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The “Hierarchy of Ideas” (a facet of neuro-linguistic programming, or NLP) teaches us that communication ranges along a spectrum from abstract to specific. Whoever is in charge of the level of abstraction in a conversation leads the conversation. As a team, competition can be especially robust, and so being in charge of that level of abstraction is essential. If you were made aware that the conversations you have are directly correlated to your income, what kind of impact do you think being a powerful communicator would have on your team?

Think about this for a moment. In bigger organizations, in order to get promoted, you have to be able to think at the level to which you are getting promoted; for every level you go up in the organization, the thinking gets bigger.

The person at the helm of any company needs to have the biggest big picture in mind. If you can’t think any more big-picture than where you are, you will not get promoted, nor grow your team, which means it will directly affect how much money you can make. You have to be able to think big picture, or your organization will be stifled.

I read in an article recently that Apple is now the first trillion-dollar company in the private sector. Ever. I remember when Apple first came to the market. Growing up, we had one of those old, small-screen, tall, rectangle Macintosh computers—remember those? You could play solitaire or use it to type, and that was about it. Yet, they were so innovative it seemed like they were poised to dominate the market. We all know Steve Jobs was an amazing visionary. At the time, though, he had not yet mastered the craft of being a CEO—he would not let go of the details. He created an entirely separate division within Apple just for the Macintosh computer, which, though it had rave reviews at the time, performed very poorly financially for the company. Essentially, Jobs made the decision to run a company within a company, and pitted his Macintosh division against other parts of Apple that were making money. They actually flew a pirate flag at the office building his division was located in.

At the time, Steve Jobs was stuck with tunnel vision—so focused on the Macintosh he lost sight of what was good for the whole of Apple. Thus, he was fired from his own company in 1985. This series of events is a profound lesson in growth and change. In 1997, Jobs got another shot at being Apple’s CEO. This time, however, he demonstrated not only that he was an amazing visionary, but that he was also an amazing CEO. He had the biggest of big pictures of anyone in the company, and surrounded himself with the right people to handle the details while he drove the mission and vision forward. Then, he verified that the output matched the vision. As we know, he knocked it out of the park. How many of you had an iPod or have an iPhone?

Again, you have abstraction and specificity on a spectrum in every conversation, and when you lead the level of abstraction and specificity, you lead the conversation. This is really the key. When you understand this, your conversations become more productive—one might even say “hyper-efficient.” You can drill down when you need to get someone’s head out of the clouds, and you are able to pull someone out of the weeds when they are buried in the details. Have you ever been in a non-productive meeting? You can use this spectrum of conversation—or “chunking”—to run hyper-efficient meetings, as well.

The Hierarchy of Ideas and chunking are also the basis of all negotiations. Would you like to be able to get really good agreements with the people you are working with, or the people you would like to work with? If you go to a negotiation class, they might spend a whole day teaching you this—but you and your team members can understand this today in under 30 minutes. Dr. Matt James of The Empowerment Partnership tells a story about a meeting he had with a professional negotiator when he helped bring a hospital to Kona, in Hawaii. He told the negotiator about the Hierarchy of Ideas, and the negotiator (obviously concerned for his own job security) asked him to please stop teaching this. He explained to Dr. James that this Hierarchy of Ideas was exactly how he did his own negotiation. It was how they would obtain an agreement and put it into action. Can you imagine every negotiation being a win-win for your clients, every time?

Do you remember being a new real estate agent, showing homes to buyers? As a new agent myself, I had been told that a “wants and needs analysis” is something I should do; yet, in reality, I had no idea what that meant. One particular couple I worked with stands out to me: Beth and James. I was their agent for months, spending just about every weekend showing them dozens and dozens of homes, each of which varied tremendously from the other. After six months of this, they fired me. I was shocked. I mean, how dare they, right? After all the time I spent with them? How many of you have been there before?

Eventually, I realized I had wasted their time by not drilling down on what specifically they were looking for. By not asking the right questions, I had failed them. I took “four bedrooms and two bathrooms” to be enough information, and showed them everything under the sun that fit that criteria. We all know so many more things matter—and, if I had just followed the script that I had been given on day one, I would have had all the information I needed.

How many times have you answered a “For Sale” sign call and not had any idea how to get more information from the person on the other end of the phone? Remember being taught LPMAMA as a new agent? When a lead calls, we ask their preferred location, price range, motivation, if they already have an agent, if they’ve applied for a mortgage, their specific housing criteria, and then we ask for the appointment. It’s very simple, yet we sometimes make it difficult by not using it!

When you lose clients because you don’t ask the right questions, it directly affects your ability to make money. When you can’t capture leads because you don’t ask the right questions, it directly affects your ability to make money. When you don’t think big enough to move up in your company, it directly affects your ability to make money. Which would you rather make— more money, or less?

Sara Guldi of The Guldi Group is a 13-year veteran of real estate. She lives in Florida and has a team in Maryland that consistently exceeds $20 million in production annually, with an average sales price of approximately $165K. In their best year, The Guldi Group did $64 million in production, and they attribute their long-term success to a strong commitment to systems and coaching. Guldi’s passion is coaching, and she loves helping others build amazing business and lives using the performance coaching systems developed by Workman Success Systems. Contact her at For more information, please visit  

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