Theory and Practice of NLP Coaching: A Psychological Approach


Bruce Grimley

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    This book is dedicated to my father, Frank, who taught me to appreciate the magnificence of ‘NOW’ and to my mother, Josephine, who taught me to appreciate the magnificence of a good party.

    About the Author

    Bruce Grimley is Managing Director of Achieving Lives Ltd and an Associate Fellow of the British Psychological Society (BPS). He is a practicing Chartered Psychologist who is registered with the Health Professions Council (HPC) in the UK. His speciality since qualifying as a psychologist has been one-to-one work, a subject on which he has written, consulted, lectured and passionately spoken about on the national and international scenes.

    Bruce was one of the Association for Coaching's (AC) first accredited coaches and presently works with the AC assessing coaches. He also assesses and supervises psychologists within the Division of Occupational Psychology in the BPS as well being a founder member of the Special Group in Coaching Psychology.

    Bruce Grimley is an accredited NLP trainer with the Association for NLP in the UK and internationally trains for the International Association of NLP Institutes and Coaching Institutes for which he is the UK president. Bruce is also a registered psychotherapist with the NLPtCA which is affiliated to the United Kingdom Council of Psychotherapists (UKCP).

    Bruce believes the first application of NLP is to oneself. He enjoys life with his wife and two grown-up children in the Cambridgeshire countryside, making use of NLP principles to ensure he and those close to him remain in the most productive emotional state possible. From that place it is a matter of feeding forward all that NLP has to offer in terms of a perspective that puts the individual in charge of their life rather than the other way around.


    There are many people who have helped me write this book, too numerous to put into one paragraph. A big thank you to John Grinder and Richard Bandler who got the ball rolling. I would like to thank Steve Andreas, Rodger Bailey, Bill O'Hanlon and Robert Dilts who were there around the beginning and who through email have supported my endeavours and have been wonderfully cooperative. Of course, a thank you to all of my NLP colleagues who have been instrumental in helping me develop my map of NLP and a special thank you to Dr Ho Law who expedited the idea of writing a book about NLP from the perspective of a registered psychologist. I would like to thank Professor Karl Nielsen, Dr Suzanne Henwood, Dr Frank Bourke, Dr Michael Hall and Dr Paul Tosey who have helped me develop an ability to be more accurate in my observations and recording. I would like to say thank you to SAGE and their great team who have assisted me in getting this book to you, the reader, in the most professional format. Finally, and in fact most importantly, I would like to acknowledge Jackie, my long-suffering and beautiful wife, and Matthew and Hayley, my wonderful grown-up children who resorted to putting salt in a cup of tea they made me when I was on a Skype call so as to get my attention and register a protest. Thank you to all of you who have helped me write this book and have made 2011–12 so enjoyable.

  • Appendix 1: Examples of Some Meta Programs*

    Appendix Table 1.1 Proactive-Reactive Meta Program
    StyleDescriptionInfluencing language
    ProactiveProactive people initiate, make things happen; act with little or no consideration. They are motivated by doing; can bulldoze. Short crisp sentences; active verbs; body language show signs of impatience; pencil tapping; inability to sit for long periods.Go for it; just do it; jump in; why wait; now; right away; get it done; take the initiative; take charge; run with it; what are you waiting for; let's hurry.
    ReactiveReactive people wait for others to initiate; might analyse without acting; need to fully assess before acting; believe in chance and luck; are good analysts. Incomplete, long sentences, subject or verb missing; passive verbs; lots of infinitives; conditionals would, could, might, may; believe in chance or luck; talk about thinking about, analysing, understanding; willing to sit for long periods.Let's think about it; now that you have analysed it; you'll really understand; this will tell you why; consider this; this will clarify it for you; think about your response; the time is ripe; luck is coming your way; wait until …

    There is no traditional question to ask. These styles are determined by observing body language and the way in which people talk.

    Appendix Table 1.2 Internal-External Meta Program
    StyleDescriptionInfluencing language
    InternalPeople with an internal pattern provide their motivation from within themselves. They decide about the quality of their work. They may have difficulty accepting other people's opinions. They gather information from the outside then make a decision based on internal standards. Sitting upright, minimal gestures, point to self. Outside information is taken as information to be weighed internally.Only you can decide; you might consider; it's up to you; I suggest that you think about it; here's some information so that you can decide.
    ExternalPeople with an external pattern derive their motivation from other people, and need outside feedback to know how well they have done. They will compare their work with outside norms; outside information is taken as an order.You'll get good feedback; others will notice; it has been approved by; well respected; you'll make quite an impact; so-and-so thinks; I would strongly recommend; the experts say; give references; scientific studies show.

    Traditional Question:How do you know when you've done a good job?

    Appendix Table 1.3 Options-Procedures Meta Program
    StyleDescriptionInfluencing language
    OptionsOptions people are motivated by opportunities and possibilities to do something in a different way, even break the rules. There is always another better way to have things. They create procedures and systems but have difficulty following them. They like to start new ideas and new projects but not necessarily complete them.Use words like opportunities; variety; unlimited possibilities; lots of choice; options; break the rules.
    ProceduresThese people like to follow set ways. They believe there is a right way to do things. They learn a procedure and can follow it over and over again. They are interested in how to do things. As they are motivated to get to the end of a procedure once started, they will always complete what they start. They are interested in how people do things, not why.The right way; how to; tried and tested; tell me about the process; first … then … lastly; reliable; proven; how to use this.

    Traditional Question:Why did you choose … (e.g. your present job)?

    Appendix Table 1.4 Sameness-Difference Meta Program
    StyleDescriptionInfluencing language
    SamenessSameness people want their situation to stay the same. They do not like the idea of change, even if they can manage it. Change is acceptable every 10 years but they will only provoke change once every 15–25 years.Highlight the sameness; same as; in common; as you always do; like before; unchanged; as you already know; maintaining; totally the same; exactly as before; identical.
    Sameness with ExceptionThese people like things mainly the same but will accept non-drastic change once a year. Show how the new is the same as before but then point out a difference.More; better; less; the same except; advanced; upgrade; progression; gradual improvement; similar but even better; moving up; growth; improvement.
    DifferenceDifference people love change; they thrive on it and it has to be constant and major. They need change about every 1–2 years.New; totally different; unlike anything else; unique; one of a kind; completely changed; unrecognizable; shift; switch; a complete turnaround; brand new; unheard of; the only one.

    Traditional Question:What is the relationship between your job this year and last year?

    Appendix Table 1.5 Towards-Away from Meta Program
    StyleDescriptionInfluencing language
    TowardsTowards people stay focused on their goal. They are motivated to have, get, achieve, attain, etc. They sometimes miss what should be avoided. They talk about achieving their goals. Body language: pointing towards something, nodding, gestures of inclusion. They find it difficult to motivate themselves when they do not have a goal.Attain; obtain; have; get; include; achieve; benefits; advantages; accomplish.
    Away FromAway From people notice what should be avoided, got rid of and otherwise not happen. They are motivated by solving a problem – moving away from something that is happening. They are energized by threats. They find it difficult to motivate themselves when everything is OK.Avoid; prevent; eliminate; solve; get rid of; won't have to; let's find out what's wrong.

    Traditional Questions:What is important to you (at work)?

    (Take one from the list or take the single answer)

    Why is that important? (After next answer)

    * From Rose Charvet (1997)

    Appendix 2: NLP Coaching Models

    7. C's Coaching Model (

    Bruce Grimley

    Achieving Lives NLP Training

    185 Ramsey Road, St Ives, Cambridgeshire, PE27 3TZ

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    7. C's Coaching Questions
    • Clarity:specific, measurable. ‘What specifically do you want to happen?’ (ensure sensory-based and well-formedness). ‘How would you know you have achieved this?’ ‘How would you test your outcome achievement?’
    • Climate:ecology, timeframe. ‘Is this the right time to do this?’ ‘How long are you giving yourself?’ ‘Does any part object?’
    • Capable:achievable. ‘Is there anybody else who could achieve this?’ ‘What would they do to achieve this?’ ‘Do you have the necessary training to achieve this?’
    • Communicate:confidence, ecology, congruence. ‘Tell me about your outcome’ and ‘How will you achieve it?’ (use Meta Model questions: what, when, where, who, how? Then calibrate).
    • Confidence:stated in positive, preservation of positive, chunk size. ‘Tell me about your outcome’ (ensure it is not ‘away from’). ‘In obtaining this outcome is there anything you are leaving behind of value?’ (if yes, reframe outcome to include that of value). ‘Given the time you have given yourself, is this the right chunk size for you?’
    • Congruence:ownership, future pace. ‘Do you own each aspect of this outcome?’ ‘I would like you to imagine yourself achieving this goal in the future’ (calibrate). ‘When do you know it is time to start this?’ (anchor strategy to external or internal trigger).
    • Commitment:motivation, future pace. ‘Do you really want this?’ (calibrate congruence and ecology). ‘I actually don't think you do want this’ (again calibrate congruence and ecology). Future pace as for congruence.

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    Appendix 3: NLP Design Models

    As mentioned in Chapter 12 the difference between a model and a design is that a design takes the patterns which have been found in modelling projects and puts them together to create another model. There are many NLP coaching models which seek to address the complex systemic relationships between the conscious and the unconscious. They take many of the NLP design variables and put them together in a comprehensive and coherent way to address each aspect of human functioning as seen from the NLP perspective. The reader can readily access these models by looking up the relevant entry in the NLP encyclopedia online or putting the acronym into their web browser. Below are some of the more well-known NLP designs.

    BAGEL (Body Posture, Accessing Cues, Gestures, Eye Movements, Language Patterns)

    A design created by Robert Dilts which puts together all the NLP variables that help a coach calibrate the internal state of a coachee through that which is observable in the outside world.

    Resolve (Resourceful State for the Practitioner, Establish Rapport, Specify Outcome, Open Up the Coachee's Model of the World, Leading to Desired State, Verify Change, Ecological Exit)

    This is a design which, even though it is a model of therapy, applies equally to NLP coaching. The author is Dr Richard Bolstad (2002) and his book goes by the name of the model.

    Role (Representational Systems, Orientation, Links, Effect)

    This design looks at how we orientate our representational systems and how this orientation is linked to other representations to create an effect of some kind – for example, a feeling or behaviour.

    Score (Symptoms, Causes, Outcomes, Resources, Effects)

    This model arose from a self-modelling project of Dilts and Epstein when they recognized that there was a difference in problem solving between themselves and their advanced NLP students. It illustrates nicely that being an NLP coach is not just about delivering NLP models, but it is an orientation to life which has observation at its heart, and the purpose of that observation is to notice what is different between that which works and that which does not work in a specific context.

    Soar (State, Operator and Result)

    This design is borrowed from computer modelling. It is based upon the assumption that intelligent systems can learn on the basis of feedback from the environment. Similarly people ideally will move from a problem space to a solution space through a series of transitions. The problem space is defined by the jungle gym which we visited in Chapter 11. It is a goal-oriented model which is similar to the three-minute NLP seminar. Outcome (know what you want)… Acuity (understand the problem space as it is in the present)… Flexibility (identify and execute the necessary operations to move to what you want).


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