Storytelling for Leaders

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Storytelling for Leaders

Storytelling for Leaders

As a young girl in middle school, I was always fascinated with stories. Whether it was the Nancy Drew series; Harriet the Spy; or The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, I remember at an early age reading these simple stories and relating to the characters, the conflicts, and anticipating the conclusions. While my reading interests have broadened a bit, I still love stories, and most of all, I am intrigued by other people’s stories.

Why? Because, I learn from them; they motivate me; they inspire me; they connect with where I have been or where I may be headed. They build bridges to my mind and heart. Good stories take me on a journey I do not want to get off. They leave me with indelible images of the story being told.   They also help me to remember that I too, have a story to tell.  Everyone has a story to tell.

You may be wondering if your story matters in the workplace. Indeed, it does matter to varying degrees and to various audiences. The pages of our stories that apply to the workplace are often times very similar to the current reality of those that we are leading. The stories that you share may be:

  • the time when you had to have a difficult conversation with an individual about a pattern of behavior that was getting in the individual’s way, and you cared enough to confront and have straight talk.
  • the time when you received your 360 degree feedback and you realized that you too, had some blind spots that needed tending to.
  • the time when you gave a teammate an apology and they received the apology with forgiveness and grace, or the time when they didn’t, and you stayed at the table with them anyway for the sake of the greater whole of the organization and those you serve.
  • the time when you had to give your first presentation to key stakeholders and you were filled with great insecurities, and you not only got through it, you won their favor.
  • the time when you had to walk away from an organization because there was a deeper yes inside and the ability to say no became easier. You lived your values, albeit difficult, you stayed true to what mattered most.

Here are some things to think about when you begin to navigate the journey of sharing your story with those you lead:

  1. Keep it real: It is your story. You experienced it. No need to tell someone else’s story.
  2. Create a great beginning: Turn to the WIIFT station. What’s in it for them? How will they benefit? What will they learn?
  3. Keep it simple: Use real names, real characters, and keep it short. It does not have to be long and drawn out.
  4. Make it relevant: What is the moral of the story? What is the learning point? What is the defining moment in your story?
  5. Keep a journal of relevant stories: This will help you accumulate your life’s experiences. Some you will share. Some you will not.

Applying your story as you coach and lead takes vulnerability trust. This is the kind of trust that effective leaders demonstrate when they can say, I too, have made mistakes; I too, do not have all the answers; I, too, have growing edges that need some attention; and I too, have brought great value and contributions to the organization through these life lessons.

As leaders we can begin to tell our story. As we begin to reflect and navigate the journey of sharing a personal narrative, we see our stories taking shape. As you tell your story, rest in knowing that you are living your legacy. You may be leaving individuals better off than when you found them by sharing your story. The more scripts you begin to uncover, the more you will see that you indeed have a story to tell that teaches, encourages, and develops commitment and competence in those you lead.

“As a bird must sing, it’s your human nature to tell your story.” Author, Tristine Rainer