You might wonder why it matters if you know how to tell a great story about yourself. In today’s market, it’s more important than ever. Having a great story encourages others to trust you; it helps them understand your deeper experience and why you’ve been destined for the work you’re doing.
And trust is everything. As a 2021 PwC survey noted, the organizations most likely to recover after the pandemic will be helmed by CEOs who instill trust among stakeholders. Besides this, 49% of consumers purchase more from a company they trust — and 44% have stopped buying from a company due to lack of trust.
In other words, the key to your company’s survival could rest on your understanding of how to tell a great story (whether it’s personal or professional) in the most captivating way possible.
Finding the Greatness in Your Story
To be sure, you might have trouble seeing your story as exceptional. But your early experiences in life created a place for you to learn behaviors to survive when life became most challenging, and those become what we refer to as “superpowers.” They’re the muscles that you can flex brilliantly, and you can flex them in extraordinary ways because you’ve been practicing using them since you were young.
Given that I specialize in helping aspiring authors tell their stories and publish them, saying I’m used to uncovering leaders’ superpowers is an understatement. For example, consider my experience working with EarthKind CEO Kari Warberg Block. She grew up as a farm girl trying to find an easier way for her and her family to live. Kari spent her time seeking the guidance of others, taking that constant stream of feedback and turning it into a legacy of guiding business owners and young professionals just starting out. After all, that’s the superpower she learned in her youth.
CEOs tend to have a very intense drive, which when combined with their other superpowers, can impact a large group of people. So if we start with the basic assumption that every story is remarkable and add an intense drive, that person’s story potentially becomes even more fascinating. If you as a CEO haven’t unpacked where those traits come from, though, then any story you tell will likely only focus on the intellectual aspects of why you’re doing what you’re doing — leaving out the heroic aspects of your story that will draw people in and build trust.
So how can you tell a great story about your leadership journey? These methods can link the pivotal moments that have made you the CEO you are today:
1. Get comfortable with being vulnerable. Ask any CEO to talk about their life story, and most will tend to leave out all the good stuff (at least in terms of storytelling). That’s because the good stuff feels vulnerable, and maybe even awkward or unimportant.
To understand your one-of-a-kind narrative and identify the moments that define you, let your guard down. Challenge yourself to be open to moments from your past, including the experiences that still haunt you or hurt because they have defined the leader you’ve become. A story constructed out of genuine vulnerability will leave audience members rapt by allowing them to see aspects of themselves in the humanity of your story.
2. Look at your life from a ‘hero’s journey’ perspective. You might not consider yourself a hero. That’s fine. But you can still benefit from seeing your upbringing as a hero’s journey. Every hero’s journey includes two worlds: the ordinary world and the special world. The ordinary world is the place you grew up. It’s the world that taught you to think in certain ways. For example, an influential person like a parent might have treated money a certain way, so you mimicked the same attitudes (or rejected them). At some point, though, you moved into the special world.
The special world might have been college or when you moved out of your childhood home to work or traverse the globe. This special world offered a different set of rules that forced you to learn fresh skills and develop your superpowers in new ways.
Ruminate on your ordinary and special worlds. Then, go back and find connections between the two. Did you lack structure in your ordinary world, only to become a highly structured adult in the special world? And did your ability to create structure extend into career decisions that catapulted you to a CEO position? Tracing your tale will show you the footprints of your great story path.
3. Write down what you’ve learned along the way. Once you’ve spent time fleshing out your hero’s journey from the ordinary to the special worlds, ask the hardest question of all: What ordeal above all others forced you to grow and change? And as a result, how are you now destined to pursue the things you care most about in life? Try to define the physical, mental, and emotional muscles and talents you’ve had to flex throughout the years. Then, think about how you’ve continued to use those muscles to support and grow your business.
Don’t worry if the process seems overwhelming or strange. Some leaders find it easy to pick apart their origins. Others can’t see their progress on a deeper level right away. If needed, find someone who can help you exercise the storytelling elements needed to move your CEO narrative from good to brilliant. That way, you have a better chance of leaving audiences with a far deeper understanding of why your organization exists, how you were destined to do the work you’re doing, and why they can trust you and your brand above others. You’ll also find that you attract like-minded people ready to build your brand by your side.
When you know how to tell a great story, you have a powerful tool to heighten trust among stakeholders. You also become a beacon shining for what you believe in. Put another way, would you want to work with a company that was simply built on a good idea, or a company led by someone who was born to instigate change? It’s an easy decision.