Friday, 12 November 2010

Milton Erickson's early career

Milton Erickson was a qualified doctor and psychologist.   NLP made him famous as a hypnotherapist, but only drew on experience of him as an 70+ year old teacher in a wheelchair (disabled by post polio syndrome).

He worked for a time in a secure mental hospital.  He tackled difficult cases and made dramatic breakthroughs using unorthodox approaches.  Erickson believed in utilising symptoms rather than suppressing them.

One patient was seen as a problem because he stood around staring into space with his elbow sticking out.  Erickson studied the setting and put the man into a blue overall and encouraged him to rest his elbow on a broom.  The patient shifted from 'problem' to 'janitor' and was seen as a normal fixture in corridors.

Another patient believed he was Jesus Christ.  Erickson avoided debating this idea. He approached the man and said "I understand you are a carpenter.  I'd appreciate your help in repairing the staff tennis court nets, as the doctors need more exercise."  The patient shifted into the role of handyman in the hospital.

In my experience, many managers try to suppress symptoms rather than utilise them.  "How can I offload this person (with the wrong psychological profile)" is more common than "How can I best utilise his/her strengths?"

Not all sales people need to be action oriented, aggressive pathfinders.  That's fine in a new market.  However a mature, saturated market, would benefit from the detail oriented, methodical worker, who could identify the range of small opportunities to increase sales.

Variety in a team increases scope for the range of projects tackled, as long as we manage the differences.

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