LATE one night, a dozen friends of mine from the coaching profession and I walked into a small coffee shop in Greenhills, Manila. All of us, ready for a jolt of caffeine, gathered at the counter.

The attendant, who seemed to be cleaning up the place, was aghast at the crowd in front of him and declared the shop was closed.

"Wow, what time do you close?" said Susan, the wealth coach.

"Uh, 10pm, ma'am" replied the attendant.

"But, it's only 9.55pm now!" she said, with an edge to her voice.

"Yes, ma'am but one of our rules is to close at exactly 10pm and I don't think we will be able to achieve that and yet serve all of you," he replied.

Now here was a clash of goals and ideals. Should the man have focused on specific goals or looked at the big picture and made the sale?

For the attendant to make a decision in light of the coffee company's strategic intentions, he would have to be given a lot more meaningful information rather than just a few points against which his performance would be measured.

He would have to juggle his decision-making between the six generic performance indicators that every business strategist leans upon: competitive advantage, flexibility of action, financial performance, resource utilisation, quality of service and innovation. He would have to choose between being excellent with resource utilisation and increasing the financial performance of his outlet.

Now, the thrust of leadership training is not so much about strategy and decision-making but more towards providing quality feedback and coaching others. It aims to elicit, through conversations, leadership qualities from you and others.

So, imagine, a month later, the attendant is sitting in front of you and you have got to talk him about the evening a dozen or more customers lined up in front of him five minutes before closing and the fact that he had told them that the outlet was closed. Here is an NLP [Neuro-Linguistic Programming] presupposition that you can utilise: "There is a positive intention motivating every behaviour, and a context in which every behaviour has value."

You have got to realise that his choice at that moment was based completely on the knowledge he had of the issues involved in that scenario. The outcome of his decisions may or may not have been in alignment with the company's overall strategy but his intentions were absolutely positive.

You could then, through questioning and dialogue, upgrade his decision-making skills for the future. You would have to start with the assumption that behind his behaviour was a positive intention and then work your way forward and upward. That would be your leadership in action through NLP.

That evening in Greenhills, Susan, the wealth coach, gently influenced the attendant into taking our orders. He failed to close on time but succeeded in raising his financial performance for the day.