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The use of NLP techniques can help professional service providers to substantially impact their results with their clients in a positive way. Here’s how Philip Atkinson, a management consultant, used a variety of NLP techniques, together with CBT, to bring about change in a number of organisations.

This is a theme that has recurred in many of Philip’s interventions in organisations including Telecoms, Banks, Insurance & Financial Services, Accountancy and Legal Firms, Manufacturing and Contact Centres. Philip has also used the concept of ‘Brand You’ to enable internal change agents such as L&D, Project, IT, Risk & Compliace and HR managers to be more effective when driving needed changes within their organisations.

Birth of the Concept

The concept of ‘Brand You’ is not new, but it is not a theme that many UK businesses have endorsed or applied – relying more on large corporate change initiatives to bring about improvement. Philip was asked to design a series of workshops by a large Telecoms company designed to improve the ability of Internal Auditors to influence their clients (managers within the business) to implement the recommendations inherent within their audit reports.

The Driver behind the Change

The driver behind this need was evidence that many recommendations made within internal audit reports were ‘accepted’ by the business managers but often never implemented. Consequently, when further audits were undertaken, it was clear that previous findings and recommendations has been ignored. The success of the internal audit team was in question because business managers frequently ignored the recommendations of any report and continued working in the same old way.

This IA Unit employed over 200 staff and the unit was tasked WITH increasing their involvement in the business, thus reducing the unnecessary cost associated with employing external auditors.

‘Brand You’ as a Concept

It was clear the technical capability of staff was high but what required some thought and effort was their ability to influence their clients. No amount of ‘up-skilling’ in technical expertise would deliver the results required. Discussion focused on the individual making a difference and hence the term ‘Brand You’ evolved.

Philip ensured that ‘Brand You’ is authentic and focuses on the individual, rather than ‘one best way’. Each of us leaves behind our own distinct signature but often we are unaware and unconscious of the impact that we can have on others. Philip’s workshops were designed to focus entirely on identifying the distinctive strengths that made each person important, and examined key strategies that would enable them to be more effective when selling their ideas, concepts and approaches to others.

Essential to this process was to consult various sales models and the components that encapsulated best practise. It comes as no surprise to NLP’ers that flexibility and adaptation to the other person’s objections was critical. Central to any sales or influencing model is anticipating the likely objections that others have to our proposals and ensuring that we can counter these in advance of them arising. We use the term inoculation against rejection. So as well as working through the various personal sales and influencing models Philip also focused on ‘taking a good look in the mirror’ and exploring what makes for a personal style of influencing.

Philip used a variant of Robert Dilts Logical Levels to focus on the role of Identity, and how this is continually shaped by one’s shifting personal Belief System and how this is in turn reflected in our Personal Values. Rather than working solely on Skills and Behaviours Philip focused on Values and Beliefs and used a variety of models including Myers Briggs Type Indicator to get a flavour of the engine that powers ‘Brand You’.

Philip further simplified the MBTI model into a four quadrant model of Regulator, Visionary, Analyst and Facilitator and started exploring the stances that people take if they happen to fall within theses areas. The important point is that by understanding the core personality drivers behind the person we are trying to influence, the stronger our repetoirse of tools and skills becomes in enabling us to persuade, negotiate and influence others.

Role Plays

The critical component in many Workshops is the use of Role Plays – that is, learning by doing. For instance in a recent intervention with a major Insurance Company, Philip designed role plays for Risk Managers. Here Philip took various ‘difficult situations’ when working with very senior staff of the business and ran all managers through a series of role plays over two days. Further, they had input in the following areas that enabled them to develop their own strategies.

Typical Content of Workshops

· Self disclosure and Rapport Building

· Accessing your personal Authenticity, and developing a win-win attitude at all times

· Assessing your preferred process of Influence and setting a ‘Yes-Yes’ frame

· Shaping Rapport with others in the change team

· Understanding how to drive the Acceptance of Change

· Utilising selling Benefits & Features to a win-win advantage for improvement

· Utilising 7 Assertive techniques to make your point

· Practising Listening skills on a variety of levels

· Facilitating the soft skills of Power and Influence

· Developing a confident Negotiating style

· Giving Bad News effectively

· Bringing things back from the edge – the de-escalation of conflict

· Using solution-based questioning to create win-win solutions

· Utilising Jungian analysis of personality to build rapport and diminish conflict

· Handling Personality Objections

· Identifying Motivational drivers in others

· Using the four quadrant Personality Tool

· Analysing Conscious and Unconscious Behaviour

· Developing your self confidence and self esteem


One of Philip’s key strengths is his ability to support managers who lack the confidence to try new approaches, such as being more assertive. He believes firmly in rehearsal. No, not learning a set phrase or rote memorisation but, rather, adapting techniques to fit naturally and authentically with one’s own style. He says “You should never let your first rehearsal be the actual event’. You must have practised the approach and strategies a number of times to examine how you can deliver more effectively to create win-win solutions.

Ecology & Change

Philip always confronted the ecological dilemma and his rule is “is it ecological for the other person . and does my ability to influence fulfil the win-win criteria of my own personal standards? Anything that falls outside this ruling is, Philip believes, manipulation and ventures into the ‘dark side of NLP.’

Summary – Brand You Today

Philip has developed the Brand You concept to include Facilitating Large Scale Change, Brand You and Strategic Interviewing, Managing Resistance to Change and he runs a series of workshops for Internal Audit Staff, Quality Managers, Risk Consultants, Sales Executives and Account Managers, Accountants, Engineers and Lawyers.

This is an opportunity for professional people to equip themselves with the interpersonal competence to take their personal performance to the next level.

In the last few years he has presented on the ‘Brand You’ concept at Conferences and at Brand meetings of the Chartered Institutes of Marketing, Internal Audit, Banking and Personnel Development and has speaking engagements into 2012. It is clear that the concept is well accepted and is currently focused on sessions geared for the Public Sector – entitled “Be the Change”.


Philip Atkinson is a consultant specialising in strategic, behavioural and cultural change. He is a member of various training consortia and has recently focused on creating innovative business simulations through Learning Strategies. He consults in the UK, Europe and USA, has written seven business books and published many articles. He is a speaker at conferences and runs Workshop sessions for leading companies. Philip can be contacted on +44 (0) 0131 346 1276 or 07779-799286 or [email protected] or visit

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Note from Tom: This is a special guest post brought to you by Don MacNaughton. Don is an expert in how to create high performance in yourself. A practitioner of NLP, Don has worked with Olympic athletes across numerous sports, international teams and executives in billion dollar businesses.

In this post Don talks about the laws of performance and how to discover the high performance champion within you. Be sure to check out the book resource he recommends a the end, if you’d like to learn more about the laws of high performance.


The relatively modern science of sports psychology only became recognised as a science in the 1920s but its origins also date back much further in history to the healthy mind, healthy body philosophies of the ancient Greek and Chinese civilisations. Mental skills training is recognised today as playing a key role in helping competitive athletes to achieve their full potential in sport and the techniques used to enhance sporting performance are now also used to equally great effect in other areas of life.

The Laws of Performance are the result of my findings after many years of experience working with not only elite athletes but also sportspeople and businesspeople from all walks of life and at every stage in their careers. The Laws are the guiding principles that I have found to be effective in helping those I work with to perform to their ability and create their own success in life by reconnecting with what inspires them and motivates them to keep moving forwards, onwards, and upwards as they turn their goals into their realities.

Much of what we learn through an understanding of the guiding principles is are sometimes simple principles but not always easy to execute in todays high pressure, fast paced world! We all inherit or develop certain beliefs about ourselves as we go through life. We all think we know who we are and what we’re capable of but do we really know?

Many of our long-held beliefs are sometimes not actually based on anything real at all, they are merely our perception of what we believe to be real and yet we allow those beliefs to rule our thoughts and influence our actions. We all already posses a built-in guiding voice of intuition but the majority of us have simply lost the ability to tune in to that voice or to believe in what it tells us. By gaining an understanding of the Laws of Performance, you gain an opportunity to play the game of life at the highest level. When you connect with the things that you feel most passionate about in life, you tap into your own inspirational energy source; a powerful and motivational source of energy that drives you towards realising your full potential in whatever you choose to do.

The Champion Within

In sport, its now widely recognised that champions become champions from within and the key to realising a top performance is to develop mental skill alongside physical skill. Getting to the top of your game takes undeniable physical skill and ability but staying at the top requires an equal degree of mental skill. Tennis champ Andre Agassi is a great example of an athlete who had the physical skills to outplay most opponents but early in his career he lost the matches that really mattered. It was not until he developed his mental skills to match his physical skills that he was able to get back into his game and to realise his full potential. The connection between ancient world wisdom and modern world sports performance is therefore the phenomenal power of the mind. Finding your success in sport and in life is all about finding your passion. Successful people do what they love and love what they do.

To succeedYou need to find something to hold on to, something to motivate you, something to inspire you – Tony Dorsett

Top performers are inspired performers, they are all passionate about what they do. So what inspires you? Each and every one of us has within us our own source of inspiration as we are all inspired by the things we feel passionate about. To find your inspiration, you need to connect or re-connect with your passion.

Champions become champions from within: champions know who they are and they know who they want to be. They use the inspired energy of their passion to keep practicing the physical and mental skills they need to realise their ambitions and become the best they can be.

Believe in the Champion Within

We are all who we believe ourselves to be and our circumstances are simply a reflection of who we believe we are. To become a champion, you must believe that there is a champion within you. Success is a journey and not a destination so getting to the top of your game is as much to do with wanting to play as it is to do with wanting to win. Getting to the top is going to take dedicated effort and its always going to be easier to do something you want to do and love to do rather than something you have to do or should do. Many champions in sport use the words driven or compelled to describe their feelings and their attitude towards succeeding in sport and they almost always refer to the fact that the buzz they first felt through taking part in their sport has never left them. Thats the key to success right there: win or lose, the motivation to keep playing remains the same. When you believe in the champion within, you are able to maintain your positive belief in yourself and your abilities even when the going gets tough or when things are not going your way. Its not winning every game that makes you a success, its learning from your losses and taking the positive lessons forwards with you.

If I have the belief that I can do it, I shall surely acquire the capacity to do it even if I may not have it at the beginning – Mahatma Ghandi


To find out more about Don and check out his new book click on the links below:

New book: The 12 Laws of Performance with added Launch bonus is available 1st August

Or go to for Don’s Blog or for information on High Performance Coaching.

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Note from Tom: This is a special guest post brought to you by Philip Atkinson, a veteran NLP trainer and organisational psychologist who who specialises in professional relationships at work, influence and leadership and has over 25 years experience.

In this article Philip highlights how the NLP toolset can be a very powerful toolset in enabling organisational change. Enjoy.


NLP can work in business but has to be de-mystified from the therapeutic model to a business model. For NLP to be useful and applied it has to be sold as a business model. Take it from me, NLP albeit as powerful a set of cognitive and behavioural processes, it is not a natural bed fellow for practitioners of business change. For NLP to be valued it has to make sense to the business population.

Tom shared with me that the majority of readers of NLP Times are focused on enabling people and their organisations change for the better. And that many are ‘enablers and facilitators of change’ who work in a huge variety of organisations from big corporates to SME’s, Education, Health and Social Enterprises. Perhaps this describes you. Either way just about everyone who works in or with companies today have to deal with adapting or directing change. Fortunately for those of us with an NLP background we can help be enablers for change.

Interestingly although most attempts at organisational change fail to meet their objective.

Yet the reality is in the right hands, NLP can enable successful implementation of change. Central to it’s success is how it is packaged and delivered to all the various actors in the change process.

NLP De-Mystified

Although my personal belief is that NLP can be a major contribution to change in companies large and small – I am wary of how it is perceived by business. Sometimes, NLP purists fail to create a positive impact with business people perhaps because they come over too “touchy-feely”. At an NLP presentation on ‘building customer relationships’ the audience was confused. The presenters used too much NLP jargon. The local business audience left knowing about ‘eye accessing cues’ but not how NLP could build their rapport with their customers.

Wider Context of Change

NLP can be of real value, but only if it appeals to your target audience in the change triad. In any business change arena you tend to have three sets of people. The Sponsor is ultimately responsible for the change, the Change Agent (facilitator, coach, trainer) – who presents the vehicle and process for change, and the recipients, the Targets for the change have to shape, accept, own, live and implement it.

Change Working when you Bring the Triad Together

Change frequently does not work because these three groups of people don’t communicate and gel. Their respective ‘maps’ occupy different territories. The reason why things don’t work out is that the triad of folk in the ‘change arena’ have not discussed, shared and agreed desired outcomes, potential obstacles, have mutual expectations and are not committed to make that change stick. In the larger scheme of things, they have not developed a giant TOTE for the organisation.

Further, most change people do not realise that some of those people they are helping change may have their own agenda, their own resistance and are unable to see the benefits.

Pre-Loading & Developing a Preventative Culture

In any organisation large or small you will have folk who resist change more than others. If you are lucky you may have a few change champions and early adaptors who align with you straight away. Overall you will probably experience some resistance simply because we are not very good in this culture at managing organisational change. Sooner you later you will experience the resistors and the terrorists – so get them on board sooner.

90% of Change Fails

Our research indicates that 90%+ of major changes initiatives in all sectors fail. Did you know for instance, that at least 70% of Mergers & Acquisitions fail to achieve the synergies for which they were brought together? The reason being that when merging the businesses, there was too much focus on the ‘hard’ elements: strategy, structure, reporting relationships, systems and processes – to the detriment of what really makes a business work: the people and the culture.

In reality, what drives business success is leadership, engagement and team motivation. And this is what is often missing when the accountants, tech specialists and IT guys get together to create a solution. They forget about the people. Now that is where NLP can help – but not the therapeutic or counselling model! It has to be a business model that makes sense to the recipients of that change.

Case Study: Engineers as Change Makers in the USA

This big Multi National company manufactures agricultural and construction equipment. It is driven by a very strong engineering culture: Logic, data, reasoning, structure and evidence based thinking. It has some challenges. Engineers tour the world selling engineering solutions to Plant managers who often don’t want to implement the engineering solutions. The VP of Manufacturing Strategy believes in NLP and behaviour change. He also knows that it has to be sold differently to appeal to the engineers, who are really the Change Makers. Working with many functional teams and Plants worldwide we devised a process of NLP as a process change tool that worked, and was implemented in Plants from Wichita to Doncaster (England), From Toronto to Paris

Training was provided with logical strategic models based on Best Practice in change management. We then focused entirely on creating and maintaining strong relationships between the Engineer (change makers) and the Plant Managers (target audience). Once the engineers realised that the application of NLP could make them more effective, they committed to the whole process of learning and applying NLP successfully.

Case Study: Legal Firms & Professional Service Businesses

Some people believe that technical expertise is the sole route to success. But we know that success is based on building relationships with ‘win-win’ outcomes as in the Engineering example above. NLP can do that. Start with the end in mind. It has worked building businesses in many Firms with whom I have worked – but only when staff and colleagues realised that their technical analytic ability was only part of the success solution. Once NLP processes are valued learning and change commences.

The use of NLP technologies such as language patterns, motivation strategies and installing new belief systems to win the acceptance of change is achieved by ensuring that Sponsors, Change Agents and targets are all aligned. This means you work with the top team first winning their commitment to drive the change. Never dilute the change by moving too fast down the business. Stay with the Sponsors until they realise they have to lead the change process. The rest is easy.

Case Study: Environmental Charity

A very large Charity adopted our approach through a Leadership Development Programme that was cascaded down through 300 managers. Many of these managers worked in local communities with large groups of volunteers. Volunteers are not employees. To manage volunteers you have to be engaging, charismatic and demonstrate vision and leadership. Control has to be replaced by mutual respect. By working with the Charity’s top team and their direct reports we used an NLP approach without using the therapy jargon. It worked and now the organisation is functioning well and growing with over 1 million members and a positive public presence.


Sure, NLP as a business change process works but only if it is tailored to the particular context of the organisation. So whether you are a retailer with just ten staff, a small bar and restaurant chain with twenty people, a GP practise with fifty, or a community group of one hundred to a large conglomerate, NLP can be a very powerful process for implementing change. And what is important is implementation of change – not the theory and the jargon associated with the therapeutic roots.

About Philip:

Philip Atkinson is a consultant specialising in strategic, behavioural and cultural change. He is a member of various training consortia and has recently focused on creating innovative business simulations through Learning Strategies. He consults in the UK, Europe and USA, has written seven business books and published many articles. He is a speaker at conferences and runs Workshop sessions for leading companies. Philip can be contacted on +44 (0) 0131 346 1276 or 07779-799286 or [email protected] or visit

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Note from Tom: This is a special guest post brought to you by Adrian Reynolds. In it, Adrian addresses one of the big keys to doing effective coaching and change work. Enjoy.

I bought some new trainers the other day. They seemed fine in the shop, but a few minutes walking and it was clear they didn’t fit properly. And wearing them in has resulted in my feet getting worse rather than the trainers getting better. Looking at the blister on one toe, I reflected that it was time to do something different. My solution? I’ve put a sweet potato in each of the shoes, hoping that within the week they’ll have stretched to accommodate my feet.

There is method in this apparent madness. The sweet potatoes are just the right size for the job, unlike the regular potatoes in the kitchen right now –

Hang on, this sounds familiar…In mentioning sweet potatoes and footwear I’m using some of the approaches that inform my style of change work. Most important, a belief that the solution to get what you want is likely to be close at hand, if you keep an open mind about the form it might take.

There’s a presupposition within that outlook, too. It’s to do with not taking anything for granted. To realise that, more often than not, the elements of a situation we believe are fixed are in fact variables. And that includes the solutions we sometimes want to bring to overcome our challenges.

For instance, there are people out there who have a tendency to whip out a particular paradigm regardless of what’s actually happening. Could be perceptual positions, neurological levels, or pretty much anything: their favourite bit of the NLP toolkit. Or in fact outside it: some people swear by chakras, others favour spreadsheets.

Now, all of those approaches have their place from time to time – but trying to bolt them to everything you come across in a one size fits all fashion is about as helpful as insisting that a particular pair of trainers fit when the wearer’s feet are protesting to the contrary.

Somewhere within that notion of having a universal panacea, a change process that will work wonders for all, is a failure for the agent of change to appreciate it’s not just the client’s map that isn’t the territory. Theirs (yours, mine) is just as partial, just as unreliable. And the only way you get to find what might be a useful approach is to pay attention. Something will emerge, and in responding to it you might find yourself looking in unusual places for resources.

In listening to one client, it became clear that the relationship issues she experienced were principally due to her being too resourceful. She’s a bright and confident pragmatist prepared to get her hands dirty, and that eminently capable outlook was causing problems. While she was great at being the grown up, it also meant that her husband had wiggle room he used to flake out. The solution was to allow her the option to be the weak one if it would encourage him to man up. Over three years later, and things are going swimmingly for them both. The resource she wasn’t using was the choice to be unresourceful…sometimes.

(For those tempted to look at the above as an example of encouraging a woman to revert to a stereotypically helpless role, please consider: by adding a choice to her repertoire, she gained flexibility and power in line with cybernetic principles. That extra notch gave her control over the system. Requisite variety in action.)

It’s all very well having the resources we need to change. Realising that they exist and have utility is what counts. One client wanted help in defining and developing his niche as a coach. It soon became apparent that his biggest asset was something he entirely overlooked – his heritage. As a British Asian in his 30s he has a perspective that extends in many directions. He has deep roots within Asian culture – and it wasn’t long before we hit on a way of serving those communities professionally in a way that honours his past and the person he’s become. Sometimes even looking in the mirror won’t show you what you need to see. Me holding it in a way that he could see his reflection in a new light was a defining moment.

All of this is in the service of helping people and organisations evolve through exploring their situations creatively. Sometimes I work on my own. To make extra sure I don’t believe my own hype, I also collaborate with Annie Dickinson, whose track record includes work as a coach and consultant at a senior level in FTSE 100 companies.

You can find out more about Adrian and Annie’s work at

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