Forget the fluff – focus on real evidence-based development

Forget the fluff – focus on real evidence-based development

We have just received another request from a client, to ‘deliver an NLP training course’.  As Occupational Psychologists who specialise in delivering management training courses, PMSL receives many such requests.

At the 2015 Association for Business Psychology (ABP) conference, I attended a very interesting seminar by Rob Briner, Professor of Organizational Psychology at the University of Bath.  Rob reminded us of the importance of evidence based practice – the need to identify a problem, gather the best available evidence and then make a decision.  Rob Briner mentioned NLP as one of those pseudosciences that has absolutely no scientific evidence.  (Anecdotal evidence is not scientific evidence.)

The next speaker at the conference was an NLP Practitioner who retaliated against the assertion of no scientific evidence for NLP by proceeding to insult the audience, the HR profession and anyone who wasn’t an NLP practitioner!  Half the audience walked out.

The problem with NLP (apart from there being no scientific evidence for it) is the evangelical followers it attracts.  Many HR and Training professionals have jumped on the NLP bandwagon and we have seen the same NLP-based content delivered in training courses claiming to develop: ‘Effective Communication, ‘Dynamic Impact & Influence’ and ‘Management & Leadership Skills’.  Each course starts with a description of Visual, Auditory, Kinaesthetic styles, followed by an Eye Accessing Cues exercise, then how to adapt your language, then Mirroring, Pacing and Leading, etc.  I’m unconvinced that Management & Leadership skills can be effectively developed by simply teaching delegates the basic theory and techniques of NLP.

As development consultants it is not always easy to use evidence-based practice, because many clients are influenced by the latest fads, misinformation and personal biases, and so have a tendency to bypass the diagnosis step and leap straight to the solution.

I asked a client recently why they had requested an NLP course and they said that they went on an NLP course once and enjoyed it!

The nature of training courses has changed dramatically over the past 10 years, from three-day intensive skills-based training courses as the norm, to one-day, or half-day or even 90-minute training sessions.  I understand the drivers for this change (advances in technology driving the ‘want it quickly’ culture and economic downturn driving training budget cuts) but developing the skills needed to be an effective manager or leader takes time, practice and application. There’s nothing wrong with exploring NLP techniques as another tool for developing communication skills, but it is not itself the panacea it claims to be.

If we are only given one day to train people to be better managers, let’s fill it with sound evidence-based practices and opportunities for skills practise, that we know actually work.

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