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If you want your business to have an identity, a story can be so much more meaningful than a list of values.
In this week’s episode, Colleen Stewart discusses the four key phases of a story that you can use to organize your ideas: setting, challenge, solution and outcome.
Using these four pieces effectively can help to grab your audience’s attention and change their perception of you.
Listen as Colleen answers questions from other UpSkillers in order to paint the picture of how to create more memorable stories.
Whether you’re a business or an individual, working on your stories, be those values stories, journey stories. Questioning how long your story should be, does your story actually have to have a solution. The episode we’re about to share has all the answers for you.
Welcome to upSkill Talks brought to you by McGraw Hill. I’m your host, Michel Shah lead UpSkiller at UpSkill Community. UpSkill Talks is a podcast for leaders, leaders who are actively seeking innovative and creative ways to interact lead themselves and others. In every episode, through real life stories and enlightening conversations, we will explore the challenge. And opportunities real leaders face in today’s everchanging workplace. We will present you with real strategies for you to leverage your soft skills and produce transformative results. Thank you for joining me on this journey. Let us begin.
We’re going to rejoin Colleen Stewart, the author of “The Story Compass” as she interacts with UpSkillers at UpSkill Community. I want you to listen out for questions.
Companies love to put a list of values on their website.
“We value integrity.”
“We value innovation.”
“Integrity, innovation, customer-centric. We value our people.” I can take that whole list of General Motors’ website and transplant it onto McDonald’s website and it would still make sense and I think that’s a problem.
What you have that will truly illustrate your values are the stories of when you seized the treasure.
What is treasure for you?These are your values stories. These are the stories of “Yeah, we were trying to do something and we tried something, but hey it went really well and here’s the outcomes that we got. Because if you treasure what I treasure then we’re probably going to do business together. Probably going to hang out together.”
I’ll know what you treasure just by virtue of your stories, by what you consider to be treasure.
And the last story everybody needs: a journey story. I love this story, because it answers the question “Why are you here? How did you get here? Why is your business here?”
This story starts in the past with where you were, what challenge you faced, how you overcame it. The outcome of that story, the ending of that story is “Where are your right now and what is the elixir that you share with your world?” That is the real ending of a journey story.
What am I giving back? What am I sharing with my world that feeds my sense of purpose, that gets me out of bed in the morning.
For each of these stories we can use this compass we can say, where is my listener, where is my audience. What story might they need to hear right now. And this will just help you be a little more intentional in your storytelling at work.
Sandra, you’re asking “How long typically should each phase (setting, challenge, solution, outcome) take. It will vary. If you realize you need to convince or persuade your audience that a challenge exists, then you probably need to spend more time to paint the picture, and illustrate it and describe that conflict.
Another question, “How do we know what setting we are in and then just to apply Freytag’s pyramid to just that phase.” So if you’re telling a vision story you use this little structure to start this story in the here and now and end it in the future, with the solution.
If you’re telling a knowledge story, start your story with what you were trying to do. What challenge you faced. What you might do differently next time and what lesson can everybody take out of it.
If you’re telling a value story what were we trying to do. What challenge did we face. What did we do to solve it and what was that fantastic outcome we got. What treasure did we seize?
A journey story starts in the past. What challenge did we face. How did we solve it, and where are we now and what elixir do we get to share with the world? So we can use each of those.
I find myself trying to communicate things…trying to explain something like a scientific document. Where the answer is “It depends.” Or “We don’t quite know but we know more than we did yesterday.”
It goes back to the conflict we were talking about before, where the tension is there and you have to live with that tension.
Sometimes those are valid endings to stories too. How do you communicate those to people in a real way. I think that this is a really solid model but sometimes I find myself in a situation where people are asking me “Well what’s the answer?” Well to tell you the truth the elixir that you want doesn’t exist.
The truth of the answer is that you need to be open to dealing with these two things, accepting both of them at the same time and trying to way them when you want to make a decision because that’s the correct thing for you to be doing as a decision maker. How do you go about that?
I think that’s totally fascinating and that’s such a great ending to a story. I think that’s wonderful. You can still structure it this way, where you kind of set them up leading them to believe the concept is going to be solved. But the surprise is we don’t want to solve this conflict. The solution is to learn to live with it and to figure out which side of the rope are we pulling at different times in that tug of war that we’re feeling. I think that’s brilliant.
That’s the way that I see the world sometimes and I think that it does fit the mold, I just wanted to know your opinions on it.
I think it’s a completely fascinating story and we’re not really being concrete with one specific example but I think if you can still rely on a structure to save that element of surprise for them, where you do set them up to think there’s going to be a solution, and the surprise is to learn how to live with this tension.
A good example of this for me was scientific journalism, especially during COVID-19. “Where is the vaccine, how long is it going to take? What is the solution to this problem?” Well, the answer is we don’t know. As we figure it out we have to communicate that certain things are uncertain and things are going to be uncomfortable while we figure it out.
Yeah, absolutely. That’s a great question. Thank you for asking it. It was a great example. It led me to another thought too, practicing this skill of telling stories will also develop another skill, which is listening for stories. Being able to be an intentional listener.
If you’re trying to understand somebody else’s perspective, maybe you have a good sense of a setting and you heard the solution and the outcome, but you haven’t really understood the challenge yet. You can draw that out of the person you’re talking to so you have a really good picture of what you’re trying to communicate. By the way it can transform the way somebody sees their own world.
To be able to transform the way somebody sees their own world, the way we see our own world, the way our customers see us as businesses. That’s amazing. And Colleen has shared you can do that by following four simple phases — setting, challenge, solution, outcome — to support you to design your stories. And more importantly to listen intentionally and to question, to draw out the details of other’s stories in order to shore up your communication.
Thank you for listening to this episode of UpSkill Talks brought to you by McGraw Hill. We bring you new episodes every Monday. Please take a moment to subscribe, leave a five star rating and a written review at apple podcast. Or follow us on. By Google podcast or wherever you listen to your favorite podcasts, don’t forget to share UpSkill talks with other leaders like yourself. So they too may gain the skills and insights to produce amazing results. Please go to UpSkillCommunity.com to review show notes and learn how you can join a community of leaders from across the globe. Collaborating to lead in a more meaningful and impactful way. I’m your host, Michel Shah. And again, thank you for joining me on this episode of UpSkill Talks.
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