A few months ago, we were hosting an evening class at a client site. One of the executives we’ve worked with over the years happened to walk by and asked if he could say a few words.
In addition to talking about his own experience in the course, he told the group about his personal journey to get to become an executive in a large organization. The story was genuine, personal, and compelling.
I know that, even though I wasn’t there.
A colleague relayed it later. The story made enough of a positive impression that she was able to recall almost every detail, days after the event.
Tell Your “Who I Am” Story
It’s more important to tell a strategic story, to tell the right story, even if you don’t tell it particularly well.
Every individual and organization has an origin. People relate better to us and our organization if they know where we came from. More important that telling it well (which he did) our executive chose the right story.
Effective Leaders Open Up
Think about a leader you’ve had that you respect.
It’s almost certainly not the person who appeared to have all the answers, never talked about themselves, and didn’t share some of their own struggles.
Instead, you’ve almost certainly respected the leader who was genuine and human.
What stops you from doing the same?
You’re Already A Storyteller
Our executive didn’t think about his story for days in advance, write it out word-for-word, or deliver it with the dramatic intensity of a Shakespearean actor. He just talked about how he got to where he was.
Like him, you already know how to tell a story.
You tell stories all the time to others about your what happened today at work, what exciting things a child did, or a humorous incident that occurred over the weekend.
And then, you get to work and stop.
Give yourself permission to tell stories. Don’t get hung up on the word “storytelling” and assume you have to put on a dramatic show. Many leaders skip the storytelling since they assume they can’t do it.
You can do it.
And, if you’ve convinced yourself that you can’t, then take Bob Newhart’s advice and just stop it.
It Matters What People Say About You
A great test of how others relate to you: what do influential people say about you when you’re not present?
While you can’t control this directly, you set the tone through your willingness to talk about your journey, the obstacles you overcame, and even some of the mistakes you made along the way.
If you are willing to engage, you set the tone instead of others defining it for you. Take the wisdom from our executive and seize the opportunity to relate.
What Do You Want Influential People Saying When You’re Not There?
I welcome your thoughts below.