Women’s PowerTools for Business: Share Your Stories

powertoolsbookThis post is excerpted from my book PowerTools for Women in Business. I’m in the process of republishing it with updated stories from the women included in the book and stories from additional women who I’ve met in the 15+ years since I wrote this book. In the meanwhile, I’m sharing highlights from the book here on my blog.


Want to be included in the new edition? Please submit your story today!

PowerTool #1: Share Your Stories

Through stories, we teach, inspire, motivate and we learn, whether listening or telling.

“Storytelling is the oldest form of education.” –Terry Tempest Williams

I am a firm believer that women learn most readily when they hear the stories of other people’s experiences. I could have started out this chapter by telling you that women’s stories are valuable. I could have said how important it is to share your stories with other women. I could have observed that women often learn so much more by hearing other women’s stories. But isn’t it more compelling to actually hear a story and to be able to relate to that story rather than simply hearing me tell you what I think?

When we are told what we should do, isn’t that the information we often choose to ignore almost automatically? I don’t think that is a “woman thing” – I think it is human nature to rebel against what others tell us to do, whether it is pertaining to our business or our life. Perhaps we are stubborn or we’re convinced we know what we should be doing, never mind the fact that we aren’t doing it. We certainly don’t want to hear what we should be doing from someone else, no matter how close they are to us or how right their advice.

Even if we do ask for help, we often get defensive when we realize that the advice suggests we need to change something about ourselves or change our situation. We might not feel comfortable changing, at least not at someone else’s request. Yet if we hear a story of someone else’s experience of change, we tend to listen. If we listen closely and hear the message in the story, we learn. Sometimes, we are motivated to action by hearing someone else’s story. Other times, we are simply motivated to tell our own stories, an act that can be just as powerful.

When we tell our own stories, we often do it because we think we are helping others, but more often than not, we end up helping ourselves.

I’ve had the opportunity to travel for business and that the PowerTools came out of a speech I gave in several cities around the world. In 1999, I was invited to speak in Wellington, New Zealand. I had always dreamed of going to Australia and New Zealand but could never afford a plane ticket, so for me, the trip was a dream come true. The invitation came from the Women’s Leaders Network, a group that brought together women from around the world, particularly the Pacific Rim, to discuss the status of women globally.

A fascinating thing happened the day before I spoke. During a Q&A session after a panel, a woman stood up and began to tell a story about her life. When she was finished, several other women stood up and sang a short song in unison.

I asked a woman from New Zealand what the singing meant. In the tradition of the Maori, the indiginous people of New Zealand, a song is called a waiata (why-ahrt-ah) and to stand in support of another by singing for them is to “tautoko” someone (tow-tor-kor). The group of women’s song was a show of support for the individual woman who told her story.

How perfect! Engrained in the culture of the Maori is the honoring of women’s stories. Witnessing this custom made me realize that we all need to honor the stories of other women, but more importantly, we need to honor ourselves and our own stories. Our experiences shape our wisdom, and we pass that wisdom down through storytelling.

When a woman stands before us and shares her inner self, she is doing it to help us. We should honor her with song, with praise, with kindness and support. It is only right that we thank her for her courage and generosity.

With a new appreciation for sharing stories, I realized that I had the perfect speech to give to this incredibly diverse audience of women: the Ten PowerTools. I jotted them down from memory, and as I gave my speech, as I told my own stories, I noticed that women were reaching into their bags for pen and paper to write down the PowerTools as I spoke of them.

After my speech, when a high priestess from a Maori tribe came up to me with tears in her eyes and held my hands in hers, thanking me for sharing my stories, I finally appreciated the power of my own storytelling.

I finally realized the value of my own life’s experiences as tools for teaching and inspiring others. I had the PowerTools.

Want to be included in the new edition? Please submit your story today!


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