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NLP Training In The NHS Workplace

by Frances Coombes(more info)

listed in nlp, originally published in issue 195 - June 2012

Give People the Strategies They Want

I have just run an NHS hospital in-house training for a mixed group of staff coming from clerical, management and clinical work groups. Learners agreed that a successful outcome for the day would be to go away with at least 3 or 4 really good strategies they could take away and use to feel more confident in their working. The group also wanted strategies that would equip them to address problems on the top of their minds right now. Based on the requirements of the group we chose strategies from the following NLP tool kit.

Four Main Areas for Using NLP in the Workplace

1. Self-management Skills in Relation to Work

Increasingly, managers have greater numbers of staff reporting to them, and so will have minimal time allotted to developing individual members of staff. Employees who can think for themselves and can manage themselves in relation to their work are the ones who will do best in the modern workforce.

  • Strategies for focusing and clarifying and setting good outcomes. (Have a framework for thinking about outcomes, ask yourself “What is the goal in the actions I am taking right now? Am I moving forward or marking time? What needs to happen for change to happen? What would make things work for me?)”;
  • The ability to build your inner confidence by managing your internal state. (Ask yourself, “How much do I want this outcome on a scale of 1 – 10? What am I assuming that is stopping me from achieving that goal? Is what I am thinking a ‘Fact’ / ‘possible Fact’ / or a ‘Limiting Assumption’?’)”;
  • Tools for getting yourself into the right frame of mind to do your job. (It is important to remember past victories and resources we possess and come to new situations armed with these powerful tools );
  • Setting outcomes for negotiations (Check you are on the same wavelength as the other parties. Summarize what has just been said. Ask yourself: “what is the point of my message seen from the viewpoint of the other person? Are there any emerging difficulties that you did not recognize before?)”;
  • Dealing with things that are stressful. (Sometimes just ask; “What is a better behaviour to have instead of the one I am running right now? What kind of beliefs may be fuelling my behaviour? What fears do I have over changing my behaviour?)”;

2. Building better Communication Skills

  • Building rapport skills with others;
  • Understand better your own and other people’s behaviours;
  • Noticing what motivates you / others to get things done.

NHS hospitals are peoples-based organizations so not surprisingly most of the NLP at work participants wanted better communication skills that were relevant to their work situations and dealing with either patients, colleagues, their managers or their relationships. What made the learning attractive to participants was that they first set individual outcomes so they could have evidence-based results, and recognizing that the skills they were learning for work are also transferable to all aspects of their lives. Techniques learned can be used to improve not just learners work and career issues but also to aid their relationships with children, lovers, relatives and friends.

3. Modelling Successful Outcomes

If you want to be successful, find someone who already has the skills and then model them. Most people start with small individual skills and then move on to group work and greater things. Group examples of using modelling skills are:

  • Great Ormond Street Hospital theatre team noted that they were saving patients’ lives in theatre, but the minutes between leaving the theatre and reaching high dependency wards were critical. They modelled Formula One racing drivers' pit stop crews responsible for refuelling a car in seconds, and then devised new rules for getting patients from A to B in the shortest possible time;
  • Eurostar have used the NLP modelling technique to train control staff who manage the rail terminals at Waterloo. The aim was to find out what makes an excellent terminal controller and give colleagues the opportunity to try out the same thinking for themselves. If one person can do a task really well, that’s good. If two or three people can do it equally well that is even better. If all staff can do it, then that is approaching excellence.
  • Charity, Save the Children, did not have money to alleviate poverty in Vietnamise villages.   Instead the team sent adopted a modelling approach.  They noticed that some children were better nourished than most others.  The team enlisted village mums to find out what was different about the way those children were fed. Mothers discovered that healthier children were fed more often (same amounts of food but in smaller portions).  Also these mothers were mixing in some sources of protein that were not considered appropriate for children.  By getting the rest of the mothers to model the same practices, six months later 65% of the children in the village were better nourished.

4. Listening and Thinking Skills

Many staff carry emotional baggage as a result of stress, over-work, competition, the effects of re-organization, take-over, redundancy, or doing a totally different job to the one they used to do. Keeping a stiff upper lip can appear to maintain equilibrium, but people who carry emotional baggage are less able to enjoy their work, or give their best efforts to it. NLP has lots of tools for helping people to get around emotional blocks in order to move forward and achieve more of what they want. When participants look back on NLP training it is usually these reflective techniques and the action planning skills that people remember most.

The aim of teaching people NLP in work, in relationships, in life: is to give people the widest range of options and tools that might be available to them at any time. NLP training helps enrich the choices that people perceive as being available to them in the world; it gives them powerful new techniques for their tool kit.


  1. Michael Mallows said..

    An excellent, indeed, eloquent article that gives a concise, lucid introduction to what NLP can offer to people who work in demanding, pressurised and stressful situations. The modelling examples are exquisite and inspiring.

    One little niggle; many readers will not know what modelling is from an NLP perspective - a future article perhaps?
    Go well

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About Frances Coombes

Frances Coombes Advanced Dip CBT/REBT Dip CBT offers one-to-one therapeutic coaching in North West London and on Zoom.  She is a is a CBT/REBT psychotherapist in North West London, a NLP Master Practitioner and Rational Emotional Behaviour Therapist and runs life coaching groups in London and on Zoom.  She teaches NLP at The City Lit in Central London and tutors at the City Lit and Mary Ward Centre in central London on Using REBT for Managing Stress and NLP (Neuro-Linguistic Programming). She runs goal setting and REBT coaching groups for vulnerable people for inner London authorities and charities.  

Her most recent book is Motivate Yourself and Reach Your Goals, pub, November 2013, Hodder Headline. Available on and  For extract visit To inquire or book personal development courses contact Frances on Tel: 07818 896 795; 


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