What’s Your Story?

By Matt Dallisson, 29/01/2018

How the rules of leadership engagement have changed…

Here we share a cautionary tale from executive search worth reflecting on if you haven’t recently checked what story people are hearing about your organisation.

Business for many continues to be challenging, and this means that more than ever getting the best people into any organisation is the lifeblood of its success, prescribing its ability to out compete the competition. People and their ideas are the source of sharper strategy, exacting execution and peak performance.

Simple really. After all, ‘the war for talent’ has been around for a while now, right?

Everybody appreciates that everyone is under pressure to dress their ‘shop window’ for leadership talent using their best display of opportunity and conviction. Everybody knows they need to compete more effectively to get the right attention.


That’s understood. Here lies the challenge. 

Being at the sharp end of working with leadership looking for its next move as we are, provides some interesting and perhaps surprising insights into how effective the efforts by businesses are in capturing the attention of that elusive top 5%. The trouble is, quite honestly few of the messages stick with people at all. Ask them which brands they admire and they readily offer a view. Ask them which employers they aspire to and, even at leadership level, the all-too-familiar examples of Virgin and Innocent usually claim the prize. A consistent theme from talent emerges that those ‘that can’ want to drive change – ask them about their knowledge of where they feel their style will fit and be successful, and a pregnant pause is often what follows.

So doesn’t this beg the question that as it’s their career, shouldn’t they also take responsibility to be better informed about where they go next? And even if we set this aside and assume it is not, surely the recruiter will know how to close their interest, after all isn’t that their purpose?


This is worth thinking about.

It doesn’t take long to reflect that competition for the best people warrants actively soliciting their interest, just like any brand does for its consumers. And if we consider the many changes that have evolved in the last few years in how businesses are sourcing senior individuals we see the recruitment process cannot exist in isolation, it is part of the longer sequence of relationship building that now exists.

Here we see the impact that networking, digital marketing, and certainly the recruitment process has had on shaping an individual’s decision ‘to join or not to join’. Look at the website of most businesses and the information is generic – the detail interchangeable with any number of competitors. Many organisations, whether big or small, can (and do) choose to make initial approaches through their own teams using, for instance, Linkedin.  Never before has there been greater visibility of individuals. The issue now is how do you get their attention? When the best people are tuned out to approaches because of the number of them, how do you change frequency to a level where they tune back in?

If you also factor in freedom of information and how easily people can and do share their opinions and experience we have a multiplex of noise through which organisations are trying to be heard, which makes it all the more important for their message to be compelling, different, and singular. To be orchestrated so your story is one that people remember and want to hear again.


So what’s our recommendation?

Afford yourself to be something different. Think through the human interest of your organisation and look to create an emotional connection through the purpose in the story you share.

Be open.

Humanity, personality, purpose, individuality and diversity are what people identify with, and remember. It is the story of triumph against adversity, the passion for a singular goal that galvanises the message, creating a clear and memorable story that lives on and creates an impact that engages the listener.

The story of Innocent Smoothies in their early days is a case study that everybody knows. Those three guys striking out urged on by the public vote via three bins deciding their fate. Their story has irreverence, describing a social mission and passion for doing business differently and so to stand out from among the crowd. A place where people work together yet are encouraged to be individual and bring individual ideas into reality.


A way of being more than a place of work.

Of course this story resonates with that elusive 5% because people perceive they will be valued individuals part of a connected team where they can drive change and make a difference.  It captures the imagination and people readily repeat what they understand or perceive the story to be. In effect it goes viral, for all the right reasons.


It’s straightforward and clear.

Ask people in and out of your business what they think its story is and consider how your organisation can improve its message so that talent you really need knows what you’re all about, and can aspire to be a part of driving your success.


If you liked this article please ‘heart’ it give it and/or leave a comment using the buttons below, and feel free to share it with your network / any groups it will be relevant to the button top right of the post image makes this easy!. You might also enjoy another article I’ve published on Linkedin called ‘How to create places people LOVE to work?’ which provides a practical framework to think about / work with…


By Matthew Dallisson, who advises people to find, attract and develop leadership that wins with insights drawn from over a decade in executive search and leadership consulting.