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You've Heard the Word . . . Neuroscience.

You've Heard the Word . . . Neuroscience.

By Mary Verstraete

"The science of human thriving has grown significantly in the past decade, alongside the science of coaching competencies."

- Margaret Moore, B.S., M.B.A.

Interest in neuroscience as a part of coaching is on the rise and because of this surge, has prompted the coaching field to ask these questions:

  • Should neuroscience have a role in coaching?
  • How much should executive coaches know about neuroscience?
  • How much should clients know about neuroscience?
  • Does a working knowledge of neuroscience alter a coach's credibility?

Neuroscience deals with the anatomy and chemistry of the brain and nervous system and their relation to behavior and learning. It's a combination of medicine, applied science, and research that explains human behavior and the way it changes.

Justin Kennedy, professor of neuroscience at South Africa‟s University of Pretoria explains:

With the proper knowledge and training, you can use your conscious mind to change your physical brain. Really change it, so the way you think, the way you act, the way you feel can all be made better.
When you think new thoughts, you are actually changing the geography of your brain, changing the electric patterns that create and carry thoughts, changing the chemicals that control moods and energy levels."

In coaching terminology this could be called transformation.

 

 

Let's link neuroscience to coaching by targeting a specific coaching skill. Ann Betz is a speaker, consultant, and trainer on the intersection of neuroscience. She explains the importance of pause.

From a neuroscience perspective, "the art of pause" allows the person's brain to connect information for himself or herself. Learning is a process of making neural connections stronger and more robust. As coaches, we can facilitate connection by allowing strategic pauses in the conversation–this gives space for the client to think, process, and connect information. When coaches jump in to help, this robs the person of the chance to make the connection in their brain.

Ann uses a metaphor to explain what happens when there is a neural connection.

If it fires, it wires, meaning that every time we do something or think about something, a neural pathway either is being potentiated or reinforced.

She continues to explain that sustainable change happens when a person practices the new neural networks over and over until they become more dominant than the older ones he or she wishes to leave behind.

We can easily see here that another coaching skill comes into the picture, which coaches would label, action steps.

This brief example explains the skill from a neuroscience perspective. It gives coaches an understanding of the importance of the "art of pause" and what can and does happen when it is applied during a coaching conversation.

 

 

Questions to ask yourself:

  • How could neuroscience benefit me as a coach?
  • How could it benefit my clients?
  • How could it benefit the coaching profession?

Following is information that helps to answer these question. The 2014 Executive Coaching Survey reported these findings on the importance of understanding neuroscience:

  • 76% of executive coaches say that neuroscience should have a role in executive coaching.
  • 62% of executive coaches believe they and their peers should have a full understanding or at least a working knowledge of neuroscience. Both internal and external coaches agree. Female coaches support this notion more often than male coaches do, by about a 10% margin.
  • 34% say their clients should have a full understanding or at least a working knowledge of neuroscience. Internal coaches favor this at a slightly higher rate than external coaches do.
  • 49% say a background in neuroscience improves a coach's credibility. Less than 10% feel it is a negative.

I've completed two neuroscience courses in the recent months. I've found the information insightful in understanding my clients in a more comprehensive manner and added beneficial resources to my coaching and consulting business. If you're a coach or consultant, I encourage you to explore if a neuroscience course is right for you.

 

 

The 2014 market research is a service of Sherpa Coaching, a team of executive coaches, authors, and educators based in Cincinnati, Ohio, USA. The search was sponsored by:

  • University of Georgia Center for Continuing Education, Athens, Georgia, USA
  • Howard University School of Business, Washington, D.C., USA
  • Change Partners, Johannesburg, Gauteng, South Africa

Polled were coaches, clients, HR and training professionals, and a wider group of professionals with an interest in leadership development.


Mary is a professional leadership consultant and coach. She works with ambitious business professionals who want to leverage their leadership.

As a business consultant, Mary works with organizations to establish a culture of synergistic teams, systems and processes for greater employee engagement, employee loyalty, and communication effectiveness. 

Mary is President and Cofounder of the Center for Coaching Excellence, a distinctive training organization that focuses on developing highly competent coaches through a mentor-training approach and a training model of coaching that easily transitions into professional and personal conversations. She continues to expanded coaching into diverse industries by developing customized coach training used in companies such as ExxonMobil, Chevron, and MJ Senior Housing.

To contact Mary, call: 612.246.4787


 

The 2014 market research is a service of Sherpa Coaching, a team of executive coaches, authors, and educators based in Cincinnati, Ohio, USA. The search was sponsored by:

  • University of Georgia Center for Continuing Education, Athens, Georgia, USA
  • Howard University School of Business, Washington, D.C., USA
  • Change Partners, Johannesburg, Gauteng, South Africa

Polled were coaches, clients, HR and training professionals, and a wider group of professionals with an interest in leadership development.