Brain-based Coaching Part 2

(c) Orson | Dreamstime.com

In an earlier post, "What's all the fuss about brain-based coaching," I presented the case for a neuroscience-based approach to coaching (workplace, executive, business--any type of coaching). I also mentioned a foundational idea that guides our brain-based approach: the brain's primary organizing principle to minimize danger and maximize reward.

Still wondering about its value? Hopefully, this blog will give you additional food for thought.

I'm confident about the need for brain-based coaching given the hundreds of active coaches who have attended programs I've delivered who were looking for something more than the coach training they had already completed. Most (you can't win them all, can you?) came away with something valuable if not a transformational shift in their coaching.

Even my facilitation style has evolved and is now grounded in a brain-based coaching approach. I feel my role when delivering a workshop is to be a "facilitator of insight," rather than a platform trainer who "guides" participants to the "correct answer" through more (what I'd call) leading questions. I didn't mean to step on any toes there; it's my journey talking.

Brain-based coaching is a lot about "high intent with low attachment," which is easier said than done. Our inclination is to solve someone else's problem with OUR idea doesn't go away. You still haves ideas and you still want to SHARE them. A brain-based coach simply gets better at "gating" that reaction. With experience, a brain-based coach starts to realize that clients really DO like their own ideas best and the coach's suggestion is often more interesting to the coach than to the client.

That's NOT to say executives and businesspeople don't want you to bring some experience or know-how to the table. They do! For a brain-based coach, however, it's about determining whether in a coaching conversation or session there is a NEED to share or suggest AND, if so, when and HOW to share. A brain-based coach will also be more explicit about what "role" they are adopting with a client given the situation, its context, and the client's stated and unstated needs. I'll often refer to switching hats in a conversation, e.g., "Would you like me to take off my coaching hat and put on my consulting hat?"

"I already do all of that," a coach might say.

Watching hundreds of coaches in action in programs and as a mentor coach or coaching client tells me otherwise. Even newer brain-based coaches need some "seasoning" time. How much? About 6 to 12 months from my observations. We all know it takes time to form new habits and brain-based coaching goes against the grain of our normal human inclinations. I often refer to brain-based coaching as a "delayed gratification" style of coaching. For those of you who LOVE being "the expert" or "the answer person" or "Mr./Ms./Mrs. Fix-it," you will not like being a brain-based coach UNLESS you reframe that preference. The shift is moving from being a "content" expert to becoming a "process" expert. You develop an expertise in your coaching process and let your clients remain the expert on their: situation, business, people, challenges, issues, goals, preferences...

"So what is my value as a brain-based coach," you might ask.

You offer tremendous value as a brain-based coach. You honor your client's brain by understanding its limitations. You help them overcome the "rush to action" by slowing them down and giving them space to look at things differently, while keeping an eye on the high level cognitively irritating or expensive things. You can help them come up with new ideas by speeding up the brain's "insight" mechanism. You know which brain networks are triggered or required in different coaching scenarios and how to strengthen the more valuable networks. Put simply, you work with your client's brain instead of against it. And that's not as simple as it sounds.

If you have questions about brain-based coaching or want to improve your leadership, management, teaching or coaching approach, contact us at Info@LaurieCarey.com.

What does brain-friendly sound like?

                     © Borisovv Dreamstime.com

                    © Borisovv Dreamstime.com

When thinking about what to write about this week, I thought it made sense to continue the thread from a post from two week's ago, "What's all the fuss about brain-based coaching," that continues from an earlier post, "So you really think you're brain-friendly." People can sometimes think they are being brain-friendly or using a brain-based coaching approach when, in fact, they are being more directive than they realize OR creating what I call "unnecessary threat."

A critical idea

One of the essential ideas we work with is from Evian Gordon's work (previously cited). It involves what he calls "the brain's primary organizing principle: minimize danger and maximize reward." If there is one idea our work is built on, it is this idea.

When teaching people about a brain-based approach, the brain's primary organizing principle can be easily misinterpreted or misapplied. People (teachers, leaders, managers...) think we need to eliminate ALL danger.

First of all, that is virtually impossible. Secondly, we don't need to eliminate ALL danger. We need to know how and when to work with "danger." Here's one approach:

  • First, we need to understand the nature of how the brain responds to danger
  • Then, we need to understand how danger is created for the brain
  • Next, we need to understand when danger is helpful and when it is harmful
  • Continuing on, we need to pay attention to how we are working with danger and reward in our moment-to-moment interactions based on what we are trying to help others achieve
  • Finally, we need to adjust in the moment based on what is actually happening for the person in front of us (whether danger or reward is being triggered in the desired amounts relative to our focus)

And since all of this plays out when we are interacting with each other (live, virtually, or electronically), it's helpful if we have a map for what a brain-friendly conversation sounds like. Let's listen in...

Manager: Hey Alex, I’d like to catch-up with you on Project X. It seems like all is on track. I simply need to provide a brief update on it to management. I’d like to find out what’s going well and what else you recommend based on the current state of the project. When would be a good time for us to connect and about how long do you think that would take?
Worker: Oh, OK. It probably shouldn’t take that long, maybe 15 or so minutes. Can we do it later in the week?
Manager: I need to provide the update by Friday so is there time before then?
Worker: Sure, I guess I can make Thursday work.
Manager: Excellent, what time? The morning is pretty wide open.
Worker: How about 10:00am?
Manager: That works. Is there anything you need from me to make this meeting most productive?
Worker: I guess what it is that you want to cover.
Manager: Mainly how complete we are on the project and anything we need to anticipate to make sure we bring things in on time and on budget.
Worker: Well, there is one issue we are having.
Manager: OK, thanks for giving me a heads up. Let’s not get into it right now, if that’s OK. When we meet, I’d love to hear your thoughts on what we might consider doing to address the issue and any other thoughts you have or things you’re learning based on where the project stands.
Worker: OK, I’ll put some notes together.
Manager: Thanks. I’m looking forward to connecting Thursday morning.
Worker: OK, thanks.

You may be wondering, “What’s so brain-friendly about this? Why is this so long? Why not just say, ‘Hey Alex, I need an update on Project X by Thursday morning.’?”

Rather than simply GIVING you the answers, I'd love to hear YOUR thoughts:

  • Where are the potential "dangers" of this request?
  • How/where is the manager minimizing threats?
  • How/where is the manager offering rewards?
  • What brain needs is the manager addressing and how/where?
  • Any other thoughts, questions or connections?

In other words, how brain-friendly are you? (Danger! Danger! Danger!)

What's all the fuss about brain-based coaching?

What's all the fuss about brain-based coaching?

History seems to indicate that (nearly) every time something new comes along, it is feared, fought or outright rejected dating back even to the first notion that the earth was round. So it now seems for neuroscience and brain-based anything. I've been doing work in this area for nearly 10 years and I still hear how neuroscience is a fad and "brain-based" is simply the new hype.

Read More