I've been redesigning my website after a consultation that I had almost a month ago. In that consult, one of the feedback messages I received was that there wasn't enough of me on the site. I needed to change my brand identity, so I set out to do just that.
One of the most significant changes that I made was to tell my signature story after I attended a webinar called Speakers Who Thrive, hosted by Dr. Cheryl Wood. In that meeting, Dr. Wood said, your signature story is the story that you will "relive, repeat and retell for the next 20-30 years." She gave Les Brown's signature story as an example, where he shares his teachings and wisdom for overcoming significant life challenges so that you can go to the next level in your life.
Telling your story is a tall order, especially when you think about reliving it for the next 20-30 years. Your signature story isn't just sharing who you are, what you do, and why you do it. But as Dr. Woods said, you must:
This is because people do business with people, not companies. And they want to feel like they know you, like you and trust you.
Create An Emotional Experience
Alicia Butler Pierre hosts a podcast called Business Infrastructure: Curing Back Office Blues. I was listening to Episode 46: Leveraging Your Story for Team Cohesion with Hasani X. He said people need to connect to your story and say, "That's me!"
He said your story should be a "raw, real, and relevant" truth about who you are. He called this the 3R's. To me, that meant that people need to have an emotional experience when they hear your story.
So, as I set out to tell my story about becoming a coach, I went back to childhood. My story starts with a simple skin disease and ends with a confident, decisive, and powerful person. And I say "ends" very loosely because, like most people, I am ever-evolving.
So, even though I'm sharing "my signature story" with you today, I know it's not finished. It's just beginning. Parts of it will inevitably change because I'm still learning how to tell it and, in all honesty, how to live it. But the core of who I am will remain the same, and so will those parts of my story.
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Impact of Police Violence on Students
I would be remiss if I did not mention the state of our country. I work with a program called Project Success through the 100 Black Men of Atlanta. Project Success is a nationally recognized post-secondary preparation and mentoring program for students of Atlanta Public Schools (A.P.S.). The program started in 1987. I've been working with them for two years at The B.E.S.T. Academy. I teach leadership skills to 11th and 12th graders. Although there are some girls in the program, most of the students are black males.
Since COVID-19 started, we have been doing virtual classes online. The students are intelligent, insightful, and almost always open to sharing their opinions. That is, until this past Saturday. This past Saturday, they were quiet. Uncomfortably and eerily quiet.
On Friday, May 29, 2020, the 12th grades went to Downtown Atlanta to a non-violent George Floyd protest. Thankfully, they left before the actual riot started. Ironically, our training topic that day was Race & Police Violence.
On Friday, our Programs Director sent a text asking us to address the issues happening in our country. I created a training course designed to be informative and explore how the students felt about the death of George Floyd. The goal was to let them discuss their feelings, share ours, and then complete an activity where we brainstormed ideas on how we can take our frustrations and turn them into educational and growth opportunities.
We never got the chance to have that conversation because the students were so traumatized by their experience that they didn't speak. And not just that they didn't talk, it was almost as if they couldn't. One student verbally shared that they felt traumatized by the situation, and another one typed something similar in chat. The rest said nothing. Not. One. Word.
Walk in Their Shoes
These are unprecedented times for all of us, but I want you to put yourself in the mindset of these students as you read this message. Because of COVID-19, the students have been stuck inside all day for almost three months. They had no prom or graduation, and they're not sure if they'll start college "on campus" in the fall. When the country begins to open up again, so does police violence. These incidents then become the catalyst for nationwide protests. Also, imagine being 17 or 18 and trying to process it all, along with everything else that you're dealing with.
Being in the 12th grade should be a time of joy, but is, instead, traumatic. A lot of times, I forget that these students are fragile teenagers because they seem so strong. This past Saturday was a reminder that even though by law, they are considered young adults, they are still just kids in some ways.
I don't have answers. That's not why I wrote this message. What I do have is compassion for people and for these teenagers in a way that I never thought possible. I don't have kids, so I'm generally able to look at situations like this objectively and in a detached manner. This time I feel different because of them.
So, if you have kids of your own, kids in your family, or know kids in your neighborhood, wrap your arms around them - figuratively and literally. They need it even though it doesn't always seem like it.
Leaders Show the Way
Being a leader is about driving people to work toward reaching a common goal. In business, this means setting an inspired vision and then mapping out the plan so that your employees are focused in the same direction to meet it.
Another aspect of leadership is guidance, which is about showing the way. And if your question is, "Where is she trying to guide us? What does she want to show us?"
I'm guiding you towards kindness, empathy, respect, and acceptance, and showing you that it's the human way.
Until next time...
Latarsha Horne is an ICF Credentialed Coach who helps new and emerging leaders feel more confident, decisive and empowered to take charge and do their jobs. Her coaching style is energy-action based, open-minded, and straight-forward. If you want to be challenged and grow, she's the coach for you.