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Guest blog: Being a brand with NLP – by Dan Dobson-Smith

Since its birth in the Californian hills of Santa Cruz in the late 1970’s, NLP, or Neuro-Linguistic Programming has been the subject of many a debate, discussion group and news article. Nowadays, with high-profile figures such as Paul McKenna and Derren Brown finding themselves on our television sets and on our bookshelves the principles, tools and tenets of NLP are more ‘out there’ and in use than ever before…most of us just don’t know we’re using them!

NLP was co-created by Richard Bandler (a computer expert, mathematician and therapist) and John Grinder (a linguist) having studied with famous linguists and therapists such as Fritz Perls, Virginia Satir, Milton Erickson and Gregory Bateson.

They, along with a creative group of students and psychotherapists, including Robert Dilts, Leslie Cameron-Bandler, Judith DeLozier, Stephen Gilligan and David Gordon pulled together the model we now know as NLP.

NLP is the study of the how the mind works; of how we think and how we structure our subjective experience (neuro). It is the study of language and of how we communicate with ourselves and with others (linguistic). It is the study of how we do what we do and how we sequence our actions in order to achieve, or not achieve, that which we want, (or indeed do not want (programming).

There are some basic principles to NLP from which the entire model is derived. These principles (known by practitioners of NLP as the Legs, or Pillars, of NLP) are:

  1. Know Your Outcome – start everything knowing your outcome. When you define what it is you want you will be able to achieve it more easily
  2. Have Sensory Acuity – Be aware, turn up your sense to really see, hear and feel what is going on around you as you proceed toward your outcomes.
  3. Have Behavioural Flexibility – Be willing to do whatever it takes to achieve success.
  4. Take Action – without action there are no results. Remember, a field will remain unploughed if you keep turning it over in your head.
  5. Achieve Rapport – If you have rapport with yourself and rapport with others you world becomes more and more responsive
  6. Operate from a Psychology & Physiology of Excellence – Operate from a totally resourceful state. Do only the things that empower you.

NLP has been defined by many different people in many different ways. It widely heralded by the coaching and therapeutic communities as a model of great importance in helping people to make deep, lasting, positive changes.

The attitudes, methodologies and techniques taught within NLP can illuminate the dark, express the unsaid and can tap into the untapped.


Dr Robert Dilts was one of the original 8 co-developers of NLP working with Bandler and Grinder. Dilts also worked closely with Milton Erickson and Gregory Bateson and it was from Gregory Bateson’s work on behavioural sciences that Robert formulated the theory of the Neurological Levels of Change.

The Neurological Levels of Change provide us with a useful model to look at change, both personally and professionally at an individual level as well as at an organisational level. The model suggests that there is natural and hierarchical ordering in learning, communication and change. The model is shown below, with meanings provided for both an organisational and personal context

PURPOSE – The reason you are here; the path you follow; the mission of your organisation

IDENTITY – This is the ‘who you are’ and how you think of yourself as a person; this is who the organisation identifies itself as

VALUES – Criteria or qualities that we hold to be important and are used as a basis for daily action. Values govern all human behaviour

BELIEFS – Emotionally held views about what we see as being true about the world around us. Behaviour is organised according to our beliefs, as such they might be considered as self-fulfilling prophecies.

CAPABILITIES – becoming increasingly known as competencies, capabilities are our mental maps and strategies. These might also be the policies, procedures and systems of an organisation

BEHAVIOUR – what we do and say, the external expression of the self. Behaviour is not identity; an individual is not their behaviour. This is a useful distinction to make

ENVIRONMENT– refers to what is outside such as the place where you work, the people and things that are out there

Here comes the science bit…

The theory behind logical levels states that any lower level in the hierarchy is either part of, or a subset of, the level above it. Equally, any higher level is the entirety of all of the lower levels. However, this is NOT necessarily the case with this model.

Stay with me…

What this model does show us however that any changes made at a higher level will dictate what happens at a lower level.

Still with me? I’ll continue…

It also says that any change made at a lower level will most likely NOT be sustained at a higher level.

Simply put, if you are having trouble relating with your partner (behaviour), going on holiday (environment) is unlikely to fix it. If your organisation is experiencing sales problems (capabilities or behaviours), then don’t bother doing some training (yet), look a little deeper (or higher on the model!)

So, whilst Dilts’ Logical Levels might not necessarily be ‘logical’ or even ‘neurological’ per se, they do provide us with a really neat way in which to analyse, look at or perhaps tune into situations and explore ways in which to bring about greater clarity.


Gone are the days where the word brand was synonymous with marketing. It is so much more than that isn’t it? I mean, people even talk about being their own brand. Lewis Hamilton recently said “I looking to work within someone who can build me as a brand”.

If you take the concept of brand and overlay it with Dilts’ model, then immediately you have an action plan. Whether you are interested in building your own brand or that of your organisation’s this model guide’s you to ask some questions that will bring about absolute congruence.

The questions below provide a prompt to your organisational-think, and will enable you to establish areas of brand congruence (or mis-alignment) in all aspects of the your company:

Purpose – For what purpose does the organisation exist? Of which bigger system is this organisation a part?

Identity – Who does this organisation need to be such that it realises it’s highest purpose? Who is it not that you would like it to be?

Values – What is important about what the organisation does? What isn’t yet important enough, that if it were important enough would mean more success?

Beliefs – What should this organisation believe such that its highest purpose is realised?

Behaviour – How do you want the people within your organisation to interact with each other and your customers so that they demonstrate the organisation’s highest purpose? How does the behaviour of the organisation display its highest purpose?

Capabilities – How do the organisations policies, procedures and systems enable or limit the people in the organisation to achieve the highest purpose? What non-verbal communication is given out by these policies, procedures and systems? Are they fit for your purpose?

Environment – How does the physical environment (office space, customer interface areas) support or detract from the organisation’s highest purpose? What impression would someone not of this organisation get by the physical representation of the organisation?

This of course can be applied just as easily and powerfully to yourself and your own brand (or do I mean your own life?). This time, you will note I am starting from the bottom of the model and working to the top. I wonder why…

Environment – Look around you, where are you in life? Are you where you want to be? Where are you not that you would like to be? What does your current environment say about your life? What would have to change in order for things to be better, different or more…

Behaviour – How does your external behaviour impact on others? What behaviours do your project from within yourself onto others? How is your behaviour impacting on the results you get in your life?

Capabilities – What skills do you not have that you would like to have that would enable you to be who you are or want to be? What skills do you already have that would enable you to be whom you want to be?

Beliefs – What do you know to be true about yourself and your world? What beliefs do you hold that empower you? What beliefs do you hold that limit you? Why do you believe those things? How well do they serve you?

Values – What is important to you life? What isn’t yet important enough, that if it were important enough would mean more success?

Identity – Who are you? Who aren’t you? Who would you like to be? When you are this person, who are you then?

Purpose – What wouldn’t happen if you were not here? What is your purpose in life? By what mission are you driven?


Such a simple model and such a powerful lens through which to look. Whether you use it as a self-coaching tool, or to tease out issues on a 121 or group basis, spending time answering the questions honestly will unearth issues, will tune you into that which isn’t being said and will enable insights into areas of your life and your organisation that have previously been unexplored.

And this is just the tip of the iceberg!

For more details of 121 Personal Evolution Coaching, team development and NLP Certification trainings, get in touch!

About the author

Dan Dobson-Smith has worked in the field of human performance and development for over 15 years having worked in further education and the corporate world of Marks & Spencer Plc, Eurostar International and Crossrail Ltd.

He started his NLP training in 2002 with Sue Knight and has since worked with Dr Wyatt Woodsmall, David Shepherd, Dr Susi-Strang and Craig Wood. Today he’s a double-certified INLPTA Master Practitioner of NLP and a Trainer of NLP, certified by INLPTA and recognised by ANLP.

As a Reiki Master & Trainer and a Heal Your Life Coach & Trainer, accredited by Louise L Hay, he has been fortunate to work with some of today’s leading spiritual activists – Dr Patricia Crane, Marianne Williamson, Chrissie Astell and Jason Chan. He likes to blend his NLP therapeutic skills with these more spiritual outlooks and teachings to bring a uniquely holistic approach to his 121 personal evolution work with clients. Still today he continues to learn from the people he works with and is ever humbled by the things human beings can achieve for themselves. Dan co-owns Learning, Behaviour & Change, a thriving NLP training and coaching enterprise with long-term friend and colleague Jude McCormack.

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