You know why you need storytelling for business, but where are we to find them?
Your most powerful stories are simple and true.
You have experienced a great deal in your life. There is no better place to discover the seeds for your stories than within these personal experiences.
You may not recognize them, there are endless stories to be found in your own history. The first step is to mine your experience for the rough stones to polish and become your story gems. There are many methods to consider, today we’ll look at the timeline approach.
THE TIMELINE APPROACH
Think of your career as a journey. Along this journey you have learned what it means to be a professional and a leader. How you learned these lessons are rich sources for storytelling in business. The timeline approach will help you identify the moments along the journey that are potential sources for storytelling material.
Everyone’s life is rich with storytelling material and not all of it is obvious. Give yourself a few working sessions to gather a collection of timeline events.
Personally, I like to have either a whiteboard that spans an entire wall, or the ability to hang paper to allow me to insert and expand along the timeline as I work through this approach. It also gives me the opportunity to physically step back from the entire timeline to gain a holistic view. The tool you use isn’t as important as actually doing the work.
HOW IT WORKS
Start by drawing a line either horizontally or vertically to represent your time from birth to present day. While the scope of this timeline includes your entire life, you will largely focus on your education, career history, and achievements.
Next, mark the timeline with your personal milestone events adding the date and a short phrase (or single word) that prompts you to vividly remember the time in your education or career.
Start with the obvious events such as your first day at university, graduation, and your first job, even your first job loss. Don’t worry about capturing the actual lessons or stories just record the event.
It doesn’t matter where you start, just start. As you begin to visually map out these moments, it will spark memories of others that may have been forgotten or seemed less important.
To get beyond the obvious milestones think about the events and situations that energized you or drained your energy during your school and work life. Think about moments that were most satisfying or the most disappointing. What were your greatest challenges, your worst mistakes? What was the best /worst team you worked with? Who was your best /worst boss? Was there a particularly influential person in your life or career? When did you meet?
These events are a starting point to help you build powerful stories. It is from these ups and downs of life that we capture lessons and those lessons are the foundation upon which we build our stories so we can pass on the lessons and our personal learning to others.
Take time to build your timeline. Keep it with you for several weeks to capture ideas as they come to mind. Once you open the door, you’ll begin to recall events previously hidden in your memory.
*This post is an excerpt from Everyday Storytelling for Success: Change the conversation to improve your career and life. The book and it’s companion workbook contain a complete workshop to craft the stories you need at any stage of your career.