Coaching Report

2015 July/August Coaching Report

This is a member only resource

Become a Member » Log In »
2015 July/August Coaching Report

A few years ago I sat with Richard Boyatzis in his office at Case Western. Richard presented at our 2011 and 2012 conferences; our members can access the video of his terrific 2011 presentation. We discussed how coaches might approach the topic of neuroscience and coaching. Richard’s wisdom has endured:

Neuroscience discoveries are flooding in and yet our understanding of how the brain works is in its infancy. For example, the main scanning tools that show brain activity do not distinguish between pathways of up-regulation and down-regulation. The state of neuroscientific tools and studies is primitive relative to the richness, complexity, diversity, and messiness of human experience and change.

When the media reports on a cool, new brain science study, we forget that the results are preliminary, haven’t been replicated and could easily be overturned in the future.

Neuroscience is one scientific domain that can inform and inspire coaches, and it is one of many. Beware of over-emphasizing its impact. Seek insights from a wide array of human endeavors.

Don’t get attached to a particular coaching model and it’s underpinnings. Get curious about new scientific discoveries. Be ever ready to let go of coaching models that you relied upon. Invent and adopt new ones when new discoveries emerge.

What I love about the impact of neuroscience today is that it evokes intense curiosity. How the heck DOES my brain work? What is my mind? Where is my mind right now? How do I change my mind or mindset? What do my emotions do to my mind and brain? What most enhances my creativity? What gives me more brain energy? It also offers lots of new ideas and metaphors around topics like attention, focus, mindfulness, agility, self-regulation, impulsivity and neuroplasticity.

In case you missed it, Vago and Silbersweig at Brigham and Women’s Hospital published an interesting framework for mindfulness in 2012 relevant to coaching titled Self-awareness, self-regulation, and self-transcendence (S-ART): a framework for understanding the neurobiological mechanisms of mindfulness. The S-ART model aligns nicely with the coaching process – raising awareness, self-regulating a change process of mindset and behavior in order to transcend current limitations.

What are your favorite neuroscience resources and studies? Please share! And don’t forget to enjoy the Institute’s resources summarized below.

Margaret Moore, MBA
Co-Founder and Co-Director

From Science to Practice

Coaching the brain: Neuro-science or Neuro-nonsense? By Anthony Grant, The Coaching Psychologist

Special thanks to Brody Gregory, PhD  translating this article from scientific research to practical applications in coaching .

Looking for a little more hard science in your coaching practice? In his June 2015 article in The Coaching Psychologist, Anthony Grant draws thought-provoking connections between coaching and neuroscience.

It’s easy to assume he means concepts like the “amygdalahijack” – when coaches help their clients understand how their brain is hardwired to respond to threats and how this can impact their ability to perform effectively. But Grant takes a different approach – focusing instead on how coaching may be able to inform neuroscience.

For instance, he suggests that solution-focused cognitive-behavioral coaching can lead to notable changes in behavior and cognition, which, theoretically, could result in changes in brain structure or brain activity. Such an intervention has meaningful implications for neuroscience. If targeted coaching leads to observable and lasting behavior change, which results in corresponding changes in the brain, Grant notes that this could yield convincing evidence for concepts such as neuroplasticity and brain-region function-specificity.

  • The big challenge? We need more evidence. Grant makes a great case for the intersection of coaching and neuroscience, but is also quick to point out the need for much more research and empirical data to support these ideas.
  • Are you a researcher? Here you go – a great chance to make a big impact.
  • Are you a practitioner? How often do you consider the actual biological basis of your clients’ behaviors? How can you begin to pay more attention?


Become a Member

The IOC is a global community of coaches.


Contact Us

  • Institute of Coaching
  • McLean Hospital
  • 115 Mill Street, Mail Stop 314
  • Belmont, MA 02478
  • Phone: 617-767-2670