Archive for the ‘Resources – Practitioners’ Category

Six Category Intervention Analysis

Friday, April 21st, 2017

John Heron’s 6CIA model is, arguably, the best guide to the most fundamental foundation stone of developing performance in individuals – effective choice and use of the most appropriate and helpful intervention in each particular situation. This short vlog will explain it, give you examples of its uses and describe its benefits.

 

Toxicity of Trying

Thursday, February 19th, 2015

Are these really Andy Murray’s motivational notes? I really do hope they are not – but there has been no denial and they appear to have been written on the back of a letter to him.

Why do I hope they are not? Well, to me they appear toxic. Toxic to a top sports person seeking to be the best they can be (in other words winning every match).

As with all top sports people, I’m sure that Andy and his team pore over huge amounts of performance data to analyse what he is doing, how he is doing it, when he is doing it, etc.  So let’s undertake a little analyse of these motivational notes:

  • There are 61 words on the page
  • These are divided into 10 points
  • There are 4 words – which are either verbs or words with 3 or more letters – that appear three or more times – ‘be’ (4), ‘your’ (4), ‘the’ (3) and ‘try’ (3).

Of that analysis, the last point is the most striking and concerning for me.

Murray is going to ‘try’ to do something.

And almost of a third of the 10 points he is going to ‘try’ to achieve.

The word ‘try’ is one of the most unhelpful – perhaps even toxic – words that can be used in relation to performance management and improvement.

How many organisations publish goals that say they are going to ‘try’ to do something?

In your personal or professional life, what do you mean when you say you are going to ‘try’ to do something? Just say it to yourself now …

It usually means one of two things. Firstly, it could mean that you might have a go, but you’re not convinced that you will be able to achieve it – because of your personal abilities, your belief or your other time constraints. Secondly, it could mean that you have no intention of doing or will to do it, but you add the word ‘try’ in to avoid the discussion around the fact you will not be doing it.

It isn’t even a word that needs replacing – it just needs taking out.

“Try to be the one dictating”, becomes “Be the one dictating”.

“Try to keep him at the baseline make him move”, becomes “Keep him at the baseline make him move”.

How different do those sentences sound and feel without the word ‘try’?

I have worked with a number of people who have struggled to pass exams – I work with them on their personal approach and exam techniques. I am proud of my success in that every person who I have worked with – all who have previously failed the nominated exam – have all passed (or even gained Distinctions) with the work we have undertaken together.

One of the foundations of this approach is that I will not permit the use of the word ‘try’. As I have mentioned previously in one of my blogs, Yoda understand this.

In the Star Wars film, “The Empire Strikes Back”. Yoda, the small and strange looking Jedi Master is training Luke Skywalker. Yoda sets him numerous challenges and tests to help mould the youth into a Jedi. When Luke is given one particularly challenging task, he responds to Yoda that he will ‘try’.  “No,” Yoda retorts, “Do, or do not. There is no try.”

As Murray’s team continues to mould him into the best tennis player he can be, they need to address the ‘try’ – “Do or do not. There is no try.”

Incidentally, Murray lost the match.

You might not be a tennis player, or taking an exam – but the principle is the same – so when do you use the word ‘try’ and what impact can it have for you if you were to drop it?

Paul

Social Media in 20 seconds!

Thursday, July 4th, 2013

It is rare for me to reproduce someone else’s work – in fact, this is a first, other than where I have used poetry – but when I saw this, I thought it was so good. I saw it as a picture on Linkedin, but it wasn’t possible to work out who the originator was – so if you know, please let me know and I will credit their work.

It is an excellent piece of communication – succinct, clear, informative, illustrative and fun. And all in 20 seconds!

  • Twitter:   I am eating #twiglets
  • Facebook:   I like Twiglets
  • Four Square:   This is where I eat Twiglets
  • Instagram:   Here’s a vintage photo of my Twiglets
  • You Tube:   Here I am eating Twiglets
  • Linkedin:   My skills include Twiglet eating
  • Pinterest:   Here’s a recipe for Twiglets
  • Spotify:   Now listening to “Twiglets”
  • G+:   I’m a Google employee who eats Twiglets

And for those of you who know me, you will have noticed that I have personalised it slightly!

Are there any others you would add?

Paul

Happy Coaches for London?

Saturday, April 20th, 2013

Happy news! Harrogate, North Yorkshire – where I live – is officially the happiest place the UK. This is according to the “Happy at Home Index” 2013. The local media made a lot of this. It may well have only stayed local news, however, Ant and Dec featured it as a quiz question on their Saturday evening TV show – so now everyone in the UK knows. This success needs reinforcing – perhaps the Town Council should consider changing the town’s name to “Happygate”?

My daughter came back from University a couple of days after the announcement of this very prestigious honour. It was – quite understandably – the first thing we discussed when I picked her up from the station. We decided to enjoy and experience some of this happiness. We started waving at other car occupants as we drove to Sainsburys. Unhappily, nobody waved back. We then looked for people in Sainsburys with that air of happiness. We stopped looking after a couple of minutes – and came to the conclusion that all the drivers and people in Sainsburys must be from out of town – coming to try and take in some of this happiness.

This week I am working in London … for a full seven days. I have written before about my love of London - and in particular its Tube and DLR system.  I am currently staying locally, and travelling to a place of work each day on the Tube. Living like a Londoner for a few days – and I’m like a kid in a toy shop!  I love the Tube … I like the smell, I like the names of the stations, I like watching the people … but I do think I’m in the minority.  Judging by the people on the Tube, their city probably didn’t come too close to Harrogate in the Happy League.

In fact, I mentioned this of the Tube to a couple of Londoners about a fortnight ago. One responded that this was because I didn’t use it every day. I then mentioned how fascinating I find it watching how people know the best carriages to be in to use the shortest cut-throughs at particular stations.  The two people then started discussing how they have particular seats; “For me the third seat in on the left from the middle double doors on the Metropolitan Line, but on the District Line I usually sit ….” It was something like that, anyway. I have to admit that I did start to lose interest in the conversation, until one of them then said, “But the Olympics – that was the worst time. Everyone was so happy. People were smiling and some tried to talk to other people – sometimes it was difficult to avoid them. Didn’t they realise some of us were going to work and not meant to be happy”.

I tried to picture the clash of cultures. Happy people on the way to the Olympics and unhappy people on their way to work. I assume there was only one winner – as there usually is where majority and minority cultures meet.

But, could it be different I thought? We know that happier people live healthier lives, and recent research has shown that those people who live together in a relationship tend to live longer than those who live alone. And we all know people who if they haven’t spoken to somebody for 10 minutes need to go and find someone to talk to – the extreme extraverts (how do they cope with a 45 minute Tube ride surrounded by people but with no one to talk to?).

On some main line train services they have “Quiet coaches” – perhaps there could be a “Happy coach” on each Underground train.

What will be the benefits? Well, they would include:

  • An Olympic legacy spanning further than sport
  • Underground travel opportunities which appeal to both Introverts and Extraverts
  • In about 50 years’ time, there will be research showing that people who generally travelled in the Happy Coach lived longer and healthier lives than those travelling in the other coaches

Well, Boris, what do you think?

Paul

 

Barefoot Moments

Thursday, January 31st, 2013

You know those moments, those moments when you just lose who you are … when you lose all your inhibitions … you just do what you want to do and have so much fun doing it!

Whenever I experience such moments, I usually re-visit this, for me, very thought provoking poem, “If I had my life to live over”:

I’d dare to make more mistakes next time.
I’d relax. I would limber up.
I would be sillier than I have been this trip
I would take fewer things seriously.
I would take more chances.
I would take more trips.
I would climb more mountains and swim more rivers.
I would eat more ice cream and less beans.
I would perhaps have more actual troubles but I’d
have fewer imaginary ones.
You see, I’m one of those people who live sensibly
and sanely hour after hour, day after day.
Oh, I’ve had my moments and if I had it to do over
again, I’d have more of them.
In fact, I’d try to have nothing else. Just moments.
One after another, instead of living so many years ahead of each day.
I’ve been one of those people who never go anywhere
without a thermometer, a hot water bottle, a raincoat
and a parachute.
If I had my life to live over, I would start barefoot earlier in the spring and stay that way later in the fall. If i had it to do again, I would travel lighter next time.
I would go to more dances.
I would ride more merry-go-rounds.
I would pick more daisies.

What images, sounds and feelings that triggers!

It is attributed to an 85 year old woman called Nadine Stair, although there is conjecture as to whether it was written by her or, in fact, if she even existed. Whatever the truth around that, I find the words thought provoking.

We would probably all want more of this in our lives, wouldn’t we? So is it a person reflecting sadly on their life? Or perhaps there is a positive side to it in that the writer has had so many of them – thus enabling them to write such a powerful poem – that they would have liked even more.

If we would like to “start barefoot earlier in the spring and stay that way later in the fall” what can we do about it? When I reflect back on my own moments of pleasure they are often in situations where I would not have envisaged such huge surges of emotion. They weren’t planned. They are often predominantly outside my control.

But you have to plan to live in order to have the chance of having them – we have to be in it to win it.

We are ‘human beings’, not ‘human doings’.

So what stops us? Predominantly socialisation?

The rules, the norms, the expected behaviours. It starts from an early age, so by the time we know that we need to do something about it, it can be too late or too difficult. Most of us will have played and had fun as children – but even by that time, we will have been conforming in certain ways in order to get the love and affection we required to survive.

Perhaps, therefore, this absolute pure fun is unachievable? Or perhaps it is achievable if we are a bit more drastic.

When I need to access skills that I don’t believe I have in sufficient depth, or that are sufficiently polished, I ‘become’ someone who does have these skills. And usually it helps me. In such situations, the people I am interacting with see me, so they have no idea what’s going on for me. Take that one step further – when I become Father Christmas, I lose even more of myself, as I have described previously.

As Dr Seuss advised, “Be who you are and say what you feel because those who mind don’t matter and those who don’t matter don’t mind”. I certainly have too many people in my life who don’t matter.

And how could this help you impact on others at home and at work?

And help them have more moments? As Kate Bush reflected in her song “Moments of Pleasure”, accompanied by a hauntingly beautiful piano:

Just being alive
It can really hurt
And the moments given
Are a gift from time
Just let us try
To give these moments back
To those we love
To those who will survive

Perhaps we need to think less about surviving, or wishing we had more moments – and more about doing something about it. It’s never too late to learn.

Paul

 

A New Year State of Mind

Monday, December 31st, 2012

As we head towards the start of another year, many of us will make resolutions as to what we will do differently over the coming months or year, or what we will seek to achieve. I wondered how many people who set themselves New Year’s Resolutions actually achieve them?

American research from the University of Scranton found that 45% of Americans usually make New Year’s Resolutions, 17% make them infrequently and 38% never make them at all. 8% of this total population group said that they were successful in achieving their Resolutions.

As an aside, I found these statistics interesting in relation to Shelle Rose Charvet’s Motivational Traits theory. One of the Traits – Direction – relates to whether people are motivated by having an objective or avoiding problems – whether they are ‘Toward’ or ‘Away From’. In other words, are they motivated by a carrot or a stick. Her research found that approximately 40% of the population are ‘Toward’, and approximately 40% are ‘Away from’ with the remaining 20% being a mixture of the two – these figures have some resonance with the findings of the University of Scranton.

Returning to Resolutions, according to Wikipedia, “a 2007 study by Richard Wisemen from the University of Bath involving 3,000 people showed that 88% of those who set New Year’s Resolutions fail, despite the fact that 52% of the study’s participants were confident of success at the beginning. Men achieved their goal 22% more often when they engaged in goal setting, (a system where small measurable goals are being set; such as, a pound a week, instead of saying ‘lose weight’), while women succeeded 10% more when they made their goals public and got support from their friends”.

So, if setting goals only makes a difference for 8 – 12% of the population (based on these studies), what might be a more universally productive approach?

As I was contemplating this, I recalled some statistics I use when delivering sessions on Emotional Intelligence (EI). According to Travis Bradberry, we experience 27 emotions an hour, 456 each day and so over 3,000 a week. How much notice do we take of this information?

A four year old child laughs 300 times a day, yet a forty year old laughs only 4 times a day according to this blog. I’m not sure how accurate this is, but there are other similar such statistics available – and you only have to spend some time with people of those ages to know that children laugh and smile more than adults.

Perhaps New Year could be about re-connecting with fundamental skills – skills that perhaps we think we use but which really we have let slip. Skills we used far more effectively as children.

And then I saw this book that our son bought for Peta this Christmas – “How to be an Explorer of the World” by Keri Smith.  What a great book.

Early in the book the writer provides a list of ideas for the exploration of our world:

  1. Always be looking (notice the ground beneath your feet).
  2. Consider everything alive and animate.
  3. Everything is interesting. Look closer.
  4. Alter your course often.
  5. Observe for long durations (and short ones).
  6. Notice the stories going on around you.
  7. Notice patterns, make connections.
  8. Document your findings (field notes) in a
    variety of ways.
  9. Incorporate indeterminacy.
  10. Observe movement.
  11. Create a personal dialogue with your
    environment. Talk to it.
  12. Trace things back to their origins.
  13. Use all of the senses in your investigations.

If you are one of the 90% who doesn’t use New Year’s Resolutions, or who sets them and doesn’t follow through, perhaps using this template could be an alternative approach to being more effective in the New Year?

Happy New Year!

Paul

Communication Breakdown

Friday, November 9th, 2012

“It’s well under 23”, I said as I put the first of our checked bags on the scales at the very beautiful Orlando Airport. He looked up at me  - perhaps quizzically – as  he moved it to the centre of the scales.  The scales showed ‘47.0’. “That can’t be right”, I said.

“Sure is”, he replied, “when I picked it up, I knew it was well over 23”. I was astounded.

“But I only checked it an hour ago”, I retorted.

“Not a problem though”, he added, “It’s under the 50 pounds, and that’s all that matters for me”.  Ah, pounds!  I was using kilogrammes. We laughed about our different ‘languages’.

Just another of those communication breakdowns that happen every day, probably every hour. A simple misunderstanding due to the way we make assumptions, don’t listen or don’t explain ourselves.

But some misunderstandings are more complicated. Earlier in the holiday we had been staying at a relatively cheap, but very well equipped and maintained Best Western hotel. In the bathroom was the notice pictured above, which said “Take it home!  If you enjoyed your stay as much as we think you did, you shouldn’t have to leave those memories behind.  Many items in this room such as towels, pillows and sheets are for sale. Please contact the front desk at check-out for pricing. Thanks for staying with us!”

Before you read any further, think about what you are being told. What information is it seeking to give? What message do you take from it?

I had read it a couple of times when we first arrived. Later I went back to it. It was preoccupying me. I didn’t understand it. The towels were just white towels – nothing special. They didn’t have any emblems on them or fancy stitching. Why would people want to buy them as “memories” of their stay? I was stuck – I decided to involve someone else. “Peta, why would someone want to buy these towels as souvenirs?”.  She quickly replied, “I don’t think that’s what it means”.  I was intrigued.

She went on to explain that she had read it a couple of times herself and had decided that the actual message was not the message I was taking from the notice.  She thought that the message was to anybody who was thinking of stealing any of the items, telling them that they shouldn’t. Blimey! I read it again and could vaguely see her point of view.

But if that’s the case, why not just say, “Please do not take the towels”, etc. If that is the intended message – and I’m still not sure it is – I wonder how many readers understand it. Have the creators of the message spent so much time attempting to make the message ‘positive’, they have completely lost the focus of the actual message – and so nobody knows what is really meant.

How often do we verbally do this in our daily lives? Often I would suggest. And it is perhaps a more ‘underhand’ breakdown in communication than the baggage example. What does it do for relationships and rapport?

Paul

Skills for Growth

Sunday, July 22nd, 2012

I got on the train at Harrogate. I sat behind a man who got up soon after we had pulled out of the station – he went to the toilet. The train pulled into the next station which is only about a mile from Harrogate Station, and he suddenly left the toilet and got off the train. He hadn’t left himself much time, I thought. Then he looked back into the train from the platform – he seemed to be looking at his seat. Why did he go to the toilet directly before the station he was getting off at? Why was he rushing? Why did he look back at his seat? I had so many questions.

Some of us sit happily in the ‘Reviewing the Experience’ stage of Kolb’s Experiential Learning Cycle (ELC) or are shown to be strong Reflectors having undertaken Honey and Mumford’s Learning Styles questionnaire. For others, this reviewing or reflecting is not a strength, not something that comes easily or naturally. As you can probably tell from the first paragraph, it sits very comfortably with me … or should that be too comfortably?

What is this process? Rowntree (1988) says reflection is, “… studying one’s own study methods as seriously as one studies the subject and thinking about a learning task after you have done it”. Unless you do this, he says, the task – as a learning experience – will almost certainly be wasted. In any learning situation, he adds, you should prepare for it beforehand, participate actively during it, and reflect on it afterwards.

Donald Schon (1983) suggested that to reflect “on action” so as to engage in a process of continuous learning is one of the defining characteristics of professional practice. He argued that the model of professional training which loads students up with knowledge in training schools so that they can then discharge it when they enter the world of practice has never been a particularly good description of how professionals “think in action”, and is quite inappropriate to practice in a fast-changing world.

The cultivation of the capacity to reflect “on action” (after you have done it, retrospective thinking) and “in action” (while doing something, thinking on your feet) has rightly become an important feature of professional training programmes in many disciplines. It can also be argued that effective reflective practice needs another person such as a mentor or coach, who can ask appropriate questions to ensure that the reflection goes somewhere, and does not get bogged down in self-justification, self-indulgence or self-pity.

If the student can be coached to identify the feelings they have experienced and the thought processes they have used – to reflect on his/her own learning – then learning will continue at a much swifter pace and ultimately with less support from the coach or mentor.

As the makers of the man’s iPhone say, “Think Different”.

Enabling a person to initially reflect ‘on action’, and subsequently reflect ‘in action’ is the key to sustainable self-development. Due to its importance, trainers, coaches and facilitators have a responsibility to ensure that this is a golden thread throughout all their contact time.

Returning to the man on the train … I got to ask him all the questions I listed above. That’s because having seen him looking back into the train, I had a look around his seat – and I found his iPhone.

When I returned it to him a couple of days later he explained that he had fallen asleep. When he awoke he needed the toilet, but didn’t realise how close to his station he was.

If he had reflected in action – as opposed to on action – he may well have not gone to the toilet, and thus not lost his phone – a significant potential return on investment! And whilst I accept that most of us are not at our most effective when we wake from a sleep, the more practiced and engrained reflection is, the more likely it is to become the default position, and so just happen.

It all made me reflect on how my son had left his iPhone on a bus a year or so ago – he also spoke to the person who found it, but they didn’t return it. Not all reflection is helpful …

Paul

I Had a Dream …

Tuesday, July 3rd, 2012

Through the nervous 90’s, and on 99 not out … then the opportunity arrived … a slower ball … driven back past the bowler for a single … a maiden test century … and then, sadly, I woke up … Why was I dreaming about that very English game of cricket?  Ah yes, I went to sleep last night thinking about what to write in my one hundredth blog post. I quickly discounted – with a shiver at the thought – that this was an indication that I should explain the rules of cricket and how it is played. No, it was because this journey of writing a blog has been like a cricket innings.

At the outset I thought that it would be tricky – a bit like facing the new ball. As each idea to write about comes to mind, they are a bit like balls being bowled – some can be used and ‘posted’ to the outfield, whilst others should be left well alone. Sometimes there might be a dozen in a row to be left alone, at other times 2 or 3 good ones come along at once. And the weather conditions – or my outlook – can impact on the effectiveness of the posts.

And in the same way as when a cricketer makes a century, and the TV coverage reviews their 100 runs, I will review my experience of 100 blog posts.

When I set out, I had very little understanding of blogs and websites. I didn’t know whether to write a blog, but I was given one piece of crucial advice which made the decision for me. I was told that websites will rise up search rankings if their content is constantly being updated, and that a blog was one way of doing this. The other primary way was for me to update my own website, but my ineptitude in this area left me with just the one option.

I also read parts (I say ‘parts’ because I don’t think I can claim to have read a full book in at least 20 years) of the book “Naked Conversations” from which I really warmed to the idea of building on-line rapport with potential customers – by demonstrating where my expertise lies and helping others understand what makes me tick.

Those were my two reasons – ranking and rapport – which were countered with a large dollop of trepidation. What would I write about? Did I actually know anything of any value to others? Where would I find the time? Was I really comfortable opening myself up, warts and all?

However, as with many things we concern ourselves with in life, none of these issues materialised. And more importantly, there have been benefits, huge benefits. It has been personally fulfilling, a tremendously positive and enjoyable experience and has generated a small amount of client driven business from people I would never have otherwise met. So what have been my main learning points?

  • Returning to my dream I referred to at the start of this post … at the outset I found myself reviewing the day as my head hit the hay (I  haven’t intentionally attempted poetry yet!). I found myself asking  “What has happened today that links to learning and development or my business?” I found it a tremendously satisfying way to review and reflect on a set period of time.  It generated some really good stories. The next day I would write my post. And I have discovered that I just love spending a couple of hours writing, reflecting, thinking, questioning, writing, learning, considering, writing … and finally publishing!
  • By checking the ‘search strings’ I can see which particular blog posts are being found by people. This has helped me to understand where my expertise is perhaps welcomed and subject areas that are not as readily available on the internet as others (John Heron’s wonderful ‘6 Category Intervention Analysis’ and ‘Dimensions of Facilitator Style’ are two such subject areas). From this, I can give additional focus to areas which are of interest to readers.
  • By checking the statistics, every now and then I notice a website that has been paying a close interest in mine. This is usually because they have published one of my articles – sometimes for good reasons – and it is great to see my company logo in some e-magazine in some far off country – and sometimes as an error (I once used a Steps album cover as my photo, and I now have an unintentional presence on Steps lyrics website!)
  • There are very few down sides. The only one that springs to mind is the amount of spam comments I get – about 150 a day. The majority are deranged, illegal or obscene, but a few are misguided – like the glasses company that linked to my post describing how to create a Vision! On a different tack, I do also remember a rather lengthy discussion with my wife as to whether I should publish a blog about OFSTED in case it was libellous. I published.
  • I have learned that I can use one blog post on various media in addition to my website – for example Facebook, Linkedin and Twitter. I know I am connected to different people through all the different media, and so this facility enables me to contact as broad an audience as possible. My areas for future development here are to learn how (if possible) to get the comments generated via one form of media to populate the other forms automatically, and to develop  y use of other media.
  • I was also approached by Glasstap asking if they could publish my old blogs as articles (akin to a new film being released on DVD, I suppose) which has given me exposure to another market very relevant to my business.
  • And the final jewel in the crown – new business. After wondering many times whether the laudable principles described in “Naked Conversations” would work (build on-line rapport, show your expertise, never overtly sell a product or service) an email arrived out of the blue, saying “ … and having looked at your website and blog, I am interested in setting up a meeting with you. We have 4 senior executives who would benefit from coaching in Leadership skills amongst other things. Could you give me a ring when you are able please?” As I read it, I knew I was experiencing a significant moment on my blogging journey, in a similar way to 100 blog post  being an important point …

This reviewing of my ‘maiden century’ also comes along at an opportune time as professional colleagues have been discussing the pros and cons, and whys and wherefores of blogging.

I have no idea whether my experiences or enjoyment matches other people’s – each person has their own unique reasons for blogging. However, one of the ideas that I have seen and heard being discussed is having other people write blogs for you, and either being quite open about this, or, as one person has suggested, “… simply send to your clients as if it was your own work”.

I can understand why some people choose to have other people writing their blogs – better understanding of the internet, use of key words, reducing workload to work on other things – but it’s not for me. In my previous post I outlined my core foundations – how am I demonstrating realness, or being genuine if I pass off someone else’s work as mine? It certainly wouldn’t build that rapport I am seeking to achieve.

And I may miss out on business opportunities, but more importantly to me, I would miss out on my fun, my enjoyment, my sense of achievement. For me, using others to write my blog is the institutionalising of something that is expressive and perhaps rough round the edges – akin to choosing Paul Weller rather than The Jam, listening to Radio 1 over Radio Caroline, shopping at Waitrose as opposed to the Farmer’s Market and passing by the local coffee shop to savour a Starbucks.

A few weeks ago, a colleague said to me, “Every time I read your blog, I can hear you saying it”. Perfect! That pleased me no end, and if and when I stop writing my blog, if it had a headstone, that would be the best epitaph.

Blogging might not be for you, but if you are thinking about it, go for it. Just write! I’m so pleased I did. I’m sure you will enjoy it.

And hopefully my thoughts here might have taken a bit of shine off the new ball for when you come out to the wicket!

Paul

Masking Tips

Wednesday, May 23rd, 2012

Well, there I was on the shoreline, as I described in my last post. In a place I didn’t know, in a mild state of panic, with nowhere to stay and no way of leaving. I had a vocabulary of about twenty Croatian words. I was starting to freeze both physically and mentally.

In Maslow terms, I was back to basics – my physiological needs of warmth, shelter and food were not being met. My only option was to talk my way into someone’s home. As there was only one place with a light on – the shop – I had one opportunity within my one option. Not a strong position. I also felt pretty foolish for having got myself into the position, and have never liked imposing myself on others. Could my position have been any weaker?

I wasn’t confident I could pull it off. In NLP terms, this was me in “First Position”. As I thought about going into the shop, I considered how I would come across to anyone I met – “Second Position”.  I thought of Acres, from Sheridan’s ‘The Rivals’, when he says before the duel “My valour is certainly going, it is sneaking off! I feel it oozing out as it were, at the palms of my hands!”’

Finally, I took “Third Position” or the “Meta Position” – I looked at the situation from an outsider’s perspective. I then I realised what I needed to do. I needed to become someone who would always manage to succeed in such a situation – and that person was Michael Palin! He travels the world meeting new people, has a lovely way with people and gets himself into people’s homes and premises whenever he wants.

So I became Michael Palin – initially in my mental approach, and then in terms of my physical behaviours and all aspects of my rapport building. To cut a long story short, it worked like a dream! Anna, the shopkeeper – who also had rooms she let out in the summer – let me to stay and fed me for the next two days.

It is a technique I have used on several occasions since, and one that I have encouraged and enabled others to use - it can bring about strikingly beneficial results.

It obviously had more of an emotional attachment for me than Anna. I went back two years later (this time in the summer!) and stayed with her again – and even though I reminded her of my previous visit she couldn’t remember me. Perhaps it happened every week? The Tourist Information Office in Dubrovnik having a competition to see how many unsuspecting tourists they could get to visit a closed Mljet! …

Which brings me to last December, when I wrote a blog about “Being Santa”. Having got changed from being Santa, I went back to my colleagues and they were talking about how people are different when they are somebody else. It made me think more about Masquerades and being Santa – or being anyone else to be more precise (and so reminded me of Michael Palin).

Whilst I acquired my Santa outfit for fun (£2.50 in a Homebase sale!), I did by accident find an additional use for it. The office Christmas Party. I find Christmas a lovely time of the year, but office parties are not part of Christmas for me – I have never really enjoyed them.

There was one particular year when I really didn’t want to go, so I decided to go as Santa. And it was a very interesting experience. I discovered that I was able to go to it and enjoy it more than I had done previously. On reflection, I realised that I was attending as Santa and not as Paul, and so had a different outlook. Consequently I used a whole different set of behaviours. As a result, every year from then on I went as Santa – and enjoyed them far more.

The main reason for the invention and subsequent popularity of Masquerade Balls in Fifteenth Century Venice was so that people could conceal their identity and hide who they really were. The anonymity they provided to an upper class that was governed by the strictest etiquette was irresistible. They didn’t have to be themselves; they were able to be different people. Oscar Wilde once said, “Man is least himself when he talks in his own person. Give him a mask, and he will tell you the truth”.

This leads me to the questions I want to pose.  Which is the real person? Paul or Santa (or Michael Palin)?

The person when they are wearing or not wearing the mask?

When is a person closest to being their innate self?

I have thought about it many times over the years since my visit to Mljet. What are your thoughts?

Paul