Coaching, leadership and the brain

Recently I attended a seminar run by Human Synergistics called “Wiring for Blue”. Unless you use the HS tools and understand that Blue is constructive behaviour, that probably doesn’t make a lot of sense… However, in brief, the day was about brain wiring, how it works and how to leverage this knowledge for coaching and leadership development. I had some fantastic “ah-ha” moments that I’d like to share.

One of the presentations was by Dr Trisha Stratford from the Department of Medical and Molecular Biosciences, Sydney. She shared her research that proves what we have known for some time – that when we feel connected to someone, in the flow, we literally sync up with them. Dr Stratford has been able to demonstrate to concept of adaptive oscillators – like bluetooth between two people. She studied the brains of counsellors and their clients. When the client reported that they felt a connection with the counsellor “She really understood me”, Dr Stratford found that their brainwaves synchronised.

The study demonstrated that the “6th sense” is real – that the presence of another directly impacts the brain and body. Once the bonding, or relationship exists we see significant changes in the brain and body.

When you relate the findings to coaching and leadership, the study found the following:

There needs to be a relationship between the coach and the client before we can motivate change – this is because the client needs to access their imagination to “see” what is possible, and without a connection (feeling safe), the client won’t move from using the prefrontal cortex to using the parietal section of the brain. The parietal is where imagination, empathy, values, creativity, adapatation etc are processed and this is crucial for insights and problem solving.

The first session is crucial in bonding with the client. The relationship must be there by session 3, or it isn’t going to happen.

If bonding is too high, clients are less likely to adhere to tasks – they need boundaries as well as bonding.

As a coach or leader, the most important factor in creating the bond, or relationship is your attention – how you are on the day. Are you really listening, or mentally checking your to do list? How much focus do you bring to the interaction? The study found that your verbal communication accounts for 8% of the bond, your non verbal communication for 12% and your attention accounts for a whopping 80%.

So – are you giving people your full attention? Really?

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2 replies on “Coaching, leadership and the brain”

I agree. It is so important that we work to create a bond with people before we can hope to sync with them. I also know that they need to feel that we are giving them our full attention, otherwise what we say will most likely come across as meaningless to the person. Once the trust is established, the bond just grows and the person is then in a position to gain maximum benefit from the discussions/counselling/whatever it may be

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