Professional development days, personal development days, team building camps, athletics carnivals and sporting events. There are dozens of initiatives created by corporates to keep their rats content in their cages, which enthral many employees and give them something to look forward to, but can also be dubbed ‘a wank’ by the more cynical.

Happy employees often means effective employees, and a lot of money is spent by brands and agencies to make their talent feel comfortable, excited by their jobs, and not want to jump ship anytime soon. I once worked at a law firm where the marketing department seemed dedicated to arranging company picnics. A social staff who are communicative and genuinely like each other is a powerful marketing tool for any business.

Sometimes some cheese and wine isn’t enough, though, and there are some deeper issues that need addressing. Rod Sherwin runs tap4health, an Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT) practice in Melbourne and is now taking his therapy into businesses. Sherwin came in to the Marketing mag offices and demonstrated the techniques to me, which he reckons permanently help stress, anxiety, trauma, depression, anger, eating disorders, smoking, chronic pain and a whole lot more. His PR rep who set the meeting up is a big fan, she says he cured her migraines. Sherwin taps various parts of his body with his fingers, his head, eyes, nose, collarbones, side of his hands and palms and asks me to do the same while repeating phrases after him. It’s all a bit strange, but I’m keeping my mind open.

Rod Sherwin says the therapy can help marketers a lot with daily issues, especially dealing with disappointment.

“When you’re dealing with a client, you get a brief, you go away, and you might do some work you would consider amazing,” Sherwin explains. “You bring it back and they say ‘that’s all crap’, so there’s this frustration, you’re disheartened. That initial emotional reaction affects the ability to communicate and deal with those emotions with the client. This therapy is not about making us robots, it’s about freeing us up so we can make better decisions. Because under stress we don’t make good decisions, we’re not rational.”

Sherwin says EFT is all about getting to the underlying cause of the stress, which often isn’t work-related.

“We’re a whole person, maybe something is going on away from work, maybe you’re moving house and it’s stressful or maybe you’ve got a child who is having an operation,” Sherwin says. “All of these things affect how we turn up each day. If we can shift those emotional levels, if we can change that at a deep enough level. We get changes in thoughts and behaviours and feelings. And it’s not just about positive thinking and telling you to be grateful. You are allowed to be upset, frustrated, disheartened, angry, disappointed. Whatever the feeling is, we deal with that at an emotional level. A good company is trying to think about the whole wellbeing of their employees, and often it’s troubles at home causing them distress, and that’s not the employers fault, but if we deal with that, they’re probably going to turn up as a better employee.”

So should employers be worried that giving their employees this therapy could make them see they are not a good fit for the job? Yep, they should be.

“I actually do think it’s a risk (that people will quit their jobs after therapy),” Sherwin says. “But if someone is really unhappy in their job, is it serving the company for them to be there? Maybe they just need to be helped to make that decision to move on. The good thing is a lot of people love their job, there just might be one particular aspect of it that is uncomfortable or difficult. Thankfully, most people don’t decide to quit.

Sherwin has found early popularity with small businesses in his move into the working world on top of his private practice, but he wants to move up to serving bigger corporates as well. He might run in to Gino de Pasquale on his way, an ex ad man who threw it all in because he wanted to be authentic’.

De Pasquale, now 45, bought out a small ad agency with his brother when he was just 21, took a while to find his feet but eventually turned it in to a $25 million turnover business before selling it off.

“I knew what I was doing by the end, but I didn’t like my life, my job, who I was and what I was doing, there was not much purpose,” de Pasquale says.

He has spent the last four years being a dad, and recently started his own business called ‘The Authentic Executive’, a pretty quirky one-man operation that is “part life coach, part marketing strategist”.

“It’s doing well, it’s early days, I’m learning as much as my clients are,” de Pasquale says. “It’s something I really believe in. After spending so much time in the ad business, I wanted to get out of the corporate environment. I was sick of the lies, 23 years as a CEO of advertising agency, I was frustrated and lied to a lot. The Authentic Executive is a bit of chivalry, it’s about getting more honest as people. I work with CEOs and senior execs, talking business and talking about more personal stuff as well. I’m not sure what I really am, and that makes it hard to sell myself.”

The Authentic Executive is a full-time job for de Pasquale, on top of some speaking gigs and sitting on a few boards. He doesn’t like to just show up for a day and then disappear, though, he prefers being an ongoing source of support for executives. De Pasquale has already built up around 10 clients he catches up with at least once a fortnight over lunch or coffee, as well as having phone conversations and keeping in contact over email whenever necessary. He says the service is a missing link for executives who have risen up the ranks quickly.

“Little Bob gets promoted and promoted and then finds himself at senior level and then at CEO level,” De Pasquale says of the type of person he thinks he can help.

“At that level, we’re expected to have all the solutions and answers, and be a magnificent person, despite the harshness of the environment, and be an amazing leader, without much mentoring or experience. You’ve got the power to make decisions, you’ve got to bring in more money, every one wants more of you. When you were rising, those issues weren’t there. Some CEOs wonder if they’re capable of doing this. I’ll share honest stories, support them through anxiety attacks, alienation, lack of self belief. I’m not a counsellor, I’m just someone to talk to and a facilitator, get you thinking differently. Then if there are business or marketing problems, I know what I’m talking about and can help them with that. Or I can just be a good mate and have them hang shit hang on me.”

There you have it marketers and CEOs, you’re certainly not alone in the crazy marketing industry if you’re doubting yourself, you might just be a couple of taps on the elbow or a phone call away from getting your head straight. We look forward to seeing what other new HR ideas come out other than picnics in the future.

BY Brendan Lawley ON 20 July 2011