Today I had an opportunity to share our story thanks to an invitation to participate in a panel discussion on storytelling at the Business Summit 2016 hosted by Peterborough Chamber of Commerce. I shared the podium with Sofie Andreou of Sofie Andreou & Associates and Jeffrey Mackline of Prevail Media & Design, both social media experts.
For my remarks, I drew my inspiration from our herd and drew upon 25 years of corporate communications experience. I started by sharing my introduction to Sunny, my first horse. Today Sunny, with his hyper-vigilance and highly sensitive nature, is one of our best natural coaches. So tapping into the wisdom of our herd and a few others, I shared the following five storytelling tips for your business:
- Your story starts with you. Who you are is not about what you do. We can lose our identity in the things we do every day. Our titles can feed our need for self-importance. Horses don’t care about your title or what you do. They don’t care how much money you make or who you work with. They encourage us to drop the masks we wear at work to hide our imperfections. What they care about is that we are honest about our fears, our failures and our successes. We all have experiences that define who we are – our past, our present and our future. We have stories of success, stories of failure, stories of adventure and fun. How have those experiences defined who you are today? What are the nuggets of insight that can help others move forward without fear in the telling of your story? How has your health shaped your story? What about your relationships? Your moods or attitudes? Or your service to others. Don’t limit your story to your experiences at work – tap into the full experiences that define your life. In Carmine Gallo’s book “The Storytellers Secret”, he reminds us that “our personal experience – the stories we’ve lived through – make us who we are today. Embrace every step forward or every step backward as an opportunity to transform, grow, and make a deeply meaningful emotional connection with your audience.”
- Be clear on why you do what you do and share your story from a place of authenticity. Horses are highly perceptive animals. When you are working with horses, they will look for congruency in your feelings, thoughts and behaviour. Congruency tells them it is safe to be in your presence. In his book Start With Why, Simon Sinek notes that being authentic is not a requirement for success, but it is if you want that success to be a lasting success. “Authenticity is when you say and do the things that you actually believe. His book is based on the premise that people don’t buy WHAT you do, they buy WHY you do it. If you don’t know WHY your company or products exist on a level beyond WHAT you do, then it is impossible to know if the things you say and do are consistent with your WHY. Without WHY, any attempt at authenticity will almost always be inauthentic.” Like horses, people are naturally drawn to those who demonstrate authenticity in words and actions.
- Your story should tap into all sources of wisdom – What will people think, how will they feel, what will their senses take in and what will their intuition tell them – when they watch, hear and listen and respond to your story? We like to believe we live in a world defined by intellect and thought at work. But our work experiences are defined by our relationships with others. Whether we are aware of it or not, our bodies are connected to our minds. Consciously or unconsciously, we are tapping into these other sources of wisdom – our head, our heart, our gut and our intuition – every moment, every day. Horses teach us to become more aware of our emotions and our senses – what we feel, see, hear, smell or touch.
Take a moment now. Think of an emotional experience that stirs up feelings of joy, happiness, sadness or anger? Where do you feel those emotions in your body? What changes when you move from a feeling of joy to anger?
How has your emotional story shaped the way you interact and behave with others at work? How will your story make me feel? How will my ‘gut’ respond to your offer? How does your offer appeal to my senses? This is important because when making a decision – consciously or unconsciously — we are doing so by tapping into the inherent wisdom present in our body.
- Have the courage to show your vulnerability when you share your story. How many of you have felt vulnerable at work? Horses are like mirrors. They reflect back to us what we are projecting whether we know it or not. Sometimes what we see in the mirror makes us vulnerable. Often in a ‘coaching moment’ when I am working with a horse and a client to teach personal development skills – that client might feel a bit exposed or ‘broken open’. Likely it’s because they are confronted with gifts, feelings, or insights that they’ve hidden for years. The horses might even suggest to them that they were more powerful, or deserve more affection and respect than they had previously imagined. How we deal with our own vulnerability can either promote or inhibit our success. “If we want people to take risks, experiment, be creative, be courageous and compassionate then we need to be comfortable sharing and showing our own vulnerabilities in the shaping and telling of our stories.” My horses have taught me to embrace my vulnerability. I am a much stronger person and a much better leader because of it.
- Summarize your story in one word. I am a big fan of Daniel Pink’s books. And this nugget comes from his book “To Sell is Human.” There is a chapter in the book that outlines his six successors to the elevator pitch including the one word pitch. As he notes, the ultimate pitch for an era of short attention spans begins with a single word – and doesn’t go any further. According to Ad man Maurice Satchi who derived the ‘one word’ pitch – “the aim of this type of pitch is to define the one characteristic you most want associated with your brand around the world, and then own it. It is one-word equity. When anybody thinks of you, they utter that word. When anybody utters that word, they think of you.”
Here’s an example: what technology company do you think of when you hear the word ‘search’?
So what is the one word that customers would use to describe your company, service or offering? I will conclude by sharing a story. At The Mane Intent, we work with clients from all backgrounds – veterans and emergency response people with PTSD; physicians and health care providers; executives and teams from the business world; as well as couples and young people. At the conclusion of each session – we ask our clients to summarize their experience with the horses in one word. They put the word on a rock and can place the rock on our labyrinth or take it with them as a reminder of their time with us. There are two words actually that come up consistently. One is ‘hope’. Hope — a feeling of expectation and desire for a certain thing to happen. The other word is ‘joy’. Joy – a feeling of great pleasure and happiness. So it has been my pleasure to share our story with you.
On behalf of our herd, thank you for this opportunity to share our story. We hope your story includes a little ‘joy.’
About the Author: Jennifer Garland is the Owner/Program Director of The Mane Intent, offering Health and Wellness Workshops and Individual and Team Effectiveness Coaching. Jennifer’s intent is to bring horses and humans together to explore new possibilities, getting you out of your comfort zone and giving clarity of voice to your leader within. She has over 25 years of leadership experience in communications, cause-related marketing and change management. As a strategist, facilitator and effectiveness coach, Jennifer has provided counsel and support to senior leaders from all walks of life to build productive relationships, facilitate learning and to embrace change. She is a ‘socialpreneur’ who values the art of living life fully with intent.