The Importance of Telling your Story

How a delegate bag changed the way I think about my business.

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I loved the safety of my office

When people asked me — who are you and what do you do. I’d go all awkward, my mind would go a bit blank and I’d babble something a little incoherent that would usually end with the person I was talking to making a swift exit to find someone else, anyone else to speak to.

It wasn’t that I didn’t know what I did or that I wasn’t passionate — it was more like when I looked inside myself to answer the question a whole universe of thoughts would swirl and I wouldn’t know where to start.

If someone persisted after about 30 minutes they’d get me and what the company I founded did, but who has 30 minutes to spare?

I’d craft ‘elevator’ responses that seemed to say all the right things but they lacked heart and didn’t sound like me. It made me feel like a fake, I was letting the business down. I avoided networking meetings.

What was blocking me?

I think I was scared. I love what I do, my work is meaningful and full of soul. My work brings me joy, it transforms lives and elevates businesses. The way I work is a reflection of me, of what I believe in and what I stand for. I was guarded, scared to be seen and uncertain I could cope with other people’s ‘judgement’.

So we set a goal

As we entered into Year 3 our goal was to answer the fundamental question of who Northern Value Creators were and what we did. We didn’t know how we would do it, we just knew we wanted to do it in a way that reflected us as people and gave clarity.

Then I got this bag

The bag was left in my room. A delegates swag bag. It was a rucksack, made with a heavy weight waxed burgundy fabric. Beautifully tactile, you could tell it was pretty decent quality. I liked the bag. It had the WWW logo sewn on it and I took it round with me as I met lots of really amazing people and got to hear all about their brand stories — who they were and what they did. On the last day, in the last hours of WWW — he stood up. The maker and creator of the bag. He explained how he’d sourced each component for Trakke bags locally to where they were made in Scotland and in doing so had revived traditional industry. He talked with passion about diving in skips for scraps at the start of his makers journey and to the high end fashion brands he’d now collaborated with.

I now saw the bag. Really saw it. It spoke to me of its journey and the meaning woven in through every thread. I started to see the ‘makers’ hand in all of the things around me. I began to appreciate the thinking behind the design and choices that were made to bring an idea into creation.

So what did this mean for us?

If you don’t tell your story — other people will tell it for you

If I hadn’t heard Alec Farmer speak about the bag, I would have left the event with a nice bag but I would never have got it’s providence or its big why. I would have seen the bag from my own perspective and projected my values and perceptions on to it.

Hearing Trakke’s story, has changed the way I think, the way I talk about my work and given me a much deeper appreciation for the beauty and craftsmanship in the day to day things around me.

Stories inspire

The problems you have solved to get to where you are, may be the very thing that others are in need of hearing. Your day to day normal, the way you think, just the tiniest of detail could be all that is needed to inspire action or hope in others.

To share reality, is an act of both rebellion and generosity

By pulling back the wizard’s curtain, we discovered that the secrets of success are within ourselves — we did not need the all powerful Oz. Real life isn’t like an instagram feed. Success isn’t instant. There are no perfect people. We all have things we struggle with — success is in the meaning we give them and the choices we make. I have found that the more I have been able to ‘see’ others and hear their stories, the more able I have been to see and accept myself.

So this is our story and what we do

Amanda Cookson

Founder, Northern Value Creators

I'm an experienced Professional Coach working in the tech, digital and creative sector. I work with founders and senior leaders, combining understandings from neuroscience, psychology and Conversational Intelligence® to help people at all levels of the business flourish and reach their full potential. Prior to becoming a professional coach and establishing my own consultancy I was a part of the SMT for a global leader in adult learning, e-learning and e-assessment. I have expertise in business excellence; customer experience; organisational change; and teaching and learning. I have had a lifelong interest in personal development and firmly believe that we can make whatever we want happen. I received my first training in coaching in 2001 and from then on have honed my skills and embodied coaching into my approach to leadership. My Coaching Style is client lead. I use deep listening to create high levels of trust and psychological safety. I draw upon my extensive knowledge of coaching techniques and philosophies; alongside understandings from neuroscience to intuit the right approach for my clients to achieve the transformations they seek. I believe change comes from awareness, acceptance of responsibility, understanding our choices and taking decisive action. I support my clients across their personal change journey and help them to gain greater insights, perceive wider choices and develop effective strategies