Telling Stories

Old vintage typewriter with blank paper

If you are a leader, whether you realize it or not, you are also a storyteller. And the cool thing is, you get to decide what kind of story you are going to tell. Yes, the facts are the facts, but they are rarely the most powerful part of the story.

 Say you’ve had a challenging week, or several challenging weeks, for reasons that are totally outside your control. Those are the facts. What story are you going to tell? Is it a story about the unfairness of the situation, your sense of aggravation with the people or factors that have resulted in this predicament, your sense of helplessness in the face of the challenges before you? Wow, that’s a depressing story. One that is likely to suck the energy, the sense of power and possibility, right out of you and those you lead. Looks like this story went from bad to worse, looming larger with each telling.

 Or … You could tell a story that acknowledges the challenging facts of the situation, and expresses gratitude that your team has the skills, creativity and can-do spirit to figure out a solution. It could be a story that outlines the hard truth, and also highlights the gifts and graces of your team to uniquely and effectively respond to that truth. I’m not suggesting you tell your people the path will be quick or easy if that’s not the case — your team deserves more than fairy tales from their leader. I am suggesting that you plot out the character(istic)s that will allow the story to have a satisfactory/positive/mission-fulfilling end. Maybe one of your team members has the deep sense of empathy and compassion to support others as they walk through a difficult situation. Maybe another has the ability to see possible solutions when others only see road blocks. A third might have relationships that can connect the dots to move you forward. You see, the facts are merely the backdrop. Your team, and your confidence in them, is the storyline!

 So which storyline is playing in your head? The facts may be presented to you, but you are the author of your team’s story. You get to decide. Is it going to be a soap opera, a tragedy, or a story of triumph even in the midst of steep odds? If you don’t believe the storyline, your “listeners” won’t either. The situation, those things you can’t control, isn’t the story. How you and your team respond is. Sure there will be times when the sky looks dark and you’re not sure what the next chapter will bring. As a colleague pointed out to me earlier this week, sometimes you just have to walk through it … very true. Do you believe that the good guys will prevail? Then take heart.

 You’re the leader, the author … You get to tell the story.

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