Helping Others Catch the Vision

What is the foundational story of your organization?


Jay Wolf is the founder of Hope Heals, an organization he created after his wife nearly died when she was just 26 years old. While Jay felt compelled to create something bigger than himself to help others, he realized early on the need to make his story universal for the organization’s audience, as well as for the people he leads. Jay discusses how to connect the dots of your organization’s story in order to build relationships and followers among your employees, audience, clients, and customers. He also shares his thoughts regarding defining your vision so those within and outside of your organization can carry it forward.

In our own organization, there was a sense of starting it because of a story that happened in our lives. I think most organizations started that way too. There was a story that happened to the founder that made them decide that they wanted to create something bigger then themselves. With us, there was this story of my wife almost dying, of a life that was changed forever due to this stroke that she suffered at the age of 26.

As we began to share our stories, we began to put words around sort of this experience and what we were learning from it. We were confronted with this problem—of how do we make this very specific story, this very personal thing to us, very universal for our audience, and for the people whom we are leading in our organization.

It means everything to us, but as powerful as it might be, it still isn't personal to our audience unless we gauge it that way, unless we connect those dots for them. My wife, who is left with many disabilities, began to gauge it this way that, "I have a paralyzed face," she would say, "but who doesn't struggle with issues of beauty? Even if you don't have a paralyzed face. I can't walk because part of my brain was removed that helps me to balance and coordinate my movements, but who really feels free in their own lives, even if they can walk?” That began to set the stage for our audience to see themselves within the context of a very specific and unique story that is our story, but now it is their story as well, so sort of that little ‘s’ can be translated into the bigger ‘S’ story.

What that does is a couple of things. First, I think it makes the audience realize that they are not alone, that the specifics may be different among all of our stories and yet there are these universal themes. There is also this bigger narrative that is drawing all of our lives and our stories together. When we talk about this universality of story in an organizational context, maybe those whom weren't the founders of the organization, those whom the story that started the organization is not personal, can begin to see their own story intersect with the organization in a profound way. They can begin to be transformed in the same way the founder of an organization was transformed to the degree where they started the organization.

Those who are now engaging the vision of it can engage more deeply because they see their own story reflected in it. Further, they can become real evangelists of this organization. Not just sort of marketers, not just sort of hired guns, but really overflowing with deep conviction that this is their story too and it matters. Gauging and shaping and crafting the story of an organization or our own stories is vital, I think, to helping others to catch the vision of looking outward to this world full of stories like their own, and really getting to say with confidence that the story of the organization matters in their lives as well.

Jay Wolf

Jay Wolf is the co-founder of Hope Heals, a ministry created to steward the story of Jay and his wife, Katherine.

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