Phyl's photoBy Phyllis Maynard, PGCE, Coach, NLP Practitioner

When it comes to leadership we all have tried and tested tools that we use to solve problems. I would like to share with you one tool that I have used as a leader and also in my everyday communication with others.

I was first introduced to this tool in 2010 when I took a Neuro Linguistic Programming course. I have since found it useful to use during supervisions and communication in my role as a student mentor.


Logical Levels

What are logical levels?

Logical levels are a way of identifying underlying structures and patterns in thinking about ideas, events, relationships or organisations. They help us understand what’s involved, or what’s going on. The logical levels form a hierarchy.

People often distinguish between levels when referring to their experience. E.g. “On one level the house burning down was a disaster, but on another level it was what made me the man I am. Because I had to move away I had to start again and that’s how I built my own business and I’ve never looked back”. One way of remembering the levels is that each of them gives us a different kind of information: it answers a particular kind of question.

  • Environment: WHERE? And WHEN? This level involves issues or details of context. It may mean a physical context, as in a particular building, or a social context, for instance when with a certain group of people. I also includes the when of it all.
  • Behaviour: WHAT? Behaviour is what you actually do – or don’t do. Issues on this level relate to what is happening or being done.
  • Capability: HOW? Capability is about the how-tos of life – the knowledge, skills and processes that make it possible for one person who has them to find doing something easy and for another who lacks them to find the same thing really difficult.
  • Beliefs and values: WHY? Our beliefs and our values shape our understanding of why things are possible or impossible for us. They provide us with a rationale and drive our actions.
  • Identity: WHO? Identity is to do with sense of self. This could be our personal identity or a corporate identity – in either case, who we are.
  • Beyond identity: FOR WHOM/FOR WHAT? This is the level which relates to a bigger picture or larger system where questions about some larger purpose come into play. For us as individuals this often means the spiritual. It takes us into questions about our mission. This dimension of mission and vision can also apply to groups and organisations.

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What do logical levels do?

Logical levels give you a way of understanding:

  • What kind of information you are dealing with
  • Where a problem originates
  • On what level it is being experienced or manifested (these may not be the same)
  • What the ‘real’ issue at stake is
  • What is the appropriate level for interaction or intervention

If you are mindful of the key questions – Who? Why? How? What? Where/when? – in any interaction with others, or in relation to your own thinking, you can usually identify the logical level involved. This in turn enables you to do other important things:

  • You can find out where a difficulty is really coming from, as opposed to where it seems to originate (for example, problems about behaviour, or environment, often originate from issues about belief).
  • You can find out where the points of leverage are to change the situation. Most people will find it easier to change a behaviour if they can be reassured that it doesn’t involve them changing at a belief or identity level.
  • You can find small interventions which will bring about larger effects: For example, providing a water-carrier, coffee-machine or kettle in an office (an environmental change) is likely to draw people to it (behaviour) which in turn may help them create or maintain a sense of belonging to a department or team (identity).


Think of logical levels

  • When you or others react to an apparently simple or trivial situation with more feeling than seems to be warranted. Almost certainly there’s something going on at the level of beliefs or identity.
  • When you are wanting to make changes in your life, or in an organisation. Consider at which logical level you are attempting to do this, and whether this is the appropriate level. Often organisations need to win hearts and minds – which means they need to operate at the level of beliefs and identity. Too often though they try a quick fix at the level of behaviour.
  • When there seems to be more involved than is obvious on the surface.
  • When offering criticism or praise. Criticism is most easily received if it is pitched at the level of environment or behaviour (and possibly capability), and least effective
  • when delivered at an identity seems under attack. Praise is most effective when
  • offered on higher levels, especially identity – for example, ‘You’re so efficient/thoughtful.


How you can use logical levels

Use them to monitor situations and to identify what the real issues are. They can help you find the simplest or most effective point for leverage. Use them to help in rapport-building, by respecting what may be involved for yourself or others at an unconscious level. Logical levels can help you understand situations that seem puzzling: Just what is the issue here, and what logical level is it at?

Use them to help you assess ‘fit’ – between people and jobs, between people and environments, and between problems and proposed solutions


Phyllis Maynard, PGCE, Coach, NLP Practitioner

Reference: The NLP Coach – Ian McDermott & Wendy Jago