What Would You Do?
“It’s my barn and my program, Susan. You’ll do what I say or else.” I cringed at the vengeance in her voice, swallowed hard, shut my mouth and acquiesced. My fear of the “or else,” having to take my horse to another barn, made me repeat my mantra “I’m not a quitter; I can do whatever it takes.” My riding instructor notched another victory.
This was, in many ways, the best barn I’d ever been to and I had no vision that there could be anything better. I felt stuck. Eventually a riding friend contacted another riding instructor on my behalf. She invited me to have a lesson on one of her horses and when she said “mistakes are how you learn and you’re a fine rider” I knew there was a better place. Joey and I moved there and had four wonderful years of happy training and successful competition.
When have you been stuck in a place and afraid to move? It could be even worse, you think. I would have to leave the people I know and familiar surroundings. Also, the beliefs that often dp help you such as “I am tough, I’m not a quitter, I can handle this” hurt you in these situations.
When you’re stuck, look for a friend to help you get unstuck. Take a few chances; keep your eyes and mind open. Your toughness will get you through the transition and you’ll become even more confident in your new supportive environment. When you don’t know what you don’t know, rely on your support system to help you make necessary changes.
This is the power of storytelling: to create a moment so memorable that years later the listener remembers the relevant point and can honestly say the story changed their behavior.
Most of my clients now ask me to help them be better storytellers. Here is how you have to approach storytelling to make it work for you and your audiences.
Know the Desired End Behavior or Thinking
Know the behavior or thinking you want to affect or change. In this case, the behaviors were: get help if you can’t take action yourself; don’t believe everything everyone tells you; you shouldn’t settle for survival, you should aim to thrive.
Think about times in your life when you accomplished these same changes. Do your best to identify an experience that took place outside of a business setting. The more personal (within reason!) the better.
Carefully craft the story to highlight the main character (you), the crisis or problem, the obstacles to overcoming the problem, the steps you took to overcome the obstacles, and the outcome or resolution.
In this story,
- I am the main character
- The crisis was me being bullied by my riding instructor
- The obstacle was fear of the unknown at other barns
- The steps taken were to get help from a friend and try out a new instructor
- The resolution is that my horse and I thrived in with the new instructor.
It doesn’t take long or lots of words to tell the story and make the point.
Choose the Right Story
The right story is the one that is relevant to the obstacles the audience is facing, not a story about the actual topic.
For example, if you’re talking about leadership decision-making and the obstacles leaders face when making decisions, your story should be about overcoming one of the obstacles, not about leadership.
One of the obstacles that leaders have to overcome is resistance to their new ways of doing things: “We’ve always done it this way” or “Everyone else does it this way.” Your story should be about another time when you were faced with this kind of resistance or skepticism, whether you were a leader or not. Perhaps you have a story about getting your teenagers to do something. They used the “everyone else’s parents let them do (the opposite).” What did you say to overcome their resistance? How did it work out? How did the teens feel afterwards?
Then you connect this story to the decision you’ve made for the business.
Storytelling is Not Reporting
Storytelling is an art and not bound by journalism’s standards. The great sculptor and painter Michelangelo is quoted as saying “I carved away everything that wasn’t the David” and this is perfect guidance for you as a storyteller. Carve away all the extraneous content that isn’t necessary to the essence of your story. That’s how you can tell a compelling story in a few minutes and why speakers who include every detail cause you to stop listening. When a detail doesn’t advance the story or create the mood you’re striving for, leave it out.
In my story, I could have included details about where the barn was located, the weather, my clothing, other people, when this happened. None of those details are relevant to my points, so I don’t mention them.
The Ultimate Differentiator
There’s simply no time like the present to commit to being an excellent storyteller. Your unique stories, told in your unique voice, are the ultimate differentiator. When getting other people’s attention is the difference between success and mediocrity, memorable, well-crafted storytelling will do the trick.
I am currently working with several clients to improve their storytelling. I welcome you to email me to discover how I can help you grow your reputation as an excellent storyteller.