Tag Archives: NLP

Telling stories at work

By Elisabeth Goodman, 4th October 2017

Why tell stories at work?

I first heard about the power of using stories at work, in the context of sharing knowledge and building learning and understanding, in the 1990s.

Stories are a powerful way to share knowledge and build learning and understanding.

David Snowden, who was then a Director at the IBM Institute for Knowledge Management, was a chief exponent of the use of narrative to convey complex messages.  (Snowden’s work has since evolved, and there is an informative and somewhat entertaining account of David Snowden on David Gurteen’s website.  Gurteen is himself somewhat of a guru of Knowledge Management.)

what makes stories so powerful?

Paul McGee tells us why stories are so powerful in his article “The power of telling stories” for the April 2017 issue of the Training Journal.  He reminds us that we have been using stories since the cave paintings 20,000 years ago, and we continue to engage with stories through books, TV programmes, film and in our day-to-day conversations.

And the reason, he tells us, why good stories are so engaging, is that they activate every part of the brain.  Not only the language processing parts, but every other part of the brain.  The more sensory and action words we include: how things look, smell, feel, and the actions involved – the more we engage the parts of the brain that would be activated if the listener was actually experiencing the event themselves.  They don’t actually need to be experiencing it for this to happen..

The result of telling a good story in this way is that it engages the emotions as well as the intellect.  Emotions make a story more memorable, more inspiring, and so are more likely to lead to commitment and to action.

When and How to tell a good story?

1.  Choose your opportunity and your topic

Stories can be shared about just about anything – but they do need to have a point to be effective!

Here are some situations I can think of – and that I have experimented with in my work with RiverRhee:

In a one-to-one mentoring or coaching situation to give a verbal example of how to do something, or not to do something based on your own experience of doing so.

In a training course or workshop, to convey some key principles, a framework or a methodology.

During a presentation, to get people’s attention and/or to illustrate some key points that you want to get across

2.  Think of a main character or characters, an event, and an outcome

As McGee says, in the Training Journal article, artistic licence is fine.  The story does not have to be true, although you might find it easier to create it, and to be convincing, if it has some basis on reality.

Christopher Booker, in “The Seven Basic Plots” (Bloomsbury, 2014), argues that these different plots (including comedy, tragedy, quests, rags to riches, encounters with monsters, voyages, rebirths) actually resolve themselves into some basic common denominators.

So, as he says, a typical story unfolds as follows: “once upon a time there was such and such a person, living in such and such a place… then, one day, something happened”.  That happening leads the main character (hero or heroine) into some experience that changes their lives.  There is conflict and uncertainty.  Ultimately there is some form of resolution.

One of my most powerful stories of this type illustrates how people can react to changes that they initially perceive as positive.  The words used in the change curve below mirror, to some extent, those for Booker’s story plot above.

Positive change curve – from “The Effective Team’s Change Management Workbook”, RIverRhee Publishing, 2013

Although I can’t share the details of the change here, it was a family event that we had instigated, thinking that it was the right thing to do (uninformed certainty).  No sooner had we initiated it, than I literally felt like I had gone cold with shock (informed doubt!).  We persevered for a while, but eventually realised that the solution was not going to be as easy as we had thought, and that we had to start exploring other options (realistic concern).  Eventually we did find a way forward and are in a much better place (emotionally and intellectually!) now (informed certainty).

3.  Add some sensory detail – and try some metaphors

I learnt, in my NLP Practitioner training, about the wide range of words we can use when we talk to bring our own experiences alive, and to communicate more effectively with others.  We use some of these words automatically when we speak, and often neglect the wide array available to us.

So if we deliberately think about appealing to all of our senses, the results would be something like this:

  1. For visual language use: see, look, picture, blue, yellow, light, bright, dark, transparent etc.
  2. For auditory language use: hear, sound, loud, quiet, clank, click, tinkle, shrill etc.
  3. For kinesthetic language use: touch, feel, damp, dry, wet, sharp, hot, cold etc.
  4. For auditory digital (inner dialogue, or self-talk – this is more language based) use: understand, think, explain, process etc.

In fact, in our NLP course, we also used the power of metaphors as an aid to communication: telling a story that does not even have to directly mention the principle or method that you are trying to get across.  People draw their own inferences from the story – and the fact that they have to ‘work it out’ can make the final message even more powerful.

It can take a little courage to trust your audience to make the right inferences, and I generally err on the side of telling them – as with the ‘urban myth’ I use for explaining the importance of finding root causes to address sources of waste in Lean and Six Sigma and process improvement!

when and how will you try out stories at work?

As McGee suggests in his article, and as my own experiences show, it takes some courage to have a go with story-telling, to share perhaps personal stories, and to embellish the stories with sensory detail.

Choose a situation to begin: a one-to-one conversation, a course or workshop, a presentation.

Develop a story that you are comfortable with.

Write a list of prompts to remind you of the key points.

Test it out on a friendly audience.    Rehearse.

Remember the very long tried and tested history we have of the effectiveness of stories.


Elisabeth Goodman is the Owner and Principal Consultant at RiverRhee Consulting., a consultancy that specialises in “creating exceptional managers and teams”, with a focus on the Life Sciences. (We support our clients through courses, workshops and personal one-to-one coaching.) Elisabeth founded RiverRhee Consulting in 2009, and prior to that had 25+ years’ experience in the Pharmaceutical Industry in line management and internal training and consultancy roles supporting Information Management and other business teams on a global basis.  

RiverRhee is a support supplier for One Nucleus and a CPD provider for CILIP (Chartered Institute for Library and Information Professionals).

Elisabeth is accredited in Change Management, in Lean Sigma, in Belbin Team Roles, MBTI (Myers Briggs Type Indicator) and is an NLP (NeuroLinguistic Programming) Practitioner. 

She is a member of CILIP and of APM (Association for Project Management) where she was a founding member of the Enabling Change SIG.





The power of quiet questioning

By Elisabeth Goodman, 25th April 2016

2016-04-23 12.50.10.jpg

Taking time for some quiet reflection on Brighton beach, April 2016

Why quiet questioning?

Two of the most powerful resources available to us as managers, and as members of a team are questions and silence.

The ideal dynamic, when we are working with others, is to have a natural back and forth of conversation: each person comfortably expressing their views, their feelings, their ideas and listening, responding to, and building on the other’s.

That ideal to and fro of conversation occurs when each person is taking ownership for their part in whatever is being discussed, is fully motivated, and has no trouble being assertive; when there is good rapport.

But we know that this ideal scenario is just that, that there are times when it does not happen, when it is hard to know what to say, when emotions get in the way, when the other person cannot or will not play their part.

This is when asking questions, asking the right questions, and being comfortable with silence can really make a difference.

Click here for information on RiverRhee's management training course

Click here for information on RiverRhee’s training courses for managers

Asking the right question

We already know that open questions (those starting with Why, What, How, When, Where) are much more effective in engaging others in conversation than closed ones (that elicit only a Yes or No answer).  It’s so easy to slip up and ask a closed question such as:

“Are you feeling sad?” as opposed to, for example: “What are you feeling sad about?”

I’ve been learning about ‘clean’ questions: those that contain as little of the questioner’s bias as possible.  So for example the question:

“What are you feeling sad about?” includes our interpretation that the other person is sad.  It may be that they have told us this, in which case it may be an appropriate follow-up question.

But if they have not told us they are sad, we may be making a big assumption based on their facial expression or body language – but we don’t really know and we are not mind-readers.

So a clean question would be: “How are you feeling”?

And if they do say “I’m feeling sad”, then another suitable ‘clean’ follow-up question might be “What kind of sadness is that?”,  or “In what way are you feeling sad?”, or even just “Sad?”  So you are reflecting back on what the other person has said, rather than inserting your interpretation.

Caitlin Walker’s “From Contempt to Curiosity” has some terrific structures to help any manager or individual use questions to foster open dialogue and build rapport between individuals and within teams.

Rachel Alexander’s and Julia Russel’s “And the Next Question is – Powerful Questions for Sticky Moments” has a rich selection of different questions to use in different situations.

And we can learn so much from NLP (NeuroLinguisticProgramming) too about spotting the assumptions that we and others make in our language, and how to ask questions to get past those.  For example if someone is saying to you: “This kind of situation always makes me sad”, we can ask “Always?”, or “What kind of situation is that?” or even “In what way?”

Using quietness, or silence

Even when we’ve developed the skill to ask the right questions, we can destroy the effect we’ve tried to create by jumping in with our own suggested answer!

Silence is so powerful: it gives the other person time to reflect and come up with their own answer.  It tells them that we care and want to listen to what they have to say.  It encourages them if they are feeling hesitant.

Silence can be companionable too.  Sometimes just working alongside the other person on something in which you are both involved, or going for a walk together, will create the conditions for the other person to open up and say what they have to say.  You may not even have to frame a question!

Click here for information on RiverRhee's training courses for managers

Click here for information on RiverRhee’s training courses for managers

Developing skills in quiet questioning

I’m still learning and practising the art of quiet questioning.  It’s something that we can not only apply at work, but in our interactions with people at home too.

I will continue to reflect upon and share my experiences in my work with managers and teams.  It would be great to hear about your experiences too.

About the author

Elisabeth Goodman is the Owner and Principal Consultant at RiverRhee Consulting, a consultancy that specialises in “creating exceptional managers and teams”, with a focus on the Life Sciences. (We use training, facilitation, coaching, mentoring and consulting in our work with our clients.)

Elisabeth founded RiverRhee Consulting in 2009, and prior to that had 25+ years’ experience in the Pharmaceutical Industry in line management and internal training and consultancy roles supporting Information Management and other business teams on a global basis.  

RiverRhee is a support supplier for One Nucleus, a quality assured training provider with Cogent Skills and a CPD provider for CILIP (Chartered Institute for Library and Information Professionals).

Elisabeth is accredited in Change Management, in Lean Sigma, in Belbin Team Roles, MBTI (Myers Briggs Type Indicator) and is an NLP (NeuroLinguistic Programming) Practitioner.  

She is a member of CILIP and of APM (Association for Project Management) where she leads the Internal Collaboration theme of the Enabling Change SIG committee.


Difficult people are not necessarily being difficult!

By Elisabeth Goodman, 31st March, 2015

How to work with difficult people is a subject that many managers struggle with

How to work with “difficult” people is one of the topics Janet Burton and I explore in RiverRhee Consulting’s 3-day Introduction to Management course , and in our tailored in-house supervisor and line manager courses. I also previously referred to this subject in one of our newsletters on the subject of creating exceptional managers.

Elisabeth Goodman presenting the Introduction to Management course

How to work with “difficult” people is one of the most popular aspects of our courses, being one that many new and even more established managers can find quite challenging. I wonder whether it’s because the whole area of managing interpersonal relationships, dealing with conflict, emotional awareness and intelligence is something that is largely neglected in our educational system. We are so focused on academic achievement, that this essential aspect of work and indeed home life can be under-developed, unless other people in our lives have helped us to learn about it, or we have taken the initiative to explore it ourselves.

Difficult people may just be being different – we should take time to understand them

As I wrote in the newsletter, difficult people are not necessarily being difficult, but just different! Our different personalities, perspectives on, and beliefs in life will lead us to approach our work differently, communicate differently and generally act differently. At any moment in time, there will also be other circumstances happening in our lives that might be influencing how we think, feel and behave.

When faced with what seems to be a difficult situation or person, we would do well to step back and reflect on why they seem to be difficult, and to also step forward into the other person’s shoes. It may indeed be some aspect of our own behaviour that is creating or at least contributing to the situation.

We all make assumptions and try to mind read. One of the most obvious solutions, but also the one a lot of people will avoid, is to actually have an open conversation with the person concerned, to understand their perspective as well as communicate our own. Several of the managers we’ve worked with have dared to have those conversations as a result of what they’ve learnt on our courses and have been greatly relieved by the outcome.

Other strategies and tools to help us understand “difficult” people

There are various other strategies at our disposal, such as active listening, coaching and assertiveness that can help us to better understand what is leading to people being “difficult” as well as helping us to influence any associated behaviours and situations in a positive and constructive way.

We use various psychometric tools in our training ranging from Honey and Mumford’s Learning Styles, to NLP representational (or communication) styles, Belbin’s Team Roles and MBTI (Myers Briggs Type Indicator). These can be very illuminating in terms of understanding our different perspectives and approaches to life and work.

I’m in the process of reading “Working Together”[1], a book about transactional analysis (TA) in the workplace. TA, and the “OK corral”[2] originated with Eric Berne in the 1970s. It’s about understanding our beliefs about ourselves and how we believe others view us – often something we have inherited from childhood – and how that influences our behaviour and interaction with others. It can lead to individuals being generally passive or aggressive rather than assertive in their behaviour, or to responding passively or aggressively in certain situations.

The OK Corral - based on the work of Eric Berne

The OK Corral – based on the work of Eric Berne

In an organisational setting, the nature of the “OK” dynamic between individuals can influence the dynamics within teams and make a difference between a dysfunctional team and one that thrives on open discussion and attains high performance. The open and positive behaviour of senior and middle managers can make a difference between engaged and ‘empowered’ individuals in what Wickens (1995)[3] calls an “ascendant” organisation, and one where people are alienated, acting in an anarchic way, or where there is total apathy.

In conclusion – it’s worth spending the time to understand people, to create a more positive working relationship

As one of my own exceptional managers once told me, the work of a manager can be as much as 80% about people, and only 20% about tasks. If people are being “difficult” we should take the time to understand why they appear to be so. The root cause may be something that we can do something about or otherwise influence.

As Mountain and Davidson point out: people working together don’t have to like each other to still be able to work effectively together. In my own experience, better understanding can lead to something that is more akin to liking (if that was not there already), and certainly to a more positive working relationship.

[1] Mountain, A. and Davidson, C. (2015) Working Together. Organizational Transactional Analysis and Business Performance. Farnham, England, Gower

[2] Eric Berne’s 4-box matrix matches the various combinations of “I am OK”, “I am not OK” and “You are OK”, “You are not OK”. The “healthy position” being “I am OK, You are OK”.

[3] Wickens, P. (1995). The Ascendant Organization. Basingstoke, England, MacMillan Business


Elisabeth Goodman is the Owner and Principal Consultant at RiverRhee Consulting, a consultancy that helps business teams and their managers to enhance their effectiveness for greater productivity and improved team morale. (We use coaching, training, mentoring and consulting in our work with our clients.)

Elisabeth founded RiverRhee Consulting just over 5 years ago, and prior to that had 25+ years’ experience in the Pharmaceutical Industry in line management and internal training and consultancy roles supporting Information Management and other business teams on a global basis. 

Elisabeth is accredited in Change Management, in Lean Sigma, in Belbin Team Roles, MBTI (Myers Briggs Type Indicator) and is an NLP (NeuroLinguistic Programming) Practitioner.  She is a member of CILIP (Chartered Institute for Library and Information Professionals) and of APM (Association for Project Management) where she leads the Capabilities & Methods pillar for the Enabling Change SIG.

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.

Reflections of a team facilitator

By Elisabeth Goodman


Summer is a wonderful time to reflect and play with new ideas.  I’ve been having a lovely time exploring Pinterest for new insights to inspire the teams I work with in workshops.


Pinterest has only been going since 2010 and although it already has more than 70 million users it is still not widely used by people in my community, so I was surprised at how much I have started to find in the way of pictures, annotated diagrams, mindmaps, and increasingly popular infographics to inspire and illustrate some of the ideas that I use for facilitation.

If you would like to follow me on my journey of exploration, please see my “Inspiring Learning” board.

But is Pinterest’s use of visuals for everyone?  One of the posts I found is a mindmap stating that we all think in pictures.  And yet the NLP (NeuroLinguisticProgramming) representational styles are all about our different ways of representing and communicating information, suggesting that some of us prefer auditory, and others kinaesthetic (touch or feel) or auditory digital (‘self-talk’) representations.

Pinterest does include YouTube videos and audio files such as on this “youtube tips and tricks” board, but will that be enough to appeal to those whose preferred representational style is other than visual?  Pinterest statistics suggest that female users outnumber men by 4 to 1.  Perhaps we could get a demographic study by NLP representational styles?

Facilitating teams to help them achieve high performance

My colleagues and I have been facilitating a lot of team workshops – in fact that is at the heart of RiverRhee Consulting’s work for enhancing team effectiveness.  The goals and approaches that we use have been evolving as our clients ask different things of us, and as we’ve been developing our own expertise in the options available for helping teams to achieve high performance.

Team members benefit from additional insights on their own and others’ personalities.

Whether the team is relatively new, or has been around for a while, there is no doubt that gaining additional insights on people’s strengths and preferred ways of behaving will enhance relationships and build a stronger team.

A 1-hour icebreaker around the NLP representational styles, or a more in-depth 2-hour exercise based on MBTI (Myers Briggs Type Indicator) can be powerful ways to kick off ½-day, 1 day or longer workshops.  The overall event might be focused on team building, managing change or overall team effectiveness.

People enjoy finding out new things about themselves and those they work with, and take away insights that they continue to reflect upon and add depth to as they apply them not only at work, but also in their everyday life.

The importance of articulating the strategic context: vision, purpose and goals

Certainty and control: these are the two key enabling factors that team members identify when asked what would help them move more positively through their personal journey of change.  Understanding the ‘why’ and the ‘what’ – the strategic context of their work – gives them certainty about what will happen and clarity about what they can control or at least be involved with going forward.

Encouraging senior and line and managers to articulate their strategic goals in terms of key messages grounds them in the practical reality of what they want to achieve.

Sharing these key messages face-to-face with team members also makes the managers more approachable and opens up opportunities for dialogue.

I’m excited by how working with managers on their strategy is becoming an increasing component of my role as a coach and team facilitator, both independently and with the government sponsored GrowthAccelerator initiative for SMEs.

Facilitating discussions for improving team working

Managers often wish that members would take more of an active role in improving how the team works.  The answer is to give them the opportunity to have their say, and to then shape the way forward.  A pre-workshop diagnostic on the different aspects of team working, as described in “Team development, pre-requisites for success and temperature checks” can be very powerful for surfacing what’s going well, and what could be improved, especially with an outside facilitator collating the results anonymously into key themes.

It then takes only a little encouragement in a constructive workshop environment for team members to identify the priorities to focus on, along with suggested next steps and the roles they can play to address them.

Finding ways to make more of your team’s time and resources

Leaders and managers often approach us because they are looking for new ideas to address the nitty-gritty of how the team goes about its day-to-day work.

Their impetus may be a realisation that they need to do things differently in order to take on all the new things that their strategic goals entail.

There’s been a recent flurry of discussion in the APM LinkedIn group about the value or otherwise of Six Sigma and its focus on processes.  We use principles and tools taken from Lean as well as Six Sigma in our work with teams.  The opportunities these give for an open, constructive and fact-based discussion on how the team goes about its business has proved invaluable.  Contrary to what some protagonists claim, there is lots of scope for creativity, not only in the form of incremental improvements, but also for breakthrough innovation.  And yes, these workshops do make use of visual tools too!

More reflections to come

I’ll be continuing my explorations of Pinterest to expand my facilitator’s tool-kit.  I’m also looking forward to becoming qualified in MBTI Step II during the summer, so that I can further enhance team members’ insights into their own and others’ strengths.  Meanwhile, if you missed RiverRhee Consulting’s summer newsletter, and would like more food for thought, why not take a look at “Summer and the 3 Cs” now.


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.

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.