One of my executive coaching clients is taking on a new CEO role. The company has gone through some tough challenges and she wants to find a way to connect with the people that she will be leading in a way that is authentic. She wants to lower the collective high blood pressure in the room that typically results when new Management comes in. Most new CEO introductions are about the challenges the company faces, the new CEO’s strategy for success (i.e. let me save you from the mess you’ve created) and what the new CEO needs from the employees (your jobs may be safe if you all just do what I say). When people are anxious or wondering whether they will have a job on Monday, how well do you think that goes over?
My client decided to take a different tact. Her goal is to really connect with the employees in the company, to learn from them what works and doesn’t and to enroll them in helping her find the solutions. And there is no better way to connect with people than by telling your leadership story. Sharing stories is a great transformational tool.
Those of us who experienced story telling in our families or around a camp-fire as children understand the impact stories have on our experiences and the very formation of who we are and our values. There is new research from neuroscience about the power of story-telling to shape our brains as reported in this New York Times article.
Five Steps To Sharing Your Leadership Stories
1) Start with discovering your personal leadership brand In my executive coaching practice, I often work with my clients to help them articulate their personal leadership brand (purpose, strengths and core values) and the transformational impact they want to have in their workplaces and in their lives. To get the three steps to articulate your personal brand, read here.
2) Write down the 5-10 leadership lessons you’ve learned Looking back at your work and life experiences answer the questions below. These could also come from the discovery process of working through your personal brand. Make sure that these lessons are specific and punchy. As an example, here are Ten Lessons I learned from my first year as an entrepreneur.
- “What do I value in leaders?”
- “What have I learned from my successes and failures?”
- “What are some principles that are important to me and I would like to share with others so they can understand me better”?
3) Write a compelling story for each leadership lesson Great stories have three components to them:
- They are relevant to the situation and the audience
- They are memorable and have an element of drama to them
- They reveal something personal about you – your values, your beliefs, the very core of who you are.
Have fun with your story. Make the words descriptive. Help the audience feel like they were there. I have found that in telling my stories, the ones that connect me most with others are usually stories of challenge or lessons that I’ve learned through failures. They demonstrate a level of vulnerability and humanity that we all share and vulnerability can be the basis of strong connection.
4) Share your leadership story with others and ask them to share theirs. It may be at the start of new assignments when you are meeting new colleagues. It could be when there is a “teachable moment” to share a certain leadership lesson that is relevant. Encourage others to create their own leadership stories and share them within a team context. These leadership stories help us create greater connections within teams that can be the basis for a strong trust building dialogue that helps teams weather challenges and come together to make big things happen.
5) Look for your own “Learning Moments” and continue to add richness to your story Our everyday experiences give us lots of fodder for continuing to develop, refine and add texture to our leadership story. If you are journaling as part of your leadership practices, use your journaling time to reflect on lessons learned. As you learn new lessons add to your repertoire of stories. Your personal brand, your leadership lessons and your stories are dynamic and continue to unfold with your experiences.
Here’s my experience with this process in working through it with my clients. As they start to articulate their leadership brand, invariably at first there is some hesitation about sharing it with others. After all, it’s somewhat personal as it reflects their deepest sense of purpose and what gives them fulfillment. Then curiously, they discover that the revealing and self-expression of our personal brand is hugely fulfilling because it forms the basis for connection with others. And this connection is what inspires us and the people we lead to create transformation. And the rest is history.
If I can help you create your leadership brand & story or work with your team to make this a team-building exercise, I would welcome that connection.
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The Authentic Brand YOU – Discover your personal brand story