Patterns that Create Business Failure and Success—An NLP Perspective


Business and life do have patterns of success and failure. NLP (neuro-linguistic programming) is the study of the connection between the neurological processes (“neuro”), language (“linguistic”) and behavior patterns that have been learned through experience (“programming”) and can be organized to achieve specific goals in life and business. I like to use this simple definition: it is a study of patterns or recipes. If you have a great recipe for your favorite meatloaf, there are certain ingredients that, if are added in the correct amounts and sequence, will create a specific result. This is similar to an NLP pattern.

Patterns for Business Success -Scott Letourneau

Patterns for Business Success

For example, good spellers do one thing differently (or have one more ingredient) than bad spellers. Good spellers will first see a word visually in their mind, sound it out, and then spell it. Bad spellers will skip the step of visually seeing the word and jump right to sounding out a word, then attempting to spell it out. Good spellers have a different “recipe” than bad spellers. They have one ingredient different.

In business, there are patterns of success and failure.

One core pattern for business success is the Disney pattern, modeled after the famous Walt Disney. Walt and his team of Imagineers were able to accomplish amazing results with their meetings. Walt did not run a meeting like most business meetings. He would separate meetings into different types. In the first meeting, called “the dreaming room,” you are allowed to come up with ideas and that is it. There is no evaluation or organization of ideas. That is a separate meeting! Why? If you start allowing your staff or yourself to evaluate ideas in the meeting, it will often stifle new ideas. People will start to think, “Maybe my idea is not such a good idea.” That is NOT how Walt Disney conducted meetings.

I recommend you adopt this pattern for your business meetings. Here are the four meetings Walt would run: First is the “in the dreaming room” – all brainstorming. Second is organizing the ideas. Third is to evaluate the ideas. Fourth would be to implement the ideas.  That was his brilliant pattern for business success.

This is especially important if you are a solo business owner. You may be sabotaging your own success by coming up with great ideas and immediately thinking how it’s not going to work. That will stifle even your own ideas.

Another pattern that seems to prevent a lot of success is lack of time management skills. Most people think they are very good at managing their time, but they are really not. You can later evaluate how well you are doing and perhaps consider a different pattern for success.

A poor time management pattern looks like this:

Allowing for constant interruptions during your workday. That includes email, instant messages, texts, phone calls, social media, and family and friends. It is very inefficient to be stopping and starting projects all day long. The time it takes to stop, go to an unplanned phone call, then go back, the 1-2 minutes to get caught up or remember where you left off is very inefficient. You might be saying, “I needed to take that phone call. What are you suggesting?” First, schedule a follow-up call with each caller. Don’t randomly allow people to call you. You will have exceptions to any rule; your attorney may be calling on an important legal action, a family emergency, etc.

Email and texting. Years ago, when email was more and more popular, we used to hear a little sound each time you had a new email; and, with very little spam back then, we would stop what we were doing and jump to see who sent us an email. “It must be important! Let me stop what I am doing to see what the message is.”

Today, it would sound crazy to do that with emails. We all know we should check them at a scheduled time, perhaps 1-3 times per day, but some may check it 15-30 times per day. That is not efficient.

But, guess what is happening now? Many are running the same inefficient pattern with texting as we did with email years ago. Every time a text comes in, it is probably a message from someone we know, not spam, so we stop what we are doing and jump up to see this important message. What makes this pattern worse is when you suggest to other people that you will most likely stop what you are doing and answer the text immediately. Now, you have conditioned your family and friends to expect a reply immediately, like every text is urgent and requires a reply right away. This can get in the way of the home and family and personal time if it becomes a top priority.

A similar pattern happens for instant message (IM) in an office. We use it at NCP, and some parts are good. If you are on the phone and an urgent call that was scheduled calls in late, it is nice to know that person is on the other line. The downside, again, is if your staff gets conditioned that every time you receive an IM, you have to stop what you are doing and answer it immediately. 95% will not require an immediate answer.

The next problem area is knowing what projects, calls or tasks are a priority each day. Do you plan your day first, and then work your plan? Or do you just jump in and start working and go from one task to the next, reacting all day long? Do you find that you are just busy and really not getting a lot accomplished? The pattern of successful people who get a lot accomplished is that they plan out the top 4-5 tasks or projects on a given day. That’s what I recommend you consider.

First, list your priorities in order of importance. Second, establish uninterrupted time to accomplish each one. Third, add up the time. Is that possible in an 8-hour day? Be realistic. You will need breaks and probably get interrupted. Does your list total 4 hours per day of uninterrupted work? If you completed those tasks, would that be a great day? If so, you are on the right track!

Next, the challenging part, start with priority #1 first thing in the morning, or whenever you start your workday. Don’t check email, instant messages, texts, phone calls. I will say I recommend 15-20 minutes to organize and plan your day, not to work on tasks, then immediately start with task #1! If, in the past, you have been a very reactive person who ALLOWS yourself to be constantly interrupted each day, you may need to have a discussion with your staff, your spouse or family, or even an article post to your clients letting them know your new plan for time management improvements. The biggest challenge will be you. You may justify (I have done this many times in the past) that: “If I take care of that one small task, it will only take 2 minutes, then I can get back to my priority task.” Sounds like that would make sense. What is actually happening is you may feel good, at some level, that you have “accomplished” more by crossing off a few more items on your “to-do” list, but really you are just keeping busy and not making any real progress in your business. The best in the world do not do this. They have great focus – every meeting and call has a purpose, a next step and an expected result. They do not randomly operate through their day.

One last major tip for this pattern of success is to avoid an “open-door policy.” This is important if you have an office with a staff. Most small business owners feel they want to be accessible to their staff and actually pride themselves on an “Open Door” policy, so the employees may come and speak to them anytime they want. You, as the boss, end up staying until 9, 10, 11 pm at night, because you were not able to get any work done with the constant interruptions throughout the day. A much better approach, modelled by the late Chet Holmes, is to have a “scheduled open-door” policy twice a day for 30-45 minutes. Your staff will sign up for a “got a minute” meeting to review their priorities. Now, they are not allowed to interrupt you anytime they want and it forces them to be more organized. The tough part will be you. You will be tempted to just answer that quick got a minute instead of handling it later. That is a problem. Trust me, I have been guilty of this mistake many times and every 6 months we revisit the training on how to handle “got a minute.”

Delegation and accountability pattern for success.
Let’s keep this one simple. What most small business owners do is ask someone to do something and go on to the next step. Then there are a lot of assumptions about the priority of the task, when it is to be completed…especially when your spouse is your partner. This leads to comments like, “Why did you take so long to do that? Didn’t you know that was a priority?” “Yes, I understood it was a priority and I was going to get it back to you tomorrow.” “Yeah, but I needed it today.” “Why didn’t you say so?” “Well, I thought you knew that…” As you can tell, this is all “fluff” communication and it goes downhill quickly.

Did you ever notice when you call a high-end hotel, business service or executive of a company, they communicate differently? They listen better, repeat your objective, and automatically bring up what the next step will be and check in with you…a whole different experience. Parts of this come into play when it comes time to delegate with a successful pattern.

Here are the steps:

First, when you delegate, be clear on what you are delegating. Ask the person to backtrack what your request is, so you’re both on the same page.

Next, ask the coworker when they feel they can get it back to you. I know you may be tempted to tell them when you need it, but give them the opportunity first. They will have more ownership if they come up with and commit to a time frame. If they come up with a time frame that is much later than you need, then you will need to suggest a sooner time frame. You may have to find out if they need to change priorities to make that happen.

Finally, be clear on the time frame and when you expect a report, an answer, or an update to be presented to you. For example, I ask Denise, “Denise, can you get me the list of all 50 state entities that are still pending in the month of February, and print that out in a Word document? When can you get that to me?” She says, “Will Friday at noon be ok”? I say, “That will be great.” The last part I need to add to be clear on the rules of the game is as follows. “If, for any reason, you cannot get it to me by Friday at noon, please let me know via a phone call and let me know when you can finish the project and why you were not able to meet the deadline.” This is critical. Ideally, you are not chasing your staff around with project deadlines that have passed and, instead, they are coming to you proactively. The key is to follow a successful pattern of delegation to have less frustration and better results.

Finally, a key part that I learned from my mentor, David Sinigaglia. Do not have your staff jump through hoops to get things done if you do not plan on using the information to go to the next step. If you ask for something in an hour and it sits on your desk for three weeks, what was the point? They will start to notice what you are implementing. On the other hand, if you asked for something at noon today and if you are unable to take it to the next level, perhaps because your priorities have changed, then let the person know that you appreciate them meeting the deadline and, because your priorities have changed, that you plan to implement it later in the week. This way, the staff member feels like you are not just having them jump through hoops for no reason at all.

An important language pattern for success and improvement in your marketing and customer service.

When you are speaking to a client or customer, you can ask a very powerful question for feedback: “What part of our website, process, report,….. would you like to see us improve?” The key language is ‘what part.’ That opens up the mind to be more comfortable for someone to say to themselves, “I liked the website, but there was one part I would improve, and it would be this.” Otherwise, someone may say, “Your website looks fine,” (which means not really). This is the key part for an “improvement frame. You may also want to ask, “What part of the website did you like best?” Why is that important? If you are looking to change your website, you will want to know what parts are working and what parts aren’t. 

Another NLP tip to help you with your sales results in your business.

This comes from my good friend, Spike HumerHe says, “Anytime someone says ‘no’ to your proposal, you can
ask this powerful question: “What would have to happen in order for you to say yes?” What has to happen in order for you… is an evidence/procedure question. What has to happen in order for you to be happy, to work with our company…You may not like the answer, “Make your product free,” but at least you will get more feedback as to what would have to happen to get closer to a yes.

Always look for patterns of success with any speaker or trainer, and you can transfer that over to your own success. If you do not get the results that you intended, avoid consolation, “Well, that did not work. Ask a better question. What part of my process did not work? What part of the pattern did I not model accurately?

Once you ask better questions and discover a better pattern and recipe for success, you will quickly start seeing the results you really need for both your business and life!