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What Story Are You Telling Yourself?

One of my favourite leadership competencies is the ability of leaders to tell stories. This leadership skill starts with the stories we tell ourselves.

Photo by Jon Tyson on Unsplash

Do you ever questions the stories you tell yourself? Or the fables that make sense of who you are? It's not something I ever used to question.

We're story-telling animals and it can be argued that this skill is one of the things that means we're still here, and Neanderthals are not. The ability to tell stories helps us to sell, to persuade, to connect and so much more.

We get so good at it that we start to tell stories to ourselves. Often without really noticing. Here's an example from my own life.

For many years I worked in the public sector in the UK. I had a variety of leadership jobs in the health service. This was after an initial start to my career in the software industry, which didn't end too well.

Over time I started to tell myself I was bad at business. And then I embellished the story. I noticed that my father worked in the public sector. His father worked in the public sector. His father worked in the cooperative movement and so on. I began to see myself as a natural public servant.

I even heard myself saying, "making a profit isn't in my DNA". And, you know what, it's a good story, based on real facts. One that made people smile when I told it.

But it isn't true. It's a story.

This was one of the biggest insights I had when I worked with a coach. This story was holding me back from what I really wanted to do which was to launch my own business.

Coaching shined a light on this through questioning:

  • Is it really in your DNA?

  • What is this story stopping you from doing?

  • Is this narrative serving you?

  • What have you already tried?

  • What if you believed in yourself?

These are just examples, but they show the power of the coaching process in helping us to tell new stories. Stories that help us to grow rather than holding us back. Stories that take us to where we want to be.

So, what stories are you telling yourself? And what would make them better?


Oh, one last thing. My career in software did end badly and I told myself that this was my fault over and over. But a different way to see what happened is that I worked in a toxic company, left gracefully and started a successful career in a brand new industry. Which is pretty damn cool.

See what I did to my story there?

Good luck with yours 🤜🤛

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