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Why Every Coach Needs to Understand Basic Neuroscience

You may be wondering what neuroscience has to do with coaching, or you may be interested in learning how neuroscience can help you to be a better coach.  If that describes you, then read on and discover how this exciting new science (neuroscience) is useful to you as a coach.

For starters, every coach is in the business of helping people to be transformed for the better. This inevitably happens at three levels. The first is the cognitive level where change is initiated by helping the client to alter his or her beliefs or attitudes and replace them with empowering ones. Secondly, you work with the coaching client at the emotional level where you help them become more mindful about their emotions and also become more resilient emotionally.

Thirdly, the behavioral level is the realm where the world sees what habits a person has, as well as the actions resulting from those habits. The common thread in all these three aspects is that the brain plays a part, and that is why the following discussion highlights why you, as a coach, have to pay a lot of attention to neuroscience.

Neuroscience Helps You Understand Your Clients

Many of the principles that underpin the field of neuroscience are helpful in enabling coaches to understand their clients. For example, one principle states that the emotional and cognitive systems of an individual work together. 

This principle opens your eyes to the fact that before you get a proper understanding of your client’s cognitive and emotional state, it would be futile trying to point that client in a certain direction regarding the issues for which they have sought your professional help. 

It also means that you cannot work with the client on the emotional or cognitive level alone while ignoring the other component. Both must be addressed for sustainable transformation.

Another principle of neuroscience states that nature (genetics) and nurturing (the environment) combine to shape what an individual is. As a coach, your task is to probe the client so that you understand the environmental and genetic factors that define that person. This knowledge can then help you to select the most appropriate way to help the client to transform into their better or best self.

You Learn the Importance of Your Relationship With the Client

You may have heard numerous times that a coach needs to create rapport with a client, but the full importance of that rapport may not have hit home in your mind. The field of neuroscience can help you to avoid taking matters of rapport for granted when dealing with your clients.

For example, neuroscience teaches that relationships created during childhood or adulthood play an important role in making change possible.

This principle shows that without a relationship of trust between you and your client, no cutting edge tool or technique that you use will produce any results in the client. By taking time to understand neuroscience, you will be in a better position to cultivate positive relationships with each of your clients (and your coaching results will increase exponentially).

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Neuroscience Preps You to Ask the Right Questions

It may be abundantly clear to you that the outcome of the coaching process may well depend on the kind of probing questions that you ask your client. As you know, the coaching process is about the client and you are just a facilitator of the change process so that the client moves from where they are to a better place professionally or in whatever sphere where they needed some help to change.

Through studying basic neuroscience, you learn several things, such as the fact that not all thought processes take place at the conscious level and yet they all affect the decisions, actions and emotions of the individual having those thoughts.

Consequently, you will start thinking carefully about the questions you ask so that they probe the client to reveal or explore everything beneath the surface emotionally, mentally or otherwise.

Those probing questions will put the client firmly on the path to finding the right solutions to the problems they face. As a coach, the better you are at asking the right questions, the easier your job will become.

You get to Select the Best Tools or Techniques

The number of tools and techniques that a coach has at his or her disposal may be dizzying to a layperson because he or she may not know when each of those tools or techniques can be used to great effect.

As a coach, you should strive to have as many techniques and tools as possible in your toolkit. Otherwise, you risk being like that proverbial man who sees everything as a nail because the only tool he has is a hammer. 

If you have all those tools and techniques, the critical question now becomes, which specific tool is ideal for a particular client at a certain point during the coaching process?

Neuroscience again comes to the rescue in this regard. The science helps you to narrow down your options of tools or techniques based on how those tools will affect the brain, emotions and behaviors of a client.

For example, neuroscience shows that a person’s brain doesn’t differentiate between an actual experience and an imagined one. This means that you can select a coaching tool or technique that triggers the client’s visualization or imagination of what they would want in their future in order to get the motivation they need to do what it takes to bring that imagined or desired future into reality.

Related: How Mental Rehearsal Improves Performance

A concrete example may help to drive this point home. Assuming you were coaching a client to get over his or her interview jitters. Asking your client to visualize the entire interview proceeding smoothly as he or she answers each question calmly and confidently can help that client to be motivated to work towards having an interview that goes well. He or she will, therefore, pay more attention to researching the company for which they will be interviewing, getting answers to the commonly asked questions for that role, and so on.

All this work will have the singular purpose of making your client pull off a perfect interview performance similar to the one he or she visualized.

As you can see, neuroscience and coaching are joined at the hip, and you have been using this science all your professional life (whether you knew it or not). It is therefore prudent for you to devote some time to studying basic neuroscience so that you can put all your ducks in a row as far as your work as a coach is concerned.

Remember, when you respect your client’s brain (by using all the tenets of neuroscience), you will have respected that client. Could things get any simpler than that?

One powerful tool we use with our clients is the Muse system. Learn more about Muse and how it could be a game-changer with your performance coaching client here:

To Your Success,

Jairek Robbins and Team PCU

Ready to level up your coaching and leadership game? Want to make a big impact in the lives of others? Add more power to your purpose with our 12-week online Performance Coach certification course. Apply here: Course overview & Application!