How To Tell Your Story | Personal Branding Example
‘To know who you are is the greatest power of all.’—Sherrilyn Kenyon and Dianna Love
You are in a company meeting and it's time for a round of introductions. How do you introduce yourself? 99% of the time it's your name, department, job title and years of service. These polite introductions fail to tell your real story. Who am I? What do I stand for?
Learning to tell your story can help in many ways. Understanding your story can help you live in alignment with your personal values, purpose and vision. It can also help as an attractor. Your story helps connect you with others who may share your values and vision. This storytelling is not just important for entrepreneurs, importantly for employees, it helps ensure work and purpose aligns.
Telling your story is the focus of Bernadette Jiwa's book Story Driven. The book outlines the importance of telling your story. It provides examples of personal branding and a personal brand template which will help you stand out from the crowd:
Far from just being a way to differentiate us, our stories can help us to decide, plan, lead, sell, inspire, influence, persuade, rally, create value, build trust, foster connection and succeed by building better, more purposeful organisations and lives. Our stories can shape who we are. - Berndatte Jiwa
Storytelling is a powerful way to inspire change and connect with others. By understanding your story you can live a life in alignment with your values and purpose. In fact, Bernadette highlights that if you know where you have come from and where you are going you can make better decisions.
Story-Driven Framework: A Personal Branding Template
‘The most powerful person in the world is the storyteller.’—Steve Jobs
This framework provides a personal branding template to tell your story. The framework has five elements:
Backstory - Your journey to now
Values - Your Guiding Beliefs
Purpose - Your reason to exist
Vison - Your aspiration for the future
Strategy - Aligning opportunities, plans and behaviour
These 5 areas provide your personal narrative. It's the template on which you can build your personal brand.
Personal Branding Example - Toby Sinclair
You can download my personal branding example which uses the Story-Driven Framework. This example puts together the backstory, values, vision, purpose and strategy. You can use this example to think about your own story.
Below expands on how you can build your own personal brand statement
The Power of Your Backstory
‘If you do not know where you come from, then you don’t know where you are, and if you don’t know where you are, then you don’t know where you’re going.’—Terry Pratchett
Knowing your backstory can help you find the direction and meaning to direct your future action. Bernadette shares how our backstory develops in three layers:
The foundation is who we are at birth and how we develop in early life—our traits.
The second layer is our goals and values—what we believe and strive for as we get older.
The final layer is our stories—what we choose to remember about our past and how we make it meaningful now and in the future.
Your experiences to date are what form your values and purpose. It is only through reflecting on your backstory that you can find direction for the future.
Questions to build your Backstory:
What’s the hardest thing you’ve ever done? What did doing the hard thing teach you about yourself? How have you used that learning to make hard decisions?
Who are the two people who have had the biggest impact on your life? What did you learn from them? What events in your life show how you have applied the lessons you learned from those mentors?
What was your first job and what valuable lessons did you learn there? Describe the incidents that reveal some of the challenges and insights you gained from doing this work.
What’s your proudest memory? Why? Record that story in as much detail as you can remember.
How would you like to be remembered? What event from your life so far best illustrates that you are the person you want to be remembered as? Record that story.
Personal Branding Example - Toby Sinclair's Backstory:
Helping others was a big part of Toby’s upbringing. His parents, change agents in the charity sector, would result in Toby meeting people from all walks of life; Homeless, Addicts, Low-income families and many others. Because of this, Toby learned from an early age how to build empathy and connect with people. He also learned the impact passionate change agents can have on social issues. As a result, Toby was naturally drawn to Coaching as a profession. Now a certified professional business and executive coach he is a change agent helping organisations and people achieve their potential.
In his teenage years, Toby developed a fascination with technology. This started with building websites for local charities and community projects. This grew Toby’s passion and curiosity for the power of the internet. Because of this, Toby studied e-Business at the University of Liverpool, graduating with First Class Honours.
In the first 7 years of Toby’s career (2007 - 2014) he worked as a Software Testing Consultant across several industries. This variety helped Toby develop his ability to learn and build relationships quickly. Some of this learning was sparked by a book gifted to him in his first role “The 7 habits of highly effective people” by Stephen Covey. This book sparked a passion and interest in self-development which continues to this day. Reading over 100 books a year, Toby continues to learn new habits and routines to maximise his impact on the world.
A pivotal moment during these years was joining a consultancy start-up, RoqIT, as their third employee (2009). Toby worked directly with the founders to define business strategy, organisational values and the delivery approach. Many of Toby’s business and leadership skills were developed during these years. Now a larger company, the values Toby helped to build still remain.
In the past 7 years, Toby has been working with JP Morgan Chase to transform an 8,000 person technology organisation (2014 - now). Toby’s transformation leadership has helped improve the effectiveness of many teams and leaders over this time. The impact created by Toby led him to be one of the quickest and youngest promotions to Executive Director within the department.
A pivotal moment during his time at JP Morgan was gaining a deeper experience of coaching. Toby worked as an Agile “Coach” but over time he realised he knew little about professional coaching. This led to several years of self-discovery to understand the essence of professional coaching and the areas in which Toby needed to grow. Toby shared this personal journey at several industry conferences to help inspire other coaches.
Toby is proud of the balance he’s found in his life - the size, scope and responsibility of Toby’s current role can bring a lot of pressure. Toby is proud that throughout he has been able to balance his mental, physical and spiritual health. This doesn’t come easy and crafting this balance is one of Toby’s ongoing personal development goals.
Today what excites Toby is working with organisations with inspiring leaders who want to create a positive impact in the world. He is excited to be working with business leaders who want real change beyond the buzzwords. He is inspired by leaders who embrace change at a personal level, often transforming many parts of their lives. He is optimistic about the impact future leaders will have in the world and how coaching can help them achieve their potential.
Toby believes that his purpose is to help grow more change agents. By doing this he believes the world's biggest problems can be and will be solved.
The Importance of Values
‘It’s not hard to make decisions when you know what your values are.’—Roy Disney
Values act as our personal compass, constantly indicating our next move. Our sense of right and wrong enables us to function as individuals and flourish as a society.
When our values and behaviours are in sync, we experience a sense of equilibrium, and when they’re not, we feel disappointed and dissatisfied.
The importance of values is also explored by Mark Manson in The Subtle Art of Not Giving AF
Once we have clarity of our personal values it's important to see how these align with our work and organisation. Value led companies don't just put their values on a poster, they live them too. Zappos is a good example of a values-led company. Their values are:
Deliver WOW through service.
Embrace and drive change.
Create fun and a little weirdness.
Be adventurous, creative, and open-minded.
Pursue growth and learning.
Build open and honest relationships with communication.
Build a positive team and family spirit.
Do more with less.
Be passionate and determined.
Our personal values act as a compass, helping us to behave in ways that are congruent with who we believe we are and who we aspire to be. - Bernadette Jiwa
Guiding Questions to identify your values:
What 5 personal values that resonate most with you from this list?
What makes these values important?
How do these values influence your decisions and behaviour today?
How have these values helped you in the past
When was a time when you felt most alignment to these?
How have your values changed over time?
Example of Personal Brand Values - Toby Sinclair:
Learning - “In a world of change, the learners shall inherit the earth, while the learned shall find themselves perfectly suited for a world that no longer exists.” - Eric Hoffer
Community - Complex problems are solved best through empowered, self-organised diverse communities.
Empathy - Solving problems starts with Empathy. It starts with listening to understand not to respond.
Meaning - Organisational purpose is beyond increasing shareholder value. An individual's true purpose lies beyond the attainment of trophies and material goods. “Those who have a 'why' to live, can bear with almost any 'how'.” - Victor Frankl
Adaptability - Only thing constant is change. The ability to sense and respond to change is what makes individuals and organisations successful.
The Value of Purpose Your reason to exist
The purpose is your Why. Its what drives your actions today, tomorrow and into the future. When we understand our purpose it brings great energy and motivation. Not only for ourselves but a purpose can attract other people who believe in your mission. Describing your purpose is an essential part of your personal brand.
When we constantly pursue and prioritise ‘more’ above ‘meaning’, we take wrong turns, box ourselves in, self-sabotage or make unhelpful plans. - Berndatte Jiwa
Guiding Questions to define your purpose:
What’s the thing you’re most proud to have done to date?
Who would you like to inspire?
If you could achieve only one thing in the next year, what would that be?
Why is this goal important to you?
What change are you trying to create?
What makes your work important to your audience?
Personal Branding Example of Purpose - Toby Sinclair:
To develop organisations and their change agents to solve the world's biggest challenges.
Vision: Your aspiration for the future
‘To begin with the end in mind means to start with a clear understanding of your destination. It means to know where you’re going so that you better understand where you are now and so that the steps you take are always in the right direction.’—Stephen Covey, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People
Without a purpose, we don’t know why we’re on the journey. But without a vision, we don’t know the destination. Your vision is your aspiration for the future—the contribution you or your work will make.
Your brand’s story has the power to be a map, mirror and magnet, and your vision keeps you on track, enabling you to attract like-minded people who want to create the future with you.
A great way to describe your vision is to state what you hope to be true in the future. What will be different in the world if this vision is realised?
Guiding questions to define your vision:
What change happens in the future because of your work?
How are lives changed for the better?
What will your legacy be?
Vision Example - Toby Sinclair:
My vision is that we see a dramatic transformation in organisations across all sectors. As a result of this transformation, the following will be true:
Employees work in environments where they have mastery, autonomy, purpose and feel psychologically safe.
Organisations deliver products that really solve customer problems and add value to their lives
Diversity is valued as a key ingredient of business success rather than something managed by numbers
Leaders trust their employees and support them to achieve their full potential
In addition, my vision is that my impact will help contribute to solving these global issues:
Strategy: The alignment of opportunities, plans and behaviour
‘If you don’t know where you’re going, any road will take you there.’—George Harrison
If a vision is a distant goal in the future, the strategy is the route to getting there—the plan for realising your vision.
Think of your strategy as a path of stepping stones that you navigate to your goal. Your plan, chunked down into manageable pieces. Having a strategy enables you to ask better tactical questions. How will you achieve your vision? What should you prioritise? Where do you need to allocate resources? What skills do you have? What capabilities do you need to build? What comes first and why? The strategy is how.
Importantly Strategy is mostly about saying No. It allows you to make decisions on what to turn down. Without a strategy, your time and energy can easily be taken up with work that does not help you move towards your vision and live with purpose.
Guiding questions to define your strategy:
What are your top three near-term goals?
What are your specific measures of success?
Describe your target audience or customer.
List the first five key practical steps to executing your plan.
What kinds of opportunities would you pursue or turn down?
Do your decisions, client list, strategic partnerships and goals align with your vision for the future?
Strategy Example - Toby Sinclair:
Work with Organisations:
Design organisation structures that promote psychological safety and harness the power of high performing teams.
Create mechanisms within organisations where voices of change can be amplified such as communities of practice and peoples assembly.
Develop C-Level change agents who have the desire and to make these organisational changes possible.
Work with organisations that align with my personal values and provide a platform to achieve my purpose.
Invest in organisations that are tackling global issues that are important to me.
Work with Individuals and Teams:
Create programs that teach change agents the personal skills required to create impactful change
Build networks of change agents that enables innovation and amplifies learning.
Coach individuals to overcome their limiting beliefs and achieve their full potential.
Act as a connector between change agents and people in power to help their voices be heard.
‘Life can only be understood backwards; but it must be lived forwards.’—Søren Kierkegaard