NLP: A new perspective

I have to admit that I have been a bit of a skeptic about some of the more abstract coaching technologies like Neuro Linguistic Programing (NLP). In my early days of coaching the majority of NLP ideas and concepts I encountered made little sense to me – in fact, it all looked a lot like magic and pixie dust.

My perspective on NLP began to change when I listened to episode 4 of the Coach Mentor Podcast entitled, “Neuro Linguistic Programming. The history and use of NLP in coaching.” In this episode, Robert Holmes interviewed NLP expert Chris Collingwood from Inspirative. It turns out that my experience of NLP, although very common, was a poor representation the original design and intent.

During the interview, Chris piqued my curiosity around the use of NLP when he described it as “a methodology for taking experts and studying expertise and expert behaviour and building models.” He went on to describe how NLP practitioners can spend time with an expert and capture what they do, find a way of describing it (coding it) and building a model that allows those expert skills to be transferred to other people.

I was intrigued to learn that NLP can be applied to just about any area of expertise, even for really down to earth things like digging up coal. By modelling the very best excavator operators and transferring their skills to the average to poor operators resulted in an 84% increase in productivity and had an impact in terms of millions of dollars per annum.

My perspective on the value of NLP was further helped by Chris’ explanation of how the application and training around NLP had become distorted over time.

Sometime after introducing the idea of NLP and training people in its application, John Grinder began to get feedback about problems in the field and discovered that NLP as it was being called in the field was actually not what he set out to introduce. This led him and his wife Carmen Bostic St. Clair to take another look at NLP and began the process of recoding it. This is what became the new code NLP and now includes some of the key patterns that were part of Grinder’s behaviour that were missing from the original coding, which was contributing to the application problems being experienced in the field.

This went a long way to explaining why my initial perception of NLP and its application had been so misleading.

A few weeks ago I had the privilege of meeting Jules Collingwood at The Coaching Space in Tasmania where we were doing a week of Process Oriented Coaching and Trauma Coaching training with Ian Snape. The down to earth, first principles approach to NLP as taught by Ian and Jules further dispelled many of the myths and misapplications of NLP in my own mind. I have developed a new respect for the power of new code NLP to produce rapid and effective change.

Hear more of what Chris Collingwood had to say about the history and use of NLP in coaching and get some great tips on how to tell real NLP from distorted NLP practices by listening to the podcast episode or download the full transcript of the interview here.