Group and Team Coaching

Article written by L. Michael Hall PhD and Shawn Dwyer ~

Modelling to get to first base? What is it that you’re attempting to do when you work with a client? Think for a moment how you would answer that question…

Okay, here is mine. First and foremost, you are working to understand your client. Now what makes this quite challenging is this- you have to understand your client on your client’s terms. Hence, first you want to understand the person sitting before you in the same way that the person thinks about him or herself. If you don’t do that, you can’t get to understanding’s first base.

Modelling For Real Understanding

In the field of psychology (whether it is remedial, therapy or generative, coaching), to “understand” someone in your terms and on your terms- your models and your theories is not to understand the person. This was one the learnings that came out of the Human Potential Movement and that the NLP developers found in Perls and Satir they started with the person. They went to the person’s model and understanding of the world so that they could speak that person’s language. Today we call that matching or pacing.  I like how Shelle Rose Charvet describes this.  Metaphorically she says, “Go to their bus stop” and meet them there.

Meta-Model Questions

Next, you will want to understand how your client does whatever it is that your client is doing or wants to do. We call that modelling. It is the essential Meta-Model question:

  1. How do you know that?

     2. “How do you think about that?

     3. “How do you understand that to work?

Now the reason you ask such questions is to understand what your client understands currently. If you client wants to enhance her leadership, what does she currently understand about leadership? How does she do what she’s calling “leadership?” If your client is wanting to create a consistent habit of exercising to get to an ideal weight and maintain fitness, then you want to understand what he understands about that. So you ask, “How do you do that?” And you may have to ask that question many times about many aspects as various aspects of the experience are discussed.

In terms of the benchmarks this is the level 3.0 “strategy process” in Listening. When you ask multiple modelling questions and then feed-it-back to your client to check your understanding, you have performed a professional competence skill- you have identified your client’s strategy process. Now this is basic NLP and you may have touched on it briefly in Coaching Essentials. Yet for being able to fully do this, take NLP Practitioner training, and possibly several times.

Now For A Secret

In this process of identifying and mapping out a client’s strategy, there is “magic.” Hence it is the magic of understanding because it so often elicits from the client the “Aha!” response. And that’s because as a client works to explain what he is attempting to do and how he does it, he often will experience a sudden realization and insight. “Oh, that’s what I’ve been doing!” And with that, frequently clients suddenly know precisely what they have done wrong and need to correct. I have seen that happen scores and scores of times. And what’s also happening in that mini-miracle is the actualization of the NLP principlePeople have all of the resources they need to achieve their ecological goals.”

And when that happens, you have an excellent moment to validate the person.

“Ah, so you just discovered something! What?”  “And how good is that realization?” “Well done for finding that within your resources!”

Modelling how your client understands something, how your client has been attempting to do something, how she learns and is convinced, how he motivates and persuades himself to take action, etc. gives you an insider’s view of your client’s reality. Feeding-it-back then enables him to feel understood and amplifies his sense of self-awareness. Therefore doing this also empowers both you and your client in finding those leverage points of change. So as a coach, you use modelling as a tool for understanding your client’s inner world. So that makes you, at least in part, a modeller.

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