Rebel Women — We Need to Talk

It is fantastic for our kids to have access to stories where the helpless princess is not waiting to be rescued by the handsome prince but future leaders need to hear our stories of success.

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Last Christmas my 8 year old daughter Lola, got a surprisingly thoughtful gift, a copy of the book “Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls”. The surprising aspect was that my single, childless, 30 year old,cousin Fergal bought it for her.

It has become one of the most popular books in our house, loved by both Lola and my 6 year old son Cillian.

Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls has sold more than a million copies, has its own podcast and Rebel Girls 2 has been released.

“May these brave pioneers inspire you,” the preface of the first volume urges its readers, to build “a world where gender will not define how big you can dream.”

The book was born of the frustration felt by Elena Favilli and Francesca Cavallo who say that the “bro culture” of Silicon Valley became oppressive: “We were always the only women in the room. We kept hearing that two girls alone will never raise serious capital.”

It is fantastic for our kids to have access to stories where the helpless princess is not waiting to be rescued by the handsome prince but we also need to give our kids exposure to the grown up version.

In business, a good story can help influence and inspire and is an essential tool for leaders. Yet we tend to shy away from it for fear of seeming too emotional.

Senior executives need to be strategic in communicating their strengths and expertise and present their ideas in a way that creates confidence in their abilities.

Where to start:

1. Our own lives, experiences and personal stories:

It is important that we reflect on our own lived experiences with leadership, who among us was not a Rebel Girl? As a teenager, I was a constant pain the side of our school principal with my various campaigns for change, leading the charge for trousers to be included in the girls uniform (it was cold and rainy Ireland, after all.) Most of the leaders that I work with have early memories of leadership and influence that foreshadowed their current endeavours as top class operators.

2. Take the time to explore your leadership journey:

How have you come to be who you are? What aspects of your journey inspires and resonates with others? How you have evolved as a leader?

Mine your life for the nuggets that are worth sharing and be brave enough to push yourself to go beyond the surface. Every audience will relate to the failures and obstacles that form your story.

3. Get comfortable telling your story:

During story workshops the question is inevitably asked, “If we’re going to tell our stories to new people, how do we decide what details to share and how to tell it succinctly?” Only ever share what you are comfortable talking about and practice. As we begin to share our leadership in a more authentic and connected way, we start to understand which elements inspire and resonate. We stop answering the question, “So, what do you do?” and start talking about the inspirational, our passions, our why and our purpose.

There are some great examples of inspiring women storytellers.

Sara Blakely, the founder of Spanx regales audiences with the story of how she cut the feet from a pair of tights to create body-sculpting undergarments, driving a revolution in lingerie to create a $1bn fortune.

At the 2010 TEDWomen Conference, Sheryl Sandberg, Chief Operating Officer of Facebook ditched the data she’d prepared in favour of stories about her three-year-old daughter clinging to her leg before she flew to the summit, along with the difficulties of women getting into leadership. The speech went viral, and Sandberg wrote the book Lean In.

If you want a business story that can really captivate and engage your people, tell an authentic story about your journey and your purpose.

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