Lisa Bloom Q&A
I’ve been aware of Lisa for quite a while and mentioned her in a roundup of coaches who use story. She made wonderful contributions to the teleseminar I led last fall on why storytelling is getting so much attention now. I’m thrilled to present her Q&A.
Bio: Lisa Bloom is a highly professional and accomplished Storyteller, Training and Development Specialist and Professional Certified Coach (ICF) with more than 20 years experience working in public and private sectors, high-tech and financial services environments. Lisa has excellent capability in needs analysis, program development and delivery, and project management. She has proven ability in increasing organizational effectiveness through consulting, coaching, and learning and development skills. And she can spin a great yarn!
The real magic, however, has been in combining Lisa’s greatest passions, experience and skills to create Story Coach.
Q&A with Lisa Bloom:
Q: One thing that distinguishes you from other coaches who use storytelling in their practices is that you offer training to coaches in your techniques. Can you talk a bit about some highlights of training other coaches, as well as how you came up with the “Cinderella and the Coach” metaphor?
A: I love showing coaches how to use storytelling because it’s so instinctive for so many people, it’s like pointing out the obvious, the metaphor that lives in each client and each coach. What I mean is that I believe that we are all storytellers, in that we all tell our life stories all the time. We ‘tell’ how we got to work this morning, where we ate dinner last night and how we feel about Aunt Bertha coming to visit next week! We constantly tell our lives to the people around us. And the telling is completely subjective; we chose the words, we chose the narrative in every way. It’s like two siblings growing up in the same house, they tell a completely different story of their childhoods. What this means is that if we examine our stories, really look closely at what we choose to tell, we can determine whether our stories serve us well or whether they actually create the problems in our lives. So, our stories define our reality. As we examine this reality, we can make changes that help create amazing transformations in life.
Now clearly there are issues and incidents in life that we cannot change. But so often our suffering comes from the way we interpret and live with these unchangeable incidents. Coaching helps us find the tools and resources to change what we can and live better with what we cannot change. Story coaching helps us discover and tell the stories that create the new reality.
What I love about training other coaches is that, as a group, they are a very self-enlightened bunch! Coaches are personal development junkies! So working with them is a treat; their outlook is positive, they believe in the power of change and transformation, they are curious about other people and passionate about helping others achieve more fulfilling lives. Usually coaches love stories! Listening to stories is so much a part of our work, so when I give other coaches the tools and skill-set to really understand storytelling and how powerful it is in the coaching context, it helps their business and life thrive. There is no greater honor or joy for me!
The name, “Cinderella and the Coach — the Power of Storytelling for Coaching Success!” is a play on words (of course) but also immediately focuses on the power of the stories we live with. Everyone knows the Cinderella story, so there is an immediately connection. t is a story of transformation, and story coaching is intensely transformative so it fits the title!Q: How did you initially become involved with story/storytelling/narrative? What attracted you to this field? What do you love about it?
A: I have been telling stories my whole life, it’s a part of who I am! I think that with my Irish and Jewish upbringing, it was kind of inevitable! I discovered storytelling professionally when I was a training and development manager and found that the more stories I told, the more my training courses were successful. People responded to stories in an entirely different way than when I simply “taught” the material of the courses. So, I started to use stories more and more and found that the participants were so much more engaged and retained the material much better. I moved to coaching after I had young kids and wanted a home-based, self-run business. As I attained my professional coaching qualification, I wrote a research paper on the connection between storytelling and coaching and then I realised how incredibly interwoven the two fields are. So, as I developed my coaching practice, I started to see areas where other coaches could benefit from my use of storytelling.
I love telling stories. And I love to hear a good story told (or a story told well!). I believe that everyone has a story and that’s part of what fascinates me about story coaching. To be able to hear people’s stories, and help them tell their stories in an authentic and heartfelt way is an honor. It’s also incredibly empowering for my clients to understand how narrative is an integral part of how we define our lives, and for them to begin to create new stories. It’s true what they say, that when you find what you love and can make a living from it, you never have to work another day in your life! That’s how I feel about story coaching.Q: The storytelling movement seems to be growing explosively. Why now? What is it about this moment in human history and culture that makes storytelling so resonant with so many people right now?
A: I believe that there are several reasons for the explosive growth of storytelling. Here are the ones that I feel are most relevant:
Community: There has been a breakdown of traditional communities in most cultures. As a result, not only are people isolated socially, they are also lacking the access to the traditional lessons that were taught through community interaction. They have less opportunity to understand value systems that traditionally were taught through communities. Storytelling brings back that sense of community, values and a context in which they can be practiced. The stories communicate how people used to live and the lessons that were taught in the community setting. t is an access to the way the world used to be and the way people lived in that world; and it is welcomed by so many isolated individuals that crave the warmth, safety and clarity of values that a community can offer.
Technology: Nowadays, we are inundated with technology; and this allows us vast amounts of information that need to be deciphered and choices that need to be made. This unlimited supply of information becomes very confusing and quite overwhelming. As a result people have begun to crave the simplicity of the story. The simple story brings us back to a place of comfort (sometimes as a reminder of childhood) where things were clear. The choices are limited, the world within the story is familiar and predictable and the overall experience is safe and comforting.
What is interesting is that technology has also become a storytelling tool; so it is both the source of confusion and isolation while delivering the remedy to this problem through digital and technology enhanced story experiences.
The “Trust” Issue: Over the last few years, there has been major breaches of public trust, particularly in the area of personal finances, general economic solidity and the church. When your life long savings suddenly become worthless because someone else has been greedy and untruthful; when the nation’s financial institutions are threatening to collapse; when the church’s leading figures are accused of causing unspeakable harm to helpless community members (particularly children), you’ve got to wonder who you can trust. In this light of this major trust issue, the person who tells a story that you can believe in goes a long way to repairing faith and trust. I believe that as a result of these major breaches in trust, people crave stories that they can hear and instinctively believe in. When we don’t know who to trust, it is a relief to “believe” someone’s story; this is one of the main reasons that storytelling resonates so much for people at this present time in history.Q: You grew up in Israel, traveled to many other places globally, and returned to Israel. What cultural differences have to observed in the ways stories are told, used, and regarded around the world?
A: Actually, I grew up in Ireland and moved to Israel when I was 18. I spent the next 10 years in Israel, more or less, aside from about three years in the middle where I traveled extensively. Then, returned to Ireland for an additional seven years before setting up home here in Israel (again!).
I’m always fascinated how the same stories show up in many cultures. I told a traditional Irish story about two horses at a Storytelling Evening in Jerusalem. The host thanked me and then said that he tells the very same story about two donkeys in Jerusalem! This is not an unusual occurrence; it seems to be quite universal.
My experience is that the power of story and storytelling is universal. People love to hear stories and it connects them to a place of long ago, a time when society valued the storyteller more. I think that this sense of value of the power of stories and the important role of the storyteller has been somewhat lost in modern western world cultures. But, as we discussed earlier, there is a return to these values.
The Irish storytelling culture is very strong historically. However, it has been negatively affected by the economic boom in Ireland and the breakdown of the family and community. While there are less frequent gatherings of extended families or community, there is less opportunity to create the storytelling environment that was so rooted in Irish History. Nowadays, there is certainly a revival and I believe a strong emerging storytelling community. Similarly, the Jewish culture has traditionally cultivated stories and storytelling as a way to preserve history and values. This has somewhat broken down in modern society but where the traditions are practised, the stories thrive. Again, Israel is experiencing a revival of storytelling as an art form and there are more traditional storytellers here than ever!
In conclusion, my personal experience has not led me to see great differences in cultural attitudes to storytelling. Perhaps if I were comparing Africa or India to America, there would be more obvious cultural differences. I believe that storytelling is rooted in every culture and every place; and thankfully, it is being nurtured back to life as practitioners all over the world rediscover the almost lost culture and art of storytelling.
Q: What people or entities (such as Web sites, blogs, books, organizations, conferences, etc.) have been most influential to you in your story work and why?
There have been lots of influences in my life and work in relation to story.
- My parents told stories at home all the time and always encouraged me to tell my stories.
- My father’s wonderful friend, a Catholic priest, who used to read me bible stories, and later guided me in my own personal soul searching in relation to faith and the meaning in life. He is one of my first storytellers!
- Annette Simmons’ books: I love the way she writes and her books are jam packed with story wisdom. There are other authors and story practitioners that I am grateful to as well; Steve Denning, Sue Jennings, Jack Maguire, Clarissa Pinkola Estes, Allison Cox, to name but a few!
- Doug Lipman’s very wise and generous story guidance is a reference I go back to again and again to make sure my story delivery is right on the mark.
- The Moth.Org is a site that I visit regularly to hear and be inspired by very natural and entertaining personal storytelling.
- Byron Katie is a great inspiration to me in terms of examining your story in order to look at the reality you have created.
- The International Coach Academy has been a great support to me in my Story Coaching journey. They love storytelling and have encouraged me along the way in creating my programs for coaches.
- The International Coach Federation has supported me in accrediting my program “Cinderella and the Coach — the Power of Storytelling for Coaching Success!” and I will be participating in Virtual Education and Local Chapter programs in the next few months.
- And I must not forget TED.com that is a constant source of inspiration and awe!
[Pictured below: Top row, from left: Bible stories, Annette Simmons, Doug Lipman, The Moth; Bottom row: Byron Katie, International Coach Academy, International Coach Federation, TED.]