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The Neuroscience of Coaching

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I am honored to be a Guest Editor for this 2021 volume of The Future of Coaching. I became fascinated with the application of neuroscience to the field of leadership development more than a decade ago. I devoured everything I could get my hands on, attended classes, workshops, and conferences. The more I learned, the more I could see how learning the basics of our biology validated the humanistic and soft skills theories I had been teaching and using in my executive coaching and leadership development practice. Employees contribute more when they feel safe, have clarity, are included, treated equally, aren’t put down, and are provided autonomy. Laboratory studies using MRI technology validate these principles. As the field of behavioral neuroscience has evolved, it’s offered hard scientific evidence that leaders can understand. Coaches who grasp these dynamics and learn how to apply neuroscientific approaches can be more effective.

This volume of The Future of Coaching features several articles related to the neuroscience of coaching.  I know many of you share my interest in this work and the articles in this issue provide intensely fascinating and truly important research applications for coaches and clients.

The first article, written by me and my co-author, Dr. Debra Pearce-McCall, a clinical psychologist, an expert in neurobiology, and a leadership coach, describes the results of a research study.  In 2016, Golden Gate University awarded me a two-year research professorship to broaden the graduate leadership/management curriculum at Golden Gate University in San Francisco.  This article describes the study, our findings, and implications for coaches.

To Reach Your Goal, Take a NeuroStroll™: A Neuroscience Based Approach to Goal Achievement

Dr. Ruth Zaplin, the Executive in Residence at American University and the architect of leadership training for senior leaders in the U.S. government, writes with profound clarity about the integration of adult learning and mindfulness to enhance executive coaching, specifically vertical integration development. This is a pioneering article.

Two Tools Are Better Than One: Mindfulness and Developmental Coaching for Leaders

Steve March, a former senior faculty member at New Ventures West coaching school and the founder of Aletheia, shares his groundbreaking methodology to assist coaching clients using memory reconsolidation to edit or erase negative emotional responses.

The Neuroscience of Enduring Transformation

Liz Guthridge, an executive coach and writer steeped in neuroscience, writes about building brain-friendly habits and why that is important to leaders.

Why and how you need to create a brain-friendly celebration habit

Gwen Cooper, an executive leadership coach and former CIA officer, writes about the importance of psychological safety for team coaching and illustrates with a story about her time in the CIA.

Team Coaching from an Embassy Evacuation Exercise

Dr. Mike Horne, an executive leadership coach and author of the newly released Integrity by Design, writes about authentic leadership growth. Employees pick up cues from leaders about who they can trust and who they can’t. Mike extrapolates this and makes a strong case for authentic coaching.

Authentic Leadership Growth in Executive Coaching Happens in Three Stages

Finally, Phil Dixon, the founder of the Oxford Brain Institute and the author of three books related to neuroscience and coaching, joined me for a video interview about his thoughts on what coaches need to know about neuroscience to be effective. Phil specifically emphasizes the usefulness of knowing what triggers us as coaches and what triggers our clients.  It’s a solid, wide-ranging conversation that I’m glad to share with you.

Phil Dixon: A Marcia Ruben Interview

We continue to learn about how our biology influences and is influenced by our attitudes and thinking—there’s definitely room for further issues on neuroscience.  Hope you enjoy what we’ve gathered for you in this one.

Marcia Ruben

Guest Editor

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