85% are not self-aware.*
Your stories show YOU who you are.
Recently, I taught a group of leaders how to energize team members by listening to stories. During the session a person peaked through the narrow window in the door.
Someone in the room suggested I invite the person in for a demonstration.
I opened the door and invited him and his wife in and asked if he might tell us a story about himself.
With some encouragement, he told us about playing Army when he was a kid. His family was poor. They couldn’t afford toy guns so they used sticks.
He briefly explained an incident when he slid down a board and badly tore his pants and cut his leg.
I turned to him and said, “You strike me as a ‘make-do’ type of person.”
Using sticks for guns made me wonder if he might be good at doing his best with limited resources.
His wife smiled and nodded enthusiastically. “Yes, he’s great at making do.”
His eyes lit up.
Someone in the group asked how a leader might use the story.
“Suppose you’re looking for someone to lead an important, but low-budget project. You might say to this gentleman, ‘We have this great opportunity to make a difference, but the budget is low. You seem like a make-do type of person. Would you be interested in taking on this challenge?’”
Divide your team into pairs. Ask them to tell each other a story from their past. Any memorable story will do.
Give each person three minutes to tell a story. (Small teams can practice this activity as a group.)
Listeners may ask questions but they can’t tell their own story until it’s their turn.
After listening to someone’s story, tell them who they are.
- Your story makes me think that you’re great at … .
- Your story makes me wonder if you might enjoy … .
- Your story suggests that ‘xyz’ is important to you.
- Your story makes me respect your … .
- In the future you might … .
We learn who we are in community.
- Watch for bright eyes. People feel energized when they feel understood and respected.
- Realize your observations could be wrong. Don’t feel a need to be right when you tell someone who you think they are.
- Be prepared for tears. I’ve done this in groups where leaders cried. Something powerful happens in us when others really listen and see us. (This doesn’t always happen.)
- Adopt story-language. After hearing someone’s story, adapt your language to them. For example, use, “Make-do.”
Leaders need to know the stories of their team members.
When you know someone’s stories, you help them see their authentic self.
Adopting story-language enables you to ignite and fuel another’s energy.
Some teams might feel this is a frivolous use of time. Stories are so juvenile. Who cares?
Disinterest in knowing people’s stories will be reflected in the use of carrots and sticks as motivational methods. Culture will likely be low-energy and distrustful.
Look for resistance when people don’t feel understood.
How might leaders enhance authenticity in themselves and on their teams?
What story might you tell about yourself?
*HBR, “What Self-Awareness Really Is (and How to Cultivate It),” Tasha Eurich
**I relax my 300 word limit on weekends.