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.

4 thoughts on “NLP steps to success for individuals, teams and organisations”

  1. It’s a great article. Thanks for sharing your .

    I like this statement: ” 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. ”

    NLP is a powerful tool, isn’t it?

    1. elisabethgoodman

      Thanks so much for taking the time to read this and for your kind comment. As you’ll see I asked Lucy if she also wanted to post a reply to you, which she has done.

  2. Yes, NLP is very powerful. And the more I use it, the more I find it so. The presuppositions – the central principles – act as a touchstone for me, and in difficult situations there is always one which helps me to feel resourceful and decide how best to act for all involved. “People work perfectly” and “People make the best choice they can at the time” are two that I often apply

  3. Pingback: Exploring NLP for enhancing team effectiveness | Elisabeth Goodman's Blog

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