Bernie Anderson
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the blog

Current musings, whatever they may be. 

Story and Leadership: Getting Organized and Getting Started


How do we connect with people on an emotional level?
How do we celebrate?
How do we influence people in a way that makes a difference - without a leadership position?

Storytelling is your friend when it comes to great communication. When it's necessary to report to your team or celebrate a win or cast a vision - the best way to do this is to tell a story.

Here's how.

1. Mine for stories.

Your life is full of them. Your childhood. Your life events experiences. Trips you've taken. Crazy things your own children have done. Employment history. You have more stories than you think. I like to write them out on a journal. While I tend to keep everything in a Moleskine (I have to keep only one notebook at a time or things get out of hand), it would be acceptable to have a notebook (or text document on the computer) with your personal stories. You can go back to them later.

2. Organize your stories

Once you've collected some basic stories, it's time to organize them in such a way so as to find them again. No complications necessary. I have two basic story categories. Didactic and celebratory. For a digital system, use simple tags. For an analog system, number the notebook pages and create an index at the back. I have a hybrid system with a notebook for recording and Evernote for storing. Just create something that works for you.

3. Structure your stories.

Every story has an arc. Even the stories we tell. A story arc isn't just for movies and TV shows.

Here's where things get fun.

A great story has five parts.

  • The Inciting Incident
  • Progressive complications
  • A crisis
  • A climax
  • A resolution

A story is not a chain of random events. This happened. Then this happened. And then another thing happened.

A story is a series of events that result in a change. A transformation. A celebration. A story moves the listener (the reader, the teller) to a new place, often with a new perspective.

It helps me to think about our personal stories in that way.

Start here:

Think about one of your personal stories. What was the inciting incident?

For example:

I was visiting a Bible school with my Dad, considering whether I should attend. As we were talking to one of the profs in the dining room, a short girl with red hair came hurrying through the dining hall. She glanced back at me and smiled.

That's an inciting incident. The smile.

This started a series of events. Because I went to that school and soon got to know the red-haired girl. It was the inciting incident of our story.

Think about one of your stories. What was the single event that sets off the chain reaction that tells your story?

As you begin to think about your stories this way, you will learn to tell them in a more compelling and memorable way.