Softly, softly, catchee monkey

by Leadership, Training

How good are your soft skills? Things like communication, leadership, team building, self-motivation, decision making and problem solving? It’s hard to know isn’t it? You might feel really effective now and then but if you’re a leader soft skills are the only way you’re going to be able to get other people to deliver the results you want. So how do you develop them? We asked Martin Crump at Evolution, who trains dentists and other professionals in soft skills.

Martin, are dentists different?

They’re a classic example of a person who goes into the job because they like being a technician, but then there’s the realisation that if they want to make money they have to be a business owner, which is difficult to get their head around. Letting go and delegating is hard. It’s their baby. Dentists are more than willing to invest time and money into the so-called hard skills but are more reluctant to invest the same resources into those intangible soft skills. If their business owning career is stalling this might be why.

How do you impart soft skills?

I coach individuals and train groups of people. One course I do has a training day each month over six months. A lot of the delivery is at the unconscious level using NLP (neuro-linguistic programming). I use hypnotic language to bypass conscious filters and we cover a lot of ground in a short time. Delegates start to realise they’re in control, even if they don’t feel like it.

Is there work to do before learning soft skills?

Probably. That’s around what they want from their business strategically. Do they actually want to relinquish responsibility but not authority? I’m a lazy person and I’m proud of being lazy since I read that a lazy person will always find the easiest way to do something. I’ll outsource as much as possible. Just because we love doing something doesn’t mean we should be doing it. Especially if it’s causing us stress. As a dentist, maybe you need to do less.

One of the skills you talk about is goal setting. What’s wrong with SMART objectives?

Whenever I talk to people about SMART [specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and time-based] goals there’s a groan in the room. They’re good at a logical, conscious level but most people make decisions from an emotional place in an unconscious, reactive, irrational way. SMART goals don’t take account of that and they don’t talk about motivation. You need to know the purpose of the goal you’re setting. You need an ecology check. Every goal has a knock-on effect on your business. There’s no loss without gain and vice versa. Is that loss important? If it is then you’ll sabotage your goal. I get clients to look at their neurological reasons for choosing goals. We delete and distort and generalise information because our brains can’t process everything that comes in, they have to filter it. By programming your brain to ignore things that aren’t relevant and to notice things that are you can become aware of how to make more useful goals. This is a process, a series of deeper questions to pull up the real motivation from the unconscious.

Can you give an example?

I had a client whose goal was to get fit by swimming. He had a baby with his wife. I asked what the swimming would do for him. He said downtime on the way home from work. What else? It would help him get fit. What else? He had cystic fibrosis and it would help him live long enough to see his daughter grow up. He had stopped swimming after work since her birth because he wanted to be at home as much as possible. He consciously knew he wanted to swim but his unconscious wouldn’t let him. Once he understood why he bought trunks after leaving our session and went swimming immediately. Some things make sense but without all the other evidence and process it’s not enough — you need to bring that motivation out. And you need to examine the ecology: if the net impact is going to be negative you won’t do it.

One guy I know almost bought a guest house in Cornwall then realised he didn’t want to move 300 miles away from his grandchildren. He’d gone through that whole buying process to get to that point — which was the wrong point. What you find when people are going down the wrong route work-wise is they start to sabotage themselves. They haven’t programmed themselves to really want it. They might be working ridiculous hours and they need to ask: is it OK to change this? One of the things that causes stress is being out of control. When you understand you have a choice, you might choose to work harder but it doesn’t have stress attached to it because you’ve taken control again.

Why are we so bad at this stuff?

We’re programmed for inertia. Our whole conscious and unconscious tell us to stick to what’s comfortable and familiar. That’s where the sayings “better the devil you know” and “out of the frying pan into the fire” come from. Even when logically it makes sense to change, we don’t want it until we’re convinced it will benefit us at all levels.

Why does NLP get bad press?

There are a lot of NLP trainers around now and obviously not all of them are good. A lot of the bad press is around how the training is  delivered. A client of mine worked in banking for 30 years and saw how NLP contributed to PPI mis-selling. Used in the wrong hands it’s a technique to influence people to buy stuff they don’t need or want. It’s a tool that’s all about motivation. I see it as applied neurology, psychology, whatever. I came up with “interaction engineering” to overcome peoples’ negative emotions about NLP. It doesn’t matter what you call it if it works.

Can NLP help dentists in other ways?

It can help you be more empathic and sell more. Think about nervous patients. NLP helps you relax them through anchoring. An anchor is something external to you that creates an emotional response, which is a way of conditioning, creating trigger for an emotion. It can be smell, taste, audio. Smell is often the strongest — it goes straight to the limbic brain and doesn’t always reach consciousness. At the dentist there are very strong visual, auditory and olfactory experiences. If you’ve had a bad experience that smell comes with an emotional response, as does the sound of the drill and the visual stuff of the posters on wall. These are negative anchors. There are ways to collapse those negative anchors. For example when my daughter was pregnant I helped her collapse her negative anchor around phobia of needles so she could have all the blood tests she needed.

Meet Martin Crump at the Fine leadership program in Cornwall on March 21 2019. For more information contact JJF at [email protected] or on 07860 672727.

Martin Crump

“What you find when people are going down the wrong route work-wise is they start to sabotage themselves”

Martin Crump, Evolution Personal & Corporate Development
Author: Zac Fine