What’s Your Story? And Why it's Important

Think of all the ways we compare our lives to stories: when we say we want to “start a new chapter,” or “turn the page,” or - when we meet someone new -wonder “what’s her story?

We humans are hardwired to organize our thoughts -- and our understanding of others -- through stories. Stories help us relate to each other, both experientially and by connecting with other people’s emotions.

In my work as a coach I help my clients understand that storytelling is a powerful tool. I help young professionals just starting out determine who they are and what they have to offer. I guide professionals in transition as they plot a new direction by helping them understand their own narrative for insight on identity and purpose. I help leaders master their own story by clarifying who they are and what they stand for.

How can leaders and businesses use storytelling effectively?

Stories have to be a concise and well-ordered mix of facts and emotions. A great way to approach your own story is to start by creating a strong beginning and end. The beginning is where you get your audience’s attention, the end is what they are most likely to remember (so that’s where your USP belongs!) Once you have determined how you’re going to grab someone’s attention, and what you want to leave them with, then you need to make sure it has a solid middle that supports what you want their takeaway to be (your end.)

Leaders need to have a narrative that reinforces their sense of purpose and mission.

That narrative not only acts as a compass, steering leaders in the right direction, it can also help by drumming up support for their initiatives, missions, and goals. This is especially important, given that studies show that only about 20% of workers globally feel they have important sense of meaning in their work, an important motivator.

For sales teams, a data-rich narrative helps you convince and convert.

One powerful way to persuade people to take action is to build visualizations that use your data to support the story you want to tell. Key rules for making a good data visualization: a crisp title that highlights the story, minimalist visuals with little distracting visual clutter, and a narrative that guides the viewer through so that they understand the problem and the solution you are proposing.

For job seekers: your story is what you stand for and how you want to be known by future employers.

An excellent way to answer the interview question “tell me about yourself” is to talk about your experience in a way that positions you as being a perfect match for the role. Your story should have a clear beginning and middle, to explain your career path, and the why you are making a move. You should be able to end with the experience that makes you most excited and qualified for the new opportunity. This is an important aspect of marketing yourself, engaging others and connecting them to the brand of you.

Whether you are leading others, a rainmaker, or furthering your own career, ask yourself this:

  • Does your narrative fire you up?
  • Is it simple and concise?
  • Is it relatable to others?
  • Does it end up where you want to end up?

If not, spend a little time rewriting it – ask others for feedback – until it grabs your audience, tells a compelling story, and ends inspiring your audience to follow you, work with you, hire you, or help you achieve your goal, whatever that may be.

Fran Berrick