[Article] What else can you do?

Some years ago I read a post on Bob Howard-Spink’s blog in which he compares to-do lists with Leonardo Da Vinci and suggests that as well as a ‘to-do’ list, we can all benefit from having a ‘things I’ve done’ list.

(You can read the complete post at http://dld.bz/brfZr – I checked and it’s still there).

So it got me thinking. Have you ever noticed that there’s something you find easy to do, but which other people admire and regard you as very skilled because you can do it when they find it hard?

Chances are, you acquired that skill in a completely different phase of your life or in a different context, but nonetheless it gave a capability that you can be proud of.

For example, in my 20s, when I did a lot of competitive debating, I never imagined that one day it would give me total confidence in front of a video camera! But when I trace back the origin of my ability to speak to camera without any notes, I’m pretty sure it’s a consequence of many hours spent at a particularly barbaric form of debating known as ‘2-person debating’. (Five minutes to prepare then the toss of a coin decides which side you’re on).

Whatever the niche that you currently operate in, I’m sure there’s a lot more that you can do and many more activities that you enjoy.

What about making a list of your capabilities? Not the kind of list you make to impress a potential client or to put on a CV. Just a list for your own pleasure. A list of things you can do. To remind you how far you’ve come in your journey through life and to appreciate the opportunities you’ve had.

My list would include: Hanging wallpaper, baking a cake, reversing a canal boat into a berth (you don’t know how impressive that is unless you’ve ever tried it!), ballroom dancing and chairing a meeting with formal progress of a motion in line with Roberts’ Rules of Order. And I might add measuring a man for a bespoke suit but I wouldn’t want to brag…

So, come on, today celebrate the amazing skills that you’ve picked up over the years and revel in the variety of different things you can turn your hand to.  There is more to life than niche marketing!

Add your list to the comments, please!

[Video] Neurological levels

Neurological levels is a concept pioneered by Robert Dilts back in the early days of NLP, but somehow it seems to have been overlooked in a lot of modern NLP training. Some schools of NLP still include it, but others have disregarded it. So if you haven’t come across this model before, I really encourage you to explore it in more detail…

[Video] The Map Is Not The Territory

In this video I talk about what’s often regarded as the first presupposition of NLP – ‘The Map is not the Territory’.

This has been talked and written about a great deal and, if you haven’t come across it before, it’s simply a way of expressing the fact that our perception of the world is more like a map than it is the real territory. The reason why this is included as a cornerstone of NLP, is that it recognises that everybody lives in their own subjective version of the world.

So what does it look like when someone really takes on the NLP presupposition of ‘The Map is not the Territory’? Find out how adopting this filter can reduce your daily stresses…

To learn more about this, and the other presuppositions of NLP, take a look at our Executive NLP Practitioner Module One training here.

[Video] The 5-Minute NLP Seminar

People often ask me “What is NLP?” and there are lots of definitions, but when it comes to what you actually do in the practice of NLP, there is a very quick version of it.

So this is NLP in a nutshell – or at least, how to operate like an NLP Practitioner…

If you want more than 5 minutes’ worth of NLP knowledge, you can always take a look at Module One of the Executive NLP Practitioner Training here.

[Article] What’s wrong with being a perfectionist?

My friend called in for a cup of coffee and a chat and found me doing the ironing. I made coffee and she pulled up a kitchen chair as I resumed my work. Although she was telling me her latest news I noticed her watching closely as I transformed a crumpled heap of fabric into an immaculate, crisp white shirt.

“You’re good at ironing.” It was as much a question as a comment.

I excused my ability to execute this mundane household task with such precision and finesse: my Mum taught me when I was young, I was a keen dressmaker in my twenties, the window-dressers in my retail career showed me…

Why not just acknowledge the compliment?

Instead I made it a fault:

“I’m so good at it, it takes me ages. I used to have to pay someone to do it badly for me!” It’s kind of a joke. Or is it?

The real truth is, I’m a perfectionist. Almost whatever I do I want to do well. Really well. Perfectly, in fact.

And it was never an issue until I started joining personal development programmes in my thirties. There I learned that perfectionism is regarded as a disorder. It attracts pitying glances and patronising comments. I played the game and pretended I wanted to rehabilitate.

But I never really changed in that respect. I learned a lot about myself and about what drives me. I discovered how to manage my emotional reactions and respond to other people’s. But secretly I still wanted to be perfect.

So, for all the other un-reconstructed perfectionists out there and everyone else who didn’t even realise it’s supposed to be a bad thing, here’s my guide to the ups and downs of being a perfectionist.

It’s a problem being a perfectionist if:

  • You obsess over small details and never feel that a job is actually complete
  • You can’t get started on a job because you’re anxious about getting it – not wrong – just not perfect
  • You get annoyed with other people who don’t share your desire for perfection
  • You constantly feel that nothing you do is good enough

It’s okay to be a perfectionist if:

  • It makes you keen to learn and practise new skills
  • It motivates you to work hard and do your best
  • You enjoy the results – high quality output and a sense of satisfaction
  • You feel proud of your achievements

You see, the thing I realised recently is that the idea that Perfectionism is a Bad Thing is born of the belief that nothing can ever be perfect. Therefore seeking perfection is a waste of time and energy and creates stress.

I hold a different belief. I believe that perfection is attainable. In my opinion, that crisp white shirt is perfectly ironed.

I also believe that it’s good to strive towards unattainable goals. Far better that than slouching towards something you can do with no effort and can derive no satisfaction from achieving.

Those of us who get labelled as perfectionists may sometimes suffer stress because of it. But I’d rather keep my high standards and my drive for perfection than descend into the well of mediocrity that seems to be the outcome of all that well-meaning personal development advice.

[Article] The weekly one-to-one – why bother?

How many people do you have in your team? Four? Five? Ten? More?

If you have a large team, the idea of conducting weekly one-to-ones with each person can seem overwhelming, so it’s not surprising that lots of people report that their manager regularly cancels their one-to-one meeting.

Some people are disappointed by this; others don’t care. Some tell me the meeting is usually a waste of their time anyway. But if you’re a manager of people and you’re not having a regular, scheduled, structured one-to-one meeting with each of your direct reports, you’re missing out.


If you don’t have a regular, scheduled, structured meeting with a person, you won’t know what’s going on for them, you won’t know how best to support them and you won’t be able to help develop them.

Some managers excuse themselves from conducting one-to-ones on the basis that they ‘see everyone all the time’. ‘If they have something to tell me, my door is always open’. Worse still, there are senior managers who think that because their direct reports are all managers in their own right, they don’t need regular one-to-ones. They can manage themselves, can’t they?


The weekly one-to-one needs to be just that. A regular weekly meeting just for the two of you. When your team members know they’ll be speaking to you within the week AND they know exactly when that will be, they save up non-urgent questions, reports and discussion and bring them to the one-to-one. If they don’t know when their next one-to-one will be, you’ll get a lot more interruptions to your day with non-urgent conversations.

So having a regular scheduled session with each person in your team helps your time management. It funnels a lot of conversations into planned meetings instead of having them crop up at any time.  Of course there will still be the urgent discussions and problem-solving sessions, but you’ll have more time and energy to deal with those once the non-urgent stuff is under control.

Four or five or ten or more regular meetings in a week might seem like a lot, but in fact, the one-to-ones need only be 10-15 minutes.

That’s why you need a structure. A ‘standing agenda’ if you like. The value of this is it gets you into good habits. Your people know what you expect and can come prepared.

For example, the meeting might include the following:

Successes: the best strategy for getting the best from every person in your team is to focus on successes. Help people build on their strengths and learn from their successes. The more you know about what’s working and why, the easier it is to achieve more.

Challenges: your role as a manager is to make it easy for your people to succeed. If you know the challenges, you can discuss the support you can offer and monitor the degree of challenge to ensure it’s right for each person. Some people love a big, impossible goal; others are content to stretch in smaller ways. It’s your job to harness that into great business results.

Updates:  share the latest information relating to clients, suppliers, projects, products, campaigns – whatever your work is all about use the one-to-ones to keep each other informed.

Plans, targets and goals: what’s on the agenda for the coming week? Once you know what each person is planning to do, you can offer support, monitor progress and encourage everyone to do their best.

So you see, a weekly one-to-one is a mini coaching session as well as chance to swap information. Use it as a means of encouraging and developing your people and you’ll soon see their performance increasing.

Furthermore, when you stick to a regular schedule of one-to-ones you show your employees you respect them, you care about them and they are important. You also show them how to manage their own team and how to manage time effectively.

What could be more important than that?

[Article] Mind, Body and Business

There is a basic principle of NLP that says ‘the mind and the body are all one system’.  So as well as taking care of your mindset, how about taking care of your body?

It’s probably all too familiar to you that it’s hard to do your best work or make good decisions if you haven’t had enough sleep, had too much alcohol or you’re suffering with some physical ailment. Most people will do the ‘sensible’ thing and go to bed early the night before an important meeting or event.

How often though, do you take care of yourself simply to face an ordinary day in the office? And do you know what physical factors make the greatest difference to your overall well-being? For example, lots of people drink several cups of coffee in a day. For some, that’s fine. For others, who are not aware of their sensitivity to caffeine, those regular cups of coffee could be causing a level of physical stress that would be a barrier to working effectively.

Some people work in cramped conditions, huddled over a laptop in a corner of the dining room or spare bedroom. If that’s you and you don’t remember to stretch regularly, your mind will become as cramped as your body.

So today, take stock of how well you’re treating your body and become aware of how you can enhance your mindset by boosting your physical well-being.

[Article] A Good Read

I can’t remember a time when I couldn’t read. My older sister says she taught me to read as soon as she learned, which would mean I was not yet three years old when the mysteries of the written word began to be revealed to me.

Whether or not that’s true – and you and I know that early memories are far from reliable – I do remember reading aloud fluently to the teacher in my first week at school, and wondering at the others around me who stumbled and mumbled and made no sense of the words on the page.

Perhaps that’s why I’m a compulsive reader. I read everything. Books, newspapers, junk mail, the back of the cereal packet, billboards, road signs, public notices, planning notices and menus. Very little passes under my eyes without being read.

And novels. Everything from Jane Austen and Thomas Hardy through JRR Tolkein and George RR Martin to Bernard Cornwell, Iris Murdoch and Margaret Attwood.

For me, there isn’t much that beats the pleasure of a good book. I love to lose myself completely in a story. As a child, I used to read under the bedcovers at night. As a student, I would reward myself for ploughing through academic papers and text books by stealing an hour to read fiction.

An unhealthy obsession? A waste of time? A distraction?

Actually, I think not. (Well, I wouldn’t be writing about it if I thought it was a problem, would I?)

A large part of the learning we do as human beings is learning to live in social groups. We live in interdependent societies and unless, as individuals, we are able to cope with other people we are at a disadvantage.

Stories are part of the fabric of human history. Every culture and civilisation has its myths, legends and stories of everyday folk. These metaphors of everyday life teach us about others and – less obviously – about ourselves.

In NLP the power of metaphor has been demonstrated over and over again. A great story slides under psychological defences and engages directly with the deeper levels of the mind. What seems to the conscious awareness to be ‘just a story’ is taken much more personally at the below conscious levels.

Metaphor delivers subtle learning and intuitive insight. Reading offers a glimpse into the world of the writer – not just in the invention of the story, but in the use of words. Every writer puts together the language in their own unique style, giving the reader a privileged insight into the workings of the writer’s mind.

This is my justification – if I needed  one – for a lifetime of reading fiction and a dining room full of books:

Reading a novel gives the reader an alternative view of life. However divorced from current reality the story may appear to be, it speaks to our essential nature and leads the reader to explore new possibilities and different perceptions. It fills out our understanding of what it means to be human.

So, what have you been reading over the summer?

[Article] Motivation re-visited

Every business leader wants their people to be motivated. Preferably to do what the leader wants them to do!

There have been a lot of wise words written – and backed up by research – about what motivates people. In NLP we’re also interested in how people are motivated. That is, we look at the thought processes that create motivation.

You may be familiar with the idea of Towards and Away From motivation.

Towards motivation is the kind of motivation that is focused around the positive benefits of a particular course of action. “If I do this, I get something I want.”

Away From motivation is focused around avoiding something undesirable. “If I do this, I’ll avoid something I don’t want.”

Because of this, some people regard Away From motivation as negative and less effective than Towards motivation. But the point is, both ways of thinking produce motivation – they create the drive to do something.

It’s been pointed out to me that Away From motivation peters out once the worst has been avoided. That can mean that someone using an Away From motivation strategy can end up not achieving very much – just avoiding a lot of problems!

I’ve often been asked how to change a habit of Away From motivation for one of Towards motivation.

And yet…

Some of the most successful and goal-oriented people I’ve met are Away From motivated.

I started digging a bit deeper to figure out how that works.  And this is what I discovered:

It’s all to do with the time frame someone uses.

If you are focusing on the present, then once the immediate problem or discomfort ends, the motivation will run out. If you are focusing on the future, it’s a different matter.

A lot of very successful people are driven by the need not to fail in achieving their goals. That need to not fail keeps them working hard until the goal is achieved.

In the same way, Towards motivation that is present-oriented will have you lounging on the sofa, eating chocolate or drinking beer – because it feels good now!

Towards motivation that is future oriented will keep you working towards your goals, even if it’s painful today, the rewards will come tomorrow or next week or next month.

The key to success is not in the style of motivation you habitually use, it’s in the time frame that gets most of your focus.