Tell Your Story Overview
Your story is your destiny.
This is true for individuals. It’s true for organizations.
We’ve raised billions but our greatest, lasting impact has been our work to shape the stories of organizations – The stories that help them define themselves.
We define STORY as the FRAMING (for anything) versus a narrative structure (with a beginning/middle/end). So, If IMPACT drives INCOME, then the STORY is the framing around your IMPACT.
A great STORY:
- Is anchored in hope-filled purpose (Start with WHY!)
- Simplifies WHAT you do.
- Serves as a litmus for ACTION.
No More Strategic Plans! Focus on your STORY!
The default for most organizations is to embark on a traditional strategic planning process, but we believe STORY is paramount! That’s not to say that ‘strategy’ and ‘plans’ are not important, but they follow from a well crafted STORY.
When Strategic Planning provides the direction for the organization it’s most common to see organizations embark on the same three priorities: growing programs, deepening impact, and finding financial sustainability – year after year. These are the core functions of any business, not your compass for impact!
Some of the best thoughts on STORY come from Ben Horowitz in the Hard Things About Hard Things:
The CEO must set the context within which every employee operates. The context gives meaning to the specific work that people do, aligns interests, enables decision making, and provides motivation. Well-structured goals and objectives contribute to the context, but they do not provide the whole story. More to the point, they are not the story. The story of the company goes beyond quarterly or annual goals and gets to the hard-core question of why. Why should I join this company? Why should I be excited to work here? Why should I buy its product? Why should I invest in the company? Why is the world better off as a result of this company’s existence? When a company clearly articulates its story, the context for everyone— employees, partners, customers, investors, and the press— becomes clear. When a company fails to tell its story, you hear phrases like:
- These reporters don’t get it.
- Who is responsible for the strategy in this company?
- We have great technology, but need marketing help.
The CEO doesn’t have to be the creator of the vision. Nor does she have to be the creator of the story. But she must be the keeper of the vision and the story. As such, the CEO ensures that the company story is clear and compelling.
The story is not the mission statement; the story does not have to be succinct. It is the story. Companies can take as long as they need to tell it, but they must tell it and it must be compelling. A company without a story is usually a company without a strategy.
Want to see a great company story? Read Jeff Bezos’s three-page letter he wrote to shareholders in 1997. In telling Amazon’s story in this extended form— not as a mission statement, not as a tagline— Jeff got all the people who mattered on the same page as to what Amazon was about.
Horowitz, Ben (2014-03-04). The Hard Thing About Hard Things: Building a Business When There Are No Easy Answers (p. 237). HarperCollins.