L. Michael Hall, Ph.D.
C What is the quality of training trainers in NLP today?
C How satisfied do you feel regarding the currently quality of NLP trainers?
C If leaders and trainers are the ones who call and train a community in a given field, model or discipline, how pleased are we with NLP leaders and trainers in general?
C What do we need in order to raise the level of skill, competency, and integrity in NLP leaders?
C What problems has the NLP community experienced and suffered over the years due to problems in the training of trainers?
C What is the next level of quality and competency for trainers training?
For many of us in NLP who truly care about this field and want to see it succeed in terms of gaining more credibility academically, gain more effectiveness in the world of business, and gain more acceptance publicly—we’ve got a problem. We have a lot of serious challenges facing us. After 30 years, NLP is not only not recognized for its credibility, it is all too frequently seen in a negative light.
We could spend time exploring why this is so, where this comes from, who has contributed to this problem, etc. Yet to do would not help and it would not be applying NLP to ourselves. The issue we need to focus on isn’t the source of the problem, we rather need to focus on constructing some powerful solutions to turn things around. Since I see this problem almost everywhere in the world—in the USA, Europe, Australia, Africa, Asia, South America—the problem must be a systemic problem.
Perhaps there is something amiss in the very way that we train trainers. Actually, this isn’t a new thought or one that I’ve invented. I hear this from NLP trainers, thinkers, and leaders everywhere. The very conflicts between various “schools” or “camps” in NLP suggests that there’s some inadequacy in how trainers have been trained.
Training of Trainers —Past and Future
So how are trainers trained? How do we designed trainers training? What do we seek to create or achieve in such trainings? What strategies and processes do we use? What structures and networking do we initiate that allow trainers to develop excellence, high quality, congruency, integrity, a cooperative and collaborative style, etc.?
Interesting enough (and sadly enough) I don’t think I’m over-stating things to say that, like most things in NLP, the intent and design of most trainers training is primarily about making money through a training. It’s about keeping a training center profitable by adding the pinnacle of the training track. We put on Trainers Training when we think we can market to enough people to profitably conduct another training. In this, trainers training in NLP does not seem very strategic or systemic in terms of thinking about the entire community. In fact, it often seems to be the opposite, promoting a given “camp” or school of NLP.
As a result, many trainers are not very skilled, lack the competency even in the context of presenting NLP information, facilitating the processes, eliciting states in an audience, engaging an audience, and building skill and competence in participants. Among those who have this level of competency, there’s a great many who do not have the business skills for creating, building, and sustaining a viable business. And for those who do, they often lack the skills for networking, collaborating, and creating coalitions so as to not be stuck in a small proprietary business and feel that they are in competition with the rest of the NLP community.
Then there’s the problem of scarcity. Beyond all of the petty competition, small-minded nit-picking and highlighting of differences in this tiny little community, there is the attitude that there’s not enough. This leads to fear of sharing, childish clinging to “intellectual property,” refusal to acknowledge sources, and other toxic ideas, feelings, and experiences that come from a sense of scarcity rather than abundance. So, what can we do about this? How can we create a new, different, and better future?
Taking Trainers Training to a New and Higher Level
Suppose we acknowledged these problems and difficulties and set our aim to step back and reflect on the training of trainers and leaders in NLP. If we did, we could begin asking some very important questions that could perhaps allow a vision of what’s possible to arise.
C What kind of leaders and trainers do we want?
C What kind of trainers would truly represent the spirit of NLP, that is the essence and heart of what we envision NLP to be?
C What qualities do we want in our trainers and leaders?
C How would we go about training in those kinds of traits, features, skills, and relational qualities?
C How could we measure or benchmark the quality of trainers?
C How could we create a network of cooperation and collaboration world-wide and raise the vision of trainers that we are all in this together?
These are among the first questions we could begin to ask if we step back and use our models and skills to think strategically about the training of trainers. Then we put our heads and hearts together to begin designing trainers training that’s not just about helping someone change careers, we could envision community building.
Trainers as Leaders and Models
A beginning place might be to set a frame for all NLP trainers about leadership. Whether a trainer realizes it or not, everyone who teaches, presents, trains, and even uses NLP publicly with clients is in a leading role and will be seen and evaluated as a living model of NLP. So every fuss, every conflict, every negative comment about others, every lack of state management, etc. will be seen as “That’s what NLP is!”
In other words, I’d suggest we strategically focus on building in a strong sense of personal responsibility in trainers that how we talk, act, relate, and live will communicate as much about NLP as the content of what we present in a training. This means that merely developing trainers who can “talk” about NLP, reason, argue, and debate about NLP should not be our goal. Rather, we should develop trainers who can walk the talk. That’s what a true and powerful leader does. In fact, that’s the heart of leadership—leading out and showing the way by action. Words come later. Words give cognitive content to what we are actually doing.
What if we used this criteria for determine regarding when a trainer is ready to be certified? What if how the person lives NLP and operates from congruently walking the talk became the certification point, not finishing a training, passing a paper-and-pencil test, or making a great presentation in a training? Would that change things? Would that refocus the meaning of “Trainer?”
What if we began to hold ourselves as trainers and newly trained trainers to that level of quality? What if quality of living the models and patterns, of “apply to self,” became the first criteria? And what if we created networks for that kind of accountability?
Raising the Benchmarking Level
Of course, then we would have to ask another question. How would we measure or mark or determine “walking the talk?” That’s pretty vague? How do we denominalize such ideas as “congruency, integrity, leadership, cooperation, collaboration, professional, etc.?”
We speak about de-nominalizing overly vague and fluffy terms (nominalizations) in NLP all the time. This corresponds in the academic and scientific communities to operationalizing our terms so that we can agree upon a way to measure things. In the business and consultancy fields we speak about benchmarking best practices so that they can be replicated. This corresponds to modeling in NLP.
In the past two years in our Meta-Coaching training, we have set out to benchmark the intangible nominalizations that are called “coaching skills.” To date, we have benchmarked 25 of the key skills and set them out on a 0 to 5 scale with specific empirical or sensory-based behaviors to indicate degrees of the skills. This has allowed us to set a benchmark for each of the skills and to be able to precisely measure the quality of any coach’s skill level. Our next step is to now transfer this to the domain of training and do so with training and leadership skills, which is what we’re planning to do this year—for the first time ever—at our Trainers Training.
As we have been benchmarking in this way, it has provided fascinating insights into the structure of the experience of skill development. It provides a mirror so that we can see where we are in terms of the quality of a given skill and what are the behaviors that will enable us to take our skill to the next level. It also invites true feedback (in contradistinction to judgment). Now colleagues can reflect back in specific see-hear-feel terms precisely what we are doing so that we can make cleaner and more discreet shifts in our actions, gestures, language, etc.
Benchmarking as a process also does something else. When a coach or trainer is benchmarked against certain criteria it sets a frame that skills are skills and that they can always be improved. In doing so, we begin to set frames in our own mind about how we want to take our own skills to the next level. Of course, an arrogant person wouldn’t want to do that. A know-it-all would feel threatened by such. A trainer who wants to play the Guru Game and build up his or her own “camp” of devotees would find that too risky, too vulnerable.
Yet isn’t that the kind of trainers and leaders we need to take NLP into this twenty-first century? Don’t we need and want authentic trainers? Trainers who are congruent, real, down-to-earth, loving, playful, learning, growing, and open to feedback? Wouldn’t trainers like that give NLP a much better name and reputation?
Back to “Apply to Self”
Given all this, the question undoubtedly arises in your mind, “Am I personally applying this to myself?” Ah, the “apply to self” criteria! Perhaps the reason we all do skip around the apply to self frame at times is that it is so challenging. It doesn’t leave us alone. It calls us on the carpet. It demands that we make ourselves accountable.
In thinking through this and stepping back to more strategically think about Trainers Training, I am introducing several new things in our Neuro-Semantic/ NLP Trainers Training program this year. This year in Australia, I have assembled a team of 9 trainers from many countries (Australia, USA, South Africa, New Zealand, England, etc.) to co-train with me—so that we can demonstrate team work and collaboration. This year, we will use benchmarking of skills and I will give the trainers in training 3 days to benchmark my skills as they watch me do a live training (“Accessing Personal Genius”). This year, we will spend four days on the Business aspects of Training to equip people with the entrepreneurship skills necessary. This year, we will spend considerable time creating community and collaborative relationships and practice state-management skills for conflict resolution among us as trainers and leaders.
It’s just a beginning. There’s much more to do. But at least it enables us to take a few faltering steps to raising the level of training trainers so that we ourselves develop the internal quality that reflects well on the presuppositions, models, and patterns of NLP and Neuro-Semantics.