Make Stress Management Personal with MindSonar

Make Stress Management Personal with Mindsonar

Whatever area of coaching you work in, at some point you will probably do some work to enable your clients to discover ways both to manage their current stress level and to become more resilient to stress in the future. MindSonar can help us do this in a truly client-centred way, by identifying the meta programmes operating when a client experiences stress, and so enabling change work to be focused on those which might be fuelling their stress response.

As always when considering a person’s thinking patterns, there are no intrinsically good or bad meta programmes – it depends upon the context and the way in which the meta programme is impacting upon on the way the individual feels and behaves. Therefore, it is possible that meta programmes which help the person in one context, could be causing a problem in another. Likewise, each meta programme of a pair could be unhelpful in different people..

To illustrate this, here are two simple examples from a couple of my clients of how either of a meta programme pair can contribute to stress – in this case, the perceived locus of control.  I’ve also included a brief account of the benefits that each client experienced from becoming aware of how they could change their stress level by changing their thinking

1. Very high Internal Locus of Control: this client spent a lot of time worrying about things which were completely out of his control. He was losing sleep over such things as world events and the future economy. He said that he often felt responsible for anything that went wrong around him at work and at home, even when he knew that he could not have influenced the outcome in any way. During coaching, he was able to identify some situations in which he was content not to be responsible (ie when he had more of a balance between Internal Locus of Control and External Locus of Control). He recognised that he was thinking differently in those contexts, and that he was more comfortable and less stressed in them. After that, he said could imagine how he would feel if he utilised that more comfortable thinking pattern when in the situations which were currently causing him stress. Therefore, he decided to utilise the more helpful style of thinking in relation to the things in his life that he tended to worry about.

2. Very high External Locus of Control:  in this case, the client felt completely out of control in the context of developing a business. The level of stress she was experiencing from this was stopping her from progressing toward this goal. She felt that so many external factors were in the way of becoming a successful business owner that she could no longer see any opportunities. By considering her score for this meta programme, she considered other situations in which she did feel confident and focussed on what she could influence. She then began to be able to identify the changes in her thinking that would enable her to move in the direction she wanted to, gaining in confidence as she did. The result was a business plan which enabled her to accept those factors which she could not control whilst taking decisions and actions on the factors that she could influence.


I believe that any meta programme can contribute to stress. I am still discovering how powerful a MindSonar profile can be for getting clients to understand both the impact that their thinking pattern can have upon their personal experience of stress and anxiety, and their ability to change that.

Let me know of other meta programmes that you’ve seen contributing to stress, whether your own or a client’s. Perhaps we can demonstrate how each meta programme can cause stress in certain contexts..


Working with new managers


Over the years, I’ve found that a common client problem that is brought to coaching is that of a newly-promoted manager struggling with a promotion from team member to team leader. The related changes to the relationship with members of their team, coupled with developing a leadership mentality often leaves them feeling stressed and insecure about whether or not they are performing their new role effectively.

Since training in MindSonar, it has become apparent to me that one of the underlying causes of the stress lies in the client’s manager not recognising my client’s need for feedback on their performance during the early stages of their new role.   The more senior managers are generally experienced leaders who are expected to take initiative and make decisions. Consequently, they tend to be predominantly Internally Referenced. This can result in them not recognising (or remembering) that new managers may be more Externally Referenced in the context of their new roles, requiring some feedback on how they are progressing.  This difference can lead to new managers being left to their own devices and feeling unsupported, as their managers believe that they’ll either cope or request support as and when needed.

Less often, new managers feel they are not trusted because they feel that their manager is micro-managing them and giving feedback far too often.  Such cases are less frequent, but can also arise from a disparity between the Internally/Externally Referenced Meta Programmes.

In larger organisations, formal structures may exist in which regular feedback meetings are undertaken, but these still operate on the assumption that all staff are running the same thinking patterns, which of course is not the case. The result is that some feel that such meetings are too infrequent (those who are highly Externally Referenced) and some feel that it is micro-management (those who are more Internally Referenced).  Many smaller businesses have no feedback procedures at all.

If middle and senior managers were to invest in MindSonar profiles for their direct reports, they could tailor their approach to individuals, giving more frequent feedback to those who prefer it (the Externally referenced individuals), and feedback on a “as needed” basis to those who do not (the Internally referenced individuals).  This would reduce the stress and insecurity felt by all members of the team, whether new to post or not. As a result, team members will feel more motivated and so develop within their roles more productively.

Of course, there are other Meta Programmes which are at play in such circumstances, especially around the changing context of moving from team member to team leader.  The MindSonar profiles will also enable more experienced managers to support their junior managers to handle those changes too.

If you are a middle or senior manager who would like to get the most from your junior managers, then contact your local MindSonar Professional to learn more about how MindSonar could enable you to get the best out of your team, and keep each team member motivated and less stressed.

If you’re a coach who works with managers at any level, then you’ll find becoming a MindSonar Professional a really worthwhile addition to your coaching toolkit, so do consider adding it as soon as you can.

Developing marketing messages – prevent this common pitfall…


Recently, after a discussion with some fellow business owners, I have been thinking about how businesses develop their branding and messaging – specifically the effectiveness of branding workshops.

It seems that many branding and business development exercises run for small businesses include workshops at which groups of business owners share information about their businesses, the services or products they offer and the future development they hope for. The group members then analyse and critique each other’s current materials and offer constructive comments for improvement.

On the surface, this seems to be a positive exercise, and participants often leave with new ideas and an action plan to put those ideas into practice. However, on looking more into the outcomes that people come away with, I now have some concerns about the final effectiveness. My reason for this is that, in my experience (as I’ve mentioned in previous blogs) business owners have a tendency for certain thinking styles over others. For example, I see a high level of Towards motivation in the self-employed, along with high scores for Internal Locus of Control.

It doesn’t surprise me therefore, that many of the suggestions that come out of these workshops is about making the branding and messages more focussed on the outcome that services provide (Towards), rather than on the problem they solve. Similarly, the wording suggestions are often amended in such a way as to emphasise the control the client will have (Internal Locus of Control). Of course, if your clients mainly comprise other business owners and similar people, that’s great. However, what if your clients are often people who have a high External Locus of Control, or have a predominantly Away From thinking pattern in the context of your product? Your communications could miss them completely.

It has been my personal experience that many types of business workshops, including (but not only) those on marketing, often involve working with like-minded individuals. I now wonder if they carry the risk of resulting in ineffective strategies for those businesses for which the client group are quite a different group of people than those attending the workshops.

Perhaps this is another area in which we can utilise MindSonar profiles – encouraging business owners to use focus groups of actual clients to understand more about what they want in order to decide to develop their messaging, products and services. Or maybe MindSonar could be used within the current groups to highlight similarities and then lead to consideration of whether, from what they tell you, your client group are similar or very different?

It’s certainly something to be aware of whenever we are creating and further developing our own businesses. I’d love to hear your experiences of this or similar situations, so please leave comments in the box below.



The Manager who didn’t want to Live in the Now

By Jantina Wijtsma

I was coaching Bert, a manager who worked for a non-profit organization. Bert had a whole list of questions for me:

  • “How can I manage my team to be ready for the future?”
  • “How can I renew the values in the team asap?”
  • “How can I move us forward fast?”
  • “How can I quickly achieve the best results for the company with the people I manage?”
  • “How can I earn money for us in the future?”Continue reading

Brexit debates – a great resource for MindSonar practice

At the moment in the UK it is virtually impossible to escape debates about Brexit. Whether on television, radio , online or even when out with friends, it is a topic that is generating a lot of debate and argument. Many people are thoroughly fed up with the topic, especially with the exchanges between politicians on both side of the debate, whose behaviour is less than exemplary.

At the same time, people are interested and want to stay up-to-date with what’s being debated and decided. So, how might we do that but not get completely stressed by the tempers, arguments and emotions that are on display? As MindSonar professionals and NLPers we might just have the advantage – we can play “Spot the metaprogramme”! Listening to and watching the Brexit debates and the political interviews, it is evident which metaprogrammes are being used. So here is my take on just some the more obvious Brexit debate metaprogrammes…

Many people (even some who voted to remain) are saying that they are now impatient for it to be over and wish we could just leave now, deal or no deal (Proactive) whereas others are calling for more time for debate (Reactive). Some put forward their arguments for why we should leave the constraints of Europe or why we must remain to avoid uncertainty (Away From), while others talk of looking forward to new future arrangements and trade deals (Towards).

Many MPs argue that their personal views are irrelevant because they should only represent what the majority of the public voted for (Externally Referenced) whereas others argue that their own current knowledge means that they must vote for what they believe is best (Internally Referenced).

Meanwhile the Speaker of the House of Commons (the chairman so to speak) is focussed on protocol being observed (Procedure) – often arguing with those who say the situation is so new, no protocol is relevant and new approaches are needed (Options).

On both sides there are those focussing on what they see as the advantages to their side of the argument (Matching) whilst other stress the threats of the other side (Mismatching).

Amongst the public there are those who are now disengaged and feel powerless (External Locus of Control) while many are still actively campaigning for another vote, believing they can change the politicians’ minds (Internal Locus of Control).

Arguments from all side include opinions about the effect on the economic figures (Information) the impact upon particular groups within our society (People) and how the necessary new systems will be implemented (Activity).

What I find really interesting is how the fiercest debates are often between those who not only differ in their belief about whether we should remain or leave, but between those who are running different metaprogrammes. In that case they really aren’t hearing one another. An argument between someone focussing on information and another on people results in each feeling that the other is simply not listening to them. Likewise when an externally referenced MP is debating with an Internally referenced one. It really is an excellent MindSonar practice exercise – and it’s made the debates more bearable for me.

Unintended consequences – are certain thinking styles responsible?

Here in the UK, In October 2015, the government introduced a policy making all large stores charge 5p for single use carrier bags. The driving force behind this policy was the large number of single use plastic bags that were in the environment, not just littering, but posing a real danger to wildlife due to entangling creatures and being mistaken as a food source by aquatic birds and mammals. The aim of the policy was to significantly reduce the number of single use bags and, as a consequence, total plastic manufactured and handed out to shoppers as they switched to long-lasting bags instead (so-called bags for life)

In 2017, a review was done of the previous 12 months to see if the policy had worked. On the surface it looked as if it had – single use bag usage was down by a fifth. However, a deeper analysis of the use of plastic bags in general was less reassuring. In fact, it would seem that a lot of people use bags for life just as they did the single use bags. What’s more, the majority of bags for life sold were also plastic of a much heavier type, so in fact, as one supermarket managing director admitted, despite an overall reduction in the number of bags sold, the amount of plastic used overall had increased!

It is also the case that single use bags are fully recyclable (not all bags for life are) and all major supermarkets would accept them back to send to be recycled. The real problem was that many people didn’t recycle them and so the bags were discarded into the environment through landfill and litter. Many people didn’t know that supermarkets accepted them back for recycling. Also, the additional cost of bags for life and their general lack of quality meant that they weren’t valued as significantly different from single use bags. Therefore the real problem seems to be more about public awareness and behaviour than about single use bags themselves.

Not such a success then. An unintended consequence.

When I read about this, I couldn’t help but wonder what thinking styles might have been behind the policy. Were there particular metaprogrammes that led to the unfortunate outcome? My initial thoughts are that perhaps the policy was developed by people with a high Detail metaprogramme. This could lead to a focus on the initial reported problem of single use bags in the environment and so decide that the question to be answered was “How do we reduce the number of single use bags handed out?”. In contrast, people with a high Concept metaprogramme might have instead asked “Why are there so many plastic bags in the environment? The first question focuses firmly on the very specific problem observed, whereas the seconds seeks to see the bigger picture. Perhaps there’s also an involvement of Procedure and Options too – with an Options thinking style being more aware of the existence of alternative, and not necessarily favourable, outcomes.

Another metaprogramme that might be involved is the direction of motivation. The focus might have been so much on getting Away from the problem of single use bags, that little work was done on what the possible consequences could be. In contrast, a focus on moving Towards reducing the amount of plastic used in shopping bags overall and increasing recycling of those that were used might have avoided the situation we are now in.

I know from experience that it is not uncommon for policies to produce unintended consequences. Perhaps an understanding of thinking styles would be helpful to policy making groups and committees to avoid these. It would also enable such groups to consider the behaviours behind such problems too.

There are probably other metaprogrammes at play too – what do you think the thinking styles behind this unfortunate outcome were? Are there ones that I’ve missed, or ways in which the ones I’ve thought of might work differently? As always, let me know your thoughts in the comments below.