As a leader, the ability to tell stories will empower you with a way to communicate that is engaging, authentic, and persuasive.
When it comes to storytelling, there is not a one size fits all approach, and I recommend having a suite of stories at your fingertips.
Every story told by a leader has a purpose
The Story Blueprint is the suite of stories that I recommend to leaders who are incorporating storytelling into their communication.
Each story has a different purpose and application which is why we need more than one story; it is the Signature Story that highlights your journey and life’s purpose.
The Story Blueprint identifies the essential stories that form part of a leaders storytelling toolkit. The five core stories that make up the Blueprint are the: Signature Story, Founding Story, Values Story, Aspiration Story and the Customer Story.
These five stories are by no means the only stories you will need, but I suggest you start by crafting these ones initially.
At the centre of the Story Blueprint is the Signature Story. This story carries the essence of who you are and what you stand for, and when you can articulate this in a way that is relevant to others, it will set you apart.
Although you may start anywhere in crafting your stories, the Signature Story is a logical place to start. It is also the story that can be used in different settings and applications. In this follow up article you will find 10 ways that you can boost engagement by sharing your Signature Story.
Does it feel a bit awkward?
As a business storytelling consultant, I work with leaders to help them get their ideas heard using storytelling as a medium.
For some leaders, storytelling comes easily, while others feel less comfortable sharing information about themselves in the business setting. To clarify before I go on. By sharing personal information I mean personal to you and your life experience, not things that are deeply personal. It’s not about opening up your innermost thoughts to the world. Authenticity is a key element in storytelling, and being willing to share the person behind the leader will empower you with a way to communicate that builds trust and rapport.
They might judge me.
When I began my journey as a speaker and coach, I chose not to share my story with people until I got to know them. I left my 20-plus year career as a health professional to a vocation that couldn’t be further from my original calling. Others were curious to know about my journey, I often dodged the question if it came up. You may be wondering why I did this.
The simple reason is because I held the limiting belief that people would judge me. That if people were to find out the reason why I left my long term career, I would have less credibility and perceived expertise as a speaker coach (even though I had the credentials).
Whilst that perception turned out to be widely unconfirmed, that was the story I told myself at the time, and it was a story that didn’t serve me well.
People are naturally curious and they want to know about the person behind the business. When I felt more comfortable about sharing this part of my life, and the story of why I do what I do now and how it came about people felt drawn towards my coaching style and way of teaching, which is influenced by my former work as a midwife and health professional.
What is a Signature Story?
Aaker and Aaker, researchers at Stanford University say that a signature story beats facts and is a powerful way to communicate a brand.
According to them, “A signature story is an intriguing, authentic, involving narrative with a strategic message that clarifies the brand, the customer relationship, the organisation and or the business strategy. It is a strategic asset that enables growth, provides inspiration and offers guidance, both internally and externally over an extended period of time.”
Why is sharing your signature story effective?
Simply put, we can’t move our audience without emotion. In his book, The Art Of Rhetoric, Aristotle the Greek philosopher said,
“All convincing speakers draw on three modes of persuasion called ethos, pathos and logos.”
Pathos is the key to telling any story effectively. You may have all the data in the world but if people aren’t able to relate to that information in a meaningful way it will be forgotten. Pathos is the element that stays with the audience, days or weeks after hearing the story, and part of storytelling which can turn listeners into fans, and advocates into customers or donors. Read more about ethos, logos and pathos here.
Creating your Signature Story
The first step is to mine your life for stories. Story Mining is the discovery stage, teasing out significant events from your past and then weaving the relevant parts into a story structure.
There are four phases in creating your stories.
When we are story mining, we are digging for those natural resources to uncover what we have within, and then refining the larger pieces until we have that golden nugget.
6 Story Mining questions to get you started
Story mining exercise is a key part of the Story Blueprint.
#1 Write down 50 things that have led you to where you are today. Include the wins, the losses, the ups and downs, and the defining moments. In doing this exercise you will capture significant moments in your life that hold the lessons that can be passed on to others.
#2 What has been the most significant point in your life that has led you to your current career, your business and/or your product or service? Have you had other careers? If so, consider the same question for each.
#3 Why does what you do matter so much to you? This can be answered from an individual lens or from a career perspective. This is the opportunity to articulate your comittment and energy for what you do.
#4 Why should others care about this? This question reframes your story to address the WIIFM (What’s in it for me?). This is where you can express how our product or service helps others.
#5 How does this make you different? What is unique about your product, your service, your leadership and your story?
#6 Craft this into a short story. .Don’t overthink it at this stage as the first step is getting the information out of your head and onto paper.
The signature story is the centrepiece. It is a way for you to articulate why you do what you do, what you stand for and why others should choose you, or give them a reason to care. The signature story has a small piece of each of the other core stories rolled into it.
In the next post, I will share with you some of the many different ways that you can use your Signature Story.
If you are a senior leader or business owner who is keen to develop your business storytelling skills, then you can book a 30 min complimentary story coaching session with me. The session will be held via Zoom.
To help you find significant moments in your life, I have developed a set of storytelling prompts. My Story cards are a set of 50 cards in a sturdy box. The cards are ideal to help you find memories and experiences from your life. You can use the cards alone or as a game with others. The cards are available in Australia with free postage. If you are outside of Australia, please contact me for postage rates.
How I can help you
Virtual Masterclass – This live masterclass Communicating with Influence or Business Storytelling for Leaders can be delivered as a 30 minute session x 3, or a 90 minute session.
Virtual/Online Training – A live class (not pre-recorded) This session is 4 hours duration, with 90 minutes of interactive content, a 30-minute break, followed by another 90 minutes. This session is ideal for small to medium teams. Topics include Communication for emerging Leaders, Communicate with Influence, Public Speaking for Business Success, Presenting Online for Leaders Managing Virtual Teams.
Virtual/Online Coaching – Public Speaking and Storytelling Coaching Online at concession rates for business owners and not for profit organisations until 30 June 2020.
Virtual Presentation – Now is the time that event planners can access speakers to present virtually from anywhere in the world.