Case Study.



NLP looks at the process of thinking rather than the story behind the thinking (the past). It provides invaluable tools for coaching. 

NLP Coaching is more hands-on, tends to be solution-focused and does not centre so much on the content. It looks at ‘the process of thinking’ and solutions that are positive or empowering. NLP studies how our unconscious drives our behaviours and uses tools such as ‘the presuppositions of change’ to guide the coachee to a positive outcome.

The Context of the Situation

In this scenario, the client lacks confidence. She is currently on a probationary period and works remotely as part of a team. The rest of the team, however, all work together in a different part of the country in the same office; she is the only remote person.

 The client is feeling somewhat left out and has doubts about whether her contribution has sufficient value or whether she has ‘just contributed for the sake of it’. 

 She often feels that she lacks conviction in the role and believes that when somebody calls her, she may not be able to give the correct guidance.

A colleague in the team compounds the situation by making decisions (in which the client should be involved) behind her back. 

She feels under-supported and is not receiving or able to give any feedback. 

The client feels that she would like to have more confidence and to be able to get the job done efficiently.


Set state and Contracting

Client-Perceived Desired Outcome

  • To be able to work through the moments when there is a crisis of confidence.
  • To stop letting these moments happen.
  • To not have the thought in her head of “I cannot do this”.
  • To be, or at least appear to be confident.
  • To pass the probationary period and keep the job.
  • To be able not to feel like she is “blagging it”.
  • To stop being afraid and feeling like she will “get found out”.
  • To stop thinking “f*** f*** f***” inside her head whenever new email pings or the phone rings.

 This circumstance rears its head quite often.

 Whenever another member of staff asks her a question, she feels she is supposed to know the answer, whenever she looks at the pile of emails that she has and, often, when she feels she cannot trust her team.


She also finds the geographical distance between her and the rest of the team a challenge.


Coach’s self-awareness indicators.


I am aware that I do tend to try and become a fixer by accident and may have appropriate responsibility for the clients change before starting the session.


During the session, I was tempted, out of frustration, to tell the client what to do. 


I managed to keep this under check. Instead, I guided the conversation using proposals until the client came up with her ideas on how she can fix the problem.


I prepared by doing a grounding exercise, reading through the contracting checklist and I also visualised the client as a powerful woman who was able to find the confidence that she needed (because she already has it). I have an absolute utter and unwavering belief in her ability to be able to overcome the issue she is presenting.


Unconscious trigger


The unconscious trigger is when something is about to happen (for her, when she gets a phone call/email). She is also triggered when opening email list. There is a company culture of sending lots and lots of emails, some incredibly important, some less relevant. She feels worried and fear when seeing the overwhelming list of emails and decides to do something else instead (procrastination).


Present State


She is worried, often presuming that something terrible is on the other end of the phone. She also seemed overwhelmed and has “imposter syndrome” (I am not good enough).


She has had a crisis of confidence. Thinks she is not good enough for her job, or that she looks like she is ‘faking it’ and might ‘get caught out’.


Her body language was stiff and fixed and did not appear to alter when we were trying to elicit the triggering outcome. I did notice she would play with her hair while on the telephone.


She would tell me that she is not really ‘feeling it’ and then it is ‘not working’.


We visualised the moment just before the phone call happens or just before the email list displayed. I discerned that the client said (in her head) “f*** f*** f***” and at that time she leaned backwards and had a sharp intake of breath (of which she was not aware).


We use the sharp intake of breath as the trigger.


Positive intentions of the negative behaviour.


I forgot to ask about whether she thought there was a positive intention or secondary gains.




We discussed “What happens if you do nothing about this’? She answered that it [worries] would become real. Things will then be ignored until they cannot go away and then, instead, will become more critical and more stressful. Thus potentially causing errors of judgement and mistakes to happen.


Sensory acuity / calibration


I built a rapport by matching mirroring and pacing, and at some point, I actually slowed the pace down, and she mirrored back.




She displayed avoidance behaviours. She was getting too close to deadlines, hasty decisions, evading answering questions and bypassing feedback.


Method(s) Used


We used a mixture of two coaching styles from the iNLP coaching model flowchart. Traditional coaching and Conversational Change.


We chose Traditional coaching because it is the type of coaching that made the client feel most comfortable. Quote “I do not believe in NLP. I do not think it will work”.


That then opened up for the opportunity to give it (NLP) a try regardless of belief (fake it till you make it).


Conversational Strategy Elicitation. 


I asked questions to elicit the presenting issue; “What would you like to feel instead?”, “How important is it to you to make the change?” ‘in what way would you like to be different?”…


Then elicited the context; “When and where does this [presenting issue] happen?”


Put the two together; “When the phone starts to ring, you feel worried…?”


I asked her under to look at when she was in that situation what does she see, hear, smell and feel just before she answers the phone/opens the email list. I noticed she gave a sharp intake of breath at these moments.


During calibration (observing her behaviour, body language, tone and language both as a control and during the state elicitation) I was finding it difficult to read her (I believe I need some extra practice).


We continued through the conversational outcomes and resources to elicit the “big-picture outcome” (what we want to feel at the trigger moment, instead of fear). This was a section where the client found she struggled most.


It was at this point that she asked to stop coaching and suggested that she might like to have something scripted before the phone rings so that she can be prepared for anything that might be coming her way.


We utilised some traditional coaching to make suggestions about what kind of questions might be asked of her and what kind of answers she could give.


The answers mainly focused on being able to give herself more time to think (and breathe) and therefore, not to rush to answer too quickly or inaccurately.


For example, a lawyer gave her a call to ask about a vital HR issue (he wants to take things to court – and therefore get paid more) but she (client) does not believe it is necessary and the best thing is just to end it now and not take court action.


In order to give herself a boost in confidence the decision was made that when the lawyer called, she would just say something along the lines of “I hear what you are saying, give me a couple of hours to consult with my colleagues. When I have made a decision, I will call you back.”


This method also seems to work if she had a colleague that was beneath her hierarchically, to which she was worried she did not have the correct response. “I think this could be the explanation but let me have a quick think about it, and I will get back to you.”


We decided it would be wise to set a time to get back to said person, so they know that they will not be overlooked.


We practised these and other scenarios with role-play phone calls, repeatedly.


Client was awkward at first but because we made it lighthearted and we did it again, and again.


Eventually, she felt relaxed with answering the pretend phone call in the pretend stressful situation.


This assuredly gave her a safe space to find an answer before responding.


We agreed that her goal would be the smallest next step, to try one of these approaches, if the opportunity arose, and to report back in the next session.


I also remembered to say “of course if you want to try more than one, I cannot stop you”.


End State Goals


The end state was to lose the fear trigger brought on every time emails were opened, or phone calls came in.


Instead, a mixture of knowing that she can ‘buy for time’, then find the right answer, alongside the confidence-building that we had of repeatedly answering the phone in role-play, allowed her to face the trigger with fearlessness.


2nd Session

We had a second session to find out whether she had the opportunity to practice what we did in the first session. She said she had plenty of occasions. There had been quite a few phone calls and many emails, and she tried her new method with all of them.


Occasionally she still felt a little under-confident but, on the whole, she commonly felt that she was much more confident in answering the telephone.


She also noted a significant change in her awareness of how she handles all difficult things in her life. She had got into the habit of putting things off that felt too big in the past.


The emails are still a mammoth task, but she no longer feels that it is off-putting and has stopped procrastination.



Client Feedback


She reported she found it most useful indeed and was quite surprised at the outcome.


She had gone away realising, as the week progressed, more and more of her old behaviours became noticeable to her. They then, in turn, became less scary.


She felt thrilled with the coaching and that the sessions have been incredibly useful.



In summary, the iNLP and HNLP works very well in an appropriate setting. It is superior to focus on the solutions rather than re-hashing the problems of the past.


I am glad that I had the opportunity to use a mixture of traditional Coaching and NLP Coaching. This made the client more comfortable and allowed flexibility to find her solution alongside the exercises we were practising for the module.


I feel that by coming up with some of the solutions herself, alongside the practice in exercises, she was more likely (and more able) to believe in the work that we were doing together and therefore, to have a good result.


I too feel more positive now in using these methods despite there still being much jargon in what I am reading (as is the nature of anything new)


Despite this, I still managed to achieve what was required.


In the future, I will spend a little more time going over notes and double-checking the learning before starting the coaching call. I felt slightly underprepared. 


However, on a good note, timekeeping and contracting is now second nature and easy to do.