“Great stories happen to those who can tell them.”
• Ira Glass
Storyweaving is a collaborative act. Indeed, storytelling has taken place around communal fires and been central to societies from the beginning. What kinds of stories does your team weave, both individually and collectively, about your adventures together in leading change?
I’ve had the privilege of weaving my story together with others in multiple strings of collaborations, as a co-worker, co-facilitator, co-author, co-coach, and co-parent. Often the stories of these collaborations were initiated somewhat unconsciously, well before we consciously asked the question:
“Shall we begin?”
In asking this one simple question and answering yes, we grant power to the relationship between storyteller and story listener and agree to join in the ancient dance of storyweaving. For story is an active process. Eric Heyne
describes it as happening “in the mind of the audience, not just in the brain and mouth of the teller.”
Powerful stories act as flight simulators, allowing us to step into and feel the experience of the ‘other’.
Powerful stories act as a glue, creating a community and binding it together.
Powerful stories create a safe and courageous space in which to become more aware, intentional and practiced in new ways of being.
Yet there are two sides to every story! Whether we weave victim, overcoming, or emerging stories, each has a light and shadow side.
“Each kind of story has the potential to be empowering or disempowering, healthy or unhealthy, of service or disservice.”
• Kerry Woodcock
By listening intently to the stories being told within and around us, we begin to discern nuances in the texture of the weave.
What voice tells the story? Is it a voice of powerlessness, a voice of struggle, or a voice of possibility?
What role is being played? Is it the role of victim, hero or elder?
From what perspective is the story being told? Is it one of healing, of challenge, or of opportunity?
“Everyone tells a story about themselves inside their own head. Always. All the time. That story makes you what you are. We build ourselves out of that story.”
• Patrick Rothfuss
The victim chooses to voice a victim story of self-compassion and forgiveness or blame and pity. The hero chooses to voice an overcoming story of challenge and growth or struggle and martyrdom. The elder chooses to voice an emerging story of opportunity and gratitude or entitlement and arrogance.
When there is powerlessness, a victim is healed and heals. When there is struggle, a hero is challenged and overcomes. When there is awe, it is the elder who creates opportunity with the emerging story.
Think about the story your team tells about leading change.
“The stories we tell literally make the world. If you want to change the world, you need to change your story. This truth applies both to individuals and institutions.”
• Michael Margolis
What are your victim stories? Where are you playing the role of victim? Where does your voice speak to compassion? Or does your voice speak to judgement?
What are your overcoming stories? Where are you playing the role of hero? Where does your voice speak to challenge? Or does your voice speak to struggle?
What are your emerging stories? Where are you playing the role of elder? Where does your voice speak to opportunity? Or does your voice speak to entitlement?
What stories is your team choosing to weave individually and collectively? Could reframing your story empower you?
Shall we begin? Ask the question and, as a team, consider what stories you are telling about your journey in leading change. In so doing, you grant power to your relationship, clarify who you are and what you are beginning, and consciously collaborate to create a story of transformation.
Kerry Woodcock, Ph.D., leads change for a world of change, She coaches pioneers and influencers to amplify the power of relationship and lead over the edge of change. As Principal of Novalda, she develops change leadership capability in organizations and social systems.