In our most recent On Leadership interview, bestselling author Eric Barker talks about the importance of defining our own stories. Besides increasing grit and resilience, articulating our story helps us intentionally align our strengths with our environments—most notably, in our workplaces.
Have you ever taken the time to think about your story? Unwrap it? Wrestle with it? Deny it? Own it? Tell it?
Knowing our stories as leaders is absolutely key to developing strong Private Victories, a mature quality essential to every leader. Dr. Stephen Covey divided The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People into two groups: the Private Victory and the Public Victory. Habits 1-3 constitute the Private Victory, where you win with yourself first so that you can win with others and achieve the Public Victory in Habits 4-6. (Habit 7 helps you continue “winning” both victories through ongoing renewal.)
The concept, lead yourself before you lead others, is a foundational principle to becoming a trusted and respected leader. We can’t form effective relationships with others if we don’t know ourselves. Knowing yourself, your story, your mission, your values, and priorities—it’s a requisite to leading others.
Your story is basically your journey, your path to where you are now. To discover it, ask yourself some questions:
- What were my passions before I had financial and family obligations that may have anchored me in a career/company/industry?
- In school, if I could have dedicated my time to only those subjects that truly interested me, what were they? How am I connected to them professionally today?
- Is my avocation my vocation? And if not, is that okay with me?
- What fears do I still have from my upbringing (that someone else—a teacher, parent, sibling, school counselor—reinforced or didn’t address)?
- What was my family like? Safe? Risky? Encouraging? Limiting?
- Was I inspired to pursue my own interests or follow the path that made sense to someone else?
- Was there a transition person who believed in me, more than I believed in myself?
I’d encourage you to turn off the TV. Put your phone in a drawer. Take an hour and head into a quiet room. Answer some of these questions—and create your own. Uncover your story.
Now tell your story to yourself. Act as if you’re on FranklinCovey’s On Leadership series, being interviewed by Scott Miller. You have 15 minutes to tell your life story (yes, someone would care). Hold a wooden spoon like a microphone and talk into a mirror. Don’t clean it up. Don’t inflate it or smooth out the corners. Just tell it to yourself and let it sink in. Watch yourself in the mirror as you tell your story.
How did you get where you are? What were the potholes? Who helped you? Who tried to (accidentally…or intentionally) trip you up? What are you proud of? What was difficult, fearsome even? Who lied to you? Who told you the truth? Which advice did you ignore, for good or bad?
I’d bet 95% of people would have difficulty sharing their story with others. To themselves even. But the clearer you are on your own story, the more you can help those you lead know theirs.
Why should leaders help others know their own stories? A valuable leadership role you play is coaching, not just on skill and performance, but on finding their voice. That means helping your team members uncover what they’re great at, passionate about, and truly interested in, then aligning it with your organization’s needs—or for everyone’s benefit, inspiring them to move towards it elsewhere.
So go to the kitchen and grab that wooden spoon.
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