How the ‘basis of hypnosis’ helps the boss of David Gandy’s talent agency get ahead

Richard Thompson portrait
Richard Thompson, chairman of M&C Saatchi Merlin. M&C Saatchi Merlin

Richard Thompson’s talent agency, M&C Saatchi Merlin, manages the careers of British celebrities like models David Gandy and Jodie Kidd, Jamiroquai lead singer Jay Kay, and “Lord of the Dance” Michael Flatley. He also chairs the panel for Debrett’s annual People of Today book, which calls itself “the ultimate biographical study of the UK’s most successful and influential people.”

Thompson has one key piece of advice that can be applied to business people, as well as celebrities. It involves neuro-linguistic programming (NLP), which he described as the “basis of hypnosis.”

NLP is a term coined by self-help author Richard Brandler. Though there is no universally accepted definition of NLP, its is known as the science of understanding what causes particular behaviours and conscious mental states, and then influencing how the brain responds to different stimuli using this understanding. NLP often uses hypnosis and self-hypnosis to achieve these changes.

Thompson told Business Insider that ever since he left school at 16-years-old, he’s used NLP to “get inside people’s heads” and advance his own career. He said: “You have to be able to read people. You have to gauge what’s in their mind.”

NLP has been particularly useful in managing high profile celebrities, Thompson said: “It gives you great tools and methods to communicate. One of the attributes you probably need in this world is a high EQ (emotional quotient.) If you haven’t got high emotional intelligence — empathy — you can’t read signals, you’re going to fall out with talent. Talent tends to be quite highly strung, they’re difficult, because these people have got different qualities. You know emotional intelligence is very important.”

The serial networker also gave three other useful pieces of career advice:

1. Keep up with sports as an adult.

Richard Thompson Oval
Thompson is also chairman of Surrey County Cricket. M&C Saatchi Merlin

On top of his other commitments, Thompson is also chairman of Surrey County Cricket Club.

He thinks that his involvement with the sport has actually been key to growing his own professional, as well as social, network.

“I think the best networks I’ve seen come via your personal interests because they’re very authentic and you get to meet everybody from every walk of life. Cricket is very sociable. You’re with people all day. And I think cricket in particular has thrown up an amazing network for me. As a player, and … as chairman.”

2. Go out as much as possible, and research who is attending each event

Thompson recommends going out lots to grow your professional network.

He said: “I’m at lots of dinners and functions and I make a point of going out a lot. It’s easy to look and go ‘I just cant be arsed, I don’t want to go.’ But actually, you could have met somebody quite interesting.”

However, the veteran talent agent does not go to events unprepared. He admitted that he researches the people attending beforehand, to work out who is worth speaking to:

“Have a look online to find out what they look like, because they haven’t always got a name badge on. It’s always the person who looks the most unassuming who’s the most interesting. So I’d memorise what they look like.”

3. When you make a mistake, compartmentalise it and move on

When celebrities make mistakes, there is nowhere for them to hide.

Much of Thompson’s job involves telling them how to move on when they screw up. This is his advice:

“Put it in perspective. Because its you know, compartmentalising things is a good way of managing anybody’s life, whatever you do … isolate it. Find a way, understand why you f—– up, or why what happened happened, get all the lessons you can from it, then draw a line. Put it back in that box, turn the key, throw the key away, incinerate the box.”

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