A quick reality check for your 2016 plans – 3 ways to seize control while there’s still time left

"So, Bookface, how are your plans for this year?" "Well, I filled my quota of cat pictures back in January..."Time for a quick reality-check. It’s now over a third of the way through 2016 – have your plans for this year materialised yet, or have you already told yourself “well, maybe next year…”

If that’s you, it’s time to be proactive and to begin designing your future.

Now, Woody Allen wasn’t far wrong when he said “If you want to make God laugh, tell him about your plans.”

In other words, not all designs work out as planned, so I’ve provided some guidelines that successful people use implicitly and which you can begin to use explicitly.

These are:

While following these systems doesn’t guarantee success, they will definitely show you what is workable and give you ways to get started on your hopes and dreams instead of waiting and hoping.

That’s it. Be proactive – do something definite and do it today…

Getting Ahead in Business – Avoid This Mistake and Gather Influence

[how can I help?] [It's always 'Me, Me, Me' with you, isn't it?]

When thinking about influencing others in the workplace, most people start off by making the same cardinal error. Avoid making this mistake and you can begin to impress decision makers at work and take control of your ability to get ahead.

The mistake I’m talking about is thinking about influence from your point of view only. That’s a lot like asking “What’s in it for me?” each time a new task comes up. Now, there’s no need to become a selfless martyring type, but do you want to become known as someone who only acts in their own interests?

Think instead about ways you can anticipate the needs of those around you – and especially those above you in the hierarchy. Again, there’s no need to be a kiss-ass. Don’t ask for ways you can help, because it actually places a burden on others to find you something to do. Instead, do your research so you can anticipate what’s coming up and act accordingly.

If you do this correctly, it will show three things about you:

  1. You know your work
  2. You see the bigger picture of the business you’re in
  3. You’re highly capable and proactive

Additionally, you can quietly impress those around you without having to make a big deal about it.

That’s real, lasting influence.

“I don’t need a coach”

“I’m doing well at what I do. No one can just come in and tell me how to do it better – they don’t know my business.”

That could well be true – and that isn’t what a coach does anyway.

Before considering what a coach does, consider this:

  • Usain Bolt has a coach
  • Barack Obama has a coach
  • Madonna has a coach

These are people at the very pinnacle of their profession – and they all benefit from the services of a coach.


To answer that, you need to know what a coach actually does that adds such tremendous value for even these high performers.

Coaching isn’t for wimps – it can involve looking into areas that you would rather ignore, or are sensitive about. This is usually where the greatest benefit of change may be found. It takes courage and a high degree of personal honesty to explore these areas – and grow as a result.

What is valuable about coaching?

  1. The coach acts as a sounding board for your ideas and outcomes.
    The important things in life often need some consideration. What if you could have someone really listen and help you to clarify your thoughts while you think out loud?
  2. The coach pinpoints any blind spots in your thinking.
    We all, at times, miss something important that is going on in our lives because we don’t know to look for it. It’s good to have a second pair of eyes looking out for new opportunities and things that are sabotaging your success.
  3. The coach helps you to create breakthroughs in vital areas of your life
    Sometimes, we get stuck and can’t see a solution or sometimes your performance plateaus. The insight of a person who thinks differently from you is vital at this point.

To find out how valuable this is to you, ask yourself this question:

“What impact would each of these three benefits have on your work life, your personal effectiveness or your happiness?”

Really think about it – and now is the time for some of that personal honesty – keep going until you have a list of at least ten items.

Now look at your list – how important is it to you to achieve those?

If you want to take this further, contact me. I can help you to do this.

Inside The Science of Ethical Influence

Since I teach hypnosis and NLP, plenty of people ask me about influence and persuasion. Many people wrongly assume that influence is about ‘clever’ language, often to the point of asking for ‘scripts’.

The truth is that the language is far less important than certain other motivating factors that surround the influence situation.

There are six universal factors in influence and persuasion that you should be aware of.


  • it is important to be aware of when someone might be trying to influence you against your interests
  • it is useful to know how to influence someone ethically

I know that, for some, the words ‘ethical’ and ‘influence’ don’t normally belong in the same sentence. The difficulty is that we can’t not influence each other, so – if you consider yourself to be ethical – you need to know how to do this for the best of all concerned. And ethical influence is the only good long term persuasion strategy.

The six influencing factors are described in the video below. This is the work of Dr. Robert Cialdini, the most cited expert on influence and persuasion.

Notice how so little of this is about clever or convoluted language. All influence depends on simple, normal everyday actions – done with awareness for mutual benefit.

Overstretched? This may help.

By guest blogger Susanna Bellini

Have you ever been asked to do something, agreed to do it and then regretted the energy and time necessary to complete the task?

Before you decide whether to commit your time and energy to a new project, ask yourself the following questions and make a better decision based on the answers:

1. Is this something I care passionately about? (i.e. is this my project, or am I being drawn into someone else’s?)

2. Who will this project benefit?

3a. What is the cost to me of participating? (e.g. Time, energy, money, stress etc.)
3b. What is the cost to me if I don’t participate (e.g. Pressure from others, social disapproval, feeling I am ‘letting people down’ etc.)

4a. What are the benefits to me of participating? (e.g. Social approval, avoiding hassle and pressure, sense of achievement, feeling worthwhile etc.)
4b. What are the benefits to me of declining to participate? (e.g. Free time, time for activities I find more worthwhile etc.)

Consider your answers and make a better decision based on the pros and cons arriving firmly in the positive!

This can be done quickly – the first answers ‘off the top of your head’ or with a bit more reflection – whatever seems most useful. If you do need more reflection time, tell whoever is asking you to do something that you will think about it and get back to them. Refuse to be drawn into immediate agreement as you may then feel ‘tied in’ because you ‘promised’!

At the end of this process a course of action will appear to be the best one. You may still not like it, or may find it difficult to do, but the main thing is that you have thought it through and it is now your choice. And your responsibility if you make the choice, but much fairer this way and something you can feel you own.

Hypnosis in Business?

When I talk about hypnosis to business people, I often get some strange looks. It’s also fairly obvious what they’re thinking at that point: “What place could hypnosis possibly have in business?”business hypnosis

This is a perfectly natural response because most people don’t really know about or understand hypnosis, so they draw upon one of the two apparent stereotypes of hypnosis available to them:

  • Stage hypnosis
  • Hypnotherapy

Both of these are applications of hypnosis – and both are distortions of what hypnosis really is.

In the case of stage hypnosis, if someone really had complete power over you, do you really think they would just use it to have you cluck like a chicken? In stage hypnosis, this illusion of control (and the showmanship surrounding it) is what makes the show entertaining. It’s not that someone is on stage pretending to be an aeroplane – it’s that someone appears to be making them do that. And that’s not what hypnosis is really about.

In the case of hypnotherapy, the hypnosis is reduced to a set of formal practices that have a healing effect. Despite the immense value of hypnotherapy, there’s really much more to hypnosis that that. And (to return to our main topic) do businesses really need therapy? Some might, but that’s not necessarily the best way of looking at business development.

Think about this: therapeutics is derived from the medical mindset, which is all about ‘getting to okay’. If you have any doubt about that, what would happen if you went to your doctor and said “I’m feeling healthy and well at the moment – could you give me any pills that make me feel fabulous?” Similarly, any business development focused on ‘getting to okay’ is a recipe for disaster – if being average is your highest aspiration, you might struggle to compete with those who wish to continually raise the bar on excellence.

What type of hypnosis has an important place in business? Think about this broader definition of hypnosis:

Hypnosis is a special form of everyday communication. It involves (or is characterised by)

  • Purpose-focused, or outcome-focused communication
  • explicit feedback which values verbal and non-verbal responses
  • access to authentic responses only
  • triggering of resourceful response and/or resourceful states of mind

Given that definition, I’m sure it’s becoming easier to see why hypnosis might be an essential part of the tool-set necessary for bringing out the best performance in others. To take it further, think about this:

What would business be like if your staff were at their best?

What would it be like if your suppliers were at their best?

And what would it be like if your clients were at their best?

What if your business was filled with clear, direct, authentic , purposeful communication. How valuable would that be to you?

So put aside stage hypnosis – it’s just for entertainment. Don’t ask someone with a therapeutic mindset to develop your business – unless you’re a long way short of ‘okay’.

Hypnosis does have a vital place in business. If you want to know more, ask me about specifics.

Book Recommendation – “A Whole New Mind” by Dan Pink

I was reading this interesting book last week and one point in particular caught my interest. The author, Dan Pink, says ‘story’ is one of six factors that are becoming increasingly important in our modern world.

How? It’s a product of information availability. At this point in history, there is so much information at our fingertips that for every point, a counter-point is usually available. So persuasiveness is not just based on the facts any more – the facts are now rarely decisive in and of themselves.

What does decide it is the best story – the most persuasive narrative around the facts.

Daniel Pink suggests that this is not a traditional skill of the type we expect to learn at school. In fact, this particular skill requires us to create rather than remember, to explore rather than choose, to challenge rules rather than obey.

How do you learn to do this? Pink doesn’t say so in his book, but it may surprise you to know that the skill-set for creating persuasive narrative is based on hypnosis.

Not just any hypnosis though. What I’m talking about here is the incorporation of hypnotic language into normal conversation. This is a completely separate skill-set from therapeutic hypnosis and stage hypnosis. Yet at its heart, it is still hypnosis.

My upcoming book will provide simple, practical ways of creating persuasive narrative of this type. For now, read the taster for some broad hints and clues to how you might learn to do this.

In the meanwhile, get Dan Pink’s book to find out more about ‘story’ and the other five factors.

When Less Can Be Better Than More

I’ve just been re-reading Tim Gallwey’s “The Inner Game of Work” and it has been interesting to note how well my ideas about learning dovetail with Gallwey’s principles.

For those of you unfamiliar with his work, Gallwey spawned a revolution in the field of coaching, starting back in the 1970s.

Gallwey’s passion was for tennis, so he became curious about how some people got good at the game and others never rose beyond a certain level of ability. Curiously, this difference in skill was not just down to effort and Gallwey, like me, was no believer in ‘natural ability’.

He theorised that we often behave as though we have two conflicting viewpoints, which he called ‘Self 1’ and ‘Self 2’. In Gallwey’s model, Self 2 is the ‘authentic’ self – the person we truly can be when we are at our natural best. By contrast, Self 1 is an agent of unintentional conflict or interference. Self 1 interferes with our natural flow by distracting us with instructions, critical inner dialogue and the need to consciously micro-manage our actions.

By this philosophy, being mindful of detailed instructions can actually get in the way of our natural ability. Gallwey found that normal learning methods actually encourage the types of behaviour that get in the way of excellence!

Independently, I discovered this to be true for activities like public speaking. If you browse the internet or look in most books on public speaking, they give you a long laundry list of things you must do and things you mustn’t do.

For example, think about eye contact for a moment. Back when I started learning to be a trainer, I remember being told that I must give everyone ‘good eye contact’ when speaking. I asked for clarification – how much eye contact, or how often is good? I was told that two seconds was the norm. The entire learning group tried it out for a period of time – in presentations, conversations and everyday life. We all privately agreed that this felt awkward, forced and weird. And that the people we spoke with found it uncomfortable too.

Years later, I realised that it was the forced nature of the activity that made that type of training so unsuccessful. A simple – normally unconscious – activity had been made too conscious, too obvious. This was Gallwey’s ‘Self 1’ trying to call the shots instead of allowing Self 2’s natural, authentic eye contact.

So if traditional methods of instruction don’t really work very well, how can we learn to be excellent at what we do? Gallwey’s solution was simple, incredibly elegant and revolutionary. Anything we focus on can become part of our natural learning experience. So the instructor’s job was to focus the student’s awareness on where the learning was – in a non-judgemental way. Gallwey stopped telling people how to stand and move and started asking them to do things like watch the seam of the tennis ball as it approached.

By giving the student less to do, they had more faculties of attention – of focus – available for the true task at hand.

This was my aim when I wrote Presenting Power – to give people less to do and focus their awareness where it is most useful for their learning. Ten years of experience have taught me that this approach works better that the more traditional ones – and in some crucial ways.

Only last night, I saw an excellent example on the TV show ‘Dragon’s Den‘. For those of you unfamiliar with the show, it involves entrepreneurs pitching for investment to a panel of five wealthy businesspeople. In last night’s show, I saw the worst pitch ever and it was painful to watch. I sat and squirmed as one woman completely froze about half-way through her well-rehearsed pitch.

Her mind went blank and she just couldn’t pick up the thread of her presentation. As I see it, this happened for several reasons.

  •  we have best recall when we are in the same state of mind in which we learned the information

This premise is well supported by psychological research – she learned her pitch in a relaxed frame of mind and tried to recall it while under considerable stress. Consequently, the information just wasn’t there when she needed it.

  • she learned the pitch in a linear way, by rote.

Think of it like a (now old-fashioned) vinyl record. The record follows a single, steadily spiralling groove, all the way to the centre. Now picture someone bumping the turntable. The record skips – and doesn’t always find its groove again. This is what the speaker sounded like when she lost her cool – a broken record. She tried to start again and again. In the end, she just couldn’t pick up the thread of her pitch and had to stop right there.

Really, it wasn’t her fault. The method itself let her down by creating too much interference.

In public speaking, the voice of Self 1 – the voice of interference – is that of stress. This is the voice of ‘what should I be doing?’ or ‘what are they thinking?’ or ‘am I doing this right?’ This is the ‘what if?’ voice.

I’ve seen so many people struggle with a memorised pitch – I used to struggle with it myself. Fortunately, I found a better way to do things. I’ve had experienced speakers ask me how I remember everything when I give a 9-day seminar without using any notes. They usually think I’ve got some some sort of special memory technique, or that I’ve used my skill at hypnosis to memorise everything in a trance-like state 🙂

I reality, all I need to do is remain in the right state of mind and remember only two simple things per segment. Those are the only elements that are really crucial to being an engaging and informative speaker. And a segment, for me, is about 45 minutes. So that’s only 16 simple things to remember per day as a trainer. And only two at a time. The detail of how to do this is described in ‘Presenting Power‘.

Gallwey’s ‘Inner Game’ and my own methods for public speaking make one thing clear: You can really do more with less. And in some cases – with the right knowledge and awareness – less can be better than more.

NLP, Profiling, Attitudes and Business

Recently I’ve seen several articles describing NLP metaprograms as measuring attitudes in a ‘personality’ profile.

Personally, I see metaprograms as unconscious filters which influence our everyday choices.

NLP MetaprogramsFor example:

  • Your position on the ‘towards – away from’ spectrum will influence what motivates you.
  • Your position on the ‘proactive – reactive’ spectrum will dictate the minimum threshold for your actions.
  • Your position on the ‘internal – external’ metaprogram will influence how you prefer to experience feedback.

These are filters or habitual tendencies of focus rather than attitudes.


Attitude is a complex emotional judgement, proposed to be based on 3 components (Affect, Behaviour and Cognition)

Affect = what we feel
Behaviour = what we do
Cognition = mental processes

Experimental validation of this proposition:

Group attitudes:

Metaprograms are part of the cognition element and therefore just a small part of attitude. And attitude is a subset of personality, which is what some profiling systems claim to measure. Given the complexity involved, I’d suggest most simple metrics are (at best) stereotypes. And that can be okay, as long as we recognise where the limits are.

So what does a metaprogram profile actually measure or reveal?

My opinion is that it reveals aptitude for specific (cognitive) tasks. For example, if you’re hiring salespeople based on the profile of a top performer in that firm, a close match on relevant indicators indicates a candidate with aptitude for those tasks.

However, it does not reveal whether the person has an appropriate temperament (affect) for the job. Nor does it reveal whether they can do the job (behaviour). These would also need to be measured to create a reliable selection profile.

Bear in mind that a mis-hire can also be defined in severity by analysing these factors.

  • A mismatch in affect is potentially the most serious.
  • A mismatch in aptitude will usually result in the employee quitting or failing to get their contract renewed.
  • A mismatch in behaviour can usually be corrected with the right training.

It’s easy to see, then, that our NLP skills can change attitude quite readily – and from a number of different angles.

What is your view on NLP, attitude and personality? You comments are welcome.