Paradigm shift

January 4, 2013

Perhaps the secret of successful coaching is helping people to look at life in a different way…  Try this thought-provoking video:

PS: This might be a little cheesy but don’t underrate the power of empathy.

Neuro-linguistic Programming

December 4, 2010

I was waiting at a railway station recently and wandered into the bookshop. What struck me when I got to the ‘management’ section was the number of books on Neuro-linguistic Programming (NLP). NLP is an interesting (and highly successful) phenomenon that brings together elements of linguistics, behaviour modification, hypnosis and many other things besides. Popularised by Richard Bandler and John Grinder it seems to offer a quick and powerful way of understanding the link between the unconscious mind, language and behaviour; and to provide a channel for breaking out of learned patterns and of modelling successful behaviour, so increasing personal effectiveness. And make no mistake it is now big business, and is widely used not only for personal development, but extensively in management training, coaching and sales.

Despite its undoubted popularity it remains a controversial set of techniques, in particular when it’s used in a sales context. To take an example: consider what happens when you ask a person to do something and they respond by saying: ‘I can’t make that decision now.’ Obviously they are being resistant, but why?

NLP suggests that you try to spot which bit of the response is given the most emphasis, so if it’s on ‘now’, the problem is with the timing; on ‘that’, the issue is with what the person is being asked to do; on ‘make’, that they may not have the capability to make the decision; on ‘can’t’, that they don’t believe they can do it; and finally, on ‘I’, that it’s something ‘I’ cannot do. This is all fine and dandy and if it was proven to work it would be a really fantastic sales technique, as it would allow you to zero in on the real block to action. However the issue that bedevils NLP is that there is no empirical evidence that supports its effectiveness. Yes, there’s lots of anecdotal stuff but the hard science is missing. This also goes for the other bit of NLP that most people remember: the link between the movement of the eyes and the part of the brain that is being accessed. For example, eyes down and to the right, a person is being asked something about their feelings.

So what? Well, I cannot say for certain that all of the techniques that comprise NLP do not work. There may well be useful bits. However it has been enormously over sold, in particular on the back of its apparently science-based credentials – which it does not have. More to the point it doesn’t feature in mainstream psychology texts and is not taught on psychology degree courses. So perhaps in the words of Douglas Adams: ‘If it looks like a duck, and quacks like a duck, we have at least to consider the possibility that we have a small aquatic bird of the family Anatidae on our hands.’ The bottom line is that it doesn’t hold up as a coherent approach, and almost certainly is just too good to be true.

Note: There’s much on the Internet both for and against NLP. However if you’re interested in a more scientific view of the area, try Martin Heap’s website.

Business Psychologists: What do they do?

June 9, 2010

Business psychologists work with organisations helping them to solve peopley problems. Now unfortunately anyone can call themselves a psychologist, so you need to check if they’re a member of the British Psychological Society, and are also registered with the Health Professionals Council (HPC). Don’t worry about the ‘health’ bit, business psychologists – who in the UK are more accurately called Occupational Psychologists – are regulated by the HPC. Even more confused? I’m not surprised, the words ‘health’ and ‘occupational’ usually make people think of Occupational Therapy which is a different thing entirely. Ooh I wish I’d never started. Anyway, back to the point. Business psychologists are the guys to call for help with recruitment, especially the assessment & selection parts (profiling people to discover the best candidates); training & development (tapping into their true potential), coaching & mentoring (grooming them for success); leadership & team building (finding out if they really have the right stuff); HR strategy (working out what to do if they leave); human factors (making the office cosy*); organisational culture & change (trying to make sense of the bright ideas from the Board); work performance (finding out what people do all day), motivation & reward (now, what’s the ratio of carrots to sticks?); looking after their psychological health (in a non-clinical, work-life balance sort of way) and careers counselling (ever thought of being a management consultant?)…

In addition some develop psychometric tests, questionnaires, surveys and the sorts of exercises you may have encountered if you’ve applied for a job with a medium to large-sized organisation.

*Before I get rude emails from Human Factors experts there’s obviously more to it than painting the walls a jolly colour, opening the windows and a few pot plants. This area really covers human-machine interaction (how to design things so that we can actually use them), risk analysis and a whole bunch of other pretty serious stuff.

<title>Business Psychologists, Occupational Psychology & Organisational Development</title>

The ‘Yes I can’ school of coaching

April 9, 2010

You’re nobody these days if you aren’t being coached. But does it work? And if it does, what’s happening? Frankly I’ve always thought that development coaching was just a way of helping people to sharpen up their act, often in the area of soft skills, and that most just want someone to help facilitate their progress and act as a sounding board – or to be a ‘thought partner’ as it’s sometimes called. And that was more or less it. As for the measurable stuff, or trying to gauge return on investment, well, that’s next to impossible to establish. Or is it? I’ve just been looking at an article on the impact of coaching in the workplace that seems to hint at genuine gains in self-efficacy. Self what? For those of you of a psychological persuasion you may remember that self-efficacy sits at the heart of Albert Bandura’s social cognitive theory. Which, to reduce it to its nuts and bolts, posits that those with high self-efficacy believe that they can perform well and so are more likely to view difficult tasks as do-able, rather than something to be avoided. Thus coaching appears to increase the ‘yes I can’ factor in a demonstrable way. No doubt with self-esteem following on behind. And if this still sounds a bit woolly remember that just over a year ago ‘yes we can’ featured in a speech by an aspiring politician. Let me think, what was his name? What did he end up doing?

Interested? Read Elouise Leonard-Cross’s article, Development coaching: Business benefit – fact or fad? in the March (2010) issue of International Coaching Psychology Review.


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