Building Trust Through Vulnerable Storytelling

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In Episode 93 of the Leadership Story Talks podcast, Jerome Deroy and Julienne Ryan delved into the art of handling difficult conversations with special guest Todd Davis, a coach and thought leader at FranklinCovey. As a storytelling and listening company, Narativ thrives on leveraging personal narratives to foster leadership in the corporate sector. This episode beautifully illustrates how storytelling, especially about our vulnerabilities and missteps, can build trust and create a powerful culture of feedback.

Always Room for Growth: Todd Davis’s Insight

Todd Davis began with a profound reflection on continuous growth. “We can all get better,” he stated. “The person that says, ‘Oh, I’ve arrived. I don’t need to learn anymore,’ that’s the person that’s going to be left behind.” Todd’s message underscores the importance of perpetually seeking improvement and embracing feedback. This mindset not only propels personal development but also cultivates a thriving, supportive team environment.

The Power of Vulnerable Storytelling

During the conversation, Todd shared a personal story that resonated deeply with Jerome and Julienne. He recounted a significant misstep: delaying a crucial conversation for seven months. Todd anticipated a disastrous outcome from this delay, but the reality was different. What struck listeners most was not the conversation’s eventual resolution, but the feedback he received: “Why did it take you seven months to have this conversation?”

Jerome and Julienne highlighted this story as a perfect example of how vulnerability can be transformative. As Julienne put it, “You have a big brand, big title, big everything. And Todd took a step forward and said, ‘This is when I failed. This is how I fixed it, and this is what I learned.’” This kind of honesty not only humanizes leaders but also builds trust within their teams.

Humanizing Leadership

Jerome emphasized how rare it is to hear such admissions from C-suite executives. “These stories make you wonder, are these people really human?” he mused. Todd’s willingness to share his struggle and growth humanized his position and demonstrated that even top leaders face challenges and learn from them. This transparency enhances credibility and trust, making leaders more relatable and their teachings more impactful.

Trust through Shared Experiences

Julienne added a visual metaphor to illustrate the impact of Todd’s story. “I had this Superman image in my mind… And he chose not to be the perfect hero. When he tells his truth, it allows others to feel safe to share their own stories of failure and learning.” This openness creates a culture where team members are not afraid to admit mistakes and learn from them, fostering a collective growth mindset.

Making Stories Memorable and Trustworthy

Both Jerome and Julienne agree that storytelling’s power lies in its relatability and authenticity. “Whether you are a C-suite executive or not, the ability to tell a story that’s relevant to the conversation at hand and that is a lived experience of yours makes you more trustworthy and memorable,” Jerome explained. Stories rooted in personal experiences, especially those involving failure and recovery, resonate deeply and leave lasting impressions.

Repurposing Failures into Teachings

Julienne and Jerome also discussed the concept of “repurposing” failures. Julienne suggested viewing our less-than-stellar moments as opportunities for teaching and growth. “What about we take all those not-so-great stories and say, with time, with a little distance, we’re going to use this to teach and help somebody else do a better job?” she proposed. Jerome enthusiastically agreed, likening it to recycling – transforming past mistakes into valuable lessons for the future.

Encouragement to Reflect and Share

As the conversation wrapped up, Jerome and Julienne encouraged listeners to reflect on their experiences and share their stories. Jerome urged, “Look at those experiences that weren’t so great, but now, with the benefit of hindsight, you can see what you learned from them. That becomes a really powerful story.”

Through their discussion with Todd Davis, Jerome and Julienne illustrated how the art of storytelling, especially around difficult conversations and personal missteps, can build trust and foster a culture of continuous improvement and openness. By sharing our vulnerabilities and lessons learned, we not only enhance our own growth but also empower those around us to do the same.

Tune In

For more insights on how storytelling can transform leadership and foster trust within teams, listen to the full episode of Leadership Story Talks with Todd Davis on

If you want to learn more about how to leverage Narativ’s storytelling training for your business, you’re welcome to schedule a free 15-minute call with Jerome.

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About The Author

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Our editorial team at Narativ is a group of experts led by CEO and business storytelling craftsman, Jerome Deroy. We aim to create educational and informative content relevant to the emerging trends in business leadership, sales, team building, and onboarding.

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