If you’re like many, sharing with others your noteworthy contributions may make you cringe. Early in life, we’re taught not to brag, but to adopt a humble spirit. Then sometime later we launch into our careers and find ourselves puzzled when we see others getting accolades, sometimes for accomplishments that are even less than what we’ve achieved. How can we honor our self while also helping others to see our valuable contributions? It starts with a story.
Tell me the facts and I’ll learn. Tell me the truth and I’ll believe. But tell me at story and it will live in my heart forever. -Native American proverb
"Most stories have a beginning, climax or tension, and resolution and conclusion. So to do our notable achievements.
1.Begin with a “Hook” – What was the need that drove you to undertake the project to solve that problem in the first place? Were there users, customers or employees that were being impacted? Make sure you’re clear about the characters (people) involved in your story first. If you haven’t already done so as part of your project, consider interviewing them now to uncover the pain, challenge or reason that the situation required an intervention. Using the principles of Design Thinking can help you do this really well. Elicit their story so that you can make it part of yours. Ask them also how the intervention that you were a part of, alleviates that pain, and request testimonials. You’ll use those later in your story. For excellent advice and humor on the topic of storytelling, check out author and speaker Paul Smith’s works at http://leadwithastory.com/ . You’ll be glad you did!
Smith uses the CAR model to construct a story. Much like a beginning, middle and end, Context, Action and Result can be used to powerfully frame your story. Most people don’t spend enough time explaining the context of a story before moving on to the action. Also important in your context setting is to describe who or what was getting in the way of success. That tension or conflict naturally sets up the story for success. Storytelling can even be used to help an audience understand data. For a fantastic example of this, check out A 6-Minute Guide to Storytelling with Data: The “How We Got Here” Method
2. Enlighten on the Execution – It has been estimated that a manager only knows 20% or less of what their direct reports actually work on or accomplish. It is up to you to enlighten others on the great work you do. While I’m not advocating that you spam your manager’s inbox with every compliment you ever receive (though I do believe you should have an email folder that you place compliments into), I am suggesting that you demonstrate to your manager and others that you know your stuff. If you have already hooked them with the story of the problem you were solving or the project need, provide them with a few details that show how you used unique skill sets or demonstrated critical domain knowledge to execute. For example, you might share a quick anecdote that shows how you applied creative problem solving or how you led your team through a period of conflict during the execution phase of the project. This is the tension phase of the story, or the action phase. Don’t be afraid at this stage to also share some trials and failures you had…if you also share what you learned, how you pivoted and how you moved forward. As famed communications expert John Bates says, “People don’t connect with your successes, they connect with your messes. Your message is in your mess.” Providing others with the insight into how you do your work is sometimes as important to what you do or accomplish.
3. Regale them with the Results – Just like with any good story told, you need to ensure your noteworthy contributions come to a grand, but tidy, conclusion. This is where you reveal and highlight the results of your experiment, project, or achievement. Think about going back to those initial people you interviewed. What changed for them? Can you tie that emotion back to the initial problem you were seeking to solve, or did they share with you a way in which the program impacted them? Or perhaps you moved another critical key performance indicator (KPI) for your company. Rather than just simply reporting out on the KPI itself, can you monetize it instead? For example, instead of saying that your project was responsible for increasing CSAT from 89% to 92%, find out how much each percentage point equates to in dollars saved, and provide that result. A 3% increase is nice, but a $3 million impact to the bottom line leaves a greater lasting impression. Do the extra legwork to correlate measures and metrics into tangible benefits to make the impact for your listener or audience. You’ll be glad you did!
Sharing your noteworthy contributions doesn’t have to be done in a way that makes you look like a braggart or a jerk. In fact, by revealing your accomplishments in the form of a story, you’ll take eager listeners on the journey with you and they won’t even realize that you’re sharing your contributions. So, what’s your story?