7Feb/130

The Unconscious Leader in You

Posted by Jacquie Nagy

By Jacquie Nagy, Founder and WABC Certified Business Coach, Holistic Directions Inc.

Watch a pre-verbal baby, snuggling in his mother’s arms, and notice the unwavering intensity of their shared gaze. As the mother’s smile increases, the baby breaks the rhythm of feeding, pauses briefly, and something magical happens...he cracks his first smile. Without any conscious thought, you find yourself smiling too!

This is an example of an exquisite exchange of love – as well as a highly primitive cognitive phenomenon known as unconscious ‘modelling’.

How is it we accept this deeply neurological connection between humans to understand how babies learn to ‘walk and talk’, form values between right and wrong, and acquire cultural and generational influences -- yet we are slow to acknowledge this same ‘transfer of neural data’ is ubiquitous between mature adults - whether in the home, the social scene or the corporate office?

The answer to this question is waiting in the shadows – about to be revealed.

Propelled by vast advancements in lab and brain imaging technologies, the field of study known as neuroscience has exploded in the past decade. An audacious discovery of how humans are unconsciously connected via what is now known as the brain’s ‘mirror neurons’ was substantiated in findings published by Rizzolatti (1996) .

Studies done in the early 1990’s first using monkeys and more recently human beings, showed how certain neurons in several parts of the brain are discharged both when a monkey (or human) performs a certain motor act (e.g., grasping an object) and when it (monkey or human) observes another individual performing that or another similar motor act.

At the forefront in the study of human potential is the field of NLP – Neuro Linguistic Programming. In the early 1970’s, more than twenty years before mirror neurons were known to exist, NLP co-creators Richard Bandler and John Grinder explicated patterns of human functioning through a process of unconscious (mirror neuron) uptake of the excellent performance of several people that were considered to be genius’ in their field of endeavour. While they didn’t have scientific evidence for what they were doing back then, they created a process, now referred to as ‘Real NLP Modeling’ that can be understood explicitly based on Rizzolati’s neurological findings.

The earliest models in NLP, originally applied as approaches within the field of therapy, were designed for establishing and maintaining deep rapport between individuals and to calibrate unconscious physiological responses. For it is through the establishment of an ‘unconscious connection’ – outside the awareness of the individual – that deep rapport exists, much similar to the rapport between mother and child.

So knowing this, what happens when the behaviours and actions of leaders are being modelled by the people closest to them via the unconscious activation of mirror neurons? How easy is it to mimic the behaviours of other humans? Observe a busy social bar scene and you’ll find ample evidence.

Most people can cite examples where they were affected by another person’s ‘mood’ or ‘state’. In environments where people are operating in close proximity (and have established rapport) the transfer of one person’s ‘energy’ can happen in a flash. What if the boss’s day isn’t going as planned? Unless the boss has developed the skills to quickly shift their internal state, unconsciously they will be sending out mirror neuron generating ‘vibes’ that can quickly impact the performance of the entire team. And like a row of dominoes, once an unresourceful state is activated it can be a challenge to ‘shake it off’.

So, if our brains are hard wired to map behaviours of another person without us even knowing - how can we stop it? And how self aware are we of the type of vibes we’re sending out to others?

In our rapidly advancing society, a lack of self awareness is no longer an accepted excuse for not changing one’s behaviour. Employers are beginning to understand the impact of the lack of self awareness, and the ability to monitor one’s own performance is readily becoming a highly sought after skill.

Interest in holistic self management tools is growing rapidly. A recent model, New Code NLP (by co-creators Dr John Grinder and Carmen Bostic St Clair) is designed specifically for autonomous self coaching. A foundational principle is a connection with the unconscious to tap into tacit skills and knowledge stored below conscious awareness. With an ‘attention to intention’; change at the level of state; and identifying pre-conscious triggers as choice points for new behaviours - New Code NLP is highly effective and ecological. This is encouraging news for anyone seeking tools to monitor their own performance, for autonomy and continuous self improvement.

Mahatma Gandhi once said, “Be the change you want to see in the world”. Leaders can learn to develop unconscious rapport, get clear about their intentions, and by ‘modeling’ the performance they want from others, ‘be the change they want to see’. Excellent people near to them, whether they are paying attention, or not – will mimic the desired performance under the radar, via their mirror neuron connection.

Sources

Mirror neurons: from discovery to autism, Giacomo Rizzolatti · Maddalena Fabbri-Destro, Published online: 18 September 2009 © Springer-Verlag 2009

Coaching with Neuro Linguistic Programming (NLP), by Bill Phillips and Alessandro de Vita Zublena of ADZ Conseil Coaching for Leaders, and The International Coaching Group based in Lausanne, Switzerland.

Whispering in the Wind, by Carmen Bostic St Clair and John Grinder. ISBN 0-9717223-0-7

Jacquie NagyJacquie Nagy is an International Training Academy (ITA) Certified Neuro Linguistic Programming (NLP) Trainer and Coach (ITANLP-Dr. John Grinder, Carmen Bostic St. Clair, Michael Carroll of the NLP Academy, UK.), WABC Certified Business Coach , Certified Adult Educator (CAE) and has over 25 years experience as a successful corporate and private business leader and trainer. She is the founder and owner of Holistic Directions Inc. based in Winnipeg, Manitoba. Her ‘BE YOURSELF’ coaching and leadership courses provide resources for autonomous, self-directed personal growth. Workshops are designed so learning is experiential leading to a higher sense of self awareness, authenticity, more resourceful actions, and clarity of outcomes and intentions - so you can take control of your personal and professional development. Take the first steps to your bigger and better life now. Visit www.holisticdirections.com for more information.

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31Jan/130

What Is Neuroleadership?

By Dr. Annette Fillery-Travis

We in the UK are finally emerging from a rather long and cold winter. The sun is showing up before we arrive at the office and overall there is a renewed spring in the step of my fellow commuters on the 6.40 a.m. train to London. The coming of spring also heralds the start of the conference season and I am sitting here preparing to give a keynote next week and wondering what my audience will find most exciting in the recent coaching research.

On reflection, my most stimulating reading this year has not been in coaching at all but in our related disciplines. The learning and development literature has always provided rich pickings in the past and psychology is a constant source of insight, but there are other literatures which have some rich contributions to make to our practice. One field in particular has been mentioned by every doctoral student I have interviewed this year: neuroscience, the study of the brain and its influence on the mind.

My first reaction to the evolving area of neuroleadership was one of scepticism: "Oh no, not another bandwagon claiming to be the answer to life, the universe, and coaching." However, upon mentioning neuroleadership on a researcher discussion board, I was met with such an extreme and mixed reaction that my interest was immediately raised. Yes, there is always a temptation to flock to any new area that by its very name implies 'scientific credibility,' but how does it extend our understanding? The researcher in me was awakened and I started to ask "What's going on here?"

A little context is useful to start with: Neuroscience has been an important area of medical inquiry since the first trepanning 'operations' in early civilizations. Its discoveries have informed medical and therapeutic interventions for centuries. The tools it had at its disposal were fairly blunt (sorry for the pun!) and required elegant research on injured or diseased brains to come as far as it has. The results have had impacts not only in therapy but in the learning and development arena. Good training designs have used neuroscientific research to provide optimum learning environments for their participants. The real explosion in interest in recent years has come from the development of noninvasive probes for assessing brain function. Functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging and related spectrometries have allowed  a glimpse into the brain as it works. This dramatic improvement in the 'probe' has illuminated a whole new area of work-that of the functioning of the healthy brain in real time as it deals with stress, emotions, and everything life has to throw at it. The result is an upsurge in researchers choosing to work in the field and a burst of creative activity in identifying applications. Neuroleadership and neuromarketing are but two. Research is starting to map the physiological bases of many of our human behaviors and preferences.

This explosion in activity and creativity is occurring at the intersection between two disciplines: neuroscience and leadership. As social learning theorist Etienne Wenger1 reminds us, it is at the 'interface' between two communities that creativity can be unleashed, but also where there is most discord as new paradigms emerge. There will always be detractors from both sides of the interface who feel that those working at the intersection are not doing justice to their original discipline and that multidisciplinary work is somehow of less worth.

There has been good reason for such caution in the past when there has not been a full collaboration between researchers from both sides and a new program or model is launched without being validated by research. Often, the interpretation of the research has been inappropriate to the new application and 'a little knowledge is a dangerous thing' has proved to be true.

So we as researchers need to keep a critical eye on what is happening, as there is a temptation to be blinded by the unfamiliar science and to let our enthusiasm run away with itself. Luckily, I have some background in Magnetic Resonance Imaging and have been able to read the literature from both sides of the neuroleadership interface. The field looks promising and I look forward to seeing how it will develop.

But how can we critically engage with this type of multidisciplinary work in the future so we as a profession don't go down a blind alley, but maintain appropriate standards of evidence?

Interrogating my own criteria, I have come up with the following points:

  1. There should be a clear collaboration between researchers from both fields so each is able to 'police' the other.
  2. The research progress is stepwise and cautious, NOT a giant leap, i.e., the claims for the approach do not outstrip the evidence and you are not being asked to believe that one experiment with mice in a laboratory means that all humans do XYZ.
  3. Good research practice is observed in all publications and evidence is provided from both sides.
  4. The researchers are clear about when the approach doesn't work as well as when it does. For me, this shows real authority in a piece of work.

This isn't an exhaustive list but one to prompt your own reflections. Have fun at the neuroscience-leadership interface, but let's keep it real and relevant.

This article first appeared in Business Coaching Worldwide (June Issue 2010, Volume 6, Issue 2). Copyright © 2013 WABC Coaches Inc. All rights reserved.

Worth Reading

David Rock has been the major leader in neuroleadership and his book with Linda Page is highly readable and relevant:

Rock, D. and Page, L. Coaching with the Brain in Mind: Foundations for Practice(Wiley: NJ, 2009).

1Wenger, E., Communities of Practice: Learning, Meaning and Identity(Cambridge University Press, 1998).

 

Dr. Annette Fillery-Travis is a senior researcher and education coach with the Professional Development Foundation. The author of more than 60 research articles and studies, her recent book The Case for Coaching, presenting a literature review with research case studies and interviews from over 20 organisations on coaching efficacy, was published in 2006 by CIPD, UK. Contact Annette.
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24Jan/130

Achieving Your Desired Outcomes

On the Sunny Side
Achieving Your Desired Outcomes

By Dr. Sunny Stout Rostron

The focus of the coaching conversation is to help the client work toward achieving their desired outcomes. It is in this process, where coach and client reflect on the client's experience, that the potential for learning and action emerges. Business coaching has been defined in many different ways, but is essentially a one-on-one collaborative partnership designed to develop the client's performance and potential, personally and professionally, in alignment with the goals and values of the organization. Business coaching should be aligned strategically with the overall values and objectives of an organization.

However, an important question is raised for executives: if goals are to be motivationally achieved, are they also aligned with the individual's values, beliefs, and feelings? Often organizations merely pay lip service to organizational values, and don't necessarily create them as a synthesis of the core individual values that make up the culture of the organization. Ethical dilemmas can arise during the coaching process if the executive needs to make difficult choices that are incompatible with their own value system.

Goals, Motivation, and Performance

If you wish to help your clients improve their behavior and performance, it is useful to understand the psychology behind adult behavior, goals, and motivation. Alfred Adler, who worked with Sigmund Freud for ten years, reasoned that adult behavior is purposeful and goal-directed, and that life goals provide individual motivation. He focused on personal values, beliefs, attitudes, goals, and interests, and recommended that adults engage in the therapeutic process and reinvent their futures using techniques such as "acting as if," role-playing, and goal setting. All these tools are utilized and recognized by well-qualified business coaches worldwide.

Motivational theories primarily focus on the individual's needs and motivations. I have typically worked with coaching clients to help them understand more fully their intrinsic motivators (internal drivers such as values, beliefs, and feelings), and how to use extrinsic motivators (external drivers such as relationships, bonuses, environment, and titles) to motivate their teams. If an individual's goals are not in alignment with their own internal, intrinsic drivers, there will be difficulties for them in achieving those goals.

In an International Coach Federation study (ICF, 2008a), Campbell confirmed that coaches often assume clients are aware of their values, but within the confines of the study this appeared to be incorrect. The clients interviewed indicated they were not aware of their values, and that acquiring a process of awareness and reflection led them to become more aware of their emotions, their values, and the need to clarify their goals. Whitmore (2002) supports this and states that the goal of the coach is to build awareness, responsibility, and self-belief.

The coach's intervention and questions help the client to discover their own intrinsic drivers or motivators, and allow both coach and client to identify whether the client's personal, professional, and organizational goals are in alignment.

Adult and Experiential Learning

Adult learning theory has influenced coaching from the start: the goal of adult learning is to achieve a balance between work and personal life. In the same way, most business coach-client relationships involve an integration of personal and systems work. Personal work is intended to help the client develop the mental, physical, emotional, and spiritual competence to achieve their desired goals; systems work may be found within a partnership, marriage, family, organizational team, or matrix structure.

Another powerful influence on goal-setting in coaching is experiential learning because it emphasizes a client's individual, subjective experience. In this process, coach and client probe the essence of an experience to understand its significance and to determine any learning that can be gained from it. The importance of experiential learning is that coach and client use the business coaching conversation to actively reconstruct the client's experience, with a focus on setting goals that are aligned with the client's intrinsic drivers, i.e., values, beliefs, and feelings.

Other considerations may be language, social class, gender, ethnic background, and the individual's style of learning. In learning from experience, it is useful to understand which barriers prevent the client from learning. Often it is a matter of developing self-reflective skills as much as self-management skills. What clients learn from their experience can transform their perceptions, their limiting and liberating assumptions, their way of interpreting the world - and their ability to achieve results.

Types of Goals

The coach is responsible for ensuring that goal-setting conversations get the best results. O'Neill (2000) differentiates between two kinds of client goals, business and personal, and links the coaching effort to a business result, highlighting and prioritizing the business areas that need attention. Business goals are about achieving external results; personal goals are what the leader has to do differently in the way they conduct themselves in order to get the business results they envision.

Yalom (1980) talks about two types of goals: content (what is to be accomplished) and process (how the coach wants to be in a session). However, he also describes the importance of setting concrete attainable goals - goals that the client has personally defined, and which increase their sense of responsibility for their own individual change.

Developmental Goal-setting

If the client is to learn how to learn, they need to cultivate self-awareness through reflection on their experience, values, intrinsic drivers, the impact of these on others, the environment, and their own future goals. This process is often implicit in the coaching relationship through the process of questions and actions that develop critical reflection and practice. As a coach, you will be asking questions to help clients reflect, review, and gain useable knowledge from their experience. A useful structure for your work with business executives is along the continuum of a development pipeline developed by David Peterson (2009). Your questions and challenges in your coaching sessions can help your clients reflect in five areas:

  1. Insight: How are you continually developing insight into areas where you need to develop?
  2. Motivation: What are your levels of motivation based on the time and energy you're willing to invest in yourself?
  3. Capabilities: What are your leadership capabilities; what skills, knowledge, and competencies do you still need to develop?
  4. Real-world practice: How are you continually applying your new skills at work?
  5. Accountability: How are you creating, defining, and taking accountability?

Business coaching places great emphasis on clarifying and achieving goals. Often within the complexity of the organizational environment, the client's overarching goals may be set by a more senior power; where that senior individual may have different worldviews, paradigms, and limiting or empowering assumptions. It is crucial that the client have a "living sense" of what their goal may be. In other words, goals must be aligned with the values of the individual as much as with those of the organization if they are to be achieved.

This article first appeared in Business Coaching Worldwide (June Issue 2010, Volume 6, Issue 2). Copyright © 2013 WABC Coaches Inc. All rights reserved.

References

Griffiths, K. E, and Campbell, M. A. (2008). Regulating the Regulators: Paving the Way for International, Evidence-Based Coaching Standards. International Journal of Evidence-Based Coaching and Mentoring6(1):19-31.

International Coach Federation (ICF). (2008a). Core Competencies. Lexington, KY: ICF. Webpage: http://www.coachfederation.org/research-education/icf-credentials/core-competencies/

International Coach Federation (ICF). (2008b). ICF Code of Ethics. Lexington, KY: ICF. Webpage: http://www.coachfederation.org/about-icf/ethics-%26-regulation/icf-code-of-ethics/

O'Neill, M. B. (2000). Coaching with Backbone and Heart: A Systems Approach to Engaging Leaders with Their Challenges. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

Peterson, D. (2009). Executive Coaching, A Critical Review and Recommendation for Advancing the Practice (in S. Zedeck (Ed.) Handbook of Industrial and Organizational Psychology. Washington DC: American Psychological Association.

Stout Rostron, S. (2009). Business Coaching International, Transforming Individuals and Organizations. London: Karnac.

Whitmore, J. (2002). Coaching for Performance: Growing People, Performance and Purpose. London: Nicholas Brealey.

Yalom, I. D. (1980). Existential Psychotherapy. New York: Basic Books.

This article first appeared in Business Coaching Worldwide (June Issue 2010, Volume 6, Issue 2). Copyright © 2013 WABC Coaches Inc. All rights reserved.

Dr. Sunny Stout Rostron, DProf, MA is an executive coach and consultant with a wide range of experience in leadership and management development, business strategy and executive coaching. The author of six books, including Business Coaching Wisdom and Practice: Unlocking the Secrets of Business Coaching(2009), Sunny is Director of the Manthano Institute of Learning (Pty) Ltd and founding president of COMENSA (Coaches and Mentors of South Africa). More about Sunny in the WABC Coach Directory. Contact Sunny.

If you wish to reproduce this article in any material form, you must first contact WABC for permission.
3Jan/130

Benchmarks Are Dangerous

Posted by WABC

By Howard Morgan and Cathy Swody

As leaders and coaches, we recognize how important it is for people to understand how they are performing. To increase understanding, we encourage the use of assessments and 360-degree feedback as tools for providing insights into leadership. Progressive clients even use employee surveys to inform leaders how well they are engaging their teams. We hope that these tools will provide a better understanding of the current situation in an organization and form the foundation for positive personal/organizational change.

Regardless of the type of assessment or feedback process, leaders frequently want to know how their scores compare to everyone else's scores. "Is this a good score?" "How do other people typically rate here?" These questions come as no surprise to any of us. People want to compare their results to a known standard or benchmark. Basically, we are all competitive and like any other competition, we want to perform at the highest level.  As companies, or individuals in companies, we want to know how good we are doing compared to the competition. But do we really want to know? If we do, relying on benchmarks from other companies to interpret a person's results can be problematic. In our own experience, we have seen the following three pitfalls in making these dangerous comparisons:

1. Benchmarks are ambiguous.

Uncertainty about what benchmark numbers truly represent limits their value. Benchmarks, in many ways, are a "black box." What goes in the box? The selection of companies represented in the benchmark is often biased. Benchmarks are not necessarily the best companies.  Rather, benchmarks typically reflect a sample of convenience-the best clients of a particular consulting firm, for instance. Even if details such as the industry, geographical location, and organizational size are supplied, the benchmark may not be a useful referent point. Such factors as the type of instrument and the commonality of the questions can also be challenges in uniquely different companies. Many times, it is unclear when the benchmark information was collected. For example, leaders are comparing their current performance to how other companies performed years ago. When it is unclear who exactly is in the benchmark andwhen the information was collected, making fair comparisons is nearly impossible.

2. Benchmarks are in the eye of the beholder.

When leaders score better than the benchmark, we have found that the benchmark serves as a "pat on the back" rather than a catalyst for better performance. Scoring lower than the benchmark is not a recipe for motivation either, as leaders often then criticize the validity of the benchmark. This draws away from the important question: How am I doing against my fullest potential?

3. Benchmarks distract people from real work.

Leaders do not improve by virtue of knowing how others leaders are doing. A focus on how everyone else is performing takes attention away from pursuing real results. Benchmarks add noise and are not actionable by themselves. Benchmarks don't offer solutions. They don't explain how to improve performance. At best, benchmarks encourage people to catch up with competitors, but not surpass them; benchmarks encourage mediocrity, but not superiority. This is similar to "teaching to the test" rather than fostering real learning.

Moving Beyond Benchmarks

If leaders and their coaches avoid the trap of benchmarks, what can be used instead to help leaders understand their results and motivate improvements? Our advice is to simply focus on information that provides real value. Within an organization, the best comparison numbers are inspirational. How does the person compare to the best leaders in the organization? What do scores look like in the parts of the organization with the best business results? Comparisons like these can provide leaders with context and help them understand their relative performance.

More importantly, it's time to remind ourselves why leaders ask for feedback from the people they work with. People ask for feedback as a way to hold a mirror up and see themselves as others see them. Let's forget about how leaders at unnamed companies were rated years ago. It doesn't matter. Instead, let's focus on the behaviors we see in the mirror and make the changes necessary to be successful.

This article first appeared in Business Coaching Worldwide (June Issue 2010, Volume 6, Issue 2). Copyright © 2013 WABC Coaches Inc. All rights reserved.

Howard Morgan and Cathy Swody are with the Leadership Research Institute. They specialize in helping leaders see the connection between their behavior, their efforts, and business performance metrics. Contact Howard and Cathy.

If you wish to reproduce this article in any material form, you must first contact WABC for permission.