Tag Archives: NeuroLinguistic Programming

Exploring NLP for enhancing team effectiveness

I recently graduated from Advance Coaching Consulting‘s and Magenta Coaching Solutions’ 7-day NLP Practitioner course in Cambridge.  It was a wonderful opportunity to explore some new resources for my work as a trainer, coach and consultant whilst also achieving some invaluable personal developments.  We discovered that the opportunities for applying NLP for enhancing individual and team performance are extremely diverse.

In this blog I will use examples of what we learnt to explore how a trainer could apply NLP tools and techniques when working with teams to enhance their effectiveness.

(N.B. We covered a lot more than is included here.  For more background on NLP and on some of the concepts in this blog see an earlier guest blog from ex-RiverRhee Associate Lucy Loh.)


A mind map of possibilities

A mind map of possibilities

How could NLP be applied to a trainer’s work with teams?

There are many courses and books devoted to the subject of training with NLP so this is very much a snapshot from my practitioner’s learning and experience so far that I have captured in my mind map. The headings in the mind map are courtesy of Bevis Moynan who ran the course alongside Lorraine Warne.

Bev categorised what we discussed in terms of:

  • The strategies we unconsciously adopt for how we go about tasks and decisions
  • Our sensory acuity – the various cues we pick up to detect the responses we are getting from others
  • Language – how we and others use language to convey subconscious as well as conscious meanings
  • The ingredients and magic of building rapport
  • How focusing on desired outcomes can enable you to achieve what you want
  • The sub modalities of how we internally represent our experiences and how we can change those (anchors) to give us more choice in our emotional and behavioural responses

The last bullet point in particular starts to get into very deep material, and is an area we each personally experienced during the course, and which Lorraine also applied in my follow-up one-to-one coaching session with her to great effect.

Strategies for tasks and decisions

Whether we are choosing an item in a shop, or carrying out a complex surgical operation there will be a sequence of internal and external behaviours that determine our approach.  Many of these will be subconscious.  As with driving a car, we may once have consciously learnt the steps involved, but once we are skilled in them they are simply automatic.

A trainer wishing to enhance the work of teams could use NLP techniques to help them break down and identify the sequence of steps they use for all aspects of their work.  They would go beyond the obvious steps in an SOP to the more individual thinking patterns, emotional responses and behaviours involved for example in how they collaborate, share their knowledge and expertise and make decisions.  In this way the team could choose to change and improve on their performance, and also more consistently replicate what they are already doing well.

Using sensory acuity to detect the response we are getting

We know that the words people use are only a small proportion of how we communicate.  Tone of voice and body language account for the rest.  On our course we also practised picking up even smaller visual cues such as changes in breathing patterns, skin colour and facial movements.  These are signals that we might normally detect subconsciously in our interactions with others. With more practice and attention our sensory acuity can become an even better resource for team members who are aiming to achieve a high performing teams.

Making more effective use of language in our two-way communications

This subject is vast! We explored such topics as representational styles and predicates, linguistic presuppositions, meta models and the use of metaphorical storytelling, all of which can enhance how team members communicate amongst themselves and with their stakeholders.

Representational styles are how we take in the information around us and represent this internally.  These representational styles are visual, auditory, kinaesthetic (touch and feel) and auditory-digital (self-talk).  Whilst we are likely to make use of all or most of these at some time, there are often one or two that we favour.  These preferences often manifest themselves in the language (or predicates) that we use, as in the following examples:

  • That looks right to me (visual)
  • That sounds right (auditory)
  • That feels right (kinaesthetic)
  • That seems right (auditory digital)

We can make our communications more effective by listening out for other peoples’ linguistic cues, and using some of them in return. It may aid their understanding of something we are trying to explain.

There are a vast number of NLP meta models – the way people use language to represent what they are often subconsciously thinking such that they may distort, generalise or delete information in their communications.  We learnt about a range of examples and how to challenge them, such as:

  • Mind reading: “She doesn’t like me” – challenged by for example “what makes you think she does not like you?”
  • Presuppositions or assumptions: “If he knew how uncomfortable that makes me he would not do it” – challenged by for example “How does what he does make you uncomfortable?”
  • Universal quantifiers: “He is always late with his data” – challenged by “Always?”

Although we might not encourage team members to be quite so direct in their responses, having a greater awareness of what is happening in these kinds of communications could enhance team interactions.

Finally, we had great fun experimenting with the use of metaphorical stories to convey an underlying message and also to create atmospheres that are conducive to learning.  We are conditioned from childhood to enjoy and pay attention to stories.  Being able to create and use metaphors and weave in the different predicates, as well as using different tones of voice and body language are powerful features of good storytelling. Storytelling is an approach that is already being used in business for such things as knowledge sharing, and managing change – important aspects for enhancing team performance.

Building rapport

All of the tools that I’ve already described in this blog can be effectively used to build rapport within a team and with their stakeholders.  Paying attention to and matching the words, tone of voice and body language in normal conversation will rapidly enhance the relationship between people. However if it’s too obvious it could backfire as people may think you are either making fun of them or manipulating them!  We did not explicitly discuss how to apply rapport in conflict situations so this is an area for me to reflect on further..

Focusing on outcomes

Anthony Robbin’s book, “Notes from a friend”, was one of the ones on our pre-course reading list.  He graphically described how focusing on what we don’t want – such as not to crash into a wall when going into a skid – will invariably focus our attention and result on us crashing into that wall.  So we were encouraged to articulate goals that we would like to achieve in terms of a positive outcome that we were personally accountable for, to represent it as powerfully as possible in visual, auditory and kinaesthetic terms, and to also break it down into the steps for getting there.  This is essentially an enhanced version of writing the strategic and tactical goals of a team, or individual SMART objectives.

Anchoring sub modalities

This really starts to get into Master Practitioner territory!  However we did explore our finer internal representations of likes and dislikes, and states of mind, and were guided through different techniques for ‘reprogramming’ ourselves.  Classic examples are reducing anxiety before presentations, helping with anger management, reducing long-lasting sadness.  These types of applications will be more appropriately addressed in one-to-one coaching rather than as a general team building activity.

So what if you were to apply some of these NLP approaches to enhance team effectiveness?

You may already be doing so either consciously or unconsciously, and might have called your approach by a different name. If so there may be something here to help you do this even better.

If much of the above is new to you, what could you try? What difference might that make to your work?

As ever, I’d love to hear from you, read your comments, share your experiences and learn from you too!


Elisabeth Goodman is the owner and Principal Consultant of RiverRhee Consulting and a trainer,  facilitator, one-to-one coach, speaker and writer, with a passion for and a proven track record in improving team performance and leading business change projects on a local or global basis. 

Elisabeth is an expert in knowledge management, and is accredited in change management, Lean Six Sigma and MBTI (Myers Briggs Type Indicator).  She has a BSc in Biochemistry, an MSc in Information Science, is a full member of the Chartered Institute of Information and Library Professionals (CILIP) and of the Association for Project Management (APM) and is also a Growth Coach with the GrowthAccelerator.

Elisabeth has 25+ years’ Pharma R&D experience as a line manager and internal trainer / consultant, most recently at GSK and its legacy companies, and is now enjoying working with a number of SMEs and larger organisations around the Cambridge cluster as well as further afield in the UK and in Europe.

Team Development in Project Management

By Elisabeth Goodman

Team Development chapterIt’s been an honour, whilst also slightly intimidating, to have a chapter included in this latest project management publication edited by Dennis Lock and Lindsay Scott: the Gower Handbook of People in Project Management1.

Project teams may want to get to “high performance” more rapidly than operational teams

As I say in the preamble, project teams will go through various stages of development, but they may want to get to high performance at a more accelerated rate than that usually achieved by longer-term operational teams.

In this chapter I take readers through an adapted version of Tuckman’s stages of team development2: I use forming, storming, norming, high performing and renewing in my work with teams.

I also explore how these difference stages, and the different personality types from Myers Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI), and Belbin’s team roles, can be overlaid on the project lifecycle to give team leaders real insights on how they could help their teams reach high performance more rapidly and painlessly than might otherwise be the case.

Learning techniques taken from Knowledge Management also have a key role in team development

The final part of the chapter takes readers through various Knowledge Management techniques: peer assists, after action reviews, learning retrospects and communities of practice that project teams could usefully use at various stages of their lifecycle to foster high performing teams.

My colleague John Riddell and I are currently putting the finishing touches to our own Gower publicationthat will take readers in greater depth through these and other Knowledge Management techniques.

There is a whole raft of other tools available to help teams in their development

Lock and Scott’s impressive publication runs to 865 pages.  As the title of the book implies, it contains a vast range of reflections, insights and guidance on how to address the people aspect of project management.  A focus on people will inevitably enhance the quality of the team overall, and so advance it in its development.

It’s going to take me quite a while to read through this treasure of a book, but examples of the topics that caught my attention in the first 11 of 63 chapters were:

  • Successes and failures of people in projects
  • Project sponsors and stakeholders
  • Use of contractors
  • Managing in matrix, international and virtual project organisations

Somewhere in the later chapters I spotted further themes on NeuroLinguisticProgramming (NLP) and also spirituality.  So lots to explore!


  1. Elisabeth Goodman.  Team Development, in Gower Handbook of People in Project Management. Ed Dennis Lock and Lindsay Scott.  Gower Publishing Ltd, 2013 Chapter 32, pp. 403-415
  2. Tuckman, B. and Jensen, M. Stages of small group development revisited.  Group and Organisational Studies, 1977 pp 419-427
  3. Elisabeth Goodman and John Riddell.  Knowledge Management in the Pharmaceutical Industry: enhancing Research, Development and Manufacturing performance.  In preparation.

NLP steps to success for individuals, teams and organisations

By Lucy Loh1

NeuroLinguistic Programming – being and becoming excellent

You may already have heard about NeuroLinguistic Programming or NLP.  What is it all about, and what can it mean for you?  We introduce NLP here as it is an incredibly powerful vehicle for self development and change.  NLP looks at and models excellence and results – how outstanding people or outstanding organisations achieve their brilliance.  And once we understand how those excellent results are achieved, then those same methods can be taught to others – a process known as modelling.

NLP was originally created by John Grinder, a linguist, and Richard Bandler, a student of psychology, who modelled three extraordinarily effective therapists.  And using their understanding of how these three very successful individuals achieved their results, they built a very elegant model which can be used to enhance communication, assist personal change, accelerate learning, and (importantly!), increase enjoyment of life.

NLP comprises three elements

  • The Neuro part is about our nervous system : all the information we receive from the outside world comes in through one of our five neurological senses (sight, touch, hearing, taste, smell).  We ‘make sense’ of the information and then act on it.  The Neuro of NLP also covers our mind and how we think, as well as our physiological reactions to ideas and events.
  • The Linguistic part is about how we use language, to order our thoughts, to talk to ourselves and to communicate with others.
  • The Programming part is about the sequence of our actions, the patterns we use to create our behaviours to achieve our outcomes.

Five NLP steps to success for individuals, teams and organisations

i.         Know your outcome.  When you can define the outcome you want in a positive way, then it becomes more achievable.

ii.         Have sensory acuity.  Be alert.  Have all your five senses open and aware, so that you notice what you are getting and what is happening around you.  Where are you placing your attention? How can you enlarge the ‘repertoire’ of what you notice, about yourself and about others?  Acuity helps you notice if whether what you are doing is getting you what you want.   In the words of Eden Phillpotts, ‘The universe is full of magical things waiting for our wits to get sharper’.

iii.         Have behavioural flexibility.  Be willing to change what you think and how you behave.  With enough rapport and enough behavioural flexibility, you can achieve your outcomes.

iv.         Operate from a physiology and psychology of success.  See the skills and capabilities of others, recognise and acknowledge your own.

v.         Take action!  Without action, there are no results … 

These apply equally to an individual, a team or a wider organisation.  Acuity for an individual in a conversation might involve carefully observing and listening to the other person.  Operating from a position of success for a team could be about the positive attitude and commitment to each other and to the outcome from all the team members.  Flexibility for an organisation could be monitoring progress towards the organisation’s goals, and re-planning when required.

Each individual is individual ….

Have you ever had the experience when you have spoken to someone, and discovered afterwards that you have each gone away with a different ideas and conclusions about that conversation?  Have you heard another person describe a meeting you were at, and found that it didn’t resemble your recollections at all?  The answer lies in how we receive, structure and give meaning to our own experience.

Each individual has preferences about how they acquire information – neurological senses.

We each have developed preferences of which neurological sense we use, to acquire information about the world.  If our strong preference is visual, our language will reveal that we think in pictures – “it looks right”.  If our strong preference is kinaesthetic, things will “feel right”.  If our strong preference is auditory, things will “sound right”.

Each individual has different ‘filters’, and has preferences about what information they gather and how it is represented and sorted.

As we receive information, it hits a set of filters.  These have been created from the experiences we have had, the beliefs we hold, what we value, what our attitudes are, the way we perceive language, and many other things.   We each also have different ways of dealing with information and ideas.  Some people have a preference to start with the ‘why’ or purpose of something (the ‘Big Picture’) and others prefer to begin with the detail (the ‘Little Chunk’).  Some people look for how new information is the same as things they already know, and others look for how it is different.  Some people motivate themselves by describing what they want, and others motivate themselves by describing what they don’t want.   So we have different preferences for the type of information we like to take in, and then we process and interpret it differently depending on a myriad factors and invisible thought processes.

Being an effective communicator

NLP has a number of central principles – its guiding philosophy.  They are not claimed to be true or universal.  Instead, they form a set of ethical principles, because you presuppose them to be true, and then act as though they are.  One of the presuppositions is particularly important here :

People respond to their experience, not to reality itself

So as we communicate with others, it’s important that we recognise their individuality, and each person involved in the communication will be creating different meaning from it.

Here’s another presupposition :

The meaning of the communication is not simply what you intend, but also the response you get

This means that you take responsibility to explain what you mean, and to pay attention to the effect your communication has on others – as they perceive it – and react to what you observe.  And as they communicate with you, acknowledge their good intentions.

NLP in personal and team development

NLP has so much to offer as a way to enhance individual understanding, and individual and team effectiveness.  It includes role modelling excellence, the study of subjective experience, a set of principles, a collection of presuppositions to act as ethical principles, a way of using language to influence ourselves and others.

Using the sensory preferences described earlier, NLP can be used to show people what to do, tell them how to do it, and enablethem to perform brilliantly


1. Lucy Loh is an ex-Associate with RiverRhee Consulting. She has 25 years’ experience in BioPharma, where she has held management roles in strategy development and all aspects of performance management, as well as extensive internal consulting. Lucy has expertise and experience in organisation development, benefits management and in designing and leading business change. She is a Master Practitioner of NeuroLinguistic Programming (NLP), which enhances her work in change management and individual coaching.

2. RiverRhee Consulting enhances team effectiveness by helping established business teams to make the most of their time and expertise and so achieve greater productivity, quality and satisfaction in their work.  Our consultants are qualified in Lean and Six Sigma, Information Management, Project Management, Change Management, Myers Briggs (MBTI) and NeuroLinguistic Programming.