The Howells Group Blog

Coaching and the Brain

coaching and neuroscience

Coaching seems to be all the rage. There are coaching courses, degrees and institutes. You can find a coach for relationships, health, spiritual development and even organic gardening. Though coaching may seem like yet another fad, I’m convinced it is here to stay. Why? Well, not just because I myself am a coach for leaders and teams and have had the joy of seeing amazing results in people’s work and lives. Or because I just acquired my first “formal” certification with the ICF after 20+ years of coaching leaders and managers in the workplace. Here are the top 3 reasons coaching resonates in today’s environment, and why you can set aside any cynicism you might have around the efficacy and impact of using a coach approach.

No 1. Staying current in both knowledge and skills in today’s hyper competitive/hyper speed world is hard – and essential  We’re now required to “learn in motion” – developing and practicing new skills and approaches while we’re actually in the game. Coaching provides people real-time expertise and guidance WHEN you need it.

No. 2  Coaching  also supplies the learning and skills HOW you need it. It’s the ultimate customized learning experience. Good coaching focuses on your specific learning and development needs,  not on generalized knowledge often addressed in a classroom. Though exceedingly valuable, no class can be completely tailored to you. Skilled coaching can. It provides the best possible learning environment for your personal needs .

No. 3  Most importantly, coaching works masterfully with how the brain functions best. Our brains are the most complex organ we possess and the most amazing “computer” in existence. Your brain contains between 50 and 100 billion neurons – that’s right – billion! Compare that to a monkey, one of the most intelligent primates who only has 10% of those neurons. And it’s not even the billions of neurons that make the brain amazing; it’s actually the number of connections these neurons make as they link together. When linked, these zeros get bigger; something like 10 followed by millions of zeroes, which is more than the estimated number of atoms in the known universe!  Our brains act as a way station for incoming stimuli – sorting, prioritizing, processing, storing and dumping input on a subconscious level. (For more information check out a great read by Eric Jensen, “Brain Based Learning”  or these excellent web resources: Brain PlasticityHow Learning Changes Your Brain)

Here’s the punch line explaining why coaching works so well; albeit the lay person’s version for those of us who are not neuroscientists, myself included. When you TELL or broadcast information to someone, their brains automatically begin looking for neurons to store this new information. That’s billions of neurons. For adults, many of these neurons are already quite full! This means that we have to “lift the lids” off those little neurons and find a place to store the data – that is, if the information is compelling enough to do all of this. However, when we are in a coaching conversation and a POWERFUL QUESTION is posed, we are looking for information stored AND finding what we already know before connecting it into the amazing network of our brain. New information is stored in neurons as old information is dumped. But, most importantly, we form new networks associating and linking together the information WE ALREADY HAVE! This creates powerful growth, new insight and is the essence of learning vs. simply “information storage”. The power of excellent coaching helps draw out and link together the massive information storage already present within us. Because the insight and solutions are most often generated by the learner and not the coach, there is an attachment to those insights and solutions and thus greater ownership to apply what’s learned into new actions and new behaviors. This is a point not to be missed. Coaching creates both the connection of information into new knowledge and the intrinsic motivation to act on it.

Because I believe in the POWER of coaching to help us learn, I’m offering one COMPLIMENTARY COACHING SESSION for you to experience coaching. Email us at to schedule your complimentary session!

And if you are a female leader looking to develop and expand your leadership skills in a supportive environment, check out our two programs IGNITE and ADVANCE. Each participant receives coaching during the group sessions, as well as 4 1:1 sessions.

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