The Neurological Levels Model of NLP - Blog

The Neurological Levels Model of NLP

Would you like to know more about yourself? Would you like to know why you act and react in certain ways? Would you like to understand why change and learning is sometimes difficult, and sometimes easy? Would you like to understand and predict actions or reactions of your colleagues / stakeholders under specific conditions? If yes, then read on!

The concept of Logical Levels was initially formulated as a mechanism in the behavioural sciences by anthropologist Gregory Bateson, based on the work of Bertrand Russell in logic and mathematics. This model was adopted in NLP by Robert Dilts. It is a simple and at the same time very effective model to gain understanding of how we choose to act or react in a specific context.

The Neurological Levels Model is very well fitted for supporting and evaluating learning, for supporting personal and organizational transformation, and for creating alignment with organizational Visions, Mission, Goals and Values.

Note: NLP stands for Neuro Linguistic Programming. Briefly NLP is how to use the language of the mind to consistently achieve our specific and desired outcomes.    

The model considers different levels of thinking and perception. Each level has an implied question as shown in the diagram below.

Purpose: This refers to you or your organization's higher purpose. It answers to the questions: "For whom are we doing this?" or "What is our higher purpose in this context?"

Identity: This relates to your sense of self, who you are. It answers the question: "Who am I?"

Values are those things that are important to us. Unconscious filters of our mind that define what is "good", "important", "moral", "acceptable", "worth pursuing", or not. Usually, we get the values as a response to the question: "In the context of …, what is important to you?"

Beliefs are convictions we hold as being true. What we think we can do or cannot do in a given context. What we think "makes the world go around". Values and Beliefs shape our behaviours.

Capabilities relate to how things get done, including the skills, abilities, and qualities that individuals and organizations require. They include our mental strategies. It answers the question: "What can I do?"

Behaviours are what individuals and organizations actually do. Behaviours can usually be seen or heard and are tangible. We often describe behaviours as "competencies," and they are often used as a framework for planning training interventions, both for individuals and for organizations. It answers to the question: "How do I act / react?"

Environment relates to where, when and with whom something takes place. It is the "context". It answers the question: "Where, When and With Whom …?"

Let's consider a simple example:

Suppose that our "environment" is one of business. In Project Management Language the "environment" comprises "Enterprise Environmental Factors"
All the questions below refer to this environment / context

[In the context of business] Who am I? (Identity).
Answer: I am a Project Management Professional.

What is important for me? (Values)
Answer: Responsibility, Respect, Fairness, Honesty (from the PMI Code of Ethics & Professional Conduct) and to be a diligent, respectful and caring steward, create a collaborative project team environment, effectively engage with stakeholders … (Project Management Principles, PMBOK 7th edition)

What can I do? (Capabilities)
Answer: I can support my company to evaluate project ideas. I can choose different Project Management Approaches depending on the kind of Project, and Organization…

How do I act? (behaviours)
Answer: Depending on the project team development stage I can be directive, supportive or servant leader. I accept conflict as a healthy reaction to the team process. I maintain open honest communication with stakeholders ….

What is my purpose as a Project Management Professional?
Answer: My purpose is to support my organization and my stakeholders to maximize value from their investment in their projects.

Each level interacts with the levels below and above. The higher levels organize and align the elements of the lower levels to support them. A change in one level can affect the levels below (or above).

It is easy to realize how one can utilize the model to evaluate alignment, to create personal or organizational development plans, to support change and transformation or simple to enhance understanding of behavior in a specific context. This model can also accelerate the development of our Emotional Intelligence.

Main references:

  • "NLP II The Next Generation" By Robert Dilts& Judith DeLonzier" Meta Publications, 2010
  • "From Coach to Awakener" by Robert Dilts, Meta Publications, 2003

 About the Author

George Diakonikolaou, M.Sc., Ph.D., PMP, NLP Trainer, Authorized Training Partner – Instructor PMP.

George Diakonikolaou is the Managing Director of "Project Management Coach" Ltd, a company offering executive coaching, business development and training services for Leadership, Transformation Management, Project Management and Business Development.

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Mr. Andrew Peters, PMP
Sunday, 25 February 2024