After 30 years of working with hundreds of successful women leaders, I have found that one of the most persistent challenges they face is how to develop successful leaders who are as engaged, empowered and high-performing as they are. More often than not, these highly accomplished leaders are baffled about why their direct reports eventually hit an impasse and just don’t ‘get’ what it takes to be an extraordinary leader.
Here’s the good news: This just got a lot easier.
Your direct reports don’t think (or behave) like you because their brains are wired differently than yours. There is a ton of neuroscience research that concludes that while it is virtually impossible to deconstruct the brain’s hardwiring, the brain is much more “elastic” than was previously thought. The really good news for you: Brain-based coaching makes it possible to create new hardwiring. When you use a ‘brain-based’ approach to leading and coaching, you can quite literally help your direct reports generate new thinking and hardwire new behaviors — specifically, the behaviors you want to see more of [and that will make your life easier]. Please re-read that last sentence.
3 brain-based coaching tips that will change the way you lead
A recent study revealed that brain-based coaching activates regions of the brain that are associated with big-picture thinking, engagement, motivation, and compassion (“Visioning in the Brain”, Anthony Jack, et al; Case Western Reserve University). Why wouldn’t you give it a try? Just below, we offer 3 tips to help you get started.
Leadership Tip #1: Stop thinking for others. It is an epic waste of your time and energy.
Brain-based coaching can be defined as: “facilitating positive change by first improving the thinking.”
As a leader, your most far-reaching obligation is to develop the next generation of leaders. A first step is to “improve the thinking” of your direct reports and allow them to tap into their abilities, do their own thinking and, ultimately, uncover their best leadership self. Said another way, when you do the thinking for them (ie – offer suggestions, hints, ideas), you are actually impeding their development and progress. Coaching is not the time to be directive. It’s the time to let your direct report take the lead in order to make those new, powerful and sustainable connections.
Leadership Tip #2: Change is hard; making it stick is harder. And that’s your job.
Change is hard. It creates fear and uncertainty because our brains are pre-programmed to see change as “dangerous”. We do what we can to avoid it.
Do you drive your car “without thinking”? Have you ever visited another continent and attempted to drive on the other side of the road? Terrifying, and something I personally avoid. Why? Because I am not interested in expending the level of attention and brainpower that would be required to do it safely (ie- I’m not interested in rewiring my brain). We engage in so many of our workplace routines – how we run meetings, communicate, lead others – without thinking. Trying to change any of these hardwired behaviors requires significant energy and attention…like learning to drive on the other side of the road.
Leadership Tip #3: Attention and Reflection change the brain. And this is your very best hope for behavior change.
Neuroscience tells us that we must engage in brain-based coaching in order to create new, powerful and sustainable changes in thinking and behavior.
Years of research helped Dr. Jeffrey Schwartz, a research psychiatrist at the School of Medicine at UCLA and one of the world’s leading experts in neuroplasticity, develop the “Four Faces of Insight©”. This model helps us understand the process the brain must go through in order to “rewire” and embed new thoughts and behaviors.
The 4 stages – also known as the ARIA model – are (1) Awareness and Attention; (2) Reflection; (3) Insight (“Aha!”); and, finally, (4) Action. It is important to note that the first three steps are pre-requisites to Action (ie – behavior change). You can learn more about how this powerful process works here: https://is.gd/qUpTqr or https://jeffreymschwartz.com/.
The bottom line? As a leader, your job is to guide your direct reports through the ARIA process over and over and over again. This is the process that will allow them to make new, powerful and long-lasting connections that will help them to become the extraordinary leaders you know they can be — and that they want to be.
If you would like a list of several powerful brain-based coaching questions, please contact me at email@example.com and I will be happy to pass those along.
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If you would like assistance (a lot or a little) mapping your leadership journey, building a cohesive, high-performing team, or crafting a successful strategy, we can help. We have worked with women leaders for 30 years and know what they need to succeed. As an authorized partner for Everything DiSC™, we have access to a suite of outstanding leadership and team-building assessments.
1. Dan Beverly: https://danbeverly.com/brain-based-coaching/
2. “Visioning in the Brain”, Anthony Jack, et al; Case Western Reserve University
3. Jeffrey Schwartz, MD, https://jeffreymschwartz.com/
4. “A Brain-Based Approach to Coaching”, David Rock and Jeffrey Schwartz, MD