What if our potential wasn’t defined by what’s intrinsic to us? Blaming lack of opportunity or success on race or sex robs us of our power. It shifts “what is possible” to outside our control. It can make us feel helpless and resentful towards others.
We can’t change who we are. But we have the power to better our attitudes, beliefs, character, work ethic, and relationships. We get to choose what stories we tell ourselves. Those stories impact our actions, success, and how we view others.
The Impact of Stories
Storytelling is powerful. Business, marketing, media, PR, and political pundits know this. Think about the last headline that infuriated you, the movie that moved you to tears, or the founder story that encouraged you to try a new product. The narrative surrounding a moment influences our feelings and perception. Narratives can build people up, tear them down, or make us feel indifferent.
When reading a story headline, what is the focus? What narrative is it encouraging?
- Woman Business Owner Wins Small Business of the Year
- First Woman Named COO
- Black Assistant Promoted to Head Coach
These headlines lead with a focus on the intrinsic. No one wants to be reduced to their race or sex. People don’t want to be tokenized to help fill a quota. We want appreciation for our achievements, contributions, and service. Let’s change the headlines to celebrate and reflect the value created.
- 50% YOY Growth for Winner of Small Business of the Year
- Successful Launch of Division Earns Executive Promotion
- Respected Top Defensive Assistant Promoted to Head Coach
These headlines more accurately describe the value of these individuals. Headlines others can use as inspiration and a benchmark for their own journey. How did that business achieve 50% YOY growth? What steps did the executive take to launch a new division? Who was on their team and what resources did they use? What actions did the assistant take to earn respect from peers and players? How did the assistant improve the defensive performance of the team? The answers to these questions create a template for others who want to follow a similar path.
People want association with winners of high character, regardless of race or sex. We want to learn from them, aspire to be like them, and be on the same team.
Shifting the Narrative
How do we start to shift the narrative? Be curious about people who excel in their craft. We don’t have to look the same or share interests to learn from each other. I’ve found through asking questions and listening that many of us share similar experiences. In those shared experiences I develop empathy, understanding, and appreciation for someone else. And in the process, I learn something about myself and how I can be better.
Winter of 2019, I attended an event for food startup brands. I had no previous experience in the industry but attended to learn, listen, and meet people. One of the panelists, a 3-star Michelin chef, shared his passion for flavor and the dining experience. The passion for his craft resonated with me and made me excited to excel in my own work.
What else can we do? Great people can be overlooked due to a lack of visibility and connections. If you’re like me, passionate about lifting people up and helping them succeed, then highlight their achievements. Be their sponsor. As leaders, we know how important it is to be visible in order to nurture relationships with customers and team members. As business owners, visibility on social media and collaborations with partners impact the growth of our business. The same is required of anyone who wants to advance. Showcase their work, share their story, and introduce them to people who can help take them further in their journey.
- 7 Ways To Raise Your Visibility And Advance Your Career (READ)
- From Rural Poverty to Ivy League Professor (READ)
- The Relationship You Need to Get Right (READ)
- Step into the Spotlight (LISTEN) and discussion guide (VIEW)
When done well, in front of people with influence, these actions can lead to a promotion, a raise, or more resources for your team.Step into the spotlight
No one succeeds by themselves; we’re on this journey together.
Who do you admire and why?