Your story is the foundation.
Your story is more powerful when you move beyond knowing it and into sharing it. It is useful in work environments where there aren’t many organic opportunities to go beyond surface-level interaction. This post offers ways to leverage your story in the office.
Prepare to get vulnerable.
Sharing something real at work will mean getting vulnerable. It feels risky to put something of substance out there in a world of shallow exchanges and Instagram filters.
For years, telling my story was terrifying. I convinced myself that any number of bad things would happen: that people would perceive me as not in control of my life, that I would be seen as less competent, that I would cry in front of someone.
This thought pattern wasn’t serving me well, and I ripped off my story band-aid when Tara Padua hosted me on her podcast. I had a brief ‘oh shit!’ moment when I listened to the recording for the first time. And then after a couple deep breaths, I was glad it was out there.
It’s been incredible to hear from people who relate to something I said. None of the negative consequences I imagined have come to pass, except for crying in front of people. Which turned out not to be so bad after all.
Use your story at work.
It feels natural to share your story with the people closest to you – your friends and family. However, it is not always second nature to do so at work. Which means it will take some effort AND that this is an untapped opportunity!
One-on-one: where I work, we have weekly meetings with managers and direct reports. These individual sessions are a chance to test sharing part of your story in a lower-stakes environment. Think about when you might go beyond the surface – it could be when asked ‘how was your weekend’ or when you are discussing your career path. You are the judge for when to share and how deep to go, only do what feels (somewhat) comfortable.
With a group: for teams, doing a workshop can be a shortcut to the trust and collaboration that will make the group successful. Knowing each others’ stories enables psychological safety – or the belief that you can take an interpersonal risk like challenging someone’s idea or giving difficult feedback.
I recommend doing a story sharing session with 5-10 people. The workshop flow is linked below, the gist is that the facilitator explains the purpose of the session and demonstrates the storyboard (examples below). Team members spend time preparing stories individually, and share out one-by-one as the group listens without interrupting. After one person has finished, they are acknowledged and appreciated before moving on to the next person.
The session is effective because teams that trust and understand each other work better together. If you can get vulnerable and be valued for it in a workshop, that mindset carries over into your day-to-day work.
There are many ways to share your story at work. The important thing is to spend time knowing your story, intentionally use it, and be willing to take the risk of going first!