How to Use Imagery for Better Coaching Results

The following is a guest post from Dave Marr at t2 Management Training in the UK.  t2 is a specialist management consultancy, established to provide strategic leadership training and development for company directors and management training for their teams.   t2 is one of only a small number of leadership and management development providers to have achieved the prestigious Training Quality Standard.

How to Use Imagery for Better Results When Coaching Your Staff

A lot of management and executive coaching techniques use imagery that uses NLP (neurolinguistic programming). It’s an excellent communication tool that can help people to change their habits. However, it’s essential that you break this technique down into manageable ‘chunks’ so they can be used by managers every day.

We all process imagery in a different way to other types of language. An image can be really powerful serving to motivate and move us when they are presented well.

Think of the taste of sticky toffee pudding and now compare it to the recipe. There really is no comparison. Taste wins out every time!

Try to use similar techniques in your communication. Use compelling, sharp images to get your staff imagining experiencing or doing something. Help them to picture how it would feel to learn something new or to achieve an important task. Get them to imagine how they would feel on achieving that task and the satisfaction it would bring.

Below we’ve listed some examples on how to use imagery effectively with your staff:

Mastery or Coping Imaging – this kind of imagery is particularly effective when dealing with challenging tasks or situations. Get your staff to imagine how they would successful deal with a situation. You can project general images or small images with lots of detail. Detailed imagery really assists those who are learning something new.

Modelling Images – This is another useful technique used for coping with challenging tasks and situations. Ask your staff to picture somebody who has a firm grasp on a desired skill or task and go over the steps the person would take to reach their goal. This is a great transitional learning procedure and often assists with problem solving and trouble shooting situations.

Idealised Future Images – This is a brilliant technique for promoting positive learning. Ask your staff to imagine what their life will be like in 5 years. Where do they picture themselves? Where do they want to be? How do they feel? Help them to use their imagination to guide them and to really feel the future that lies in store. This can really make them focus making them more accessible.

Levelling Images – This can be used for dealing with difficult situations and people. It is also very effective for overcoming fear of public speaking or making presentations. Get your staff to picture their audience in their underwear or a particular client in their casual gardening gear or at an informal BBQ with their children around them.

Corrective Images – Another great confidence booster! This can be used especially after somebody has made a mistake. Get them to review the situation and imagine how they would do it again.

Worst Case Scenarios – These are excellent for coping with intimidating situations. Get your staff to imagine the worst situation and the worst outcome. Help them to make a decision on the outcome and if they could cope with it. Now ask them to take an alternative view and to determine a more realistic worst case scenario. Work out how bad the situation would be and whether they need to prepare for it. Now ask them to go ahead and develop a plan of action in the knowledge that they can cope with any imaginable result.

Empathy Images – These are useful for developing the skills needed to read other people. Ask your staff to imagine being in the shoes of another person and to go over the situation from their point of view. What are they thinking or feeling? This is a great way of growing into a better manager capable of reading people more effectively.

Imagery is one of the many executive coaching techniques that work very well. These techniques help managers to lead staff better and to help bring about positive change.

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