Three Critical Steps To Telling Your Leadership Story

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The first time I learned about the power of a good story I was fourteen years old. My high school counselor, Billie James, wrote me a five-page letter entitled, Prizing Hugh. Billie told me a story about how she struggled in school the same way I was, how she overcame her struggles and how I could also. Billie’s letter built a connection between us that inspired me to try new ways of being successful at school.

Today, with the proliferation of email, text messaging and the now expanded 280-character tweet, storytelling has fallen out of favor. Many leaders have become minimalist communicators, and by doing so have lost the ability to craft a leadership narrative that compels them as leaders as well as propels their employees to action.

When a leader neglects to communicate a personal leadership story, customers and employees fill the void with their own story about what’s important to the leader and the organization. Seldom is this story the most beneficial to the leaders credibility and the organizations performance.

If you want a leadership story that galvanizes employees around a compelling future and increases performance, follow this three-step leadership storytelling formula.

Name Your What
Not unlike Billie James, one of my clients; a senior nurse leader, recounted a story of being at the bedside of a patient when negative news about their health was delivered without regard for the mental well being of the patient. This leader watched negative news delivered poorly eliminate a patient’s resolve to fight their illness. Every leader has a what happened experience that shapes their leadership in powerful and long-lasting ways.

Claim Your Why
Every compelling story answers the question why was the experience important and by doing so carries with it the hopes of a desired future. For my nurse leader client, why this experience was important was that words proved to have the power to heal as well as harm. This insight affirmed for them that nursing has the capacity to not only care for a patients physical well-being, but for their mental well-being also. When nurses do this well, patients heal better, faster and have better clinical outcomes.

Articulate The How
Listeners listen to stories through the filter of how the story impacts them, what they can learn and how they will use the story and its insights to make their life better. While a leaders story may be compelling and filled with insights, listeners are anxious to answer the key question; how will I use this information moving forward?

When leaders craft a story about what is important, why it’s important and how best to use the information moving forward, they have a significantly greater likelihood of winning the hearts and minds of the people who can do work that matters.

Do you have a key leadership story? If not, take the Monday Morning Mindset Challenge.

Monday Morning Mindset Challenge
1. Identify one event in your career that shaped your leadership. What happened and how did it positively or negatively impact you?
2. Identify one to three key insights from your story. Why was the story important to you and why does it matter that you share the story with others?
3. What suggestions do you have for leveraging how your story and insights can change the world of work for the better?

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