Michael Sterling

Your Story is Key to Professional Success

Storytelling for Professional Success


Some professionals have a knack for telling stories that explain in vivid terms a concept. The ability to develop and articulate your story is key to professional success. If you don’t have that natural talent, you can learn to use stories in a way that’s effective. Here’s why it’s so important.



The art of crafting and telling a good story is a key element of leadership communications and a vital part of building executive presence. Cold, hard facts don’t inspire people to change. Straightforward analysis doesn’t excite anyone about a goal.



For example, last week I was working with an early-career Auditor preparing to interview for a new position. At issue was their ability to manage tax responsibilities in addition to audit. While the candidate had facts and data to support their adaptability and fundamental skills, I asked the individual to put the information into story form.  The interview was a success and the candidate is on the way to broadening their career and skill set.



Effective leadership requires stories that fire imaginations and stir souls. Our brains are wired to pay attention to stories. We quickly process information when it’s delivered in the form of a story, and we personalize it when we relate it to our own similar experiences.



Former General Electric CEO Jack Welch excels at this skill, as does Apple’s Steve Jobs and many other successful leaders. They know how to motivate by engaging people’s emotions through storytelling.



A narrative magnetically and biochemically draws audiences into the process, compelling them to visualize the picture you’re painting with your words. Stories help your staff make the connections among theory, facts, real life and real people.



Consider the following story options:


  • A negative story, a failure, a lesson learned
  • A success story, especially in the face of difficulties
  • A case study
  • Use of related current news events (i.e. IRS changes, tax legislation)



When crafting a story, include as many specific details as possible to make it real to your audience. Be brief, and get to the point. Understatement often carries a bigger impact. Transport the listener by describing events in emotional terms. Keep it simple. Learn to use metaphors and analogies to summarize. Personalize your story with names, even if they need to be altered.



The more authentic your examples are, the more your stories will resonate with people. In real life, nothing is black or white. Real life is full of paradoxes and uncertainties. Tell your stories to make a point and deliver a lesson that has true value.



Are you using your own stories to make a point and get the buy-in you need? Let me know! Connect with me on LinkedIn.


Interested in more career nutrition? Check out the Career Wellness section of the SterlingFreeman website.




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