In 1985, when Iacooca topped the best seller list, it seemed that a new genre of business literature was born. Since then, we have read hundreds of stories written by CEOs and industry execs in an effort to better understand leadership. We have learned from Jack Welch, Steve Jobs, Buffett, Branson … the list goes on and on. If dollar sales are a measure of success, we LOVE reading leadership stories written by other people. And we have all gained some valuable insights.
But those are other people’s stories, and while they can help shape your thoughts on how to lead or not lead, at the end of the day, you have your own story to tell. Now of course everyone isn’t going to write an autobiography, but realizing that you are the writer of your own story is very empowering. And who said you have to be a CEO in order to tell it or for people to want to hear it? No one!
With a little thought and practice, everyone can learn to tell “their story” that defines who they are, what they are about, and why. And even if you already do a great job telling a story about something that happened, it takes a lot of reflection and looking back at pivotal moments to decide what you learned about yourself during those times. This part is even more important than being able to share the actual events, because it gives people insight into what they can expect from you.
Your story is constantly being written, whether you realize it or not, and being in tune with the chapters will help guide your future decisions as well as the story ending.
How do you start: Think about three or four things that people would say about you that you believe represent your “brand”. For example, do people say that you work well with ambiguity, or that you seem to have great balance, or that you can look at different sides of an issue? Or do they say that you are a cheerleader, an optimist, or really good at planning the details?
After you come up with three or four things, ask yourself when you first realized each of those things to be true. What were the circumstances? Can you also think of other situations that validated what you learned about yourself? The more examples you have the more likely it is that each of these aspects is truly a part of your brand and thus a part of your story. If you are like me you will probably have a good mix of funny, painful, challenging and humbling experiences that truly make up your story. The stories you choose to share are up to you.
So now what: How do you share that information? You don’t need a giant forum, or a meeting or a book deal. Just start by thinking of it as a new way to introduce yourself that will convey much more than the traditional information you most likely share about where you grew up, how many siblings you have, or where went to school.
The next time someone says tell me about yourself, I am going to say “I look at change as an unexpected adventure, I don’t take myself too seriously, and I like to choose the rose colored glasses … and do I have some stories to tell you.”
Start thinking now. What does your story say about you? What do you want it to say?