Leading a “Barn Raising” – What’s Your Story?

What’s your story that grabs people emotionally and best describes your unique contribution to your organization or community?

I know of a Technology Executive who describes himself as a “breaker of glass”.What’s unique about this metaphor is that his organization needed someone to completely revamp its IT systems. He was the person for the job. He disrupted old ways of doing things, got rid of redundant staff, and set the course for a dynamic new organization that met customer needs. He is now seen as the glass-breaking innovator.

Stories (metaphors) are a way that we as individuals naturally organize our personal lives and communicate what and who we are. It is also the way we influence others at an emotional level to buy into our ideas and use our talents. We have to reach hearts as well as minds. Very few people are moved to action on our behalf by viewing a bar chart or a resume.

How then do you position yourself with a compelling image so that key decision makers say, “I want him/her on my team”?

Most people I work with are highly talented, have a stellar performance record, and sometimes wonder why they lose out on great new opportunities.

If you fall into the category of the “often ignored” you need a story that grabs people’s attention where they almost hire you on the spot,

The Making of a Story

There are two basic components in story-making. You use,

1. Stand out phrases from your resume

I was working with an executive that was writing his personal story. I asked him to isolate three phrases from his resume that best described his stellar leadership abilities. He came up with, “fix important problems, manage a large business successfully, and forge durable partnerships”. We then built on this discovery with a key picture.

2. Pictures from the past

Personal pictures capture your story in powerful ways. The above oil executive grew up in small town rural America. Survival on this frontier meant that the residents faced life’s challenges together. I asked him to come up with three photographs that captured his experience and essence both then and now. The standout photo for him was his community raising a barn together.

This picture meshed well with his resume capabilities. In his mind his story from that point onwards was a leader who inspired a collaborative effort to “raise barns.” He used this image in his last job-interview. Just that phase alone captured the interviewers’ imagination and led to a job offer.

Your Challenge

Use three key leadership descriptors from your resume and integrate those with a powerful image from your past,

What image best describes your unique contribution?



About cedricj

I am a licensed psychologist and management consultant and have always been intrigued by how leaders can inspire people in their organizations. The bottom line is that people are not always motivated by material rewards, the use of the carrot or the stick, fear and intimidation,and command and control, Five human needs inspire and drive us. Kristine S MacKain, Ph.D and myself describe these inspirational forces in our book "What Inspirational Leaders Do" (Kindle 2008)
This entry was posted in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s