Coaching is a popular application for NLP patterns. The intention is to assist a client to solve one or more problems, create and discover outcomes for themselves and to provide processes whereby the client can organise their thoughts and experience to achieve their outcomes. This requires the coach to gather useful information without being drawn into stories or content, to marshall that information using their pattern detection skills and choose questions and process instructions to provide the necessary guidance to the client, all while observing non-verbal communication and listening for language patterns and speech patterns.
Coaching includes some similarities to participating in training exercises, all of which provide a context for developing skills and familiarity with NLP principles as well as processes. These include information gathering, sensory observation and calibration of an exercise partner and the capacity to ask pertinent questions and guide someone through a process. Coaching also requires additional skills and knowledge, related to framing and managing the coaching process and choosing the questions and interventions they offer to fit each client’s responses based on the patterns the client exhibits and or appears to be missing. Coaches also have to manage themselves and their context to ensure that their clients can maintain productive and resourceful states to make their changes.
A coaching session needs a framework in which to operate. While NLP does not espouse a formal model for coaching, it does include processes which lend themselves to that function. The most basic is the Present State compared with Desired State model. In this model, we seek to discover the client’s perception of their present state and their outcome or what they want instead. We can probably assume that if a client has a present state and wants a desired state, they are experiencing something preventing them from making that change by themselves. That something may become the subject of the coaching session. Minimally, it provides the starting point for gathering more information to flesh out the thinking and behaviour patterns the client has been using and the patterns they could use to greater effect.
While there is no direct mention of outcomes or intentions for outcomes, a competent coach will be aware that having a client discover an intention for wanting their outcome widens the scope for creating a satisfying and functional change that fits the client’s values and contexts. However, it is not necessarily common knowledge that change interventions are more effective if made in a larger frame (that contains one or more solutions), than the problem’s own frame (which does not contain solutions). Less experienced coaches will probably appreciate a coaching model that provides more guidance and reminds them to investigate intentions, evidence for outcomes and ecology (evidence that the changes proposed and made will be beneficial to the client and not disrupt anything in their greater system that matters to them). These concepts are instilled in a good NLP training, but may take time to become second nature.
The Outcome, Intention and Consequence process used with well formedness conditions from the Well-Formed Outcome provides a complete framework for running a single coaching session or a planned series of sessions. It can be used to create a coaching needs analysis, a proposal, a coaching contract and a coaching frame or model. The Present State – Desired State model provides enough framing to get started and then relies on the coach having sufficient expertise to ask penetrating process questions and identify and track multiple patterns simultaneously. A fully articulated outcome model provides the less experienced coach with a complete set of prompts to get them going and guide them through the coaching process, provided they have the necessary skills to be coaching in the first place.
Coaching Models: An Outcome Oriented Model
- Establish an Outcome
- Establish the intention for the outcome
- Establish evidence for the outcome
- Identify resources to achieve the outcome
- Check that the outcome is under the client’s aegis, (by the client and for the client)
- Check the consequences (costs and benefits) of getting the outcome are acceptable
- Check the consequences of having and maintaining the outcome are acceptable
- Check that the client wants that outcome and in a timely manner
Establish one or more outcomes with the client and if there are several, discover if they are related or examples of something more general that might itself respond to an intervention.
Identify an intention for an outcome to pursue this session. An intention, by nature provides a larger scope in which to work, thereby providing the client with more choice about what they want and how they express that. Sometimes they will prefer the content of their intention and choose to use that for an outcome.
Identify sensory based evidence of the client having their outcome. What will they see, hear and feel that lets them know they have achieved their outcome.
Identify resources both to achieve the outcome and to facilitate the client to make the changes they want to achieve the outcome and meet the intention
Identify the present state or limiting factor. Something has been preventing the client from making the change they want or from achieving the outcome they have identified. This is likely to be something the client cannot articulate or even identify without assistance and may become the basis for an intervention.
Check that the outcomes are by the client, for the client and not for third parties. (If an outcome is for someone else, go to the intention. Pursue higher levels of intention until you find one that is by the client and for the client).
6. Consequences (costs and benefits)
Check for ecology and cost-effectiveness of achieving and having the outcome. NLP change processes work best when the client is congruent about the change they ask for. However they can also work for a limited period if the client is not congruent. It is the coach’s job to ensure that the client considers how their choice fits their values and greater system.
Review outcome and intention for new present state. Outcomes can evolve in the presence of new information and possibilities. Recycling through the outcome can provide further direction and updating of the client’s choices
8. Time Frame
Check that the client wants that outcome and in a timely manner
Notice that all the above is information gathering. When a coach uses this process to guide their work in a coaching context, they will learn what they need to identify and offer a suitable intervention for that client. Given that the client becomes aware of relevant material via the questioning process itself, the intervention the coach uses will be more in the way of facilitating change that has begun already. Process based information gathering can be all that is needed for some clients to make the changes they wanted.
This model does not specify skill training related matters such as the need for establishing and maintaining rapport with each client nor how and when to make or change the direction of an intervention. It is used here simply as a guide for how to frame one or more coaching sessions. Other business uses have been mentioned in passing, but this model can be used anywhere where the user needs high quality information and verifiable non-verbal delivery of that information.
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