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Gather around and listen closely. You are going to hear a story that can change your life. This story holds secrets such as how to get others to pay attention to you, how to stand out at work, and how to be more successful and have more fun. It all begins with...

Once upon a time...

Henry wanted to be the best supervisor in the company. But he did not know where to start. So he decided to introduce himself to his new work team by telling a story about his Uncle Jack. It went like this:

I really loved my Uncle Jack. He was a successful soybean farmer in Iowa and always spent time with me during my summer visits. One August when I was there, he was gearing up for a big harvest. He expected a good crop and was sure he’d finally make some money after a few lean years. But something unexpected happened. His neighbor Bill Tucker suddenly died, leaving behind a wife, four small children, and a field of beans that needed to go to market. The boys were too young and the wife was too distraught to harvest. So Uncle Jack set his work aside and began reaping the Tuckers’ crop. He worried his own crop wouldn’t get to market. But he knew Bill’s family really needed him.

Then a funny thing happened. Next thing he knew, all the neighbors were working in the field, helping out. And they didn’t stop with Tucker’s field; they went on to harvest Uncle Jack’s field, and then the next farm, and the next, until everyone’s crop was taken to town. It became the largest harvest in southeast Iowa and was the beginning of a regional farming co-op still in existence today.

Imagine hearing that story from a new supervisor. What message would you receive? Why was this story a better introduction to the real Henry than a list of departmental goals and objectives? What do you think happened as a result of Henry’s story?

Storytelling as a Career Builder

Besides garnering a positive reception from those you supervise, as Henry’s story did, a good story can help you attract the positive attention of your own supervisor. And these are just two ways that stories can help you build your career. The right story at the right time can also:

Increase your visibility

Define your abilities, experiences, and uniqueness

Make your message memorable

Provide instant connection with others

Help you establish and keep relationships

The BUILDing Blocks of Storytelling Success

The good news is you do not need any special training to tell your own stories. Telling personal stories helps you BUILD confidence, social skills, and business acumen. All you need are awareness, good listening skills, a sense of humor, and permission from yourself to:

Be who you are. You do not need to:

Be an actor

Have a great voice

Lead a glamorous and star-studded life

Understand that the best stories:

Relate to many people in the audience

Show you are human

Have an element of surprise or humor

Inspect what you say throughout the day, noticing how you already use stories:

At lunch with friends

While telling friends or family about your day

When complaining

For problem solving

Let yourself practice your own stories in family and social settings and allow yourself to:

Be natural

Put yourself into the story

Learn your own strong points

Discover story resources by:

Exploring the Internet

Watching TV and listening to the radio

Reading books and magazines

Observing human interactions and activities

Storytelling is an art form that is as individual as the tellers and the stories themselves. There is always a new story waiting to make its debut. Each story is novel and relevant to the person who creates it and shares it with others. Even the same story told by different people can be a “new story.” As you work your way through this book, you are sure to discover stories within yourself just waiting to be told. Let’s see how you might apply them in the workplace.

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