In the early naughties I dressed to impress!

Fifteen years ago I had a wardrobe full of smart business suits in a variety of shades of black and grey.  It made life easy – deciding what to wear took no time at all – everything matched with everything else.  Suited and booted with hair styled into a neat bob, I would look in the mirror and tell myself – “you look like a professional woman!” That was regardless of whatever I was actually feeling – it was mind over matter! Then I’d head-off to my corporate office, ensuring that my mobile phone and laptop were tucked into my briefcase and that my head was screwed on tightly.

But…I had a secret life!

On the weekend if I wasn’t working or doing family things – I’d sneak-off to workshops to indulge in psychology, spirituality, meditation and the richer essences of life. I loved being in places where I could connect with people who were more heart-centered, which didn’t come naturally to me, yet we all met each other with compassion.  At the same time I was learning to connect profoundly with my own feelings, inner wisdom and vulnerability.

It was an uncomfortable truth!

The trouble was, I was leading a dual life with two distinct identities – the intellectual corporate role during the week and the woman who was learning to connect with her heart & soul at these weekend retreats.

However, there was little time for heart, soul and feelings in the corporate environment and to talk about such things would earn you a disdainful look that suggested that you were mentally weak.

Over time I began to feel incongruent and frankly found it painful living in these two conflicting worlds, since neither on its own was wholly satisfying.

I was determined to align my mind (intellect) with my heart (passion) and soul (gut-feelings) seven days a week.  The trouble was that I didn’t know where to begin and knew that it was going to take courage to do that in the business world. It was especially challenging, working as I was, in the healthcare industry because despite tackling highly emotive human issues of health and illness, healthcare businesses tend to be dominated by science, data, processes, regulations, finances, bureaucracy and politics.

When my journey began – the steps were gradual…

Initially I created a consultancy business in marketing strategy & branding where I continued to work with corporate organisations. Once I had moved away from playing a corporate role the two juxtaposed worlds that I occupied began to sit a tad more comfortably together.

At the same time, smatterings of color began to appear in my wardrobe.

While I was enjoying corporate consultancy I also trained in Coaching & NLP & studied Nutrition. I rented a room from a group of forward-thinking GPs and set-up an evening clinic to support people with what was really going on in their lives – the stuff that actually mattered to them. Nobody ever mentioned a spreadsheet or meeting timelines – the real concerns in people’s lives were much more heart and feeling-centered. I always considered it a privilege that they entrusted me with their vulnerability and allowed me to help them.  I connected with my own vulnerability too!

Change was happening already!

During that time the walls between my own mind, heart and soul were collapsing and these three energies were melding together. I was certainly feeling more congruent and was bringing more heart & soul into my corporate work. Yet I wasn’t quite there, although my wardrobe was definitely brightening-up!

And then came the biggest shift!

Four years ago everything began to fall into place. I rekindled a passion that I’d had for storytelling since I was a child. It began with writing a playful blog of personal stories that I initially called Claire’s Shenanigans. I was inspired to train as a storytelling performer and I wrote a book called The Tao of Storytelling about telling personal stories, that was published in 2013.

Realising the power of storytelling and seeing it as  a true calling I co-founded The Story Mill Ltd. in 2013 to bring storytelling into businesses in leadership, culture, marketing, branding and innovation. Storytelling can powerfully enhance all of these aspects of business.  We call it making business communication more human and real people having real conversations.

A congruent story emerged!

Finally congruence had clicked into place because storytelling in business is the way to engage, minds (intellect), hearts (passion) and souls (gut-feelings). On my journey I learned that what makes us weak is being incongruent, operating from intellect alone while we abandon our heart and/or our soul – it’s like sitting on a three-legged stool with one or two legs missing.

What happens when we listen to and tell stories?

The act of crafting stories takes us into deeper more authentic places within ourselves.  When we communicate with story we touch other people and catalyze them to go beyond their intellect, into their heart-felt emotions and gut-feelings. That’s the place from which people make decisions both in their personal lives and in business.

We’re called to empathise with ourselves and other people in order to tell a story – whether it’s to employees, colleagues, customers or investors. In order to empathise with them we have to pause, listen to their stories and ‘get-them’ on a feeling level.  I ‘understand you’ is intellectual – however ‘I see you’ ‘I hear you’ or ‘I get you’ is a felt sense.  From there we can search within ourselves for authentic stories that will resonate with them.

In telling a story whether it’s about leadership, strategy, innovation or a brand story it needs to touch the audience on all three levels – mind, heart and soul, for them to ‘get you’ and so that your message has a powerful impact.

It’s a more colourful world with story!

In my journey I have come full circle, now bringing what I’ve learned into corporate organisations through storytelling training, consultancy and coaching.

As for the wardrobe, it’s bursting with colour and some black & grey too.  I wear whatever my heart and soul desire, so long as my mind tells me that it’s appropriate for the occasion.

That’s what storytelling is – it’s about wearing it all, the mind, the heart and the soul tastefully, authentically and appropriately. With story, you connect not just with the tip of the iceberg, the role played by someone in a suit behind a desk, but, with the whole colourful human being – their mind (intellect), heart (passion) and soul (gut-feeling) all working together!

About the Author:
Claire Taylor is co-founder of  The Story Mill  – a business that creates innovative programmes to support  organisations to make their brands more human and foster a culture of authenticity and innovation.  See our new workshop Make Your Brand More Human. 

Claire is a Corporate Storyteller, Coach, Consultant, Trainer and Author of The Tao of Storytelling.  If you’d like to follow me on LinkedIn please click here.