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Active Listening – LAB Profiles

Whilst doing research for this and other blogs I came across a book by Shelle Rose CharvetBook , entitled “Words that Change Minds”. It is a very comprehensive book on the subject of language and provides further food for thought on how we listen with our brains.

Set out below is an extract of a few of the items I think are most relevant to a PMO setting. But I would encourage you to get the book and review it in full to gain the greatest benefit.

By way of introduction, the book is all about “LAB Profiles” – related to language and behaviour. And to do it justice the following is a direct quote from the book.

“Words That Change Minds was built on the Language and Behaviour Profile, or LAB Profile®, created by Rodger Bailey. The LAB Profile® is based on specific applications from Neuro-linguistic Programming, a field developed by Richard Bandler, John Grinder, and others in the United States, beginning in the mid-70s. They created the original models of Neuro-linguistic Programming (or NLP) by examining and understanding the processes used by highly successful communicators.


The field of NLP has expanded exponentially since then, and is the subject of much research, with hundreds of books written on it around the world. This approach is now taught in several dozen countries across all five continents. Let’s start with Programming. Each person, through genetic makeup, environmental influences, and individual biochemistry, has managed to program herself or himself to be excellent at a certain number of things, mediocre at different things, and just awful in other areas.


If we observe and listen carefully to how a person behaves and communicates linguistically, we can glean an understanding of how, neurologically, a person puts his or her experience together to be excellent, mediocre, or awful at the things he or she does. Hence, this field is called Neuro-linguistic Programming”.

Words That Change Minds: The 14 Patterns for Mastering the Language of Influence.


For the purposes of this blog and to make it relatable for those in the world of work and PMO, the LAB Profiles are based around fourteen patterns, arranged in to two groups – Motivation and Productivity.

Of the fourteen I have selected those below. But if these interest you I encourage you to get the book and form your own views and thoughts on how best to use the resource.


Motivation Patterns

LEVEL of Activity.

Do you or the person with whom you wish to build a better understanding, tend to initiate things? Do you / they dive in with little pause for thought? This pattern is Proactive.

Alternatively, are you/they more considered in approach and try to understand a situation first. Do you/they wait and analyse? This pattern is Reactive.


DIRECTION – Toward a Goal or Away From a problem.

Those with a Toward pattern will be triggered into action by attainment and achievement, by “getting” somewhere. They work towards an objective or goal.

People with an Away From pattern are triggered by problems (to solve), deadlines and even threats. They work best “away from”.


SOURCE of motivation.

Those exhibiting an Internal pattern are motivated from within; by their own standards and beliefs in right and wrong, good and bad.

At the opposite end, those that need constant feedback and direction, and value the opinion of others are displaying an External pattern.


REASON: how does a person reason?

Options as a pattern is demonstrated by those who are constantly looking for opportunity and possibility. They always believe there is another, even better way. They are rule benders and breakers!

Those whose pattern is mostly about Procedures like to follow a series of defined steps. They believe there is a “right” way. Consequently they are often “Completer / Finishers” of work!


Productivity Patterns



SCOPE – Big Picture or Specific details.

If you align closely to a Specific pattern then you work best with details. Ideally in a sequence or series of steps.

General pattern people work at a conceptual, or overview level.


STRESS responses.

Feeling as a pattern is about an emotional response to typical work-related stress. And they will stay with those emotions.

Those with a Choice pattern will have an emotional reaction initially. But they have a choice so will decide to remain with that – or a different – emotion or return to an unemotional state.

If you / they are mostly a Thinking pattern individual, then emotions don’t play a part at all. They will be rational and retain a “cool head”.


ORGANISATION: how do you organise work?

The two final patterns I have picked out are Person and Thing.

Person pattern people pay most attention to the feelings and thoughts of others or themselves. Possibly to a level where working with and addressing those thoughts and feelings becomes the most important task. They will be good at building rapport.

People with a Thing pattern will concentrate on products and ideas, tools and tasks. They will be known for getting things done.


LAB Profile Applications


Once you have spent some time with these “patterns”, and indeed all of those in the book, and worked with the extremes of each, you will find there are patterns that absolutely support and align with any given work context. And patterns that will make delivery or completion of any given task almost impossible.

The book sets out some of these, but as a quick summary here are some examples.


Application 1

If you have a time-critical task or objective but with no existing method of delivery or process;

Those whose patterns are External and Options might really struggle.

External – looking for direction, external affirmation and decision making

Options – more interested in finding a better way than completing the set task or objective.


Application 2

If you are looking to re-visit the PMO Charter, and specifically the Services to be offered;

Then ensure those allocated this work are a mixture of Toward, Internal and External, Person and Thing patterns.


Application 3

You want to improve and quickly test a new Reporting cycle to reduce the level of manual work and effort;

Proactive pattern staff will dive in, make a start and create some energy.

Away From pattern staff will be driven to solve the problem of effort, and work to the deadlines you set.

Some Options pattern staff will challenge current thinking and look for better ways of working.

Once a revised Reporting Lifecycle is agreed upon, get those with Specific and Thing patterns to work through the details and define the supporting processes and tooling.


So there we have it – a group of three articles – the first giving an overview of active listening, Sensory Preference and the MPH Framework, and now LAB.

I hope that will put some “flesh on the bones” of the skill of Active Listening. I would encourage you to play with them and build your own methods of application.

Stephen Covey said in his excellent book The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, “Seek First to Understand”. By actively listening with our brains, and perhaps using some of the techniques and models in these three blogs, we can accelerate that process.

Graham Burke

Lodger – The Den


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