10 Mar 2018
Applying My NLP Practitioner Training At Work
by Ben Adams, Rushcliffe Borough Council
Reaping the Benefits of Building Rapport in the Streetwise Service Background
In 2009 Rushcliffe Borough Council conducted a staff satisfaction survey across the whole organisation with the following targets set:
High Performance = over 80%
Acceptable Performance = 79% to 60%
Low performance = under 60%
The report stated that “manual staff will be generally less satisfied with all aspects of the job and the authority than other staff” and so we were curious as to the results we were going to get for the manual staff within Streetwise.
Streetwise manual workers are employed primarily for street cleansing and grounds maintenance with some of the lowest paid members of staff within the authority traditionally working in this service area.
Although in the main the results across the board were very promising we identified that under the section entitled “Your Manager” we were getting low results for some of the questions asked. Examples were:
Q13. “My line manager gives me regular feedback on my performance” 57%
Q15. “My line manager encourages me to put forward new ideas” 30%
Q16. “My line manager motivates and inspires me to be more effective in my job” 30%
Q17. “My line manager communicates my feelings / thoughts upwards on important issues” 43%
The report summarised the Streetwise position in the “Your Manager” section as follows: “For all the questions in this section staff scored below the corporate average. The two worst results were around their line manager encouraging them to put forward new ideas (41 percentage points lower) and motivating and inspiring then to be more effective (23 percentage points lower)”.
Another area that was important to the Council was ensuring that people are treated fairly and with respect whilst at work. The Streetwise results in this section were as follows:
Q51. “This organisation respects individual differences (e.g. cultures, working styles, backgrounds, ideas)” 70%
Q52. “I am valued for what I can offer the organisation” 52%
Q53. “I am treated with fairness and respect within this organisation” 64%
The report summarised the Streetwise position in this section as follows: “All questions in this section scored below the corporate score”.
As a result of the survey the Council corporately introduced its ‘7 Point Pledge’ with the main impact on Streetwise being the introduction of compulsory one to one meetings at least every six weeks with every member of staff. This was a big task for the Streetwise Management Team and equated to approximately 333 additional meetings each year (37 x 9). In addition to this we had held feedback sessions with the frontline staff to attempt to get to the reasons behind the results. Improvement plans were drawn up and the meeting regime commenced with mixed early feedback as some staff questioned the need for so many meetings.
Then I did my NLP Practitioner
In September 2009 I attended the NLP Practitioner training course with Steve Kay of quality culture and nlpuktraining. The course completely changed my outlook giving me many different choices of behaviour that had previously been unavailable to me. As work were funding the training I was conscious of the need to provide value back to my employer and was determined to use my new skills when I got back to work.
In my role as a manager I was already conducting one to one sessions with the Streetwise Manager, Bob Alderton, and so on returning from the course I changed the emphasis in these meetings to more of a ‘coaching’ style with techniques I had learnt on the NLP Practitioner giving me the confidence and skills I required.
The first coaching session that we conducted produced an interesting insight from Bob as we discussed the topic of rapport within the team. Bob recollected times before the Streetwise Service formed when he had been the Grounds Maintenance Manager and rapport within the team had been very high. Bob didn’t feel that the same level of rapport existed within the team and so I tasked him with the challenge of taking action to reverse the downward trend. It was this lack of rapport that had been identified as the root cause of the poor results in the some areas of the staff survey.
To support Bob and his team I ran training sessions on how to build rapport with others and completed the ‘representational systems’ test for each member of the team so they could get an appreciation of each others preferred style. Eye patterns and predicate phrases were demonstrated so that it could be incorporated in to the rapport building if individuals felt confident enough to do so. I also did this training on a wider basis across the whole Neighbourhood Team so as to maintain a degree of consistency across the service.
“You Reap What You Sow”
The whole concept of building rapport to improve performance, and therefore increase staff satisfaction improving productivity and motivation really caught on. The management team were tearing themselves away from their computers and taking positive action to visit frontline staff out on the district, taking them hot drinks and talking about any subject that helped to build rapport. The genuine nature of these actions was proving very popular with the frontline staff.
The impact of this was noticeable and Bob was reporting through his own one to one’s a steady increase in his perceived level of rapport across the team. People were coming to work with a smile on their face and having a laugh and a joke against a backdrop of severe public service spending cuts. Difficult conversations became easier to conduct as we were starting from a ‘better place’ and in fact they were more likely to be held as managers were more confident of a positive response.
Previously some difficult conversations had been handled poorly or avoided altogether as managers were struggling to handle conflict, or even the thought of conflict, with certain individuals.
This positive culture was blossoming when the managers decided to hold a Christmas ‘Mince Pie’ morning and frontline staff from other service areas asked to join in as they didn’t have anything like that in their service area. The most satisfying element for me of the whole process was that I didn’t need to do anything myself other than support the process and get feedback through Bob at his one to ones and through others as I worked with them.
Some concerns were expressed by my manager that there was an inconsistency building between Streetwise and the Waste Collection Service, Recycling2Go. I was of course very keen to agree, stating that I had also observed the differences and could enthuse as to why that was the case. The inconsistency was viewed as a potential for friction and so to assist Recycling2Go I conducted the training with their management team much to my manager’s approval.
When the ‘snapshot’ staff survey was conducted in December 2010 we had been building rapport for four months and so it was ‘fingers crossed’ when we received the results in February 2011. Quite frankly we were amazed at the results we got. They are set out below:
Q13. “My line manager gives me regular feedback on my performance”
2009 = 57%
2010 = 94% (+37%). 18% above the corporate score.
Q15. “My line manager encourages me to put forward new ideas”
2009 = 30%
2010 = 89% (+59%). 10% above the corporate score.
Q16. “My line manager motivates and inspires me to be more effective in my job”
2009 = 30%
2010 = 81% (+51%). 16% above the corporate score.
Q17. “My line manager communicates my feelings / thoughts upwards on important issues”
2009 = 43%
2010 = 82% (+39%). 14% above the corporate score.
Q51. “This organisation respects individual differences (e.g. cultures, working styles, backgrounds, ideas)”
2009 = 70%
2010 = 94% (+24%). 8% above the corporate score.
Q52. “I am valued for what I can offer the organisation”
2009 = 52%
2010 = 81% (+29%). 10% above the corporate score.
Q53. “I am treated with fairness and respect within this organisation”
2009 = 64%
2010 = 86% (+22%). 1% above the corporate score.
The statement in 2009 of “All questions in this section scored below the corporate score” had been completely reversed and against the surveying companies generalisation that“manual staff will be generally less satisfied with all aspects of the job and the authority than other staff”. It felt great to be bucking the trend.
Pounds and Pence
Putting an accurate figure to these results is very difficult but behaviours I have observed that reduce costs are;
1.Empowered staff capable of making decisions without fear of repercussions. A saving in management time and jobs get done more quickly improving customer service.
2.Low levels of disciplinary procedures. A saving in management time and a great boost for morale.
3.Happier more productive staff. Greater flexibility of resources reducing the management time spent scheduling work. People are willing to turn their hand to any task.
4.Better quality of work resulting in fewer complaints that require investigation by managers. A saving in management time and increased reputational stability.
5.Less resistance to change making the process of changing quicker and more efficient. A time saving for all involved and reduced aggravation.
6.Greater ‘bouncebackability’ from setbacks, meaning less moaning and negative talk. A time saving and productivity saving.
The list could go on but I’m sure by now you get the picture. An empowered and positive workforce that is up for the challenge every day of the week.
What Did I Learn
When I did the NLP Practitioner not only did I learn a lot about myself I also went back to work with a whole new set of personal resources, behaviours, and techniques that I could apply in every work interaction. This is extremely useful and I discovered that if you target your energy at improving the working environment for those around you they respond and give you back twice as much as you put in. Some people have said to me “Are you going to NLP me?” to which I respond “I already have”, so the techniques are very subtle and powerful allowing you to go about your business with the minimum of fuss and the maximum of impact.
And Did I Mention …
At the Rushcliffe Borough Council Staff Awards 2011 Streetwise won two awards. One for ‘Doing it Differently’ and another for partnership working called ‘All Together Better’. These were justified recognition for a service area that had changed the most difficult thing … attitude and approach.