Posts

Brain-based Coaching Part 2

© Orson Dreamstime.com - Abstract Speaker Silhouette PhotoIn 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, email Paul@Response-AbleConsulting.com.

What does brain-friendly sound like?

© Borisovv Dreamstime.com - Magnifying Ear PhotoWhen 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 Your Focus?!

I recently offered a workshop based on the Law of Attraction. I was motivated (you might even say, compelled) to offer the workshop by a personal sense to do something positive in the midst of so much negative news.

Several responses to my offering were along the lines of, “I didn’t know you were going in that direction.”

I thought, “What direction?!”

In hindsight, I can understand any confusion I may have caused.

You see, as a business owner, I am not moving in any new direction. My focus is and has always been helping people to identify — focus on — their most important goals (in life or at work) and to create a space in which to do the work necessary to bring those goals to fruition. It is not easy work for the client (or sometimes for me), but it is extremely rewarding work.

One of the inherent beliefs at work in my coaching is the belief that each client has untapped potential. I look for this potential from the very first call or meeting. I believe 100% in the possibilities that exist within my clients. This belief is predicated on great faith and on the practically unlimited thinking power of our individual and unique brains.

The workshop was simply an extension of my business approach and values.

If you’re interested in the workshop or finding out more about how you can use coaching in your personal or professional life, call me at 516.216.4233 or send me an email and I’ll be happy to answer your questions or discuss your current challenges.

Recent Findings (3 & 4) about the Brain

This is the second in a series of three articles that present six recent discoveries about the brain that help explain our success—and failure—as it relates to living our lives and working towards our personal and professional goals (this information is based on the coaching model I use and the intellectual property of Results Coaching Systems).

In the last article, I suggested you stop using your head and start using your brain. I also mentioned the first two recent findings about the brain: 1) The Brain Is a Connection Machine and 2) No Two Brains Are Even Remotely Alike.

This article, the focus is on Finding #3: The Brain Works to Hardwire Everything and Finding #4: Perception Is Driven by Our Hardwiring. I’ll present each finding and then how you can apply it in work, business, and/or life.

Read more

Recent Findings (1 & 2) about the Brain

Would you like to know a secret to being more productive, more effective, more fulfilled?

Here it is: Use your brain.

Seems simple but it’s not. In fact, your brain is often “sabotaging” you without you even knowing it.

How?

Your brain likes to conserve energy. It doesn’t want to work hard. It wants to make everything habitual so it literally doesn’t have to think. For the most part, we couldn’t survive if the brain didn’t work this way. Can you imagine if every day you had to relearn how to walk, talk, drive, brush your teeth, etc.? While these routines serve us well, other habits we’ve created may not.

So how do you harness the power of the brain to get what you want?

You just need to understand how the brain works. (And, no, you don’t need to be a brain surgeon!)

Read more

What’s Wrong with My Goals?

This article continues my focus on Goals, a topic I presented in the Winter 2007 News-you-can-use-letter (see Coach’s Corner) and I recently wrote about on my personal blog.

One of the primary reasons people don’t achieve their goals is because they are not truly connected to them. By this I mean, there is not a strong enough emotional attachment to achieving the goal to generate the needed motivation and discipline for success. It is probably a good goal, it might be stated correctly, it may even BE achievable — but you’re not likely to achieve it if it is not something you absolutely MUST achieve or accomplish before you die.

Read more

Eleanor Roosevelt quote

"Understanding is a two-way street." ~Eleanor Roosevelt

John Lennon quote

"Life is what happens while you are making other plans." ~John Lennon

The Value of Slowing Down

Are you ignoring the most important (a.k.a. strategic) issues facing your business, your company, or your life because of the more urgent issues screaming for your attention?

If so, you’re like the proverbial frog in the pot on the stove. He doesn’t notice that he’s getting cooked alive until it’s too late.

We all need to take a step back and look at what’s going on in our lives – work – businesses in order to determine if we’re heading in the right direction. Ships have a captain. Planes have a pilot. Who is overseeing your life?

Read more

Professional Affiliations

I currently belong to or support these organizations because of the help, guidance, community, example, and inspiration they and their members provide.

International Coach Federation (ICF)

ICF-Long Island

Midtown Networking Group

TAB – The Alternative Board (Suffolk County, NY)

Association for Talent Development

Society for Human Resources Management