16.  What is the link between Coaching and NLP?


The first point to make is that there is no commonly agreed definition of coaching at this time (I'm referring to "business coaching" rather than "life coaching").

Between what and what?
In broad terms, "life coaching" applies to any and all aspects of a person's life which they feel can be improved upon.  Plain "coaching" is usually taken to mean "coaching specific to the business context".  Coaching will tend to be less "personal" and more ROI (return on investment) oriented.

One of the most relevant definitions in the present discussion - which can be applied to both forms of coaching - comes from the title of James Flaherty's book: Coaching : Evoking Excellence in Others, which seems to me to be equally appropriate as a definition of NLP.  Which makes it doubly strange that writers on coaching give so little attention to NLP.

Miles Downey, in his book Effective Coaching, says:

"In the world of work, you may also come across coaches whose approach is based on a particular psychology or philosophy.  Two approaches that have particular prominence are Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP) and Transformational Technology.  These are extremely useful, but neither of them is coaching in and of itself although they both inform coaching and provide some useful tools."
(page 27)

In case you aren't in the know, what Mr Downey euphemistically refers to as "Transformation Technology" is actually nothing less than the Landmark Forum.  The Forum is actually a spin off from Scientology via Werner Erhard's est "seminars".  Erhard disappeared from the public stage a few years back after allegedly selling the whole est organisation to his employees.  The result is a somewhat tuned down version of Erhard's sessions which many observers claimed were little more than brainwashing in plush surroundings.  Just what anyone would bring from the Forum to business coaching is something else again!

By the way, for any readers who know little or nothing about NLP - it has absolutely nothing to do with the Landmark Forum or any organisation related to the Landmark Forum.

James Flaherty also uses NLP-like concepts in his book, although he never mentions NLP, Bandler or Grinder by name.  Right up front in the Preface (pages xi-xii) we find:

"We tend to do more of what we've done in the past, rather than rethink what we're doing.  Without this new thinking, all we can do is continue to repeat the actions we've already taken , which will of course lead to the same outcomes that we already have."

I checked this, too, and Mr Flaherty gives much the same answer as Mr Downey, that he is familiar with NLP, but its potential is merely as one element of a coach's toolkit.

Well, it's obviously true that NLP is not coaching "in and of itself".  If it were, then I imagine it would be called "coaching" rather than "NLP"!
Having said that, however, there are a substantial number of similarities between NLP and the vague, generally agreed definition of coaching, which might be summed up as "helping clients to find their own solutions to problemmatical (business) situations, and otherwise helping (facilitating?!) their movement towards optimum performance."

I have put "business" in brackets because it is widely recognised that what present as business problems may well have their origins elsewhere in the client's life.

So, it appears to me that business coaching is an area where a sound knowledge of NLP would be particularly beneficial.  Especially since many business coaches - or at least those who write about it (who are often coaches and even trainers of coaching) - still don't seem to be quite clear as to what it is they are doing.  Is it counselling?  Is it consultancy?  Is it therapy?  Is it training?  Is it personal development?  Is it all of these things, or none?

For anyone who uses their NLP skills in the workplace, I think that you may find it useful, and maybe even profitable, to read at least one of the coaching books recommended in the Emporium's Book Reviews department.