Our reviews of Shifting Stories by Andrew Scott

Our reviews of Shifting Stories by Andrew Scott

Shifting Stories book cover

15 March 2022

We recently read Shifting Stories by Andrew Scott in the EMCC UK Book Club. Andrew Scott describes the book as ‘a book for managers, coaches, and consultants who wish to help people improve their performance. It looks at the stories that people make up (their internal accounts of reality) and how those can sometimes be very unhelpful. It then discusses how to help people discover or access more helpful stories, and how to strengthen those more helpful stories in order to make them come true.’ Three of our Book Club reviewers – Rob Kemp, Clare Knighton and Jen Smollett – write below about their thoughts and responses to the book.

‘Are there more helpful, enabling stories which enable different futures?’
Review by Rob Kemp

Shifting Stories outlines the ManyStory approach, and its application in coaching from an individual, team, and organisational perspective:

Loosening the grip of unhelpful stories – identifying, naming, and surfacing the stories held by clients or coachees

Discovering more helpful stories – identifying, naming, and seeking the story which is more enabling

Enriching the plot of more helpful stories –seeking support, evidence, and richness in the story discovered, and embedding and anchoring that story

Andrew Scott clearly outlines the rationale for the ManyStory approach, and describes at length the use of the approach in case study. However, the case for the approach being somewhat different from narrative coaching, re-framing, cognitive behavioural coaching, positive psychology, and other approaches, is not fully made, in my view.

I did like the fact that Andrew headed up that question in the introduction, but also felt that a case could have been made at the end to back up his statement that ‘it’s a little bit like all of them, but it is also different in a number of important ways’. I’m not sure I fully understand those important ways, as I see high similarity and low difference – but I’m also willing to be convinced as I liked his writing style which was clear and to the point.

What is useful, though, is the laying out of a sequence to support the approach, and how that promoted change in many instances.  It would be easy for those wanting to try the approach to see how to do it, with the pitfalls highlighted through Andrew’s experiences, even the ‘when it didn’t work’ section.

I was curious about the links between Shifting Stories and another book I’ve read recently – Julia Galef’s The Scout Mindset. There are many links and resonances between the two books about how we choose to see the world. Galef also poses the question of the utility and function of holding onto a particular way of thinking and being, and I was curious around the ‘defence mechanism’ which Andrew talked about. I would be interested in reading more about the purpose of that mechanism for people (and for me). Why do we hold onto our unhelpful stories, as Andrew puts it?

There is plenty in this book to prompt learning – I have been having personal reflections, and I am still doing so after reading the book.  Whilst I’m aware of my own storytelling, to myself and others, I have become very questioning of the purpose and role of those stories, and I’m wondering whether there is another way – prompted by the book. Are there more helpful, enabling stories which enable different futures? In this respect, the prompt to learning is profound.

I’ve talked a little about my own personal response to Shifting Stories, and the insights or explorations I am making because of it. The fresh insight I have gained from the book is a prompt to re-evaluate my story, and to think about when this approach would help to enable shift in my clients.

I’m highly attuned and pay a good deal of attention to the stories my clients tell about themselves and others – but having a guide to listen deeply without challenge, offer up opportunities to redraw, and to support that new way of thinking is very useful. I think particularly the prompt to ‘honour’ people’s stories resonates with me, as I have a tendency to be highly challenging around interpretation – and Andrew illustrates why this is important to hold in abeyance at this point in the process.

The importance of stories and how they flow through life’
Review by Clare Knighton

Shifting Stories is a really lovely, easy, yet thought provoking read. Its main aim is to make you think about – and possibly reframe – the way you look at problems, people, and the stories they have. I love the ManyStory concept, and really warmed to the approach Andrew takes in his book.

The book is written in a very engaging, and easy-to-read way, and I like the small illustrations thoughout. Shifting Stories is a fresh reminder of the importance of stories and how they flow through life. The book’s case studies have made me think about my own practice, and I hope it won’t be far away from my desk as it’s the kind of book to dip into and refresh your thinking every now and again.

Shifting Stories has left me wanting to create time and space to think about my own stories, and how I might craft them in a more effective way. I will also use this approach when I facilitate learning, to help others see and use a multi-story approach.

‘I feel more equipped to coach teams using this approach’
Review by Jen Smollett

Shifting Stories lays out a framework of using stories for individuals and organisational teams. It shares case studies written within the framework, followed by a more detailed explanation of the ManyStory approach in relation to each case study.

In terms of the 1:1 approach, this framework is at a level that would suit a new coach; however, in terms of team coaching, the book would be helpful to all levels of coaches, as it provides a strong framework for the whole process. I was particularly interested in the ‘complacent team’ – a circumstance many team coaches find themselves in.

The flow of the book is beautiful, and it is easy to read, follow and understand. At the end of each chapter there is a pointer towards the author’s blog, where you can explore each topic further.

Shifting Stories feels accurate, except perhaps the view it takes on how the ManyStory approach differs to more general coaching. It is my belief (or story) that coaching puts the individual as the expert in their own life, and also includes them as the author of their own story. The book also feels very accurate, as well as current, in terms of team coaching.

In the book’s introduction, Andrew Scott identifies psychological theories he has drawn from, but I would suggest there are others, too, such as acceptance and commitment therapy or coaching. No references are included in the book, nor a bibliography or other resources, tools or guides. It could be these are included in the author’s blog, but it would have been helpful to include them in the book.

I feel more equipped to coach teams using this approach, especially as it feels very intuitive.

Shifting Stories – click for all our Book Club resources for this book