Why Lead? NLP for leaders: Metaprogrammes 1

First in a series of blogs based on the manual for the leadership course Why Lead?

Golda Meir

developed with Steve Boyden for Revolution-Evolution

To be or not to be is not a question of compromise.

Either you be or you don’t be.

Golda Meir

‘Metaprogrammes’ are the patterns that shape and influence the way we run our lives- often unconsciously.  For some people these are hugely important, and can be part of their value set – Doing things for others rather than for themselves for example.  For other people metaprogrammes can be situational and comparative.  Someone might choose similarity at home but be completely up for difference at work; and they may only appear to be working to a particular metaprogramme compared to others around them.  By noticing which patterns you tend to use, you can also start noticing them in other people.  This can help you know what will work as a pattern to help you influence and support your people as individuals, and also, if you are coming into a new organisation as a leader, what the culture of the organisation is.  The clues will be there.

By noticing which patterns are running, you have an opportunity to change them if you need to.

Similarity or Difference

Similarity:  matching.

This is a pattern that looks for what is there, rather than what is missing: what do we have in common, what fits with what I already know?

It is useful for emphasising agreement, and making connections (me too!).

If people are looking for similarity they will use words like: same, similar, maintain, match, continue, security.

Difference: mismatching.

This pattern looks for incongruity, things that don’t fit, or are missing.

It is useful for dealing with new and revolutionary ideas.

People who prefer difference will use words like new, changed, different, unique, radical, unusual, innovation.

More complex:

Just when you thought you’d got it sorted… some people use a mix, and will look for

What matches, and then consider how it is subtly different,


How something is different, but which similarities are preserved.

Strategy for Leadership

Example phrases to listen out for (there are many more!):

“That’s how we’ve always done it”, “If it’s not broken don’t fix it” (similarity)

“There has to be a better way”, “Get ahead of the game” (difference)

Similarity and difference are key if you are leading change.  If you have people who are resistant to change, for whatever reason, and are expressing similarity patterns, it is helpful to them to emphasise how some things will remain the same, rather than to go into raptures about how exciting the change is.

It is also worth paying attention to similarity/difference patterns when you are recruiting.  Do you want someone the same as the last post holder, or the same as you?  Or are you looking for a new or different angle, a fresh take, a radical solution…(Think about valuing diversity – it’s a classic difference pattern.)

copyright Cherry Potts, Change from Choice and Revolution-Evolution 2008-2010

watch out for metaprogrammes part 2 Towards and Away

About Cherry Potts

Cherry Potts is a publisher/editor. fiction writer and teacher, event organiser, photographer, book designer, NLP master practitioner, life coach and trainer. She sings for fun. Through Arachne Press she publishes fiction and non fiction and runs spoken word events and cross-arts workshops for writers at interesting venues. Always interested in new opportunites to perform, write or explore writing.
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