Neuro-Linguistic Programming is an interpersonal communication model that was developed in the United States. It is a model of communication which enables NLP practitioners to uncover the relationship between individuals’ successful patterns of behaviour and the patterns of thought underlying them.
NLP provides its practitioners with tools, such as interview techniques, key questions and practical activities, which they can use in their communications with individuals in a variety of different settings.
In application to management, NLP is used to discover managers’ underlying beliefs, values, capabilities and behaviours, and how they impact on their decision-making process.
One approach used in NLP asks respondents to close their eyes and describe the last really positive day they could remember at work. The aim of this task is to begin to identify people’s values, with the understanding that motivation is linked to the extent to which important values are satisfied.
The goal in using NLP for management is to manifest new and better behaviours in individuals and throughout organisations, by getting to the heart of a manager’s strengths and weaknesses. By identifying positive behaviours, practitioners are then able to share experiences across their organisations, ensuring best practices can be emulated and weaknesses worked upon.
As the Chief Executive of CMG, I have utilised NLP communication tools with CMG’s leadership team. I think this is a first for the sector and I did it with the aim of driving up management skills and uncovering best practices among the group.
NLP with senior management
As an NLP Master Practitioner, I have found its methods extremely useful for understanding how CMG’s senior leaders approach their role. To trial this, I recently employed NLP in an exercise with CMG’s regional directors which helped to identify particularly strong areas of their leadership.
It can often be difficult for managers to communicate exactly what it is they do so successfully in practice. Using NLP techniques enables senior management to really understand the different strategies that are used day-to-day. It is these strategies that make them successful leaders.
In the trial with CMG’s regional directors, similarities between the directors were identified as well as significant differences in the way each approached their role. This then enabled at least one or two areas in which each regional director was particularly strong to be recognised. What this creates is a rich opportunity for each of them to learn from each other’s approaches.
Identifying the range of skills that the regional directors use was interesting. It included a number of approaches they had personally developed without realising how effective they were. It also identified the strong values which they all displayed, and highlighted that every regional director had shared values around the importance of service users having a good quality of life and developing as individuals.
Ultimately, the goal in using techniques such as NLP is to discover what works for different members of the team and then enable them to share these best practices across the board. This has the scope to raise their overall competence as a team, which will, of course, filter down to the quality of care service users receive.
Management point of view
Cheryl Bishop is one of the regional directors who used the NLP methods to identify her values and ways of working, which she found extremely valuable. She found great benefits from the experience. Cheryl explained, ‘I really found it to be an invaluable exercise, Peter was full engaged and really made me feel at ease throughout, which led to a very constructive session.
‘The benefits of such in-depth and carefully considered questioning meant we were able to really get to the core of what I was doing day-to-day that was so positive, and reinforced that I was on the right track.
‘What was especially brilliant about the experience, was not only the confidence it gave me in my work but the opportunity to learn from others. As a regional director, you can often work in isolation from others on your level and there is not always the chance to share and evaluate your experiences. Throughout the exercise with me, Peter was able to share his findings from sessions with other regional directors and, as a direct result, I was able to adopt some of their methods in my own practices, which has enhanced my work.
‘For example, I learnt through the discussion that I could further individualise my management style, this has made a real difference to the support I offer my managers. Ultimately, this has contributed and filtered down to the quality of care we are offering our service users.’
Sharing with the wider sector
This highly innovative approach to care management is something that can be shared with the rest of the social care sector.
NLP can be used as part of a wider organisational strategy to drive up standards of care by improving and innovating management skills among senior staff. It is an activity which ensures managers are engaging in self-reflectivity, openness and communication which, in my experience, are vital qualities for all staff to employ in the care sector.
Importantly, NLP can be used by leaders in the care sector to really understand the qualities which make managers and individual services successful; this information can then be used to raise standards across an organisation and really narrow down and target improvement efforts.
I encourage anyone who is interested in exploring NLP for use in the care sector to get in touch. There are many different NLP courses available and I would be delighted to discuss my experiences.
The sector doesn’t often see enough emphasis placed on innovation in social care. However, by thinking ‘outside the box’ and using alternative tools such as NLP, we have the opportunity to develop the skills of staff and really heighten the standards of care that the sector is able to offer its service users.
A central ethos at CMG, and the driving force behind everything we do, is to work continuously towards building upon the high quality of care on offer for the people we support. Using tools such as NLP is one way to ensure we meet this commitment.
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