Tuesday, April 16, 2013

What do I need to know about Neuroscience as a Coach?

Posted on Tuesday, April 16, 2013 by International Coach Federation

Perhaps the question before this one is actually why as a Coach I need to know about neuroscience at all? Neuroscience can sound a little scary to some people, when in fact it is just the study of the brain that comes with its own set of jargon, which once broken down is as comprehensible as the study of Coaching. We didn’t used to know that much (relatively) about how this incredible organ worked, however in the last 30 years our knowledge of it has increased dramatically. That is one reason it is so exciting to learn about it now as a Coach, because the information now available can dramatically enhance your understanding of how people work. 

Having always been a bit of a ‘science geek’ when I first started studying Coaching I was always asking myself (and my teachers) ‘how does this actually work?’. I was looking for the most fundamental answers. I thought that if I understood at the most basic level what was happening then I would have the most flexibility to work with my clients and tweak tools to ensure I helped them get the best result. Before we dive into look at that most fundamental level it can be useful to consider an overview. 

We can break neuroscience for Coaches down into some clear simple pieces:
1.     The brain is responsible for the results an individual gets in their life.
2.     An individual’s brain is on their side, its main aim is to keep its host alive!
3.     The brain is constantly on alert for any threats or potential rewards.
4.     Physical and social threats and rewards use the same parts (automated neural networks) of the brain. (We didn’t use to think this was the case, and most people still operate as if it isn’t).
5.     Threat responses often impair your client’s performance while reward responses enhance it.
6.     Your responsibility as a Coach is to help facilitate your client’s self-directed neuroplasticity. (Help them adapt their brain to best support them).
7.     Like Coaching, rewiring a brain is a journey. 

The basic neuroscience components that are practically useful to a Coach are:
a.     The anatomical areas of the brain, what they do, how they work optimally and how to work with them when challenged.
b.     The neurochemicals, the little messengers that affect the whole body, what they do and how you can increase or decrease their presence.

Once these fundamentals are mastered then you can then start looking into the way that the brain works to help you more fully understand core Coaching tools and skills.

-       What areas of the brain are used in goal setting? How can we increase the likelihood of a client achieving their goals?
-       How are beliefs really formed? Do the NLP belief change tools work from a brain perspective?
-       Why are habits hard to change? What secrets does the brain share with us to dramatically improve how we approach change?

So is it worth it? Learning the new language, working through the new processes and at times updating some of your beliefs? Absolutely. The field of neuroscience will continue to provide us with more great insights into how people work. Coaches who want to remain at the cutting edge of their field will inevitably equip themselves with this latest research and apply it to best serve their clients. Understanding how to make your client’s brains work even more fully rewards both you and them.  

Amy Brann is the author of ‘Make Your Brain Work’ published by Kogan Page. The popular makeyourbrainwork.com community contains interviews with scientists and business people along with resources mentioned in the book. Through her online program, Neuroscience for Coaches, Amy helps Coaches who want to be leaders in their field understand more about the brain and how to work with it.


  1. Excellent tips, thank you for sharing. I offer executive coaching in Newburyport for a wide-range of clients and I'll certainly be sure to pass some of these tips along to some of my clients. Thanks again!


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