‘Developing People Thinking through Brain-Based Coaching’ by Sirirat Siriwan on International Coach Federation Blog

Brain-Based Coaching is a coaching approach focused on developing people thinking. Based on the understanding of how the brain works, a coach will be able to effectively conduct coaching conversation that facilitates people thinking to unleash people potential to produce highest positive results.

It’s all about Connection!
The brain is a connection machine. We have learned new things by making connections of information; thinking, memories, feelings, emotions. There are a lot of connections or maps in our brain. Coaching is helping people make a connection to understand, learn and develop. The most significant part is how to create long lasting development or hardwiring our brains. Habit, perception, or the ways we see the world are the results of hardwiring our brains. If we can change our perceptions, we will be able to change our lives. In organizations, if an employee can change the way they look at situations, their behavior, performance, and results will be changed as well.
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Coaching and Prefrontal Cortex (PFC)
PFC is a very small part of our brain. It is a logical part of the brain. Of course, its responsibilities are to think, recall, and make decisions. It needs a lot of energy and resources to operate the best. An appropriate amount of dopamine and adrenaline are also required for its best performance. PFC will operate information as serial or one thing at a time. A coach who understands how PFC works will communicate with the coachee in a way that supports PFC’s best operation. A coach will not provide too much information to coachee. A coach will ask questions, clarify, or give feedback in a succinct and specific way. The words a coach uses will be simple and relevant to coachee background to be easy to understand.

Coaching and The Limbic System
The Limbic System is an emotional part of the brain. Its task is to make the human alive. It will scan what is happening around us and identify it as a ‘threat’ or ‘reward’ and respond to it by putting us in two opposite emotional states. If the limbic system has identified the situation or stimulus as a threat, it will put us in the ‘away’ state. For example; during a coaching conversation, a coach is judging the way a coachee thinks about himself. A coachee can feel this judgment by the words the coach has used and his facial expressions. In this kind of interaction, a coachee has perceived a coach reaction as a threat and put him in the away state. He cannot move forward to make progress in the coaching process. The coachee doesn’t trust his coach anymore. So, a coach who understands how the limbic system works will not put his coachee in this away state. Instead, a coach will demonstrate emphatic listening and show understanding without any judgment. This treatment will put a coachee in toward state, which is the key factor for coaching success.
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The Impact of The Limbic System on PFC
Without knowledge about the brain, when we have emotion of anger or frustration, we cannot think through the situation clearly. Our emotional state impacts our capability to think reasonably and consciously. This logic explains how the limbic system affects PFC ability to function the best. When the limbic system arouses and puts coachee in the away state, the resources used for PFC function will be reduced and that creates negative impact on PFC performance.

As a coach, it’s very significant to make sure a coachee is in toward state, by creating trust. A coach can build trust by communicating honesty, sincerity, but also be mindful, as well as showing acknowledgement of a coachee strengths and efforts. Nobody likes to be judged, people need to be listened to deeply. To do these, a coach is giving a reward to a coachee’s brain, and this reward will make PFC work efficiently.

The role of a coach is a trusted partner of coachee during their challenging journey to discover, learn, and grow inside. Having knowledge of how the brain works will be significant advantage for a coach in creating trust and helping coachee to move forward easily and effectively.

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