Leadership Conversations Through NLP
by Raju Mandhyan

The Meaning of your Communication

I believe that communication happens all the time. Everything is communications, all the time. You ask a question, it is communication. When you do not answer, your behavior is saying something. Employees clam up in the presence of the boss, workers go on a strike or the company financial statements are smudged in red all over - they are all making a statement. They are all communicating. Conversations, on the other hand, are a small chunk of the whole communications pie. Conversations have a larger and a deeper, face to face, personal flavor to them.

Nuero-Linguistic Programming or NLP was developed in the mid-70s by John Grinder, a Professor at UC Santa Cruz and Richard Bandler, a graduate student. NLP, as most people use the term today, is a set of models of how communication impacts and is impacted by subjective experience. It's more a collection of tools than any overarching theory. It is also heavily pragmatic: if a tool works, it's included in the model, even if there's no theory to back it up. Because it works through our multi-sensorial nature and the relationship between physiology and the mind, its persuasive effects, in conversations, are extremely powerful and long lasting.

One of the many principles, or presuppositions as they are known, of NLP, which is highly relevant to communications with others states, “The meaning of your communication, regardless of your intent, is the effect it has on the listener/reader.”

This presupposition forms the basis of evaluating the impact and the effectiveness of all communications. It is not what you have said but what is understood by the recipients that decides the content, and the value, of it. Keeping this in mind, the speaker/writer becomes forced to work on the clarity of his thoughts, place himself in the shoes of the listener and not assume his communication to be complete until he receives acknowledgement, understanding and, perhaps, agreement from the listener. The agreement bit is not a guarantee until the recipient finds benefit in the information or proposals in the communication a.k.a conversation. Regardless of finding agreement in the conversation, a higher awareness of this first principle of NLP, drives us into refining our skills at being clear and persuasive.

The Map is not the Territory

Another presupposition of NLP states, “The map is not the territory.” Or, “Representation is not the reality.” People interact with their internal maps of the world rather than with pure, sensory-based, input. All the ideas, images and the perceptions that we hold in our minds before, during, and sometimes, even after a conversation are just that—ideas, images and perceptions in our heads. This may sound trite but in reality almost everyone forgets this when they get into the thick of all kinds of conversations. The resulting experience and the outcomes can become cacophonic and full of discord. Working with only the maps in our own mind is like trying to find your way around New York while carrying the street map of New Delhi. You are bound to go around in circles and ultimately get lost.
Understanding and acknowledging this second principle will clarify our needs and crystallize our desired outcomes from a conversation. And, when we do recognize that others may be working around with their own maps, it’ll help us adjust and become more flexible and open to listening and leading others. Steven Covey, years ago, called it “seek to understand before trying to be understood.”

In small or large group interactions, this can be achieved by:

  1. Learning all you can about your audience, way before you actually get to face them. In fact, doing this research on your audience’s cultural, educational and business profile days before the interaction will let the information about them become knowledge to you.

  2. In cases where circumstances do not allow you to have this luxury of profiling your audience beforehand then make an effort to arrive early for the meeting and do an on the spot, quick profiling by mixing with them and getting to know who they are, where do they come from and what their expectations might be.

  3. The worse scenario? You are the chairman, the speaker, the guest and you walk into the meeting after most of your audience is already settled. In that case, ask open ended questions, urge them to talk about themselves, be open and state that for you to take them for where they are to where they want to go, you need to know where they are or, what is the map on their mind.

In all cases get onto the same page, at least align your maps if you want to travel in the same direction together.

People have all the Resources they Need

A third presupposition of NLP states that, “People have all the resources they need even if they, currently, do not have access to these resources,” provides a great value-add to delivering high impact training and to everyday leadership conversations.

During management exchanges and in work-life realities, when you as a leader-teacher chat, interview, delegate, report or provide feedback to a colleague, you must come from a window of assumption and belief that all that you are expecting from a colleague to do or deliver is possible by the colleague and she has the resources and the desire deliver those expectations. In other words if you trust your learner’s capacity to learn then he will learn and learn fast. If you trust your colleague to do and deliver with excellence then she will do and deliver with excellence. This authentic and deep trusting by you translates into a powerful and profound internal motivation for your partner. She, happily and willingly, goes beyond the extra mile to learn fast, perform flawlessly and constantly seek personal excellence in all personal and organizational endeavors.

The resources this presupposition refers to, as you may have already guessed, are physical, mental and spiritual in nature. Many a times, a learner learns and adapts with dexterity and then there are times when the same learner or colleague lags behind and delivers a performance that is mediocre.  The reason for the mediocre performance is that she did not tap deep and well enough into her own resource and did not gather and use her strengths.

You, as the leader-teacher, during interactions, can help her draw on her strengths and inspire excellence by:

  1. Clearing your own mind of all doubts and negative expectations.
  2. Expressing with clarity and creativity the objectives of a short-term task or a long-term project.
  3. Reconfirming understanding and acceptance of expectations through careful questioning.
  4. Empowering her with the freedom to make adjustments should the situation or the environment demand.
  5. Expecting the best and believing it will be delivered.

Employing the hidden powers of this presupposition in all your interactions will make you a dynamic conversationalist, an effective trainer and a highly influential leader. It leaves your trainee and your colleague driven and inspired to learn effectively and perform with excellence. This NLP presupposition forms one of the best tools of all leadership conversations. When all efforts in people development like training, mentoring and coaching draw upon this principle then the results derived are way beyond awesome.

Author of "The Heart of Public Speaking", Raju Mandhyan has fifteen years of exposure to manufacturing, sales, marketing and international trade; seven years as an independent coach, consultant and trainer. His talent rests not in telling you things that are right and useful, but guiding you through your own thoughts and helping you find truths and applications for the 21st century corporate world. Visit http://www.mandhyan.com/ for additional information.

Many more articles in Communications in The CEO Refresher Archives


Copyright 2007 by Raju Mandhyan. All rights reserved.

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