Six Steps to Telling a Story of Change

In a new era, your old stories may feel a bit wobbly, both individually and as a team. Here are six steps to get your story of change on solid ground:

1. Revive Your Adventures. To shake up those old stories, go back in time and look around. Get quiet, and wander back into those key moments of your existing story, and see what relevance they have. Think about the challenge you’re facing now, and what power lives in those moments. Maybe there’s a new insight there, or you need to toss that moment out and find another that serves your greater story.

2. Engage Them In the Journey. DO NOT TELL EVERYTHING UP FRONT and expect they’ll remember your story tomorrow. Part of the power of your story is that it is, in fact, a journey of discovery. So even if you offer a bit of surprise, a bit of tension, a bit of cortisol…draw your audience into your story with two or three sensory details to set the scene, and then as you drop them into the journey, turn them towards your most relevant insight or lesson of the time. This is relevant for long stories as well as short stories. That might mean something as simple as this: instead of answering ‘what you do’ with an explanation, answer ‘why you do it’ with even one minute of a journey that sparks curiosity and enhances retention.

3. Transformation is Key. It’s the change at the bottom of your story curve, how you come out of the innermost cave or the the moment of not knowing that will be remembered the most. So allow for even 10 or 15 seconds of mystery where you hold the listener’s or reader’s attention as you set up the change. Be careful not to force the exit from the cave…it might be from some advice, from a teacher or just plain hitting the bottom and feeling the challenge of the moment that brings you out.

4. Elevate Out. Do not leave your audience with the problem in their hands. Show them how you are bringing your customers or clients out of the challenge you see. This is a perfect place for a ‘theory of change’ that shows what you believe is an answer to the problem, and how you’re taking steps every day to solve it.

5. Listen Deeply. This is needed at the beginning, at the middle and at the end of your story. Before you commence, as you are mucking through it, as you shape and shift. Listen to the story, listen to other stories, press your listening into another level. It is through the listening that you will become the purposeful teller. It may be that you are retelling a story of someone whose journey has impacted you or or your organization. It may be that you are simply listening to a good storyteller, or one that is struggling. Your compassion in listening, in allowing for change to inhabit you, to shake up your view of how things work that will show you how your stories work.

6. Land Your Meaning. Try out different end lines, for different purposes. You may find that this story means something entirely new. You may find that the meaning of the old story doesn’t carry the same relevance, but if you change it just a bit, it becomes magical. It may be that, in your listening to others, you find a different way to say the same thing. What did you learn? What changed in you? What is the main message you want your audience to remember? Why, why, why does this journey matter, to you, to your audience, to your customers, to your network? Land your well-shaped, transformation-making story with meaning, with clarity, and it will carry your story into memory.

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