Storytelling for Business

by Nick Owen

Who am I?

This type of story is particularly powerful in the following contexts:

  • To introduce yourself when meeting people for the first time
  • In crisis situations, when difficult decisions have to be made
  • In one-to-one situations, including coaching.

Requirements

All or most of the following should be included when constructing a Who Am I? story.

  • Be authentic – create a sense of personal consistency.
  • Use turning point stories: AHA! moments and self-revelations, for example.
  • Connect your past with relevance to now (and future too if appropriate).
  • Make it positive, but include honest self-assessment (no-one likes a smart-arse).
  • Add appropriate context and any interesting detail (but not too much).
  • Connect with your emotional relationship to the story.
  • Make it as simple and economical as possible.
  • Where possible, lighten the tone with some humour.
Example

Jack Welch is reported to have told the following story about himself at a conference soon after becoming CEO of General Electric. Few people there knew much about him before the speech. Note how the story ticks most of the above boxes:

‘When I was a teenager, I was seriously into ice hockey. And we played hard and we played to win. One time I remember, we lost badly, and in frustration I threw my stick across the rink at the end of the game. Ten minutes later, we’re in the changing room, me and my friends half naked. My mother walks right through the doorway, gets hold of me by the ear and says: “Jack Welch, you punk, if you don’t know how to lose, how the hell are you ever going to learn how to win?” ’

Consider the impact of this story on an audience and what it tells them about their new CEO.