Alternative staff training: Neuro-Linguistic Programming

NLP won't help you become the next Derren Brown, but may improve your management style

Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP) won’t equip you with the skills to become the next Derren Brown, but it may help provide your management team with the tools they need to motivate and communicate with their staff more effectively.

Most large hospitality companies will have some kind of management training programme already in place, although few will have come across the practice of incorporating Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP) into their scheme.

The controversial psychological approach has been used for years by top ‘magicians’ Derren Brown and Paul McKenna to subliminally persuade a subject to, say, correctly guess the contents of a sealed box for example.

But NLP, which is based on the relationship between human thoughts, communication and behaviour, can also be used on a much simpler level to improve management and leadership techniques.

“NLP is a complicated subject matter – it involves understanding people’s body language, eye movements, words they use, the way they are perceived and their general behaviour to help manage yourself and others around you more effectively,” explains David Allen, NLP expert at Stonebow, People 1st’s training arm.

Simple as ABC

The training body recently unveiled a new management and leadership course named Accelerated Behavioural Change (ABC), which demonstrates how elements of NLP can be applied in a hospitality environment to improve team rapport, confidence, motivation and communication.

“NLP helps you recognise what a person’s preferences are for communicating (visual gestures, listening, language used) and what body language they’re pitching across so you can reflect it back at them to create rapport and communicate on the same level,” says Allen.

In this sense NLP can help management deal with resistant or challenging members of their team. By recognising and mirroring a difficult staff member’s body language and communication style, managers can put themselves in a position to create rapport and better motivate that individual as an equal.

Use with caution

And the technique is not limited to use only on lower-level staff members, but senior staff, other managers, board members and even customers, although Allen warns public-facing businesses to use NLP with caution.

“There is a responsibility that comes with NLP in that it is very influential and subconscious, and delivers powerful results,” he says. “You have to make sure that the people using it do so responsibly.”

Forget ideas of subliminally convincing diners to order that vintage bottle of Lafite – that degree of psychology is so deep-rooted it would take a heck of a lot of dedication to learn, aside from it being severely unethical anyway.

“The whole aspect of manipulation doesn’t sit very comfortably with me, especially when one of our core values is about being honest,” says Nick Jeffrey, co-founder of Tampopo who participated in Stonebow’s inaugural course.

“But the overall art of behavioural analysis is a very important part of being an effective manager. NLP really makes you look at yourself and understand how all your actions affect others around you.”

Improved management style

While Tampopo is yet to implement a training programme for its management staff, Christina Hew, HR manager for The Langham Hotel in London and another ABC participant, has seen an immediate effect from learning and practising NLP techniques in the workplace.

“I found the skills helpful for myself in terms of dealing with people and handling different characters,” she says.

“I’ve already passed some of the knowledge on to other managers at the Langham and have also seen that those people are now more engaging, open, more willing to listen and give better ideas and advice.”

This level of NLP training won’t equip you with the skills to become the next Derren Brown, but it may help provide your management team with the tools they need to motivate and communicate with their staff more effectively.

“When it’s applied right the impact it can have on a business is phenomenal,” adds Allen. “And given that our sector is based on individual, customer experiences and interaction with people, anything that can give you leverage in that area and opportunity to enhance your business can only be good.”

Read more articles in this series here.

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