The Art of Reframing

  • Jeff Gibbard
  • 7 min read

When was the last time you revised your resume or went on an interview?

Whether you realize it or not, you were engaged in a storytelling exercise.

  • Your resume is a story
  • What you say in the interview is a story
  • Your web and social media presence is a story

Anytime we communicate toward a destination, we are storytelling. We are engaged in acts of storytelling multiple times per day

  • Giving feedback is storytelling
  • Website copy is storytelling
  • Building a movement is storytelling

None of these stories exist in a vacuum. There is no objective story. Each story is framed, consciously or unconsciously, by how we tell those stories.

Stories at 30,000 feet

aerial photography of airliner

Good stories often include all of the following: characters, conflict, resolutions, progress, and tension. When we tell stories without these elements, we are still telling stories, they’re just far less interesting.

To forever improve your ability to tell a story, make sure every story includes these three elements:

  • Problem (Conflict)
  • Solution (Action)
  • Results (Resolution)

If you want to learn some other ways to tell stories, I suggest some of the following frameworks:

  1. The Red Thread Framework from Find Your Red Thread by Tamsen Webster
  2. The Storybrand 7 from Building a Storybrand by Donald Miller
  3. The Golden Circle from Start with Why by Simon Sinek
  4. The Idea Introduction Pattern from Pitch Anything by Oren Klaff

Framing at 30,000 feet

flying airplane over white clouds

The story is defined by what we choose to focus on within those three elements. This is the frame.

  • What problems are we choosing to focus on? Have we adequately described the problem?
  • How do we explain our solution? What should we give the greatest importance to?
  • What are the intended results? Did we choose something ambitious enough, or not enough?

The frame is the unique perspective through which the events of the story are seen. Changing the frame, changes the story. Changing the words, changes the frame.

Stories begin at the Destination

The best first step of crafting our story, or choosing our frame, is to know where we’re going.

  • Great stories are designed to build toward a destination.
  • Not-so-great stories wander aimlessly, in search of a destination.

Before writing your resume, walking into the interview, or giving that feedback, make sure you know where you want the story to end and what theme you want to come through loud and clear.

This is where the frame becomes clear.

Reframing

Reframing is the act of taking an existing story or idea, and changing what you choose to focus on in order to see the end result more closely match your intended outcome.

Now that we’ve covered some of the theory and process, let’s go into some examples.

It’s time to write your Resume

Let’s look at a few of the ways you can subtly reframe your resume to tell a better story.

First, start by deciding what your theme is. What should someone walk away with? Is it about people-first leadership, revenue growth, or cost-savings? Is it your work ethic, your quick thinking, or your willingness to color outside the lines? Once you have this, let it serve as the north star to guide everything in your resume.

Next, I’m going to give you three things you can do to shift how someone understands the story of your resume.

1. Shift Activities → Outcomes

It’s a reframe because you’re talking about the same job and the same events, but shifting the part of the work that you focus on. By doing this, you change how people perceive the same events.

2. Organize the outcomes by categories

Once you’ve reframed your activities into outcomes, try to organize them into no more than 4 categories of outcomes that — when combined — illustrate your theme. It’s a reframe because you’re no longer asking the person reviewing your resume to make sense of the accomplishments, or how they fit together but are instead clearly showing how they fit to prove the theme.

Example #1 If the theme is Leadership Your four categories might be: Growth, Innovation, Accountability, and Performance

Example #2 If the theme is Business Growth Your four categories might be: Process Improvements, Lead Generation, Sales, Calculated Risks

3. Make the story stand out! Design, picture, a flash of unique

Studies have shown that people’s perception about wine can be influenced by the music they are listening to as they drink it. Similarly, it’s been shown that what sticks out is what gets remembered. It’s the basis of most Brand Strategy. By making sure that your resume stands out, you are framing yourself as unique, and based on your choices, potentially altering how they read your accomplishments through the use of priming.

Get ready for that Interview

Inevitably, in every interview, the candidate is asked to talk about weaknesses. This is an ideal opportunity for reframing.

Let’s say this is how you would candidly describe your weakness:

“I almost never delegate, because I know if I do it, it will be right. So rather than take the time fixing others errors, I just do it myself. I have a hard time trusting people because I honestly believe I will do a better job than everyone else, so I either micromanage, or just do it myself. And because I am a perfectionist and cannot l hand in work until it is completely perfect.”

Ok, so, not great, and certainly not something a hiring manager would be thrilled to hear. However, if you know it’s a weakness and something you’re working on, you might try something like this…

“One area of growth that I’m consistently working on is my ability to delegate. I know it’s currently a weakness and I know exactly where it comes from. It’s always been very important for me to be recognized for my accomplishments. When someone I’m managing fails to deliver, I worry that it will be perceived as a poor reflection on me. At the same time I know in my heart that letting people make mistakes is the only way they will grow. In my pursuit of being the best manager I can be, I’m consistently working on letting go, halting my instinct to micromanage, and being ready to coach and support my team when they make mistakes.”

Reframing weaknesses is about focusing on your theme. Your weaknesses are almost always the other side of your strengths. Make it known that you are aware of it and working on it.

How to Criticize

Sometimes team members don’t come through. Sometimes, they consistently make the same mistakes. So, how can you reframe negative scenarios when all you really want to do is scream and yell at someone to just fix the problem?

For this one, I’m just going to refer you to my book, The Lovable Leader. The framework is called Sit on the Same Side of the Table and you can read all about it in the book.

Here’s the summary:

  1. Set the table
  2. Listen
  3. Practice Curiosity
  4. Validate
  5. Align
  6. Close the Loop

Doing this shifts you from criticizing to looking at your shared goals and collaborating on solutions. If you think the answer is the compliment sandwich, please read this first.

Think about your frames

I hope this post helps you to see more of your interactions through the lens of story, and empowers you with the ability to reframe those stories to help you accomplish your goals.

Remember that you can always step back and look at your life through the lens of a story. Your ability to communicate that story in a clear and compelling way helps people better understand you. Define your theme and frequently come back to it.

If people aren’t seeing where you want to go, you may not need to change your story, just how you’re framing it.

Becoming Superhuman
Becoming Superhuman
The Art of Reframing
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