1: When Bobby Herrera was 17, he and his brother were on the team bus headed home after their basketball game.  When the bus stopped at a restaurant for dinner, all the other players departed the bus to have a meal.  Everyone except Bobby and his brother.  “We didn’t have the means to have dinner with the rest of the team.  We stayed back on the bus.”

A few minutes later one of the dads joined them.  “It would make me very happy if you would allow me to buy you dinner and join the rest of the team,” he told them.  “No one else has to know.  All you have to do to thank me is do the same thing for another great kid in the future.”

This week we are continuing our exploration of the principles of storytelling as outlined by Carmine Gallo in his book, The Storytellers Secret.  Storytelling is a critical 21st century skill for business leaders.  Fact-filled PowerPoint presentations do not win hearts and minds; stories do.

Yesterday we looked at the key ingredient for any storyteller: passion.  Inspiring storytellers are inspired themselves.

Where does this passion come from?

2: Many times it comes from our past.  Our backstory.

Today, Bobby is CEO of the Populus Group, a $500 million staffing firm.  The dad’s gesture “stuck in my heart forever,” Bobby recalls.  “When I reflect back on all the risks I’ve taken in my life and everything I’ve endured to make this company what it is, it’s because of the gift I received that day.  I’ve wanted nothing more than to create a vehicle where I can do the same thing for other kids who are just like me on the that bus.”

Bobby shares his very personal story as a way to teach his more than 3,000 associates about the caring, creative workplace culture they aim to create at Populus.  Team members volunteer their time to help more than 1,500 kids a year with new school supplies, catered events, and through partnerships with food banks and outreach organizations.

Origin stories help leaders to build trust, strengthen relationships, and build credibility.

“Leaders must fashion ‘stories of identity’ if they hope to change hearts and minds,” writes leadership author Howard Gardner.  “The story of identity is the origin story: the story of where a person came from and the lessons they learned from struggle or failure.”  

3: The other lesson to take from Bobby’s story?

His vulnerability.

“If you lower your guard, and be kind, and share your own mistakes, faults, and your story in a way that says ‘I am like you, more than you probably realize,’ there is so much more that you can get done together,” says Kat Cole, former President at Cinnabon.

We tap into our passion when we share the stories which shaped who we are today.

“Pay attention to your past. It holds the stories of where you’ve been and how you got to where you are,” Carmine tells us.

More tomorrow.


Reflection:  What struggles in my past have shaped who I am today?

Action:  Take time this week to journal about the defining moments of my backstory.  Then, share it.

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