Published: September 5, 2013
Jennifer Selby Long, Selby Group
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Are You Interesting?

Whether you lead an organization or team, are launching a start-up, or working as a professional working in a company, your ability to tell a compelling story is essential to the success of your product or service. It makes you infinitely more interesting than your competitors.

Why? Because human beings are hard-wired for stories. Stories capture our attention and evoke powerful feelings that rational arguments and lists of facts simply cannot do. There is a reason that the ancient paintings in caves tell stories rather than simply making rational arguments. Stories are persuasive.

(Myers-Briggs fans, this applies even to those who prefer Sensing and Thinking. It is universal.)

So, what are the elements of a complete story? It’s all there in a classic fairy tale:

  1. Once Upon a Time
  2. Dilemma
  3. The Journey to Resolve
  4. Denouement (that’s a beautiful word for plot resolution)
  5. Lessons Learned

Too often, when asked about our product, or company, or even our profession, we answer with too much information, or information that just isn’t interesting to the other person. Often, a story is so much better, but we don’t think to tell it.

Likewise, if you are pitching, a pitch with a story at the beginning or interwoven throughout is infinitely more compelling than a pitch with only facts and figures.

Here’s an example of a company story, based on a mash-up of Selby Group clients:

1.

Once upon a time... the company was so good at what they did that they grew incredibly fast and everyone was so excited that they wanted to do a happy dance every day. It was a lot of hard work, but worth it. Yea!!!!!

   
2.

Dilemma... Eventually everyone was so overworked and exhausted, the culture was starting to change for the worse, competitors poached key talent, and two much bigger competitors took notice and moved into their space and started to take market share. Boo!!!!

   
3.

The Journey to Resolve...They tried hiring faster, offering free food and more parties, and giving everyone a raise, but it didn’t work. Sob!!!!

   
4.

Denouement ...Then a colleague told them about Selby Group. The consultants showed them how to create a long-term strategy for their business and their culture, how to manage the conflicting interests of their many stakeholders, and how to transform from within so the changes would be powerful and lasting. They took back their market, kicked the competitors to the curb, expanded the product lines, and their employees became totally stoked again. The entire business was transformed. Hooray!!!! (You knew that would be the plot resolution, didn’t you?)

   
5. Lessons Learned...The lessons learned were that when you are going through a rapid growth curve, get a solid strategy in place that fits the unique needs of your business, and lead both from the inside and the outside to make the changes last. And, of course, work with Selby Group! (Naturally!) Tah dah!!!!

Try it for your own business or profession, and see what I mean. Notice how much more interesting it is? It actually sounds as interesting as it is in real life when you talk about it this way.

Now, of course, I’m not saying that you should default to telling your stories every time someone asks about your business, team, or profession, but too many of us never share this beautiful, lively, and fun form of very human communication and so much is lost as a result.

This month, give storytelling a whirl. If you are the business owner or leader, your story is obvious; it’s about your product, unless your product is very, very dull. In that case, you may have to get creative and make it about your people or some other interesting angle. If you are a professional, you could choose either your individual role or the company or team to tell your story about. What have you got to lose?

Also try telling your story from the customer’s point of view. In addition to making you interesting, it can be enlightening to see how that changes your point of view, if you don’t work in sales or marketing.

Please share your story or your questions and comments at www.jenniferselbylong.com.

 



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