catAlice: Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?
The Cat: That depends a good deal on where you want to get to.
Alice: I don’t much care where.
The Cat: Then it doesn’t much matter which way you go.
Alice: …so long as I get somewhere.
The Cat: Oh, you’re sure to do that, if only you walk long enough.

From Lewis Carroll’s Alice In Wonderland

Much like the Cheshire Cat in Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland, the role of the executive coach is not to tell the client exactly where they should go, but rather, to help them uncover the right path for them. However, unlike the example of the Cheshire Cat, who is most certainly not helpful to poor Alice, an executive coach also gives client tools that will help them to uncover the path they want to take based on things they already know.

As an executive coach, in my own personal experience I often have clients who know the specific trait, characteristics and behaviors they want to emulate. However, they are generally unaware of what is at the core of these behaviors, making it very difficult to accomplish their goal (as in the case of Alice who knew she wanted to go somewhere, but did not know exactly where). In these cases, I use the NLP modeling technique to help my client uncover the path towards realizing their goal.

The modeling process begins by asking the client to identify a person, either real or imagined that has a specific excellence characteristics’ which they would like to imitate. This person is the model for that particular behavior or characteristic. The model has qualities that are helpful in moving towards the goal of emulating this behavior.

The client is asked to draw out the model’s beliefs and consider what makes the model effective in demonstrating those beliefs. Additionally, the client should identify the key values the model used to create success and reference experiences used to make evaluations. The client is asked to focus on “what” the person does behaviorally, “how” they do it (what internal tools do they use) and “why” they do it (supporting beliefs/assumptions). The “what” is derived from direct observation of the model, while the how and why are understood through questioning.

Once the client has a clear understanding of who the model is and what they stand for, they can then begin to duplicate the characteristics and beliefs of the model. It is also important to have a clear understanding of what things the model does that makes a difference in their behavior. The client should take time to examine the following:

  • Key behavioral patterns of the model
  • How the model achieves results
  • What is different in this model than from a model producing unsuccessful outcomes

Once the client has a clear picture of all the relevant pieces, the modeled behavior or characteristics can be adopted, with the client stepping into the model’s physiology and patterns, and making them their own.

At the Academy of Leadership Coaching & NLP, we believe that modeling is an excellent tool to help leaders be more effective. If you would like more information on how to adopt the NLP modeling technique to support Leadership Development in your organization, please feel free to contact us!


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