How good are you? Introducing the Narrative Scale

“Whoever tells the best story wins”
– John Quincy Adams

Are you a good team builder? Are you an effective collaborator? Can you create a powerful strategic vision?

Getting these answers is a critical ingredient in taking your career to the next level. Unfortunately, with many skills like these, it is difficult to judge how good you really are.

So how do we do it?

In working with my coaching clients, I created a simple scale based on stories.

When I say story, I mean a narrative describing something you did as part of your professional career. While there are infinite ways to tell a story, a common structure in business is problem, action, result (or PAR for short).  Here’s an example:

  • It was taking almost a month for our new hires to be productive (problem), so I  partnered with HR and our security and tech teams to pre-provision all of the equipment and access needed before they joined (action). Now our new hires are productive on day one, which has increased both our productivity and retention on the team (result).

The good thing about stories is that they can fill different niches. That story, for example, could be considered a team building story (improving onboarding), a problem solving story (taking a process from 4 weeks to 1 day), or a collaboration story (working with different teams across the enterprise to solve a problem).

“A story” is the basic unit. An important aspect is who is telling it. Any story that you have, you can tell, so that’s the easy part. The question is: does anyone else tell that story? In other words, does the security team talk about how they partnered with you and what a great job everyone did?

So putting it all together, we have The Narrative Scale, where you rank any skill on a scale from 1 to 5 as follows:

  1. I can’t think of any good stories
  2. I can tell 1 good story
  3. I can tell 2-3 good stories
  4. Someone else has told a story about my skill
  5. Other people frequently tell my stories

For every skill you think is important to your career, you want to get to at least a 3 (meaning you have 2 or 3 good stories). For the skills that you want to anchor your professional brand around, aim for a rating of a 4 or 5.

I you want to learn more about the 8 skills I believe are the most powerful in advancing your career, take a look at my Executive Skills Library.

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