We all have stories that in a few words, say a lot about who we really are. Individuals and companies often have stories that become legends and help to convey the vision and values that are important to them. Stories can be the easiest way in fact to convey values.

I just thought of a short one for myself while shoveling snow today and thought this might help you all in 2 ways: (1) What is a good story you can tell about yourself or your company that summarizes some of the key facets of your character?; (2) When you hear others’ stories, are you listening for the cues that help you really understand them better?

Marshfield heavy wet snowShoveling snow is often a time for meditation, mindlessly just moving that white stuff without much to ponder except, when will I be done. While shoveling our deck today, I glanced down at my shovel and got to thinking that the story behind this old shovel actually says quite a bit about me.

Many years ago I bought this grey plastic shovel because our metal shovels scratch our wood-composite back deck. This is typically referred to as a grain shovel and they advertise that they can also be used for snow. I believe that to be true but in Marshfield we often get heavy wet snow that is more like ice and slush and it did not take too many snow storms before the shovel began to show serious signs of weakness, right where the handle meets the shovel and broke in two. I repaired the break with some fiberglass cloth and epoxy and put it right back into service only to have it break again. The grain shovel with repair was used for heavy wet snow

 The second time I repaired it with a piece a PVC pipe, significantly increasing the strength of the joint and that repair has now held for many years, something that I am proud of, every time I pick up that shovel.

Simple story, but what does this say about me and who I am? Well frankly, a lot, if you know me well, can you guess the values and traits that come out of this story? 
Here they are if you need help:
First of all, my first inclination is to want to fix something rather than throw it out and just get a new one. I appreciate the challenge to help repair a situation, be it material, or personal, this is one of the main attractions for me to be working as a coach and it is also something that has compelled me my entire life. I like being able to “fix it” and it pains me to have to discard something, when I see a clear solution to repairing it. For better or worse – a combination of Mr. Fix it, and a cheapskate that holds on to things.
I don’t give up easily. After the first repair failed, that certainly would have been a time to give up and get a new one, but now I had an engineering challenge, and the engineer in me came out and said, there has to be a better solution – tenacious and intellectually curious.
Shoveling heavy wet snow I like to think through the consequences both economically and practicality. The business person in me did the math and said, for a $30 shovel, it does not make sense to spend time fixing this, just get a new one, but the practical engineer in me said, but the new one will break too. You are using this shovel in a manner that goes beyond the designed loading and so unless you can find a significantly stronger plastic one it will continue to break. It would really bother my economical side to be buying a new shovel every few snow storms, and I also don’t what to carry an inventory of shovels just to be sure I have one available when I need it – thrifty and analytical to rationalize being thrifty.
 
Having created a solution that works well and has stood the test of time makes me proud – proud of what I can do with my hands.
So what is your story? You probably have many stories that help shed some light on who you are as a person. There are likely some key stories about how your company operates that tell your story and help people better understand who you are and why they should do business with you.
Feel free to share your stories on Facebook and Twitter and start a dialog about the stories that give insights into who you are.
 
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This originally appeared in my  February 2015 Newsletter.