I think today marks the longest I’ve gone without posting since I started this blog, which I’ll take as a positive sign that a) I usually have lots to say, and b) I’ve been busy.
What’s been gratifying over the past couple weeks is that I’ve been busy with the “storytelling” part of my job. I’m working with three very different clients each challenged to struggling to tell a complicated story, getting people to take that story to heart, and do something positive with it.
The challenge of getting that story right — and getting people to listen — can be frustrating. It’s far easier to focus in on what’s going wrong. As Harry Chapin sang of an aspiring singer, “He did not know how well he sang…he only heard the flaws.” The singer quit.
These are times when any organization — or individual — can benefit from a little ‘happy talk’. As the rabbi might have said, if you don’t toot your own horn once in awhile, no one is going to toot it for you.
This doesn’t mean lying, or even “spinning.” It means laying aside the details of how the sausage gets made, or about how the new product launch wasn’t as successful as you thought it would be, or all the debates, arguments and knock-down, drag out battles over key decisions didn’t turn out to anyone’s entire satisfaction. It means setting aside the messy history of half measures, missed opportunities and all-out failures that litter nearly every path to success.
It means taking a step back to tell the good stories. The ones about the successful customers, the teammates who went above and beyond. The stories about how you made the sale and about the ideas that worked. The positive feedback amid the scathing critique. It means realizing that despite that fact that it seems like no organization can possibly be as disfunctional as yours, it’s been a remarkably successful organization.
So here’s my happy talk: Today, I heard that a letter I helped a client write was “lovely and elegantly written.” Another client told me my words will help them open doors. Wow. I’m over my annual spring cold. After weeks of struggle, I finished writing the core of a client’s brand story – and no matter what they think of it, I’m damn proud of the work. Oh, and my kids are getting piano trophies this weekend.
And you know, the work I’m doing now is just want what I wanted to do when I started this independent communications consultant thing, and I’m looking forward to more.