‘Can I tell you a story?’
The audience relaxes, their posture eases, a few mouths open slightly as people get ready to listen to the story.
I still recall the wonder of reading stories as a child and being read to. The potential and possibility that exists in imagination, my interest and excitement as the story developed, wondering what would happen next. And the excitement and satisfaction as the storyline came to a close.
‘Can I tell you a story’ is a safe space ….
In the last few weeks, I’ve been surrounded by stories about storytelling. It’s a sign. I love story and storytelling and I’m so glad this has been brought back into focus for me.
Storytelling is a powerful way to connect, educate and inspire. Stories are real, relatable, and memorable. People remember stories… and the lessons they share.
Tania, one of my coaching students from a few years ago, was recalling a leadership development program she completed during her corporate career. I distinctly remember she said to me, ‘It was a 5-day program. The main thing I remember was the story about the butterfly and the cocoon, and that the struggle to get out of the cocoon is what gives the butterfly the strength to fly. And so we leaders should appreciate the challenges we face are what equip us for the future and make us better leaders. But I couldn’t tell you anything else about the program.’
It had been 10 years since she completed that leadership program.
I love story so much, a few years ago I studied with an expert, Lisa Bloom, to become a Certified Story Coach and introduce more story into my work. One of my key takeaways was the value and importance of sharing stories. People simply connect with story. Consider how story has been passed down from generation to generation, whether in your family, by indigenous peoples, or in myths and legends. Story contains history, learning, purpose, and hope.
I believe leaders with storytelling skills have an advantage. Storytelling is one great way to be Leading Possibility. You can help people to see future opportunity, to notice progress, to learn and grow, to recognise their own greatness, to see potential in others, to hope, to connect, to collaborate, to identify what is important, to find purpose, to develop options, to lead and so much more.
These are stories that change the world. For one person, and for many people. And isn’t this your role? To change the world.
One of my favourite leaders, Brian, was our Pacific CEO. He spent half of his time travelling around the world, and yet made so much impact and connection when he was in Australia with us. And on reflection, I believe his ability to tell a story was a significant part of this. He could tell a story one-on-one, or from a stage, that captured your attention…not because of it’s flamboyance, but through it’s realness. He was able to connect so many to the recent trip he had taken and the conversations he had had with other global leaders. He would tell a funny story about his travel hiccups, or best laid plans. He also shared some of the challenges of moving his whole family to Australia or raising teenagers. It was genuine.
When you tell a story, you might be the narrator or observer, the hero or the villain, the expert, or the sage. You can share a story from many perspectives. And while there is much you can learn about storytelling, start with the simple.
Not sure where to start with your stories? Or perhaps you are not sure you have any stories to share. Here are a few simple ideas to help you begin your storytelling and be leading possibility:
📜 your origin story
📜 your purpose
📜 a mistake you made and the lesson you learned
📜 an observation of another (similar) situation
📜 something funny you have seen
📜 a time where you were faced with something challenging, and how you responded to it
📜 an opportunity you did, or didn’t, make the most of
📜 an experience similar to ‘now’
📜 the person you are connecting with
📜 a story that showcases an idea
📜 to make a point
📜 a recent experience
📜 something you admire in others
📜 the future you imagine and what it could be like
When I first began deliberately telling stories, I was quite nervous. I began by sharing stories in my coach training programs. These were small groups of people who already knew me well, so they were gentle with me, and offered valuable feedback. From there, I simply continued.
As with many things, practice creates progress and improvement. So what story would you like to start with?
Be Leading Possibility.
I’d love to know your thoughts.
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