Having completed my NLP Master Practitioner in 2002, I found that it really enhanced my coaching
work. I had not only a number of tools to add to my coaching toolkit but it added another dimension
to my coaching: A different way of opening up my curiosity and exploring reality with the client. I
have always embedded the NLP within my coaching and some of my clients have had some useful
breakthroughs and insights which I believe they would not have had without my NLP background.
The following case studies show how I use NLP within the coaching relationship and as a direct
technique with the client.
Case Study 1: Nick (not his real name) - Senior Engineering Manager at a Defence Company.
I was invited to coach Nick because he was having problems with technical presentations in front of
senior managers and at conferences, due to his nerves.
Firstly I felt that it was important for me to build a sound relationship with Nick and therefore I
focussed on building rapport with him as we needed to have some in-depth conversations within a
limited time frame. Out of the six key rapport areas I tend to use: Mirroring, talking their language,
matching their voice and using their experience. I find this works really well and soon you both feel
like you have known each other for many years. Having rapport allows me to ask significantly more
challenging questions which help the coachee progress appreciably quicker.
Keys to building rapport:
Talk in their language: &
VAK, favorite phrases
Match their voice:
tone, timbre, pace
Match their breathing:
Match their chunk size:
big picture vs detail
Use their experiences
The Meta model proved to be very useful as Nick was using a lot of Generalisations and Distortions
about how he was unable to control his nerves or present to such audiences. Using questions to
explore and analyse these comments I enabled Nick to see how much of the situation he was
creating for himself. For example, just because a participant asks awkward questions it does not
mean that he wants to humiliate Nick; it could just be that he has had a bad day or is inarticulate
himself. This eventually allowed Nick to see that it was possible for him to do something about the
situation – he was in control.
To really help with his nerves, I got Nick to use the ‘Swish pattern’: I got Nick to imagine himself
doing a presentation he was proud of, and receiving excellent feedback. Using the ‘Swish Pattern’ he
used this image to erase his current image of him handling tough questions badly. To reinforce this
new image I also got Nick to recall hearing his mentor telling him how well his last presentation had
gone. This is someone Nick trusts and respects. This helped to stop Nick telling himself how nervous
he was which was not useful. He uses both the new image and the Mentor’s voice to help calm
himself down just before presenting.
Finally, to embed his new thinking, we walked through the Logical Levels from envisioning his next
presentation room, through to his new capabilities and finally to his new beliefs and values. After
this, when we spoke of the pending presentation, I could already see that he was a lot calmer. His
language was around how to make it work and prepare properly rather than on worrying about
things and being distracted.
Over his next 3 presentations he practised all that we had discussed and his confidence grew each
time. Not only did he feel calmer beforehand, he also received excellent feedback from the last
presentation where he had had to handle some tough questions. All of this helped to consolidate
new, useful beliefs and reinforce the things we had worked on.
Case Study 2: Sue (not her real name) is a Factory Manager at a Blue Chip FMCG Manufacturer.
Sue’s undermining theme is that she isn’t good enough as she does not have a degree and therefore
all her peers are better than her. This means that she is quick to allow her ideas to be overridden by
others and she can quickly get defensive when she feels intimidated, especially with one particular
I felt that it would be useful for Sue to understand the Pre-suppositions of NLP. Although not a
technique as such, I had found them to be a useful conversation to help me drop my judgment of
others and to become curious of their behaviour. Along with helping her understand some of the
Meta Programmes (Internal / External, Away From/ Towards, Sameness/ Differences), we discussed
how she viewed some of the behaviours of her peers and how that might be repositioned. We also
discussed how they might react differently if she used different language patterns with them, linking
into their motivation more. This really opened her mind up to the possibility that something could be
done about her situation and that she could become an equal peer.
Once she thought change was possible we could work on her limiting self belief (“I don’t have a
degree”). Firstly we worked through a Limiting Beliefs technique which got her to think about where
the limiting belief might eventually take her verses where a different belief, which she currently has
elsewhere, might be so much more enlightening. I also used some Reframing Questions, such as
“How does the fact that you don’t have a degree mean that you are an excellent Factory manager?”,
so that she started to challenge her own assumptions and to force her to identify the benefits of not
having a degree.
Finally, we completed a Parts Integration so that she could understand how her limiting belief was
intending to help her and that there was a more useful way to do this. This had a dramatic effect on
her self-belief. The shift in her physiology was very visible: A great “ah ha” moment.
To consolidate upon the Parts Integration, I had her complete a visualisation of her next meeting
with the particular peer. She described what she saw and heard and how she felt, whilst I observed
her to get a feel for how well embedded this was. This allowed us to create a Well Formed Outcome
around her participation within her peer group.
Over the next few months the coaching revolved around the Well Formed Outcome and embedding
the success that she gained from this. That year, she received a top-level appraisal rating and had
delivered some significant improvements within her factory. Later she went on to coach the peer
with whom she had had a particular issue.
Deni Lyall is an executive coach, trainer and facilitator. She is a Member of
the Association for Coaching and an NLP Master Practitioner.
More recently she has become accredited to train and coach in the theory
and research findings of Motivational Psychology. The coaching aims are
to work with individuals to enable them to better understand how
their performance is influenced by their motives and how they may
develop their motives.
Deni runs her own company Winning Performance associates Ltd and can be contacted on
email@example.com or tel: +44 (0) 7973 273 009.