This is a continuation into the exploration of business stories. Check out “Why we need better business storytelling,” “How to build better business stories,” and “Why stories need to be liberated” for additional insights.
As a catalyst, I listen to and learn from the stories of others. Engaging individuals in comfortable and safe situations to allow their story to emerge and take shape yields valuable insight into the individual, and often into the organization.
As explained in “Why stories need to be liberated,” too many people are disconnected from the definition of story and experience of storytelling. As a result, they are unable to realize and articulate their own story, let alone relate the stories of others.
My personal mission is to meet people where they are, and if possible, guide them on a journey to discover and share their stories. This is how I honor my belief that each individual has a story. Their story is worth telling. Every person’s story deserves to be heard.
Three steps to liberate and share stories
With over two decades of working with people and organizations to free the story within, I’ve discovered a pattern. Most people need:
- Help discovering their story
- Structure and confidence to give voice to their story
- A platform to amplify their story
The path through these steps is usually non-linear and involves a lot of discussion, incubation, and exploration. This is one of those situations where the journey is the destination, and it takes time. As a benefit, even a quick pass through generates increased self-awareness.
Liberating individual stories is important. Understanding our own story makes it easier to connect with and understand others. It improves the ability in each of us to tell and learn from better personal and business stories.
Each of three steps is simple and nuanced. Here are some ideas on each of the steps to guide a personal liberation of story.
Personal story discovery
Consider the dread that comes with crafting a bio, writing a resume, or completing the self-assessment portion of the annual review. Despite our natural affinity for story, when it comes to discovering and celebrating our own, we are woefully uncomfortable. And silent.
“We are all born originals – why is it so many of us die copies?” – Edward Young
Often, the need to belong, to fit in, corrupts the process of discovering the inner story. It feels safer to use common words, phrases, and concepts without clear meaning. Staking a bold claim, sharing personal details of conflict, emotion, and the resulting transformation is scary. We move to avoid feeling vulnerable.
Discovery asks people to step outside their comfort zones to truly examine themselves. The more willing a person is to push the bounds, the deeper the insight, the more powerful the story that emerges.
The challenge — for individuals and organizations — is moving past common answers without meaning to uncover value. The key to discovering the story within is to change the lens by which people see themselves. Shift the perspective to capture details that truly stand out.
This often means asking the same questions multiple times, albeit in different ways. This process requires time and patience. Ideas need space to incubate. Details take time to surface. After multiple rounds, the core elements of the story begin to form.
The work begins when the initial elements are realized. It takes disciplined effort to explore further. To consider details. To add missing elements. To subtract the unnecessary. Too often, people pause their journey after the first round.
We need to provide open ears and open hearts to listen to more stories, encourage people to dig deeper and distill more. We need people to do the same for us.
Structure and confidence to give voice
Successful stories rely on proper structure. As individuals discover the elements of their story — characters, conflict, resolution — structure guides clarity. It helps put the pieces together in a way that makes sense. It increases insight for the individual while preparing the story for sharing. Structure makes the story come to life.
Encourage is as important as structure. Individuals need confidence to give voice to their story. Presenting to others in any medium is stressful and risky. The risk is amplified when sharing personal details and thoughts. I still pause before publishing a column, taking the stage for a keynote, and still vividly recall the fear of publishing Into the Breach.
The right blend of structure and support helps move people past the natural fear to share their story.
Platform to amplify the story
We have an innate need for our stories to be heard. Sharing allows validation, learning, and human connection. Stories told well create a demand for more. As others share, it turns into a routine of swapping stories. Story-swapping is a great way to learn and reach mutual understanding.
The key is finding the right platform to share and amplify the story. Platform is a wide-ranging concept. Social media, the water cooler, blogs, newsletters, public speaking, radio, television, and others are all platforms. Some stories thrive around the campfire, and others fill the airwaves.
There is no right answer. Individuals and organizations both benefit from a variety of platforms and opportunities to share and swap stories. All stories have value and deserve to be heard.
Let’s start a story liberation movement!
Stories untold are a tragedy. Stories need to be liberated to have value. My quest is clear: continue to engage, empower, and enable people to free the story within.
What is your story? Connect with Michael and share!