  Why? Because your change doesn’t depend on whether you can do it, know it or see it.

You have to get others to do it, know it and see it too. To get them there, I bet you’ll need to use stories.

You’ll need to create some “we were all…” stories.


I can’t answer that question in a general sense, but I can point you to some good folks who’ll help you formulate how to tell the right stories.  Check out Chip and Dan Heath’s Made to Stick.

Just last week I used the lessons they taught me to transform an executive’s title change from a dull, administrative choice into a story that people have been telling all week. The story I overheard was, “We were all in the meeting and on a card sitting on the table was his title, but his old title was crossed out with thick black marker.  Now it says…”

Who’s telling stories about your change?

Don’t be the only one.

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