Neurological levels: getting to the heart of the matter in coaching

I love coaching! This week I had a first coaching session with a new client. If you’ve read my previous blogs, you’ll know I’m a big fan of getting under the skin of the goal. I love the analogy of the iceberg, with the surface goal and underlying goals, and my new client was an excellent example of exactly this, in particular Dilts’ neurological levels which we worked through to get under the surface goal. Let me explain.

The session started with my client saying they wanted to develop leadership skills which is great because that’s what I do. In terms of neurological levels, I thought we were in the level of ‘capability’ in that we would be working on developing skills. However, I wanted to explore this more simply because experience tells me the first area to present itself for work is seldom the one that really hits the underlying issue.

As we delved into the topic further, the conversation was very much about the ‘environment’ and my client’s ‘behavioural’ response. Being a person who is very much at the cause end of the cause/effect spectrum, he was very aware of how his behaviour was impacted by the situations he found himself in and how he let that affect him. Then we were back up to capabilities; ‘I should have the skills to deal with these situations better’. We skimmed past beliefs; ‘At my age I should be better than this, I should be able to deal with it’ before landing on ‘identity’ and the perceived encroachment on the individual’s sense of self. It was in the level of identity that we really began to get to the heart of the issue. It was affected by the other levels; the environment, behaviour, capabilities and beliefs, but at core the issue was about identity and not about leadership skills at all!

It was a fascinating coaching session and, by my client’s own admission, one he didn’t expect to go so far in getting to the nub of the issue, having been convinced we would be working on developing leadership skills.

It’s not every first coaching session where I get to this level of the issue, sometimes it takes a few sessions, but it’s a real buzz to uncover the nub of the issue. One thing to watch out for me though is to always be aware that this might not be the final point, although it’s certainly a lot further forward than if I had gone with leadership skills.

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‘Sonia Gill is a founder and director of Heads Up Limited, an education leadership consultancy which specialises in supporting schools become outstanding. Their training and coaching is recommended by the 100s of school leaders she has worked with. To find out more visit www.ukheadsup.com.’