Authors: Alan Williams & Steve Payne

Review by: Richard Higginson


This professes to be a self-help manual but it goes much further than that, serving as an excellent text book on neuro-linguistic programming (NLP) and something I had not come across before, Multiple Brain Integration Theory.  The “practices” of the title draw on these and in turn provide a useful guide to putting them to practical use.

My31Practices is a follow up to Alan Williams’ textbook on organisational cultural change and customer service, The 31 Practices: if you have read that, the concepts here, of specifying company values and converting them into action or behaviours (practices), will already be familiar.

The book opens with three rhetorical questions: 1 Do you want a life with a clear purpose?  2 Do you want to be happy and less stressed?  And 3 Do you want to be the best you can be?  The idea is that by working out what your core values are – five are needed – and then defining half a dozen things you do, or want to see yourself doing, for each value, that gives you roughly one practice for every day of the month (and you never need more than 31).

Simply behaving in accordance with your own values will make you happier, more focussed, and ultimately better at what you do, in both home and work life.  If that sounds familiar to anyone who has been on a training course which calls on NLP, you won’t be disappointed.  Alan Williams met his co-author, Steve Payne, by chance.  Steve is a Master trainer of NLP in the UK and his excellent summary of NLP in one of the book’s six sections is a highlight for me, having spent years not quite “getting it”.

The NLP summary is preceded by a lengthy introduction – nearly a fifth of the book – which sets out what the rest of the book is aiming to achieve and exactly how it is going to attempt this.  I found it frustratingly drawn out and repetitive.  After 60 pages I was itching to move on to the promised task.

Conversely, the second section, the key content of values and how to translate them into behaviours, was disappointingly sketchy.  I felt I needed more structured guidance in creating my 31 practices, perhaps by way of more examples or a template.  I was eventually saved by a later section which contains examples of people who have already used the book: their combined list of values helped me formulate my own and indeed choose one or two that I would never have thought of without hearing why someone else had chosen them.

The NLP section follows, in which I found reference to all manner of concepts I had been told about in a lifetime of personal development and management programmes – assumed truths, versions of reality, awareness, beliefs, goals – but here for the first time presented meaningfully and succinctly.  The overall message is perhaps to be found in this summary by the authors: “We are reminded that we need our behaviour to be aligned with what is important to [you].” 

This important concept of authenticity perhaps merits a section of its own, but we are left only with a reminder that “The more you are authentic, the more this will be visible to the world and the more it will be amplified because of the way modern communication works.”  One of the defining moments of my career was a management programme which was illustrated by extracts from an underrated golf-themed film titled The Legend of Bagger Vance in which we are advised “You have to find your authentic swing.”  my31Practices is punctuated with a host of quotations not only from luminaries such as Branson, Covey and Marx, but also less likely philosophers like J K Rowling, B B King and even Miley Cyrus.  Bagger Vance, however, is sadly omitted.

The book closes with a short but useful recap section and an interesting outline of the my31Practices “journey” since the early adoption of the “Daily Basics” by a well-known hotel chain nearly twenty years ago.

It is towards the end that we discover that by subscribing to a convenient website we may be provided with various tools to help us on our own journey, including a daily email with a randomly selected practice to aim for that day, and a second email to check progress.  But you have to pay for this service, and I am not sure the £31 (inevitable!) charge would encourage me to sign up.  I have paid my tenner for the book, surely the website use could be included in the price?

This is, niggles aside, a very user-friendly book; one might even call it a fun book.  Each chapter opens with an illustration by John Montgomery in whiteboard animation style, and gives space on the page to write or draw one’s own thoughts.  Each chapter closes with a “Want to know more?” QR code.  There is even a quiz at the end.  This is designed as an action book and “more than just words” and it certainly succeeds in that.

We should not forget the original book on which this draws, as individual behavioural change based on personal values can influence organisational change, I believe.  The world is changing rapidly and as customers become more aware, intelligent and demanding, their perceptions of the organisation and how much they trust it become more and more important.  No-one ever got fired for buying IBM, they used to tell me; nowadays I find myself asking, “Which other firms do I like the sound of? What other firms seem to share my values?  Is there a firm I relate to better?  (Yes, I know, we’ll probably be saying the same about Apple twenty years hence, and I picked IBM just as an example of a firm people trust.)

Talking to friends and colleagues, I hear all the time: “I called the supplier to enquire/upgrade/complain and I got this idiot on the phone…”  Customers’ perceptions are being formed not by the firm’s brand or reputation or figure-head CEO but by its lowest ranked employees.  Now, if those employees are not behaving or making decisions about customer enquiries according to their own values, never mind their company’s values, they are going to swiftly become the next idiots on the phone.

Either by accident or design – there is nothing specifically mentioned here – successful translation of personal values into behaviour in the workplace would no doubt produce much of the end result the original book, The 31 Practices, aims for, which makes this follow up all the more powerful.

Richard Higginson, Director –

Published by LID Publishing