“The goal is to tell the story, share your leadership ideas,” she said. We were discussing a presentation I will be making later this year. “We discussed women in leadership,” she reminded me. “Stories about you, remember?”
I love sharing expertise and insight, but, to be honest, I would rather write about it than speak about it.
“You have stories,” she said, a hint of laughter in her voice. The kind of laughter that says, “I don’t have to tell you this, you know it already.”
I nodded. We were on the phone but there is no doubt she felt the nod, even if she didn’t see it.
“Write them down,” she said. “All of them. You won’t use all of them, but all of them will eventually define you – remind you of your passion for supporting other women.” I could see her amazing smile and that sparkle in her blue eyes, the one that touches so many women every year at the WIPIN conference.
“Sure,” I answered. The worry in my heart was clear in my soft reply.
“What’s holding you back?” she pushed.
My life, I thought. My life is not worth sharing.
“Deep breaths,” she reminded me. “You’re a wordsmith, Yvonne, use your talent to craft the stories that are most powerful. Your voice is going to carry those words to people all over the world. Aren’t you excited by that? I’m excited by it!”
And so I smiled, and I began to feel confident and I began to write. I embraced the challenge, the invitation, if you will, and in the process I uncovered some amazing things I had long forgotten. I slowly recognized that my life is worth sharing and is worth writing. I remembered that women, as a whole, can achieve astounding success when we invite stories into our lives, and then share those stories in a voice the has collective power to move mountains.
We are women in leadership. We are young. We are not so young. We are full of energy. We are determined, stubborn, and a bit wayward.
And so, here’s the story so far…
If we women in leadership want to be heard above the crowd, we have to learn how to craft our individual narrative and share our unique stories, the ones we’re guarding so closely in our own hearts. Women in leadership, stories about you, the title I used for this post, is my way of defining the NEED to be more vocal, more alive, more self-assured, more willing to show the vulnerability we have – vulnerability that propels us forward and creates our confidence.
We all started our businesses with passion and verve, wild eagerness to achieve. We’re solo-preneurs or entrepreneurs or small business professionals out to change in the world. Our’work’ keeps the whole world humming and yet we move about our days with little or no recognition of this.
Looking at media covering women in business, we’re served stats about women being more “ambitious and successful”; we’re shown that women of color are out there starting needed new businesses; we’re told women are climbing the corporate ladder more today than ever before; and we’re reading that women are successful in their entrepreneurial endeavors, that life is coming up roses for us.
So, why do we spend to much time being invisible?
I believe there is a silence surrounding a great deal of the business successes women are achieving, in and out of Fortune 500 companies. And, in my brazen opinion, it’s a bit of our own fault. It’s the invisibility factor – the one we have created and continue to promote when we do not learn how to tell the heartfelt story of who we are and why we do the things we do. It’s the way we share our businesses at networking meetings, saying the bare minimum in 30 seconds, hoping to convey our deepest passions for what we do, and mostly failing because we rely too much on the business and not enough on the story of why. It’s surely as much about us and our love for what we do, as it is about the results we will achieve for our clients. After all, the us and the story is the foundation of our work, are they not?
I have been thinking about this for some time. As I pursue more of my career aspirations, moving on from one organization to another, from one I helped create and have now turned over to an amazing team that is taking it to places I dreamed of but could never have done on my own, to this one, The Lipsticking Society, created to give women a strong voice across all platforms, I realize my leadership is necessary in ways I may be a bit uncomfortable with – like speaking in front of a crowd. But, I cannot tell you that your story is important, is necessary, if I am not willing to share my story. To be a leader of women in business, and then, as those women grow stronger and more confident in their storytelling, to be the follower. A former book client of mine put it this way, “If we define ‘following’ as learning the competencies for providing leadership, we would have a glimpse of reality. A competent follower always trumps an incompetent leader.”
Over the last few days, I thought hard about the story of me. About how it relates to my desire to inspire other women to raise their voices in true narratives that tell the story of who they are, not just what they do. Suddenly, yes, it came to me suddenly, I realized the audience for my story, the one I will tell at the conference in September, is not a ‘crowd’, not a large group of nameless faces, as I have imagined it to be.
The audience I will share my collective stories with is full of my people. My audience is ever and will ever be, the women who put themselves out there, who demand to be noticed (without shouting or screaming or being shrill, because truth be told, those are media words that describe strong, powerful women’s voices and they mean nothing; we are allowed to speak up and our voices will carry forth as they should!); my people are the women who stand tall and command respect, the women who see a wrong, and right it, or see a need and fill it.
When I finish creating my presentation for Women in the Pet Industry Network, I will give it proudly to those amazing people. It will be about me, about the power of leadership from one woman’s point of view, and it will be the story I need to tell, now, to propel me into the next phase of my life.
Stories matter. Words matter. How we say the words, how we craft the story, matters. It’s my passion to work with women everywhere on crafting the powerful story that showcases them, their business, and their purpose, as they grow in their own leadership skills.
We used to tell these stories around a fire, on chilly winter evenings, learning how to express the words our soul wanted to share. Why did we stop?
I want to take us back to the power of storytelling.
Who wants to get started now?