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Coaching with NLP

Judith Lowe

Coaching is a fun, dynamic, relational process. The coach's task is to support and guide the client to think and act resourcefully with respect to their own goals and dreams.

So that means, as a coach, you want to bring out the best in your clients. To stimulate their own creative and generative problem solving abilities. And to do so in a way which is respectful , rapportful, light, easy.... even appropriately humorous at times. And to use all your own most valued and practiced skills and tools from everything you know.

In some ways coaching is quite a mysterious process. It's so fundamentally interactive. There's no mechanistic list of questions or procedures that will serve as a foolproof guide. Or one particular approach which will work universally.

Although there are many books on the subject its often hard to pin down exactly what has happened in a coaching session. What is it that has created that 'something magical' which has been so transformative? A stuck problem is suddenly obviously solve-able. A sense of failure or hopelessness shifts into optimistic planning. New perspectives open up, new descriptions are discussed, change becomes possible. Aha! The problem was in the map after all and not the territory! And yet all that happened was a conversation.

And so this is where NLP comes in. The tools and problem solving strategies of NLP are uniquely suited to coaching. After all NLP is a field founded on the modelling of excellence.

We have excellent models for goal setting, systemic thinking skills for adequately defining even the most complex problem 'space'. There are all kinds of explicit processes and techniques that allow us to build useful models of the underlying patterns and structure of the client's issue or situation and then help them make constructive and ecological changes.

The linguistic patterns from NLP enable us to ask high quality questions, make rich and helpful comments, and respond to the client's content at many levels. Also we can skillfully re-frame difficulties and resistances and loosen out and transform potentially limiting beliefs. This magical use of language is a core NLP accomplishment. As are the relationship and observation skills which allow the conversation to flow and be natural even in a focused and directed way.

Recently I've heard a few comments from coaches who don't use NLP that they prefer to be more 'intuitive' in their work! For me NLP is the 'know-how' of intuition. With NLP those hunches and guesses just get better the more knowledgeable and skilled you are. Its like that Gary Player story when someone saw him make an incredible golf shot. When they commented on how lucky he was, he said: "I find the more I practice, the luckier I get!" NLP, because Its based on excellent results oriented patterns of thought and behaviour, has to be the absolute ultimate and quintessential coach's toolbox. And it's true, the more you practice, the more accurate, useful and wise your intuitions become. And the more you can also, at many levels of awareness, know what you are doing.

At PPD over the years we've worked with hundreds of people who use coaching in their work. No matter how senior or accomplished they already are they are always excited and grateful for the extraordinary extra edge that learning NLP has given them. "There's so much more I can notice and respond to..!" is one of the usual comments we get." Its' like before, I was going round with blinkers on. Now I'm getting a whole different quality of results... and faster too."

Coaching is a very personal and very delightful activity. It's such a wonderful way of spending your time. The clients you work with are always utterly unique and amazing. Its a real joy to work together to discover how a situation can change in the way you perceive it, so that new choices are just naturally available. And of course there's immense satisfaction from being part of that process for someone and to see them become more confident, more congruent, more perceptive and responsive as they move with pleasure towards their goals.

I've always loved the coaching that I've done. I've worked with such a huge variety of clients now and with such a diverse range of issues often involving many aspects of leadership and change. I use in my own and coaching practice many approaches and processes drawn from NLP and continue to enjoy using these powerful skills and tools in creative and life affirming ways.

I've designed our coaching programme to work at many levels. To introduce NLP for those new to the field and also to enrich and deepen the understanding and practice of those who have already even quite substantial knowledge of NLP. I think that anyone who joins us will learn lots about coaching and about themselves. I hope they will be excited and inspired by just how much you can do in coaching... with NLP.