Senior leaders who share career stories engage their employees more effectively, increase credibility and strengthen relationships. It is critical that career stories are always authentic, shared strategically and show vulnerability.
There are 4 career stories that senior leaders need to identify and actively share. These are stories of transition; triumph; tragedy and tension.
1. Transition stories
These explain key shifts in your career such as when you changed jobs, companies or industries, moved locations or took a career break. The most powerful transition stories will take the listener through what you were thinking and feeling at the time.
It is important for leaders to share a variety of these experiences, even including stories of transition that were forced upon them, for example, being made redundant.
Also include stories that involve choice, perhaps the decision to choose one job over another or to take an assignment overseas or not. Finally, consider incorporating stories that demonstrate a time where the transition was instigated, such as resigning or taking a sabbatical.
These demonstrate achievement as they share moments in your career that you are especially proud of. As with transition stories, the key to success is to look for a variety of stories about triumphs. Some examples could include promotions, awards or times when you have helped other colleagues and how that made you feel. Triumph stories could also be an opportunity to share a time when you have been part of a team that has enjoyed success, remembering that success is not necessarily just about winning. It is essential with this type of career story that you use humility and potentially humour to avoid giving the impression that you are bragging.
3. Tragedy stories
This type of career story includes times of regret. They could be of when you didn’t stay true to your values. Ironically, sharing a time when you didn’t uphold one of your values and the regret you subsequently experienced, gives you credibility. If you share a story about treating someone with disrespect and how much you regretted your actions, the listener will infer that respect is something you now value highly. Tragedy stories can also be about an action that did not have the desired effect you wanted or even a time where you did not have the courage to take any action.
4. Tension stories
Tension stories involve identifying moments of conflict. These are normally when 2 of your values are tested and you have had to choose 1 value over the other. Other examples may include when you are torn between 2 loyalties, for example, having to choose between 2 highly capable individuals in your team for a promotion. Alternatively, these stories may cover a time when you have felt the tension between deciding on an amazing work opportunity or family commitments. Tension stories could also be when you are torn between 2 fears. Regardless of what you are torn about, make sure these stories focus on your inner struggles and the tension this created, not just the decision you made.
Senior leaders and CEOs who are investing in identifying, sharing and refining the delivery of their career stories, are reaping the rewards. Start considering the 4 career stories you need to ensure you engage your employees more effectively, increase credibility and strengthen relationships.