Telling stories is a great way to connect with your audience, and for life coaches, business stories illustrate the struggles and successes we all share.
It doesn't matter if you are on stage, teaching a class, writing an email to your list, recording a podcast or writing a blog post. Business storytelling could and should should play a big part of your content creation and marketing strategies.
But how do you come up with those stories in the first place? Here are seven tips to help you keep the business story ideas flowing so you can find just the right one for just about any situation.
Share A Recent Encounter
Often the best stories are things that are happening to you and all around you. Think about a client who is successful in her achievements? Can you tell her story as an example to newbies? What is the best coaching conversation you ever had? Or which complement from a client meant the most to you? And why was that story most meaningful?
Recall A Conversation
Conversations offer great story ideas. Without going into too many details or sharing too much information about the person you were talking to, what was the underlying message of the conversation in your storytelling.
Example: One parent, who called me, was frustrated her their three-year-old daughter was always singing, dancing, and seemed "overly" playful. The daughter was a total contrast to their eldest daughter, aged ten, who mom described as most like the parents. Parents and older daughter liked to read, study the stars, read science-type magazines. The younger child shared few, if any, interests with the parents and older sister.
I shared with the parents how there are different temperaments, and because the older sister was an intellectual, didn't mean that the second child would be of the same temperament. No, the younger child was the talkative, creative, dancing ballerina.. They got it, and I didn't hear from them until ten years later. Now older daughter is thirteen and younger daughter is six. Mom called to share how the knowledge of temperaments changed their lives. They started offering the younger child outlets for her dancing body and creative brain, as they offered the older child classes and experiences in which her strengths could flower.
Dig Deep and Share A Childhood Memory
Childhood memories are another great source of story ideas. The memories that stick with us from way back when are often the ones that taught us a valuable lesson or had a significant impact on who we are today. Think back to what you remember from your childhood and how you can tie those memories into what you're doing today.
Pay Attention To Your Surroundings
Stories are going on all around us. Pay attention to the situations and conversations people have around you. You'll be pleasantly surprised how many story ideas you'll get just by paying attention your surroundings.
Example: I went to the hospital when I felt sharp pains crackle cross my chest. Heart attack? Not sure! Go to bed or go to the emergency room? Go to the hospital. Over five hours, I was admitted, assigned a bed, tested, and the doctor finally arrived in the early morning to tell me the news.
"You have a pulmonary embolism."
"And that is....?"
"You have a blood clot in your lungs."
Carry A Little Notebook
We've established that there are conversations around us from which we draw a story theme. as you observe those stories, which are memorable that would be a good fit with the content or product. Stick a little notebook and pen in your purse, briefcase or jacket. Keep it with you and jot down short notes about ideas, thoughts, conversations and situations that have storytelling potential.
Listen To Your Family and Friends
Pay attention to your loved ones. They are sharing stories with you on a regular basis. Listen to your kids when they come home from school. Sit down for an after-school snack, and ask them about their day. You'll have an almost never-ending supply of storytelling material. Listen with rapt attention to feel their emotions and exemplify those feelings in your story, as they are genuine and believable. Keep looking for new ideas and keep telling those stories to grow your business, connect with you readers and make the sale.
Opening the space for a client to stop, reflect, and then respond can unveil bonus information—new possibilities may appear. It's a good thing.
Michaleen (Micki) Lewis, MS, PCC, CPLP
What Does High Impact Mean?
Relationship coaching offers insights into broader issues. Clients see with new eyes where they were stuck or how they created a problematic situation. To dive deeper requires questions that have a high impact...and elicit the ah-ha that the client needs to know.
According to New Oxford's Dictionary, high impact means...
--impressive, bold, compelling, effective; punchy; forceful, powerful, high-powered, potent, hard-hitting; intensive, energetic, dynamic
High impact questions make a person think more deeply about an issue.
Closed-ended questions result in a yes or no and often don't get any deeper than that.
Open-ended questions can solve problems, and they may also generate a list of options or ideas.
High impact questions get the client out of a set way of thinking. When a relationship coach uses a high impact questions, it focuses the client in the present, the here and now. You present problems to a client with an urgency that leads them to take action.
The Elements of a High Impact Question
The elements that lend impact to a question are:
- It's direct and straightforward, dealing in reality instead of speculation
- It encourages creative thinking and thinking at a deeper level
- It promotes self-reflection
High impact questions move a client closer to attaining a goal or solving a problem. Your client gets things done by dealing not in 'why,' but in 'what' and 'how.'
Which One Do You Choose?
You can take any question and turn it into a high impact question by wording it differently. Imagine, for example, if you'd like to ask your client, 'What tasks would you like to outsource in your business?' An alternative high impact question that asks essentially the same thing would be, 'If you could pick just one task to outsource in your business today, what would it be?'
In the original question, you're asking something in the realm of imagination and ideas. The 'would like' of the question places it in the abstract. What you're doing with the second question is asking them to make a clear decision – which one would they outsource? You also put a time marker on it by asking them which they'd choose today. It becomes more urgent and real, and the answer leads directly to an action step – outsourcing that task. Such a priority question is used for to get valid answers. The right wording forces a person to choose one top priority, and that's the first step of taking action when you have many options.
Here's another example. Instead of asking your client, 'What would you like to be doing in ten years?' ask them instead, 'Imagine that it's ten years from now. What do your life and business look like on a day to day basis?' Even though we're using our imagination and picturing the future, you make it more real and immediate by saying 'what does it look like,' as if you were living it right now. This is more likely to produce answers that are clear and specific. Instead of saying, 'I'd be happy and successful,' they may say something like, 'I don't spend any time creating my own content because I have a writer who does that.' They've just defined a goal – finding and hiring a good writer for their content creation.
Part 2 – Listening
Turning regular questions into high impact questions that elicit clear actionable answers is only the first step. As a coach, you also need to listen to their response carefully and use it to guide them toward action steps. The whole point of high impact questions is to get them into the zone of thinking more deeply about their problems and challenges.
Here is a free coaching tool which provides a relationship coach and client worksheet as well as a list of high impact questions to give you examples of focusing your client's breakthrough.