There are two parts to storytelling – you have to know the story and you have to know how to tell it. We often consider the process as a whole, but the two elements are distinct and separate.

There are many examples where this challenge plays out. I see people of all ages struggle with articulating their strengths – understanding what they even are, let alone communicating them in a resume or cover letter. Leaders are often aware of the accomplishments of their organization, but become challenged in making them concise and compelling in media or grants. Organizational leaders right now are wondering whether or not to put out a message about the social unrest – they have a vehicle to share a message, but are wrestling with what to say or what story they have to tell. Every day I have to dig deep to determine not only a message for a dot, but a lesson that has relevance to those reading it.

I think it makes our communication more effective if we treat the knowing and telling as two components instead of one. Begin with the story itself — raising your consciousness of what makes you or your organization different from others in a similar role, keeping track of anecdotes and figures that bring the story to life, and always being mindful of the environment and the messages that are currently relevant to your audience. Then you can focus on how to tell the story – relying on past experiences regarding the most effective media to reach your clients, drawing on lessons you’ve gleaned from other writing that struck a chord with you, and utilizing an established look/tone/voice to communicate your messages.

Think about what you’re best at – what you say or how you say it – and work to find others to help you enhance your weaker part. To be effective, you need to have both elements in synch.


I'm the chief connector at leadership dots where I serve as "the string" for individuals and organizations. Like stringing pearls together to make a necklace, "being the string" is an intentional way of thinking and behaving – making linkages between things that otherwise appear random or unconnected – whether that be supervising a staff, completing a dissertation or advancing a project in the workplace. I share daily leadership dots on my blog to provide examples of “the string” in action. I use the string philosophy through coaching, consulting and teaching to help others build capacity in themselves and their organizations. I craft analogies and metaphors that help people comprehend complex topics and understand their role in the system. My favorite work involves helping those new to supervision or newly promoted supervisors build confidence and learn the skills necessary to effectively lead their team.

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