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Welcome to Stories from the Road

2 min read

That is the power of stories. Their messages give us hope. Stories carry wisdom from one generation to the next; life lessons to get us through difficult times.

When I was a little girl, a really little girl, with pigtails and freckles and a crooked smile, my favorite bedtime story was The Ugly Duckling by Hans Christian Andersen.

And when I was an awkward teen, a really awkward teen, with pimples and braces and glasses and short, frizzy dark hair – when long, straight, blonde hair was the height of fashion – I clung to the story of The Ugly Duckling. In my mind I was the ugly duckling. The idea that I might become a beautiful swan one day got me through most of junior high school. The Ugly Duckling gave me courage.

That is the power of stories. Their messages give us hope. Stories carry wisdom from one generation to the next; life lessons to get us through difficult times.

But the main life lesson of Hans Christian Andersen’s tale isn’t: “You’ll only fit in if you are beautiful.” If that were what I learned, it would have been a shallow message indeed. The real lesson was not to judge people by how they looked. You see, when the ugly duckling shed tears after being bitten and teased by the other poultry, I cried too. My first lesson in empathy.

I learned to have patience. To take the long view. The ugly duckling lives through a very cold and lonely winter before discovering that he is a swan. My first lesson in realizing a goal.

I figured out that one discovers who they really are by going on adventures. You may meet an old woman and a cat and a hen and a farmer along the way. My first exposure to the concept of Networking.

And most importantly, I learned that it’s essential to find your tribe. Just because you start at a certain place in life doesn’t mean you are destined to stay there forever. My first experience with Professional Development – which has become my life’s work.

A single story, that I first heard when I was three years old, taught me all this.

And although the author of the story is Hans Christian Anderson, it was my mother that told me the story. My mother, arguably the leader of our family, actually taught me these lessons – plus many more. She taught them all through storytelling.

I believe that one of the most powerful things a leader can do to motivate and inspire others is to tell stories.

Lately we’ve been getting a lot of requests for examples of how to do this. What kinds of stories work in business? “Surely I can’t tell the story of The Ugly Duckling can I?” Where are people using stories? What’s the impact?

In response we’ve started a series we’ll be calling: Stories from the Road. Over the next months I’ll be bringing you examples of real business leaders who have embraced the idea that telling stories can improve their influence.

Next time I’ll report on how the President of a financial services firm used a personal story to instill the values of his organization among a group of several hundred newly acquired workers.

In the meantime, if you have an experience telling a story at work, please share it with us. Pass on your wisdom. It might help someone get through a difficult day at the office.


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