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Becoming a Storytelling Coach

by Doug Lipman

An earlier version of this article appeared in The Storytelling Coach Newsletter.
You may want to refer also to:


You've coached me well, and I've seen you coach others.
How do I learn to be a storytelling coach myself?
- Christine Shumock, Auburn AL

Just as anyone can learn to tell stories, anyone can learn to coach .

The skills you need are, in part, technical:

  • using the four-step method
  • coaching, and getting direct feedback on what you did
Yet you also need personal skills:
  • how to relate to the person you coach
  • how to deal with your own feelings.
Anyone can do it - yet the more you learn, the more helpful you can be.

Learn to coach by coaching.

Start with peer-coaching. Take turns with a buddy. First one coaches, then you switch roles.

To get started, use the four-step method:

  1. Listen to the storyteller
  2. What went well in the storytelling?
  3. How could it be even better?
  4. What else would the teller like from the coach?
Using this structure, even a beginner can be helpful.

Get direct help with your coaching skills.

Ask for feedback on your coaching, using the same four-step structure: "What was helpful about my coaching?" etc. You can do this:

  • with a peer-coaching buddy, or
  • in a group of three or four.
The larger group will give you more attention, and more thoughts about how to improve.

Also, get help with your storytelling from others. Learn what helps you personally. Learn how to give feedback when others coach you. Learn how to help someone else help you.

Develop your interpersonal skills

Coaching depends on your interpersonal skills as much as on your technical storytelling skills.

To coach well, you need to

  • gain the teller's trust
  • honor the teller's feelings
  • be comfortable enough with your own feelings about the teller's issues that you can consult your feelings but not be distracted by them.

Pursuing your own personal growth will reap direct benefits for your coaching. Coaching, like any complex skill, depends on building on your strengths and getting help with your weak areas.

Give yourself permission to make lots of mistakes, viewing them as opportunities to learn. The bigger the mistake, the more you stand to learn from it!

Be persistent in asking for the feedback that will help you capitalize on your goofs.

Keep in mind that your goal as coach is not to be right, but to empower the teller. Ask for help when you need it. Respond uniquely to each situation.

Use your vulnerability as a new coach as an opportunity.
Since you don't know everything, you can model for your clients an attitude of cheerfully, flexibly exploring an unknown world of creativity. That's what we all need permission to do in our storytelling!

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This page was last updated on Friday, November 28, 2003
Copyright©2003 Doug Lipman