Thursday, July 31, 2014

Four Neuroscience and Learning Considerations for Group and Team Coaching

Four Neuroscience and Learning Considerations for Group and Team Coaching
Jennifer Britton, Copyright 2014. All Rights Reserved.

As someone who studied psychology in the late 1980s and early 1990s, taking many years of coursework on cognition and learning, I am fascinated at how what was once the experimental landscape of academia has become so mainstream in learning, and leadership. Today's blog post includes four considerations which stem from neuroscience and psychology to enhance your group and team coaching program

First, remember the latency and recency effect. The brain tends to remember the start and end of things. What are the core takeaways you would like people to leave with or remember the program afterwards. In the coaching process, this is one of the key reasons why I start with a check in  - what have you done since we last met? What have you accomplished? What do you want to focus on? - and check out - what have you learned? What are you taking forward? What are you committed to doing before our next conversation - in order to keep a focus on what's really important for the client.

Second, Fight or flight - Under times of stress, we can experience an amygdala highjacking, which some researchers say take us back to the reptilian brain. Under stress, or threat, we may want to move to a innate response of fighting or running away. In a team or group coaching process, it is important to notice when stress reactions may occur due to conflict, moving out of comfort zones, or when trust and connection is not there.

In terms of program design, think through how group and team members are going to get to know each other and trust each other so they can move into deeper and more challenging discussions, as well as sequencing - moving from lower risk to higher risk (for the group and/or individual).

Third, the role of mirror neurons. I came across a great article by Joshua Freeman in Forbes who writes about neuroscience and learning in his article "The Neuroscience at the Heart of Learning and Leading". In the article he writes about the discovery of mirror neurons. These neurons are significant in the imprinting of others - for example, the role of mentors and others who have significant impact. Freeman writes, "“Mirror neurons seem to be a bridge between our thinking, feeling, and actions—and between people,” says Iacobini. “This may be the neurological basis of human connectedness, which we urgently need in the world today.”

Finally, the idea of a social brain has evolved over the years, grounded in the belief that the brain too needs and thrives through interaction with others. View a TedEx talk with neuroscientist Matthew Lieberman here. His book published last year is called Social: Why our Brains are Wired to Connect. You can read more about this and other items in an Atlantic article by Emily Esfahani Smith entitled Social Connection Makes A Better Brain here.  

Team and group coaching are grounded in the peer element and interactions with others. I continue to see the impact on goals and results peers and others play when coaching many. What do you see about how the role of others in these modalities differs from an individual coaching conversation?

As someone who  worked in the field of as community development for decades, it's fascinating to read what does happen through our social interaction. Emily's article also delves into the impact volunteerism plays in happiness, another key component of community development.

Interested in learning more about neuroscience? Here are some initial links to explore that I came across which you might want to check out:

What other resources would you recommend?

Have a great week,

Jennifer Britton, BSc, MES, PCC
Author of From One to Many: Best Practices for Team and Group Coaching (Jossey-Bass, 2013) and Effective Group Coaching (Wiley, 2009)

Join us for an August program by phone. Upcoming August programs include:
Group Coaching Essentials teleseminar (6.75 CCEs with ICF): Wednesdays 10 - 11:15 am ET: August 12 - Sept 10
Mentor Coaching Group (for ACC Renewal and ACC/PCC portfolio): Thursdays 9-10 am ET: starting August 13 or Fridays 9-10 am ET starting September 12 (by phone)
Summer Virtual Business Planning Retreat - Friday August 15 (9-3 pm ET) - by phone

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