How can NLP help to motivate your staff?

Written by
Changeboard Team

26 Aug 2010

26 Aug 2010 • by Changeboard Team

What are the affects of NLP?

What is it about excellence in employees that is so hard to fathom?

Neuro linguistic programming (NLP) is about that excellence, so if you could work out what your excellent managers do, bottle it and transfer the skills to others, I guess you would have little if any worries about your bottom line?

In this day and age of increasing costs, drives for efficiency and increased productivity at lower cost, working out how to quickly motivate your workforce might be the key to making a difference in your business.

As a business consultant who specialises in change management using NLP, these are the two most common Challenges that are presented to me. NLP can make a difference in both of these areas, among others.

What exactly is NLP?

So isnt it just a load of jargon and mumbo-jumbo?

Yes and no, like any profession and model, NLP has a language of its own, so, what is it really?

NLP is nothing new because it is a model of performance excellence, in others words, it takes the best of the best and transfers it into a model that can be used by others to become excellent at what they do, often in communication and relationships.

You might have already met some of the tools in the kit of NLP....

It is often included in communication skills training, motivation training, selling skills, personal development courses, appraisal systems, facilitation skills and presentation skills. So the odds are you have already met it somewhere, it might just not have been called NLP.

Does NLP affect training and development?

There are many organisations now that use NLP as part of their training and development strategy.

Here are 5 ways that companies have used it...

Customer relationship

Within sales and the customer relationship, rapport is a key piece to making a difference in how the customer perceives the organisation. Levels of positive responsiveness have increased substantially and in some instances, companies have ended up sharing the skills learnt so that both companies benefit from the difference that they have noticed just using rapport.


One procurement department specifically focussed on a difficult relationship with a supplier. They decided to use rapport to see if they could get a different response from the supplier, who up until then had resisted any proactive price negotiation. Two managers who had received training in rapport skills attended the meeting with the two suppliers from another organisation. One manager concentrated on matching the physiology of the lead supplier in the meeting while the other manager concentrated on dealing with the specifics of the procurement process. 

By changing their approach and bringing the process of rapport into the meeting, they were able to agree a substantial cost saving in their procurement which up until then had eluded them.

The company blueprint

Working out the DNA or blueprint of the company helps an organisation to clearly communicate its reason for being, identity, values, capabilities, behaviours and environmental concerns. These organisations have developed and communicated their own blue print for how they want to be seen, how they expect their staff and managers to behave, and how this relates to the overall purpose of the business.

NLP provides a very useful model called logical levels of change based on the work of Robert Dilts. This model is based in systems theory and discriminates six different levels of abstraction or thinking, from our environment at the most basic level, to our mission or purpose in life at the most abstract level. Each level has a set of questions that help individuals and organisations to think about their needs, expectations and processes. This model can be used to develop an organisational blueprint and to ensure that each of the higher levels is supported by the lower levels.

For example, an organisation that has a mission to be the largest supplier of their products nationally, will want to have managers who are clear about their role or identity, believe that their product is the best and have sufficient capabilities to deliver this. They will also demonstrate their values, i.e. what is important to them through their behaviour, which will then be supported by their environment.

Organisations that want to develop their own blueprint will link their strategy and key performance indicators to each of the logical levels, ensuring that they are in alignment with the companys mission.

Presentation skills

One organisation included some of the best bits of NLP in their presentation skills course for the sales team. This had a lasting effect on the team and how they relate to their customer, to the effect that individuals still talk about the course 8 years later, and continue to use the skills learnt.

Some of the specific techniques used with this organisation included helping them to get rid of negative thoughts and beliefs through chaining anchors. They also learnt skills in using the representational systems of their audience and structuring their presentations using the 4 Mat model. Perceptual positions was another skill that they learnt, which enabled them to step into the shoes of their audience before they presented information to them. 


A couple of companies have used some of the imagery processes within NLP to alter how they advertise and as a result have seen a marked difference in Results from their advertising.

One of the imagery processes that has been used is submodalities, which determine how we code, order and give meaning to our experience. For example, when we think about something we like, we will often create an internal picture of it. How much more compelling is an image of a bar of chocolate in a fridge, compared to an image of an empty wrapper?

If you think of a person you like and create an internal image of them, and then make the picture smaller and further away, this will automatically affect how you feel about the person.

Visual submodalities are very powerful, and by altering these within advertising it is possible to create a more compelling picture that Results in an individual wanting to find out more about the product.


Companies that have used NLP at the heart of the coaching processes have seen rapid acceleration in the career growth and potential of their high performing individuals.

A manager in a large multinational organisation had been identified as a high potential employee and had been supported through work based coaching. Her manager had identified that she was occasionally perceived as distant and not a team player. The company clearly valued her and at the same time considered that this was a potential attribute that may affect her career progression, particularly as future roles involved substantial communication and group working across multiple layers of the organisation.

During coaching she reflected on this feedback and demonstrated a high ability to reflect on her own behaviour and how others perceived her. She was able to adapt her behaviour and also use the coaching process to formulate a clear career plan that has resulted in an exponential leap in her career within 6 months.

NLP tool for you

Here is one tool from NLP that will help you to understand other people's viewpoints or perspectives. The following process allows you to role-play out three different perspectives to view how we would respond to a particular situation while also making you think how others would react. Imagine yourself playing out different scenarios in the workplace such as selling, negotiation, conflict management, leadership, management, appraisals, relationships, interviews, in fact any interaction with another person that you want to get better at.

 You might find it helpful to use three chairs or three different places on the floor to place your three perspectives.

NLP role-playing exercise

First position is your own perspective, what do you think and feel about the particular situation?

Second position is where you act as the other person, speak as if they were them, and talk about your feelings (as if you were them) about the situation.

Third position is a detached non-emotional perspective where you can comment on the interaction between the first and second position.

Sit in first position and describe the problem from your perspective, including how you feel about the other person.

Once you have enough information, leave you in the chair, and move to the second position chair. Once you are sitting in this chair, sit as the other person and describe the situation from their perspective, speaking as if you were them.

Once you have gathered enough information from this perspective, leave you as them in the chair, and move to the third position chair.

In this chair, view the relationship between first and second position from this detached perspective.

  • What do you think is happening in the relationship?
  • What do you think you could advise the person in first position to do?

When you have gathered enough information to get a different perspective, return to first position and decide on your next steps.

Occasionally you may find it helpful to go back to the second or third position to gather further information. If you do, remember to leave the you behind in the chair as you go to each different perspective, and you will always end the process in first position. 

How do you get NLP into your organisation qucikly?

  • Use an NLP consultant who walks the talk of NLP
  • Ensure the consultant/trainer has a track record of taking it into an organisation
  • Ask for references from the consultant from other organisations
  • Find the early adopters, initially provide training to individuals who are already interested in this area, so that they can integrate it into the workplace
  • Adapt the language of NLP and the examples used in training to reflect your daily work, there is no point and no credibility in using therapy examples when the team attending the training are sales people
  • Avoid making it out to be the panacea for all
  • Bite size chunks, make it relevant. NLP is great for mini-workshops and quick tools that people can go away and apply, and get quick Results
  • Buy in from the top, not everyone is open to NLP and may even have had a bad experience with it