Professional Storyteller

Share a Story - Change the World

As we think about how to coach best - and how to be a smart, empowered recipient of coaching - it may help to discuss our various conceptions of the role of the coach in the first place.

What Is the Job of the Teller?

For me, the immediate job of the storyteller, in the moment of telling, is to help listeners form a relationship with the story. (I am not talking about telling for the teller's sake here, such as when I tell a story for my own healing, but about telling for the listeners' sake.) If we think of the basic elements of the storytelling event, they form a triangle superimposed on the context in which the event takes place:



The two relationships we have any control over are our relationships with the story and with the listeners. But our goal, our listeners' relationship with our story, is beyond our reach to influence directly.

Therefore, we must influence it indirectly, by the thousands of decisions we make every second. Some decisions are conscious ("What story should I tell now?") and some are unconscious ("Exactly how long should I hold the second syllable of this word?").

To do the job of the storyteller, you must make those thousands of decisions, not with a checklist, but with what I call your creative intelligence, your ability to make so many decisions in service to your goals for your listeners.

What Is the Job of the Coach?

Therefore, I believe, it is not so useful to think of the job of the coach as applying the coach's intelligence to the story. Rather, the coach's job is to apply the coach's creative intelligence to the engaging and freeing of the teller's creative intelligence.

If I think my job is to fix your story, I will coach a certain way. But if I think my job is to help free your creative intelligence so that you can more effectively make rapid decisions when I'm not there, I will coach differently.

How do you react, dear members of this Coaching Storytellers group, to this definition of the role of the coach? Do you see it differently? Would you amend it?

All the best,
Doug

Tags: coaching, teaching

Views: 120

Replies to This Discussion

I like this: "...it is not so useful to think of the job of the coach as applying the coach's intelligence to the story. Rather, the coach's job is to apply the coach's creative intelligence to the engaging and freeing of the teller's creative intelligence."

Too many times we run acroos folks who are more interested in letting others hear nad see what they know rather than truly being interested in the other person. Could this be the "drawing out" side of the "adding in - drawing out" discussion?

I recently found myself in Ethiopia listening to a local teller that I had been coaching. As he told the story, I began to think to myself: "He's not telling it the way I would tell it!" As I listened though, I realized that it was okay; he was telling it wonderfully and there was nothing wrong with what he was telling or how he was telling it! I could then sit back and relax, basking in the knowledge that he was my student!
I love that moment: "He's not telling it the way I would...and that's ok." Bravo!
"If I think my job is to fix your story, I will coach a certain way. But if I think my job is to help free your creative intelligence so that you can more effectively make rapid decisions when I'm not there, I will coach differently."

Doug, I follow you - that's the good news.

Bad news is I'm left w/ handsful of question marks regarding precisely HOW one goes about freeing a teller's "creative intelligence so that s/he can...."

It reminds me a bit of "Who'll bell the cat?"

I understand if your response is "That's for me to know, and for you to find out" - but, perhaps, just a small hint?

Thanks,

Tom
Yep, the "how" is where all the heavy lifting happens.

Short hint #1: Discover what obstacle is in the way for the teller, and help the teller overcome it.

Hint #2: There are four broad categories of obstacles, although every obstacle is unique:

1. Needing more information;
2. Needing more experience of the story;
3. Misdirected effort(s);
4. Emotional blocks.

Often enough, there are multiple obstacles at any one time. Almost always, though, one of them is really the cause of the others, or the "key blockage." With experience, it's usually possible to guess which one that is pretty accurately. More importantly, the coach can help with one and see if that solves the others!

I talk about these in detail in The Storytelling Coach: How to Listen, Praise, and Bring Out People....
Hi Doug and everyone else.
I am new to the site and I was reading some of the things that had been said in the past. I find the thoughts from Doug interesting. As I said I am fairly new to this craft and most of the coaching I have received focuses on the story and why would I want to tell that story! I can see that if the coach looks at the skill of the teller and then asks or re-asks the questions the teller should or has already asked himself about the story then a new way of looking at the story starts to open up. When I have hear an old story told from a different point of view I am often surprised, and say to myself oh, I can tell that in 1st person? Or maybe I never thought I could put actions with a certain story. I believe that is where the coach helps to open up new doors of expression, creative intelligence. Maybe even a small thing about changing the pace of the telling. A coach should be able to spot speech patterns and mannerisms that can be developed in the teller to help them grow into their own style. I think that a teller's style can grow and change and they may have many. But their ability to engage the listener becomes more stable as they improve. The job of the coach therefore is help the teller engage his listeners every time he tells. Interesting topic.
Thanks.
You're welcome, and thanks for your reply.

I like the way you state the job of the coach: "to...help the teller engage his listeners every time he tells."

That's the goal, for sure.

The coaching you mention, which focuses on why you want to tell a story, is focused on a key issue: the teller's goals in telling a story, or more broadly what I call the Most Important Thing, or MIT. I have posted a free article about that.

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