Tag Archives: neuro-linguistic programming

Agile Mindset – Changing Mindset and Emotions, A Model


This tool that I want to share with you is one that I use with my clients when their stress levels rise.  It is a model taken specifically from the area of psychology called Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) and has been also been applied to Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP). It is called the ABC model and I use it to help my clients understand the true causes of most of their problems doesn’t lie with their environment, the people in their lives or external events.  Very often the cause of much stress and pressure that they put themselves under comes from their own thinking.

An Example

Consider the following real life example.  John’s boss asks him when is the report that he been working on going to be ready.  John immediately starts to feel under pressure and rather than snap at his boss he grumbles to himself “Why is he always doing this to me? Doesn’t he know I’m working as fast as I can? Who does he think he is? It’s not fair he always picks on me”.  John now feels a few familiar emotions that he might package up and call stress.  These emotions may be anger, resentment, feelings of injustice or sadness to name a few. If we were to sit down and talk with John what do you think he would consider to be the source of his “negative” emotions? More than likely he would see his boss as the problem.

The ABC Model

Now let’s look at this from a different perspective while describing the ABC model.  The ABC model comes from the work of an American psychologist Dr Albert Ellis and is described in greater detail in most books on CBT.

The “A” stands for activating event  and in this case it is when the boss asks John when the report would be ready, a perfectly reasonable request if delivered appropriately.

The “B” stands for the beliefs or thoughts that John has immediately after the request. Why is he always doing this to me?

The “C” is then the consequent emotion which practitioners and researchers of CBT belief arise as a result of the thoughts that John tells himself.

So the chain of events is that A is followed by B is followed by C.  Now often the thoughts may happen very quickly, so quickly in fact that they may go unnoticed and John is left thinking that the cause of his “negative” emotions were his boss.  This line of thought is also a trap for John because the more he thinks like this the more “negative” emotions will be created which leads to more unresourceful beliefs.  This is what can be termed a vicious cycle of events that can quickly spiral out of control.  Research has demonstrated that our emotions can be controlled by our thinking, so what we need to do is to think differently in order to experience different emotions.  If we can stop then reverse the vicious cycle we can end up with a virtuous cycle instead that will lead to clearer and more resourceful thinking. To do this we add “D” and “E” to the ABC model.

The Change

“D” is about disputing or questioning your unresourceful thinking and “E” stands for the effective result that arises from taking the time for the internal discussion.  In the example above John has the belief that his boss is always doing that to him.  The word always is a generalisation so John could start disputing whether this is actually always the case and is his boss actually picking on him?  If John continues to believe that he is a victim his behaviours and emotions will be that of a victim and this will only perpetuate the cycle for John if other potential bullies or persecutors identify John as an easy target or a whipping boy

An Exercise to Change Your Life and then Your Team

This exercise can be life changing for you and that is no overstatement.  Once you begin to change your thinking and feeling, your behaviours will naturally and automatically start to change.  This is the secret that underlies most successful behaviour change.  So, start to identify for yourself what emotions you experience on a daily basis that you may like to start feeling less.  People may call these “negative” emotions and that is why I have highlighted the work negative.  To me the emotion really isn’t negative – it’s just an emotion, neither negative nor positive, but often we want to feel these negative emotions less often than the positive ones. For instance you may find yourself being angry, sad, depressed, anxious, stressed, resentful or whatever;  Ask yourself are these emotions really useful or resourceful for you?  If not then start to become better at spotting the thinking that precedes them and the events that started the thinking process.  Maybe you could start an ABC diary that can capture the events, the beliefs or thinking and the emotions that follow.  Once you have started to identify the ABC then start to dispute and question your thinking that leads the “negative” emotions, you may then start to have new and more resourceful thoughts that can lead to “positive” emotions.

Once you have started to master this change for yourself, if your team hasn’t already started to change because of your changes, then you can start to coach them to become better at identifying and changing their thinking and subsequently their emotions.


Building and Strengthening Relationships — An Exercise

The first Agile value stated in the Agile Manifesto is “Individuals and Interactions over Processes and Tools”.  Our everyday interactions with our colleagues, whether on Agile projects or not, are the ingredients that comprise our relationships.  And as everybody knows, maybe with the exception of the people on Ramsay’s Kitchen Nightmares, poor ingredients lead to less than appetising dishes. Often our time as leaders is overly concerned with the workaday pressures of building business, fighting fires and just plain getting the job done. As a result our relationships may often be neglected or worse still may even be ruptured as a result of careless or “negatively” emotional interactions.  I encourage any leader reading this to explore and reflect on their business relationships, especially those that have hit a “rocky patch”.  To that end I have provided the following exercise, one that finds it origins in Neuro-linguistic programming (NLP), as it will help to guide your reflections on the most meaningful relationships to you. Allow yourself some quality time to carry out the exercise properly and it can reveal all manner of insights for you as a leader.  Please feel free to share any insights in the reply box below.

Perceptual Positions Exercise

This exercise will take approximately 15-20 minutes.

Find a location where you won’t be disturbed and turn your phone off.

Take a moment to think of a relationship that you consider to be a bit “rocky”.  Think now of a specific incident where you and the other had difficulty in communicating your points to each other.

Take a moment to get into what NLP practitioners call the first position. Sit yourself comfortably in a chair, close your and take a few deep breaths so that you can begin to relax. In this position you will see everything for your perspective exactly as it happened.  What was it you were seeing at that time?  Do you remember what the other was wearing, how they were sitting, the expressions on their face.  Remember as much as you can to really bring the scene back to life. What were you hearing at the time?  How was your tone of voice? What about their tome and pitch of voice?  Was there emphasis on any particular words?  Now what about the feelings at the time, what were you feeling?  Can you remember the feelings in particular parts of your body?  Do you also remember what you were thinking at that time?  What was the other saying that evoked different thoughts or feelings? Take your time to remember the scene as accurately as you can.

Once you have done this take a moment to break that state.  You can break your state by standing up and clapping your hands together, walk around the room, shake your hands and feet or whatever.

In the other’s shoes …

Now return to your seat and relax again by taking a few breaths and when you are ready close your eyes.  You are now going to go into what we call the second position, this is where you step into the scene from the position of the other.  Take on their physiology, their body language, see things how they would see them.  See how they would be seeing you, how they would see your gestures and expressions.  Hear how they would hear your words, your tone of voice and so on.  This may feel odd as you step into that other person and as you take on their perspectives.  You can take this one stage further now by talking as if you were them.  Use the word “I” as if you were them speaking.  You may be very surprised as to how easy the words will flow and how you are able to construct a meaningful perspective from their viewpoint.

Spend a few more moment in second position and until you have gained some extra perspectives. Take a moment to absorb the essence of the other and take on board any meaningful learnings and insights from this position.  When you are ready break your state again as you did previously.

Being the “fly on the wall”

Return to your seat now and again relax, take a few deep breaths and when you’re ready close your eyes.  Now you are going to go into third position, what you might call the fly on the wall.  The difference between you and the fly however is that you are more engaged and concerned about the outcome in this relationship.  Take a moment to observe the person that looks like you in the first position.  As you see the person who looks like you what is it that you need more of to help you achieve your goal or intention with the other?  What do you need less of?  What advice would you give this person as a result of any insights that you have gained from being in the second position.  You may also from this position observe the nature and dynamic of the relationship and the interactions.  As an engaged observer allow yourself to see what else might be needed to nurture and cultivate that particular relationship.  What other advice would you then offer to the person who looks like you?

When you are ready and you have taken some meaningful insight form the positions take a moment to break you state again and return to yourself in the here and now.

For reflection:

Did this exercise provide you with any meaningful data that you can act on?

How would you be able to act on that information?

Is this an exercise that you can utilise again in the future?

Further Notes:

Some people are very good at either first, second or third position.  You may find yourself more comfortable with one in particular.  Be careful that if you are very comfortable with second position that you ensure that you are not overly biased towards this persons viewpoint.  People who don’t have a strong sense of self are more likely to bias their thoughts and feelings towards the other and as a result maybe lose sight of their own needs in the relationship.

Would you like help with your interactions and relationships?

Building and nurturing effective relationships are the core of any successful business.  You might like to chat to me about how you can improve your ability to grow you relationships.  If so give me a call today or contact me using our contact form and book a 30 minute no obligation coaching session to help you become a more relational leader.