International Coaching Week – The Neuroscience of Leadership Coaching

Inspired2Learn Lockdown 10 shoot

5 books that have made a difference to my coaching

My pledge for International Coaching Week is t to re-visit one of my favourite books and review it for you. Here is my third choice of book – the Neuroscience of Leadership Coaching.

The Neuroscience of Leadership Coaching: Why the Tools and ...

Book #3 – The Neuroscience of Leadership Coaching

Having a basic understanding of how the brain works is essential for coaches in my view. I am not neuroscientist or psychologist, however some of my most useful learning as a coach has been to better work with coaching interventions that engage different parts of the brain. A basic grasp of terminology helps me to explain some of my approaches to clients. In my book review yesterday I touched on the subject of managing sate and mind-set and this is the first port of call for much of my coaching work, supported by positive psychology (see my book review tomorrow) and neuroscience principles.

Chapter 3 is my favourite (An Introduction to Neuroscience) as it give me a quick reference guide to terminology (those of you that know me will be aware I have a memory like a sieve!) which I often return to for a quick refresh. Here is a brief A-Z of the key terms I think every coach should understand, with references at the end of this blog if you wish to find out more:

Amygdala – part of the limbic system which is responsible for out fear, anxiety and threat responses.

Dendrites carry electrical impulses between neurons. Dendrites increase in size and number in response to learned skills, experience, and information (neuroplasticity).

Dopamine is a neurotransmitter most associated with attention, decision making and reward-stimulated learning. Dopamine increases wtih play, laughter, exerce, and receiving praise.

Hippocampus has a major role in memory processes.

Limbic System is involved in regulation of emotion, memory, and processing complex socio-emotional communication. It includes the amygdala and hippocampus.

Neuroplasticity is capacity of the brain to change its structure and function in response to learning. The brain is able to reshape and reorganise the networks of connections (dendrites).

Patterning is when the brain generates patterns of sights, sounds, feelings, smell and taste (sensory information) by connecting new information with previous learning or organising information into pattern systems it has used before. Coaching is about increasing the patterns coachees can use, recognise, and communicate. Whenever new approaches help coachees see relationships, they can generate greater brain cell activity (formation of new neural connections) store more successful patterns in their long-term memory that they can use later.

Prefrontal Cortex is responsible for evaluating information, prediction, conscious decision making, emotional awareness and responses, organising, analysing, sorting, connecting, planning, prioritising, sequencing, self-monitoring, self-correcting, assessment, abstraction, deduction, induction, problem solving, attention focusing, and linking information to planning and directing actions.

Serotonin is a neurotransmitter used to carry messages between neurons. The growth of dendrites is enhanced by the serotonin released by the brain predominantly between the sixth and eighth hour of sleep (non-REM). Play also released serotonin.

Synapses are junctions used to transmit signals between cells and the transfer is known as a synaptic connection. The average human brain has about 100 billion neurons (nerve cells). Each neuron may be connected to up to 10,000 other neurons, passing signals to each other via as many as 1,000 trillion synaptic connections, equivalent by some estimates to a computer with a 1 trillion bit per second processor.

A working knowledge of the terms above supports coaches to explain how the process of coaching will enable change in the client’s brain. Neuroscience helps coaches to better position some of the tools and techniques that they to help clients manage their state, emotional reactions, stress, beliefs, perspectives and their perception of their future.

This great book explains the neuroscience of leadership, including topics such as unconscious bias, decision-making, stress and fear. It then examines the role of coaching in behaviour change, with suggestions of coaching tools for specific situations.

Ideas for further reading

  • A-Z Coaching Handbook (Clare Smale)
  • My Hidden Chimp (Dr Steve Peters)
  • Neuroscience for Learning and Development (Stella Collins)
  • NLP for Teachers (Richard Churches and Roger Terry)
  • The Chimp Paradox (Dr Steve Peters)

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