Leverage your career by mastering the art of storytelling

CEO and storytelling expert Robert Hartwell shares advice on how to use an ancient art form to propel your career.

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As a former journalist, I’ve crafted my life around the art of storytelling but it wasn’t until I began telling my own story as an entrepreneur that I understood its power—not only on the audience but in the evolution of my own identity. The more I talk about my leap of faith from TV news into career coaching, the more I recognize my own strength and it empowers me to step into my purpose even more. Similarly, I think this is what Robert Hartwell, CEO of Strength on Stages means when he says storytelling is about how we free ourselves and others. 

“I don’t believe that we survived a pandemic and we got through this thing for us,” said Hartwell told me. “I think it is connected to helping and healing others. I think our lives should be about the service of others. When we think of, especially as Black and brown people, all that we have been through and all that we have come through, we have to tell the story to not only remind ourselves but remind the future generation how we overcame. And if we did it before, we’ll do it again,” he added.

As a well-known Broadway performer (in “Hello, Dolly!”, “Dreamgirls”, and “Memphis”, just to name a few), Hartwell has performed on the biggest stages in the world. He has also trained the next generation of Broadway stars through his multimillion-dollar arts educational company, The Broadway Collective. His own story even landed him a show, “Taking Back the House,” which airs in early 2023 on the Oprah Winfrey Network.

Hartwell believes people at every stage of their career, in any industry, can leverage storytelling to make connections and call people to action. Whether it’s a presentation in the boardroom on an interview for a dream role, storytelling can open doors and conversations that story-less conversations cannot. 

“What I decided to do was take all of the lessons that I learned as a Broadway performer and a director, choreographer, and an entrepreneur building this seven-figure company, and figure out what is the framework around identifying your signature story — and not just identifying it, but rehearsing it and then sharing it,” said Hartwell. “I think when we do that, it’s not based on facts and figures, but it’s based on our lived experience that’s not connected to self but connected to the service of others. That’s when change happens.”

To hear the full conversation as well as part of Hartwell’s five-point framework on effectively telling your story, watch this week’s episode of “The Reset with Coach Tish,” above. As a bonus, watch Hartwell wordlessly tell his story about buying a home built by slaves (using only his face, performance, and dance) in Pharrell and Jay-Z’s music video for “Entrepreneur.” Now that, my friends, is masterful storytelling. 


Letisha Bereola thegrio.com

Letisha Bereola is a life coach who helps ambitious women overcome burnout and reach their career goals so they feel great at work and happy at home. She’s a former Emmy-nominated TV news anchor, Podcast host of AUDACITY and speaker. Learn more: www.coachtish.co.


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