Building a Coaching Business: Using NLP Meta Programmes to Motivate Your Coaching Clients. Part 1 – Towards/Away From

In NLP terms, the Meta Programmes are the ways of thinking that motivate us. You will probably know about this from different names and other perspectives in the behavioural and psychometric assessments now used in business.

We know that Meta Programmes are not static and can change depending on the circumstances. For example, when someone is being asked to do something they are not comfortable with, they may use a different set of Meta Programmes than the ones they would use with something they do every day.

The only way to know what Meta Programmes someone is using is to listen to the language they are using. When you use the same language back, you increase the chance of motivating your client.

Over sixty Meta Programmes have been identified, but I like to keep things simple, so I tend to focus on six when working with my executive clients.

The six I focus on are:

  1. Towards – Away From
  2. Proactive – Reactive
  3. Internal – External
  4. Big Picture – Detail
  5. People – Process
  6. Same – Different

The Meta Programme covered in this article is Towards – Away, also known as the carrot and stick or pleasure versus pain.

Imagine each Meta Programme as a scale, with the most extreme example at each end of the scale.

Towards 5 4 3 2 1 0 1 2 3 4 5 Away From


Some people will be extremely ‘towards’, others extremely ‘away from’, but many will be somewhere along the scale and some may be totally neutral in the centre.

When your client is more ‘towards’ they will tell you about their goals, targets, the rewards they want and what they want to achieve. Physically they may point into the future and move their body forward when talking about what they want to achieve.

Your job as their coach is to help them clarify their goals, objectives and timescales. Identify what they will gain when they achieve this and keep them focused on the end target. When they have almost reached their goal, that is the time to start setting the next set of objectives because, without a set target they lose motivation. These are the people who are often motivated by rewards, incentives, bonuses and the things that money can buy. Some of my clients have prepared vision board for themselves with photos of the house, car, holiday, boat etc that they will have when they achieve their goal.

When you are working with an ‘away from’ client, they are motivated to move away from the things by the fear of what will happen if they don’t achieve their objectives. When asked what they want to achieve they will tell you everything they don’t want!

Your job as their coach is help them identify what they want to achieve and then find out what will happen if they don’t achieve their objectives. To keep them motivated remind them of all the things that could happen. The further an ‘away from’ person moves away from the fear of not achieving something, the less motivated they become. I have worked with clients that became highly motivated by imagining their house being repossessed, their car being taken off them or losing their job if they don’t achieve their goal.

The ‘towards’ side is no better than the ‘away from’ side they are just different. Both Meta Programmes create motivation in your client, which is what you want.

Where the challenge comes from as a coach is when you are working with a client who has the opposite Meta Programme from you. If you are highly ‘towards’ it will seem really strange getting you client to focus on the fear of what will happen if they don’t achieve their goal, rather than the goal itself.

But coaching is not about you, it’s about doing whatever you have to do to get the best results with your clients.

Fiona Campbell is a Senior Management Associate with PROTRAINING. She is an Executive Coach, NLP Business, Leadership Development and Communications Trainer and Author. Fiona has 25 years experience in the hospitality sector working with companies including Xerox and Yellow Pages.

Related posts

Leave a Reply