Well it’s that time of year when we start to wonder where the time has gone and what the next 12 months will bring. Personally, the start of the New Year is a time for me to reflect and plan ahead. I also find that sitting on a beach for 4 weeks can really assist the process.
If this sounds familiar, I am going to suggest something else for you to reflect and plan about, besides the normal run more, drink less, play more, worry less etc. My suggestion is to also plan and reflect on the stories you will share in 2020.
I have been helping people find and share their stories for 15 years. Storytelling is a powerful way to communicate your messages, to influence an outcome and to take control of your brand. While there are many definitions of brand, the one I prefer to use is that your brand is the stories people share about you.
So, how do you go about influencing the stories people share about you?
The first step is to be clear on what you want your brand to be. Think about the stories you would like people to share about you. In most cases, these will be generated by their interactions with you. What you do or say and the decisions you make will influence the way you are perceived. Also consider how your brand can be shaped by the stories you proactively share.
In view of that, how do you find these brand appropriate stories and share them?
From my experience of working with people in business, I have realised that there are four types of personal stories that you can share. They are stories of…
All four types can include a mix of work and non-work-related stories. Critically, business storytelling is not just about telling stories involving work situations, the personal stories you share in business are normally the most engaging and memorable for your audience.
These are stories of achievement — the moments in your career and personal life that you are especially proud of. Triumph comes in all shapes and sizes and isn’t just about winning…it could just be about having the courage to try regardless of the outcome.
Triumph stories also should not just be about you, they should also include how you have helped other people succeed. To make sure you don’t look like you are bragging, triumph stories should include a good dose of vulnerability and humility. This could involve sharing your fears at the time and identifying any challenges you overcame along the way.
Like triumph stories, these stories vary according to your perspective of what you consider a tragedy. Some examples may truly be about tragic circumstances, while others may be stories of regret.
Stories of regret may be when you didn’t have the courage to do something. This could be going for a promotion or taking that overseas assignment. The regret could be about not asking the love of your life out on a date or feeling like you didn’t spend enough time with your parents when they were older. Try to not only focus on the tragedy but more importantly what you learnt from it.
These are stories of conflict that are driven by your values, loyalties or obligations.
Tension stories that compromised your values might create conflict because you were forced to choose between two different beliefs. Or a time when you did not stay true to your values. Ironically, sharing stories of when you did not uphold one of your values, and the regrets you have about that, demonstrates greater credibility than you may think.
Regardless of what you are torn about, don’t just focus on the decision you made. Make sure these stories focus on your inner struggles and the internal or external tension the event caused.
These stories are about key transitions in your life. If work-related, they might include events such as changing jobs, companies, industries or careers. Non-work-related stories, on the other hand, may include moving countries, getting divorced, going back to study or having children.
The most powerful transition stories take the audience through what you were thinking and feeling at the time. Spending time highlighting the anxiety you felt when you made the decision is crucial, as is outlining your fears or level of excitement. A story that just goes through the logistics is not a story — well, not a very engaging one anyway.
So over this festive season, perhaps between eating the Christmas cake and leftover ham, try and find some time when you can plan for 2020. Then reflect on the stories you can share that will help you achieve your goals.
Gabrielle Dolan’s Stories For Work is available here.