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Modelling Excellence: With NLP


In a preview to her forthcoming talk at the CIPD’s HRD conference, Sue Knight, an international NLP trainer, consultant and author of NLP at Work explores the concepts and explains just why it makes a difference.

Christopher Cook won the gold medal for England in the 100m breaststroke in the Commonwealth games in Melbourne this year. This was a remarkable success for one of the oldest competitors in the sport. In the interview immediately following his win he said:

“I didn’t think that I was in a final. I just thought that I would swim two lengths of the baths as fast as I can.”

Here we have a model of excellence in his sport and in one statement he is revealing the way in which he manages his inner thinking to achieve the excellence that is needed to win gold. Of course he has worked hard and trained daily to achieve this success but on the day what makes the difference is often down to the athlete’s ability to be the best not only in their physical performance but in the way that they have trained their belief systems and inner thoughts.

What has he revealed in this sentence? We manage our thinking in part by where we choose to put our attention. He was choosing to put his attention on himself and on no-one else and not even on the occasion. He chose to concentrate on an internal reference rather than an external one. He chose to delete those aspects of the situation that were outside of his control and concentrate on those that were.

I suspect (knowing that in my home city, Liverpool we also call the swimming pool ‘the baths’) that he imagined that he was in his local pool or ‘baths’. This is simple yet profound and is not the reserve of the sporting world. These principles can be transferred to our relationships and to our professional lives with the chance of metaphorically winning the ‘gold’ in whatever context we choose.

That is the beauty of ‘modelling with NLP’. We can take a pivotal moment in the life of someone who has or is achieving excellence in any context and we can use the modelling tools of NLP to discover what it is that makes the difference. The difference is usually outside of our conscious awareness so no use asking the subject to tell you what makes the difference. What we do with excellence is what we often do intuitively and subconsciously so we have to learn to observe and listen to how we do what we do, not why and not what but HOW.

This is the essence of NLP and with the amazing array of approaches that form NLP we can discover the secrets of success and we can learn how to reproduce them for ourselves, for others and for the person we have modelled so that they can reproduce that excellence with consistency.

I have modelled Heston Blumenthal in his creativity with food, Brian Keenan with his ability to stay sane and compassionate in captivity as a hostage for two years, David Hemery in his ability to coach others in the mentality that won him the gold medal in the Hurdles in the Mexican Olympics. And I have modelled my son in his ability to bring humour and calmness under pressure in his work as an officer in the Marines, my husband in his capacity to take an interest in everyone he meets, and something in each person that I meet. We each have something of excellence just waiting to be discovered and released through the process of modelling.

I guess it doesn’t need much explanation to realise the significance of this for getting the best from people, from teams, from companies when we might be experiencing cultures of blame and bureaucracy. Imagine having a way to support everyone in a business to realise their own unique excellence. Well you can.

Sue Knight is an international NLP trainer and consultant and author of NLP at Work. She works with companies including Nationwide Building Society, the Academy of Chief Executives, Masterfoods, Vestas, and IBM. She works internationally in India, Denmark, Turkey, the US, Hong Kong, Switzerland, Jordan and Bahrain. You can find out more about Sue and her work on

Sue will be exploring the whole concept of modelling excellence with NLP to give you a flavour of what is possible at the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development’s (CIPD) HRD conference on Tuesday, 4 April 2006 between 11.15 and 12.30.


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