Written by Lincoln Leong

Aishah Omar (not her real name) is a second-year agent at one of the leading insurance companies in Malaysia. When she first joined the insurance industry, she was enthusiastic about the business. She was inspired to join the insurance business when her agency manager (who also happens to be her senior from secondary school) shared with her on how lives and families can be saved from financial ruin should they be struck with unfortunate circumstances such as untimely death, disablement and critical illness. 2 years into the business, she is having second thoughts. Her once optimistic enthusiasm has been drenched with discouragement coming from the multiple objections, she faced during her day-to-day experience as an agent. She approached me feeling downcast and with a heavy burden on her back. She wanted help to see if this is still the career for her or should she return to her former position as an operations manager in a local manufacturing company.

In my coaching sessions with Aishah, I applied the NLP Neurological Levels of Change to complement the coaching model learnt from the ICF Coaching Certification Programs. This structured model, developed by Robert Dilts and Todd Epstein, helps to raise the self-awareness of the coachee to have a better perspective on what they are going through.

Through structured questions using the elements of the model above, I was able to raise Aishah’s awareness and help her see the light in persevering in the insurance business.

When Aishah first joined the business, she had a sense of purpose. Now, the purpose seemed to be lost.  By asking her the following questions, I helped her re-discover her purpose and help her get back up on her saddle to do well in the insurance business.

  1. What was the initial purpose you joined the insurance business?
  2. Why is this purpose so meaningful to you?
  3. What would happen when you have achieved this purpose?
  4. How would you know when you have achieved this purpose?
  5. What would you be able to see, hear and feel when you have achieved your purpose?

Aishah initially stated her purpose (as if reciting from memory) in a casual manner. She wanted to help others to have a better life in the event of unfortunate circumstances. From the way she said it, it was as though that the purpose was just mere words. I asked her to take a moment to pause and truly reflect on the significance of this purpose. She paused for quite a while being deep in thought as she reflected deeper.

When she finally spoke, she shared that reflecting on her purpose brought back memories of the life of her cousins when she was a child. Her uncle who was the breadwinner of the family passed away in a car accident, leaving very little money for the family. She recalled that while her family tried to help her widowed aunty and 3 cousins financially, Aishah’s own family were also not well to do. Her cousins had to do odd jobs at the coffee shop to help scrape up money to support their daily expenses. Aishah’s voice began to crack under the emotions which she was reflecting through. Aishah realized that by becoming an insurance agent, she could help prevent other families to be in such a situation.

In her two years as an insurance agent, Aishah has not have any of her customers making any major insurance claims. Together with the challenges as an insurance agent, Aishah has forgotten the purpose she entered this business in the first place. While she does not wish bad things to happen to others, Aishah mentions that she believes that she will be living her “mission” (as per her words), when she is able to see the gratitude, her clients have towards her when she hands them the insurance claims check. From her cousins’ family’s experience, she understands how important every ringgit is when it is needed most. By reflecting on her purpose, there was renewed resolve in her eyes for this business.

It is being said that a person will always act consistent to whom he thinks he is. That is the reason a person with low self-esteem will find it very difficult to be confident as it is incongruent with his identity. With the re-discovery of her purpose, the following questions were asked to align Aishah’s purpose to her true self so that she can always act consistently regardless of the situation:

  1. Who will you be when you have achieved your purpose?
  2. What is a symbol / metaphor that can represent who you are?
  3. How do you know that this is the true you?
  4. In the light of your true self, how would you view your daily challenges?

When Aishah achieves her purpose, she sees herself giving others a new lease to life when unfortunate events strike. She relates herself to Wonder Woman who always puts out a helping hand, pulling others out from disaster. In Aishah’s case, she was pulling her clients out from financial disaster when unfortunate circumstances strike. She feels that her role as an insurance agent is noble as she can provide for others something they can’t provide for themselves when they truly needed it. Her face lighted up as she shared the description of herself.

Aishah goes on to share that since she was young, she prided herself for being there for her siblings and friends when they needed help. She saw herself as a role model. From this line of thought, I took the opportunity to ask her to relate her identity with the current challenges which she is facing. Aishah closed her eyes and entered into deep thought. Her shoulders started to drop. The upward twist of her smile slowly loosened as an expression of what seemed like disappointment took over her face. When she finally spoke, Aishah admitted solemnly as she wiped a tear forming in her eye that she has not been truly who she really is. “I am better than who I have been. I can do better than this.” Aishah declared to herself with determination. She vowed to be the Wonder Woman whom she see herself to be regardless of the challenges she faced.

Beliefs / Values
Beliefs and values are the guiding principles that enables a person to take a certain course of action. With the clarity of her purpose and identity, I would like to remind Aishah of her values that has been guiding her true self in making choices. I asked her the following questions:

  1. What do you belief about yourself?
  2. What similar values do you have with your symbol / metaphor (i.e. Wonder Woman)?
  3. How has that belief helped / hindered you in your life as an agent?
  4. How are others affected when you hold on to that belief / value?

Aishah shared that while Wonder Woman may have a strong and determined disposition, she is still a woman who is gentle, caring and have a witty sense of humor. These are the qualities which Aishah feels she also possesses. In the past, when Aishah was being her true self, she embodied these qualities, she found that was able to connect better with others and was able to think more critically when facing challenges.

On the other hand, when Aishah succumbed to the constant bombardment of overwhelming challenges, she tended to question her capabilities, identity, and purpose. This was the start of Aishah’s downward spiral. To Aishah, this was as though Wonder Woman has been bound by her bracelets. Even so, Wonder Woman is resourceful and would bring herself to the present so that she could figure a way out of her predicament. Aishah is determined to do the same. In future situations, when Aishah feels overwhelmed, she would remind herself of who she truly is and be aware of things which are within her control so that she could act accordingly.

Being clear of her purpose, identity, beliefs and values would be of little use if Aishah does not develop the capabilities to help her face her day-to-day challenges. I asked her the following questions so that she could gain better awareness in accessing the resources she needs to equip herself:

  1. What skills do you need to improve on to move you towards your goals?
  2. What resources can you draw from to equip you with the skills you need?
  3. Who do you know has gone down a similar path and have excelled?
  4. How can you draw on them as a resource?

Aishah mentioned that the areas which she needed to work on was her ability to communicate with different people, identifying customer’s real needs and identifying priorities. Aishah was aware that due to her enthusiasm in the insurance business and strong-willed nature, she tended to come across to be very direct to certain people. This put people off. As much as she is learning to adapt to the different personalities of her prospects, she still gets feedback that she is being pushy and not able to identify her prospect’s needs.

Besides online reference resources, Aishah is aware that the principal insurance company which she is an agent for has provided its agents with a variety of training from selling skills to time management to help agents achieve their goals. Additionally, she is also fortunate to have many senior agents who were once in similar situations such as hers. Her agency leader is an expert in understanding personalities and will be able to shed some light in communicating with others. Aishah feels that these resources can help equip her with the tools she needs to be a better insurance agent.

A plan without action will lead to nothing. After identifying the areas Aishah needs to work on, she now needs to commit to act so that she can get the results she desires. The following questions were posted to her:

  1. What do you want to commit to move you to your goals?
  2. What is a first step you could take to create the momentum for your action plan?
  3. When will you start?
  4. To whom would you like to be accountable for your action plans?

The following is Aishah’s action plan from the coaching session:

  • To keep in touch / reach out to 5 different contacts daily to enhance her relationship with them. This is so that should the opportunity arise for her to speak to them about insurance, she would have a better bond with them.
  • To review one e-learning program provided by the principal insurance company on a weekly basis to enhance her skills in the areas which she is lacking in (I.e. client relationship management, time management, rapport building, etc)
  • To role play on fact finding prospects needs with Alice, one of the senior agents in the agency, in the upcoming agency meeting.
  • To set time from 9pm-9:30pm to reflect on all the engagements which she had encountered so that she can be more aware on how best to engage each person.
  • To set time from 2pm-3pm every Sunday to plan out the coming week’s priorities and appointments.
  • To read at least one page of motivation book each morning to keep her mind primed with positivity before starting off the day.
  • From time to time, should she face other challenges (I.e. handling irate prospects), she will first search on Google / YouTube on tips on handling such matters. After reflection on her own learning, she would look for a senior agent in her agency who is competent in the challenge to discuss the matter deeper. If there is no such agent, she will reach out to her agency leader.

With the above developed action plan, Aishah feels that it can prepare her for the daily challenges that may come her way.

No matter how good a person’s intentions or action plans are, the person can still fail if he does not setup the environment around him to support his success. To help Aishah on this, I asked her the following questions:

  1. What could prevent you from taking the above actions which you have listed out?
  2. When are you most vulnerable to not take action?
  3. How can you setup your environment to increase the chances of you being successful in taking action?
  4. What do you want to tell / remind yourself when you notice that you are starting to go off track?

Being an insurance agent requires a high level of self-management. Before this, Aishah admitted that she has been giving excuses for not attending her agency meetings regularly. Because of that, she has been in her own cocoon thinking that she is being productive when in fact she is not. After understanding the impact her surrounding environment has on her, she will stop creating excuses from attending her agency meetings. Whenever she does not have appointments, she will go back to her agency office. This will force her to ensure that she constantly have appointments. When she is tempted to go back home to fall back to laziness, she will remind herself of her purpose, identity, and values of why she is in this business in the first place. She will also be accountable to her agency leader by sharing her daily activity progress.


As we came to the end of our coaching journey, I asked Aishah to reflect on each element of the NLP Neurological Levels of Change and connect it to her current situation. As she did this, Aishah regained clarity on the reason she first became an insurance agent. With renewed vigor, she aspires to not only do her best but also be an example to her other agents in her agency.

The reason the NLP Neurological Levels of Change is effective in coaching is because it connects both the intrinsic and extrinsic factors together. Just as in Aishah Omar’s case, it brings self-awareness to the coachee and empowers them to rise from their current state to move forward. Apply this model in your next coaching session and you will see how much your coachee can be transformed. 

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