Exclusive Interview with Rachel Paling

The language of leadership


Rachel Paling

Efficient Language Coaching Founder and Director​


CEO Today recently caught up with Rachel Paling, a non-practising qualified lawyer and highly experienced language coach from Efficient Language Coaching (ELC). Rachel shares her insights into the importance of being multilingual in business and how her methods adopt a brain-friendly approach to learning languages.


Can you explain what business neurolanguage coaching is and why it’s important in today’s international business dynamic?


Over the last 20 years, it has become really clear that languages in business are essential. Businesses have increasingly broken out beyond borders into the globalised market, and even the smallest of provincial companies now understand the importance of speaking languages. However, language excellence signifies embracing cultural differences, diversity and inclusion par excellence and a deeper, more meaningful degree of communication and comprehension among employees, management and clients/customers.


Neurolanguage Coaching® for business is a “brain-friendly” approach to language learning. In practical terms, we incorporate elements from professional coaching. For example, the goal and action setting, the focus on motivation, commitment and empowerment, the ethics, confidentiality and standards. Our communication is based on coaching conversations, models and techniques. In this way, we can transform how educators communicate and transfer their knowledge in a business learning environment. In addition, we implement neuroscientific principles, plus emotional intelligence and neuropsychology, into the learning process. We infuse the learning with metacognition by adapting the process to reflect the research, so everything we do has a scientific reason and justification to it. Also, the coach opportunely shares information about how the brain learns, reacts and functions with the learners and brings constant awareness of the power of words and patterns of communication.


In today’s international business dynamic, it is essential for management to work side by side with a professional coach as someone we can trust, who will accompany a development process aspiring for the best language and communication results for each individual, tailoring and personalising the learning to achieve results faster and more effectively.


What would you say is the value of business neurolanguage coaching for a CEO? 


CEOs do not just want lip service saying, “I am a language coach”. They want concrete results and the reassurance that the neurolanguage coach has professional training and embodies this in a new method and approach. The Neurolanguage Coaching® process is fully focused on getting learners to learn faster, with a totally personalised roadmap that incorporates metacognition as to how he or she learns the language better.


CEOs today are potentially on a world stage, and as such, their communication style and eloquence are key. Global communication platforms enable CEOs to be heard across the world. The more they can communicate in a way that will be heard by many, the more their business will be recognised as a global player, not only externally but also internally, with multilingual and multicultural workforces leading the way.


In addition, this way of learning also presents questions about ROI, not only for the learning investment but also for the impact that “finer-tuned language” may have on business results. There may be more acquisition of clients and business, and there may be more efficiency in workflows or better performance from cross-cultural teams. The value is, in fact, “achieving visible/tangible results”.


How can business neurolanguage coaching improve a CEO’s communication skills?


In many ways, by assisting awareness of language and communication, a CEO may utilise language as a vehicle to achieve new business and new deals or to, clinch negotiations or leave impacting messages. How we communicate has an immediate and long-lasting effect on our counterparts, and by being able to express “self” in another language that is essential for that business is key to expansion and development worldwide.


Neurolanguage coaching focuses on how language learners can really develop the necessary skills they require, and it tailors the learning /improvement/enhancement of language to each and every individual, to their position in business, to their required “functional language skills”. It brings up dialogues about how the brain learns and how we can optimise and maximise learning. It involves professional coaching conversations to understand how to learn or to navigate the “emotional blocks” or how to troubleshoot issues, plus coaching conversations to discuss grammar or language questions. It is a very holistic, personalised approach which aims to bring more effective and efficient and potentially faster learning to the client.


Can you discuss the role of language in business? How does effective language coaching influence a business’s success?


In light of all the possible AI tools that may be used for language facilitation, clever company leaders are aware that the human touch sways deals and proper appropriate language communicated at the right time will make or break the business.


How does a neurolanguage coach help a CEO to articulate their vision more effectively? 


A neurolanguage coach would initially meet with the client to discuss the client’s needs and goals, and then together, both coach and coachee would work out the path to follow and the learning strategies ideal for that particular situation and client. I used to work with a board member who was chairing meetings in English and often steering the passing of resolutions. His aim was to do that in a flowing natural, focused way and we worked on building up his “alternatives” and then rehearsing/simulating meetings.


What common language or communication issues have you seen among CEOs, and how can coaching help to address them?


One common situation is delivering presentations and the desire to be impacting, combat nerves and bring out the style and key message with language and effective paralinguistics. But the most common is how to handle awkward or difficult questions after presentations and here I would suggest that it would require brainstorming language tactics to deal or deflect.


In the age of global connectivity and diverse workforces, how crucial is the aspect of multilingual proficiency for a CEO? Can language coaching help?


CEOs across the world are the “role model” for their company. They represent the business, the product/service and the workforce. As hierarchical structures are increasingly breaking down and CEOs are really stepping into the “walk the talk” key person for the company, that means their communication in other languages will also be recognised and scrutinised. Multilingual proficiency is a key message to employees who want to know that their management really does “walk the talk”.


How do you tailor your language coaching approach to suit different CEOs and their individual business contexts?


The first step is to really evaluate that client’s starting point well so that a goal and action plan can be created with a crescendo of learning/enhancing language over a period of time. This will bring certainty and clarity to the process as well as keep the learner focused and calm. Once the plan is clear, then the question will be how to create a learning process that focuses not only on explicit learning but also on implicit learning or, rather the subconscious input of language, almost like replicating an immersion learning situation but from home.


In many cases, it is also about working with a neurolanguage coach that not only has language expertise but also has a business background or a specialised area. For example, I am a qualified UK non-practising lawyer and I have worked with many lawyers relating to legal English and necessary skills for their legal practice, such as negotiating, contract drafting, court procedures etc. I have also worked with CEOs who also wanted to hone leadership communication, such as delegation, reporting or appraisals. There may even be an element of language plus cultural influence, which is also an essential part of communication which can be explored to enhance a greater understanding of certain business situations.


Can you discuss some specific techniques or strategies unique to Efficient Language Coaching that you use to improve a CEO’s leadership skills?


Well, one technique is bringing the neuroscientific evidence of how the brain works and how the brain likes to learn, creating an inner awareness and sensitivity that we normally do not know about when learning something. Understanding how the brain works, and how the limbic system triggers can actually give enormous insight into how we learn and respect that “no two brains are the same”. (David Rock, Quiet Leadership).


The entire conversation between the coach and coachee follows a pattern that moves the language coach away from the directive and instructional mode and into an interactive and brain-friendly mode. This, in effect, assists the coachee in taking ownership of the whole learning process and focusing and attention are greatly increased.


One of the focus points is to get the client into “mastery”, so building strategies to achieve that will also be key, and we offer a real structure to the sessions, having created the personalised roadmap for each client right from the start.


As a professional coach, I would also enhance the learning with coaching models or techniques that may fit the language skill needed. For example, CEOS that go through a 360-degree feedback process may need more focus on descriptive language and there are certain tools we could use to deep dive into these.


Finally, I would say the real bonus to working with a neurolanguage coach is the coach’s ability to have a solid structure and roadmap but at the same time fully comprehends how to “dance” with each and every client – that is, heightened adaptability and flexibility and at the same time profound knowledge about professional coaching and the “neuro” integrated together with their language expertise

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