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it stands to reason that strict rules-based
organisations will attract people with a
propensity towards procedures. People
with a tendency towards options and a
desire to express their creativity are unlikely
to thrive in such an environment and will
probably leave for pastures new. Similarly,
organisations offering safe and secure
employment packages will attract people
with ‘away from’ patterns. Future focused
people may not thrive in this environment
and will also move on.
So, as a culture becomes engrained
so do the unwritten rules that people
follow. In our experience promotion to
management and leadership positions is
often the result of exceptional performance
in a specialist role. Keen ambitious
accountants, IT professionals, HR specialists,
sales executives, marketing professionals
all excel in their specialisms and gain
promotion to management/leadership
ecent history is riddled with
examples of sheepish leadership.
Dare I mention sub-prime markets,
mortgages and the banks again? How
about the dot com fiasco where sheep-
like investors rushed to invest in anything
prefixed with an ‘e-’ or ending in ‘.com’?
Fear of loss, greed – whatever the cause,
human behaviour can change, and
guidelines and unwritten rules abandoned
in the sheep-like stampede.
Come closer to home for a moment.
What do we expect of our industry leaders?
What about the standard of leadership in
all those household names with which we
are so familiar? What about the standard
of leadership in your place of work? All
organisations develop cultures with some
written and mostly unwritten ‘rules’. Where
do these rules come from in the first place?
Meta-programs can play a large part in the
development of the culture. For example,
roles. But what to do next? Where do the
new management/leadership behaviours
The first port of call is invariably
senior leaders in the organisation. They
represent role models and it’s all too easy
to copy them but where did they get their
behaviours from? Their seniors and theirs
and theirs – the system is reminiscent of
Tom Brown’s school days where the older
pupils taught the younger ones.
Here are some examples of sheep-
like behaviour that we see in some
The organisation expects it
I have heard this many times from people
What do we
expect of our
By Pat Hutchinson
16 ] Winter 2012/2013 - RAPPORT
in varying scenarios – attending regular
meetings, conference calls, standard
formats for proposals, stifling sales
processes, dress code, over-compliance
with health and safety rules, directors’
privileges. When meta-modelled on
who has made these rules and how they
are enforced people can rarely come
up with an answer. It’s the result of
sheepish behaviour that nobody has ever
challenged. As an example, Ben told us he
never came up for air because there were
so many conference calls he had to attend
on a daily basis. Paul commented of the
same conference calls ‘yes, I never take part
in those – most are a waste of time.’
They expect us to produce a PowerPoint
This is a regular plea of people on our
presentation skills programmes which
when challenged offers little or no
foundation. It is often followed with
another belief of ‘the customer will think
I’m not prepared if I don’t use a PowerPoint
presentation’ or ‘I can’t possibly remember
everything without it’.
The word presentation has long been
synonymous with PowerPoint thanks to
excellent marketing by Bill Gates. Yes, of
course, it has a place if used correctly for
portraying images but not many people
have cottoned on to the reality that death
by PowerPoint is caused by trying to
engage the auditory channel twice – words
and numbers on the PowerPoint whilst
the presenter continues to speak. It’s like
trying to read the breaking news scrolling
across the TV screen whilst the newscaster
is speaking. The mind can only do one or
the other. Take into account that decision-
making is usually the result of a feeling
which has been suspended as the mind
struggles to contend with the auditory
overload and it is no wonder that people
leave presentations without making a
How many presentations are taking
place across the country right now which
will result in no action being taken because
of this one piece of sheepish behaviour?
How much time, money and effort could
be saved if people were simply more aware
and took the trouble to learn the skills?
We have a huge value around
It’s always encouraging to hear an
organisation express communication as
high on their list of values. Some have
taken a lot of time and effort to establish
their values and proudly display them on
walls and large boards throughout the
organisation as well as on their websites.
Unfortunately they often stop there and
fail to translate the values into behaviours.
What does communication actually
mean? Communicating with who? How
would it look inside and outside of the
with some written
organisation? Communicating in what
way? What would you expect to see
people doing if they are communicating
effectively? What are the expected results
of effective communication and how
are they measured? Is the measurement
For example, retail organisation X is
keen to communicate with its staff and
regularly sends directives from head office
to its many branches. They measure the
success of their communication on the
percentage of ‘ticks’ they receive indicating
that the directive has been completed. The
branches know this – no one appears to
check that the directive has actually been
PowerPoint is often used to ‘cascade’
messages throughout an organisation. In
the interests of continuity a presentation is
put together using PowerPoint slides and
‘cascaded’ throughout the organisation
with each presenter expected to deliver in
the exactly the same way. Unfortunately,
by the time it reaches the end of the line it
can often lose its meaning and becomes
a ‘must do’ for someone who hasn’t had
any input into the compilation of the
presentation. Down the line presenters are
often riddled with beliefs that they are not
allowed to alter the presentation and have
to give it exactly as it is.
We always meet on a Monday morning
‘If you always do what you’ve always done
you will always get what you always had.’
We are all familiar with this presupposition
of NLP and yet regular, information
dumping meetings continue to prevail in
workplaces across the globe. Meetings
without clear outcomes are destined to
failure. If they become simply a vehicle
for reporting they become tedious and
repetitive and serve no real purpose.
For example, the senior board of an
international pharmaceutical company
had always met on a Monday morning.
Meetings often took all day and frequently
there were few or no action points. People
had learnt to bring along their laptops and
telephones to keep themselves busy while
they waited for their turn to present.
In many ways the popularity of
such phenomena as Twitter, Facebook
and LinkedIn is the result of sheepish
behaviour. Twitter actively encourages
it with its ‘trending’ subjects. Of course,
much of this behaviour is positive and
people report positive results in marketing
and communication with customers and
connections with like-minded people.
Meta-programs come into play again
here with early adopters (difference
pattern) taking on board new things just
because they are new and different – not
because they have any clear purpose.
Sometimes this works, sometimes it
So what makes great leadership?
Challenging the status quo focusing
on achieving positive outcomes that
reflect the purpose of the organisation.
If you want to be a leader, accepting the
status quo is not an option. Expressions
like ‘the business expects it’ without
any concrete evidence should not be
tripping off the tongue lightly. Effective
leaders challenge ‘unfounded’ rules
and processes which are not conducive
to evolutionary business. Learning
RAPPORT - Winter 2011/2012 [ 17
to pace and lead using NLP skills and
particularly to use the meta model
elegantly are key skills here.
Cascading the skills to deliver messages
as well as the message itself. They know
that it takes skill to gain buy in for ideas
and developments and learning this
skill will save time, money and effort
both in the short and long term.
Training autonomous managers to be
flexible in their communication and
influencing skills and give them space
to get on with the job. Work with what
is important to people and make sure
their values are met. For example,
Debbie was headhunted because she
had an exceptional record in sales.
On arriving at her new company she
was asked to follow strict rules for
the amount of time she spent with
each prospect – rules which Debbie
perceived to restrict her skills and
therefore her results. She is thinking of
leaving the organisation.
Having clear outcomes for everything
they do including management
meetings. Staying with the theme of
presentations just for a moment – if
you run a presentation through the
alignment model and be honest about
the results you will find differing
The true purpose of a presentation
is to engage people to take action.
The reality is very different – often it
appears to be to dump information
or for the presenter to get through to
the end without forgetting anything,
slipping up or making a fool of
How we define our identity as
a presenter varies too – an authentic
presenter may see him/herself as a
decision facilitator whereas someone
else may see themselves as a vehicle for
passing on information.
An authentic presenter will
value the audience and their ability to
interpret, understand and take action. A
poor presenter may not even be aware
of the finer points relating to the profile
of his audience.
An authentic presenter will
develop the skills to engage the
audience – a non-authentic one will rely
on sheepish behaviour.
An authentic presenter will
research his audience, design a
presentation specifically for them,
keeping it high level paying attention
to pacing and leading using meta-
programs, VAK processing, body
language and voice tone to engage
A poor presenter relies on
technology to do the job for him/her.
Learning to execute and let go of the
detail. The higher up the organisation
the less easy it is to keep hold of the
detail. Leaders and managers who do,
fall into the trap of micro-managing.
Accepting that communication is
a two way process not a tick box
exercise. This is back to having a clear
purpose or outcome for each piece of
communication and them measuring it
to see if this purpose is being achieved.
Recognising and rewarding creativity
ensuring that the environment
encourages such behaviour. For
example, Company B had a high
value around creativity and actively
encouraged people to bring ideas
to the table. Unfortunately the table
was in the boardroom in an unfamiliar
environment to most people. Company
B realising that ideas would be stifled
by such an austere environment
disbanded the boardroom in favour
of a much more level playing field.
Creativity increases were manifold.
Ensuring that everyone is aligned with
the values of the organisation and that
they know what this means in terms
of expected behaviours.
Having the courage to walk away
from deals/situations which don’t fit
the company purpose irrespective
of the size of the deal. Reputations
in business are paramount and poor
deals can seriously damage the brand.
As an example, Company C walked
away from a multimillion pound
contract because it discovered the
other party was reneging on their
agreement. No amount of pleading
was able to turn them back. The CEO
of Company C was very protective of
his reputation and was not prepared
to be compromised. An excellent
decision as it turned out.
Being consistent in their approach so
that they meet people’s expectations.
State control and the behavioural
flexibility that NLP offers are, of
course, key here.
Moments of truth about your style
as a leader occur every day – we all
have plenty of opportunities to decide
whether to be a sheep or a leader.
can change, and
abandoned in the
Pat Hutchinson: NLP Trainer with Quadrant 1 International - www.quadrant1.com
18 ] Winter 2012/2013 - RAPPORT