Storytelling in Action – Having the courage to inspire

Suzanne Smith is a General Manager at the nab and last week she was asked to host a Women and Money event for over 400 women. Suzanne was recently a participant in one of my business storytelling workshops so she decided she would open with a story. Understanding the power of personal stories she shared the following anecdote about her mother.

‘As a young girl I grew up in a single parent household with a devoted Mum whose focus was to work to make ends meet and provide for my older brother and I. It was during that time in the 70’s when there was no compulsory superannuation for women and receipt of any maintenance payments from the other parent was at best random.

Mum worked in nursing as a carer to the elderly and her salary was on the low side, so we lived from pay to pay and my brother and I got part time jobs to have pocket money to buy anything extra.

In her 50’s mum was lucky enough to get a modest inheritance, which enabled her to purchase her own home and provide her with some security in retirement. Mum did retire with a small pot of superannuation, but the GFC did its best to wipe out a large part of that meaning that she is now down to the pension and help from me.

I often think about how things might have been different for mum if she had accessed some advice around investing to plan for retirement early in her life as well as to give her a sense of discipline around budgeting and smarter management of money. I don’t think she ever thought she had enough to save or had enough that warranted seeing someone for financial advice. But in reality we all know the value of effective budgeting or putting that little bit away. It is a lesson I am now instilling in my children as my 15 year old has recently got her first part time job.

Today we are going to hear from some financial experts who will share information about strategies and programs that would have made a huge difference to my mum; who can make a great difference to women who want to know more about financial literacy and who are prepared to be serious about investing in their own financial accountability.’

Suzanne contacted me to let me know the amazing positive response she received from the participants, with many of them sharing similar stories of their own family. She also received official feedback from the organisers that said:

‘On behalf of Connecting Women I wanted to thank you for your contribution to today’s Women and Money event. Your personal story about your mother at the beginning really set the tone for the event. It was really inspiring and very well received. There was a great energy and openness in the room and that can be attributed to your fabulous opening so thanks again.’

Suzanne’s reflection is an important lesson for leaders who are just starting to use storytelling. ‘This has reinforced to me the power of stories and has given me great confidence to use storytelling to connect and deliver messages. Thank you for your work with me to get me to this point.’

Well done Suzanne for having the courage to get personal and inspire people. Who knows what the ripple effect of this story will be and the legacy you may have created.

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