Everyone has a story to tell. It’s the way you tell it that counts.
Your story makes a difference to everything you do in your life. Whether that story is for clinching a new business deal, for securing a new job, or to negotiate something which is important in your life. Whatever the circumstance, your story has the power to impact your life, and others’ lives, in untold ways – but only if you tell it the right way.
It’s the way you tell your story and what you do with it that counts.
And when I talk about stories, I’m not talking about from the time when you were born, to now, and how you got here (although sometimes, dependable on the situation, that too can count but it’s outside the scope of this article!).
I’m talking about the results-oriented ‘stuff’ you have collected along the way and which is marketable or attractive to whatever audience you are targeting to.
What do you want to achieve in your life, your business, or your career? Firstly, it’s really important to define this; otherwise, your stories will not be relevant or, at the other end of the scale, you just won’t be able to define any stories at all that relate to whatever you want to do or whomever you wish to target to (and even if you’re applying for a job you’re targeting to someone or some particular function). To learn more about defining your purpose, click here.
So what do I mean by stories?
Stories are like a movie. Your own personal storyboard where you have achieved results for whatever it was that you were doing. Most folks have achieved quantifiable results or, if they can’t be quantifiable, they are classified as great nonetheless. Never discredit what you have done or are doing.
Stories are the proof that people need to determine whether they are getting a return on their investment from hiring you (whether you are an employee or a business owner). We all think this way – like it or not.
For a client, this is proof that your skills promise to do whatever it is that you do (i.e. your xyz service on average increases staff productivity by x%); and for an employee who is looking for a job, an employer can expect that your $___ salary is going to equate to an additional x% in revenues (or whatever the job function is).
The first step is to have a brainstorming session to unearth your stories. The second step is to re-work your story and ‘tell’ the story in an attractive, authentic, honest, and ethical way.
The first step is the most important step of all – even if you feel you don’t have the ‘storytelling’ skills to get it on paper. Do it anyway. I challenge you to be the Captain of your ship and take charge as, at this stage, it is the thinking process to discover your own unique stories that will steer your ship to success, not the initial words you write on the page. If you don’t have the wordsmith skills, you can always hire someone to do that for you (i.e. the second step). It is the first step which makes all the difference. If you would like support to unearth your stories, then consider enlisting the support of a friend or engaging the services of a professional coach.
When you have defined your stories and written them in a compelling way, your marketing material is geared toward your audience and results in more favourable outcomes and a win/win scenario for all concerned. For a business owner, your marketing materials may be a proposal or a flier or other advertising collateral; for a job seeker, your marketing materials are your résumé / CV, cover letter, portfolio and other strategies.
Let me give you a couple of examples:
For a business owner, you may be a consultant who provides online IT database solutions to small business owners in the xyz market. From feedback received from your clients, with the database solutions that you provide, on average you boost their staff productivity in xyz area by x%. One of your stories can be a case study where you provide some background information on a client. Describe what their pain was. What were their challenges? As a result of the issues they were having, what repercussions was it having on their business? What solution did you come up with? And as a result of implementing that solution, what quantifiable results did your client achieve? If you don’t know any of this, then make a commitment to start surveying your clients to find out the answers to these questions. This then makes a ‘story’ that you can tell to prospective clients to quantify the results they will achieve from commissioning your services. This can be so much more powerful than simply stating in your advertising material that you help small business owners in the xyz market in gaining better productivity by deploying xyz database solutions. Anyone can say this. It is your story with the results behind it that make the difference. Always align yourself as a solution to their problem in your story. What opportunities are you missing out on because you are not aligning yourself as a solution to the client’s problems?
For an employee, you may be a Safety Officer with a background in assessing site conditions and designing new programs and strategies (and thus, lower accidents / incidents and mitigate risk to your employer). In your job seeking marketing material (i.e. your résumé / cover letter / etc), you would align the results you have achieved in your employment with the pain (or expected pain) that your future employer will experience. For instance, within the industry your research may have revealed a high incidence of sprains and strains which accounted for 60%+ of injuries. You would therefore include your stories that related to this aspect; asking yourself of your current and previous employment: what type of sprains / strains did I identify? What were the repercussions to my employer if I didn’t identify it or do anything about it? What did I do after identifying the risk? What were the results after I implemented my new strategies (i.e. what reduction in injuries – % wise – did I achieve)? As an example: your story may go something like this: Reduced incidence of sprains and strains from a high 80% down to a low 32% by: – Analysing occurrences of incidents to determine cause. – Investigating the site to review job processes. – Undertaking a job redesign that involved modification of a task through mechanical assistance (this task alone equated to 80% of the incidents with half of those being back strains). – Delivering training to 132 staff in manual handling. – Implementing refresher courses for all staff. This is so much more powerful than simply stating that you have been successful in reducing sprains and strains on site (with no quantifiable results or the process on how you went about it). Always align yourself as a solution to their problem in your story. What opportunities are you missing out on because you are not aligning yourself as a solution to the company’s problems?
Again, if you need help don’t be afraid to ask for it. Enlist the support of a friend or a professional coach. Then when you have defined your stories and if you feel your wordsmith abilities don’t do you justice, engage the services of a writer – seek the help of a professional to make your stories shine. Your stories are important, deserve to see the light of the day, and market your true potential! They will take you on a journey that realises what you dream and hope for.
The way we tell a story is the most important of all. ~ Nullah, from the screenplay ‘Australia’.