Business Storytelling For Dummies
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A future story revolves around an image of a possible, attractive, and desirable state not yet realized. Articulating the future in a tangible manner makes it more real and can help to overcome the inertia that people experience when asked to change.

Personal vision stories

How does a personal vision story come to be? And can it spark one's future work? Here's how it revealed itself to Carrie Severson.

"In early 2009 I felt this big void in my life. This happens about every two years after settling into a new job. This time I was working in the advertising industry.
"One day after work I came home, sat on my floor, and surrounded myself with magazines. I had my notebook in one hand and a pen in the other and I prepared myself to finally figure out what I was supposed to do with my life.
"I wrote down questions I didn't have answers to: 'What was I supposed to do with my life? What can I see myself doing for the rest of my life? What am I passionate about?'
"The last question was the easiest. I knew what I was passionate about. I just didn't know how to do that at that point in time. Every day after work for months on end I would repeat this scene.
"On April 7, I wrote: 'Dear God: I want the job of my dreams. Are you waiting for me to tell you what that looks like? Because I don't know. I know I want to talk about health in a well-rounded sense, and I want to be surrounded with people who are living with their mind, body, and soul as one.'
"On July 30, I wrote: 'I'm going to give to girls the understanding that each of them is unique. I'm going to launch a non-profit and impact the lives of girls and their parents. I'll learn how to write a business plan. I'll talk to community leaders to figure out how to run a business.
"'I'm going to utilize my powerful and positive life intentions I've created for myself, and I'll give what I can to girls so they grow up in light.'
"By November, I was writing daily in my journal for a non-profit career to manifest itself. One day, I wrote: 'Dear Spirit: I welcome a career in the non-profit sector so I can learn how to best manage one when I am ready to launch one. I deserve to serve Phoenix and girls here.
"Thank you for gracefully guiding me to my career move now. I am about love, respect, and acceptance and I welcome the opportunity to be true to my authentic self. Thank you for guiding me to my next career move so that I can fully be a fit for me and my life purpose.'
"In December 2009 I was clear on what I wanted to do with my life — sisterhoods and self-esteem. I knew I was supposed to empower girls and help them understand how to be better to one another.
"Finally on December 6, 2010, I wrote: 'I will resign from my current job this month. My heart belongs to shine brighter on the pathways for girls in town. It is my life purpose to help them see, grow, and learn from one another. My soul is fulfilled with this move. I want to enter 2011 as an employee of a profitable nonprofit that changes the lives of individuals.'

Carrie's personal vision story emerges and unfolds over time. She didn't force this vision into place but allowed it the space and time it needed to present itself.

You can use your personal vision story in several ways. You may want to tell it to your boss in your annual performance review when discussing growth opportunities. Sharing it when exploring other career options can also be fruitful. If you're getting help from a small business development center or SCORE to start a business, communicate it to your counselor.

Keep in mind that personal vision stories shift and change over time.

Personal scenario stories

Imagine the following situation. You're a leader of a staff of 100. One of them — a well-educated, high-level individual contributor — has continually been a challenge. You've consistently provided excellent performance feedback, but some behaviors you've commented on still persist. You're not clear about what to do.

You call a colleague, and the person says, "Close your eyes. Let me take you through three different possible scenarios that could occur. As I share each one, pay attention to how you feel." Your colleague then provides a story around each possibility:

  • You do nothing, and the behaviors persist and worsen.

  • You continue to provide feedback, and the behaviors may or may not get better, but they don't get worse.

  • You take more formal disciplinary action with the employee, and she's eventually dismissed.

When your colleague gets to the third option, you know in your gut that it's the right one.

Everyone crafts scenarios regularly in their personal lives. Whenever you have a decision to make, you roll through multiple options. You should craft stories around these scenarios when the issue is complex, has significant consequences, or is fuzzy somehow.

Flesh out your personal future stories and decision scenario stories through:

  • Individual future story: Consider journaling stories related to the following prompts: Tell yourself about a time when you truly expressed your passions, paint a picture of what you see yourself doing for the rest of your life, or create in your mind's eye a story about what you envision your legacy is to be. Then, step back and observe what they're telling you in sum total.

  • Individual scenario stories: Select a complex decision that you need to make. One that's unclear. Brainstorm at least three options. For each option, craft the story of what the outcome would look like if it were to be realized. Then step back and figure out which story best depicts the outcome that best suits the situation.

About This Article

This article is from the book:

About the book authors:

Karen Dietz, PhD, is a 25-year veteran in business storytelling consulting, training, and leadership, and organizational development. Lori L. Silverman offers business storytelling training, keynotes, and consulting. For 26 years, she's advised enterprises on strategic planning and organizational change.

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