Become A Brain-Friendly Coach: Using Brain Health Knowledge In Coaching

Silvia Damiano
5 min read

Understanding how the human brain functions is important to help improve its health. How can we change what we do not understand? To better teach others to lead, we need to educate ourselves regarding neuroscience, and then we can apply this knowledge to support those around us.

The i4 Neuroleader Certification and the Diploma of Neurobiology of Coaching, Wellbeing and Brain-Friendly Practices are aimed at anyone (not just coaches) interested in personal development, coaching skills development and the application of brain-based leadership. 

This program will help you blend modern technology and the latest research on brain health with coaching methods, updating your toolbox to truly become brain-friendly. By integrating the latest advances in neuroscience and technology, you will gain access to a range of processes and resources that can enhance your coaching practice. 

With the integration of technology, you can track and analyse clients’ progress more effectively, providing valuable insights into their cognitive and emotional patterns. By leveraging these insights, you can tailor your coaching approach to target specific areas for growth and development, optimising the coaching experience for each individual.

Using Technology to Peer into the Brain

It was such a pleasure to speak with Flor Pedrola an executive coach and i4 Neuroleader™ Practitioner in Madrid, Spain. A career economist, Flor has over 20 years of experience in training leaders and talent development. You will find our Brain-Friendly Channel interview with Flor below 👇

Flor is one of the Faculty members of the upcoming ‘Neurobiology of Coaching’ program. She will be sharing her personal experiences and those from her professional life. While an economist does not seem like the first choice to be interested in becoming a ‘neuroleader’, she knows that understanding the basics of our biology means better coaching and better outcomes.

Taking advantage of the knowledge emerging from technological advances when it comes to brain scans is important to offer clients a better understanding of how the brain works and how it impacts our leadership. In years past, we could not visualise what was happening in the brain in real-time, but now we have access to this technology.

Brain imaging can help us gain valuable insights into brain activity and potentially contribute to the development of better leaders. Some of the ways we can utilise this technology include:

  • Understanding brain functions: Specific types of brain scans can help identify brain regions associated with various cognitive processes, emotions, decision-making and social behaviours. This knowledge can enhance our understanding of the underlying neural mechanisms contributing to effective leadership.
  • Neurofeedback training: This technology can be used to provide real-time feedback on brain activity, allowing individuals to learn to self-regulate and optimise their cognitive and emotional states, which can lead to improved decision-making, emotional intelligence and interpersonal skills.
  • Individualised leadership development: All of the above can help tailor leadership development programs, personalising the coaching intervention to enhance specific cognitive or emotional competencies crucial for leaders.

When Neuroscience and Coaching Blend = Neurocoaching

A better understanding of the brain equates to a better understanding of human behaviour and why we do what we do. Essentially, neuroscience explains the why, and we now have the technology that allows us to see this in action.

A coach with knowledge of neuroscience will be more effective than coaches who do not take brain functioning into account.

Life is unpredictable, and sometimes we face difficult circumstances. For some of these situations, we can buckle down and solve the problem. However, some problems are too big for one person or group to solve. Unfamiliar circumstances mean we may need to branch out and look for information, research and alternative ideas.

Flor shared a story about her son and her own journey for information to help him. She spoke with experts worldwide to progress her knowledge regarding neurobiology and the brain. During this discovery, she realised the information would carry over to her coaching and mentoring career.

Flor said the key is to help others advance in more balanced and sustainable ways. How do clients respond to this education? Most clients become fascinated and amazed at their untapped potential. These are the moments when all the ingredients seem to click, and people can see true growth.

Everything we do, every thought we’ve ever had, is produced by the human brain. But exactly how it operates remains one of the biggest unsolved mysteries, and it seems the more we probe its secrets, the more surprises we find.

Neil deGrasse Tyson

Diploma of Neurobiology of Coaching, Wellbeing & Brain-Friendly Practices

A Brief Lesson on Human Anthropology

Why do things suddenly click? We’ve all had those ‘a-ha’ moments, but can we use science to increase the frequency of these moments? According to Flor, there are four dimensions to a human within anthropology.

The four dimensions are often categorised as biological, psychological, social, and cultural or spiritual.

  1. Biological dimension: This dimension focuses on the physical aspects of human beings. It includes the study of human evolution, genetics, physiology, anatomy and other biological factors that influence human behaviour and characteristics.
  2. Psychological dimension: The psychological dimension pertains to the study of human cognition, emotions, personality and mental processes. It explores how individuals perceive, think, feel and behave and how these factors shape human experiences and interactions.
  3. Social dimension: The social dimension examines how individuals interact and form relationships with others within a society. It encompasses the study of social structures, institutions, norms, roles and the influence of social factors on human behaviour and identity. 
  4. Spiritual dimension: This includes studying human culture, beliefs, values and practices. It includes the examination of cultural diversity, rituals, symbols, religion, worldview and the role of spirituality in shaping human experiences and meaning-making. 

These dimensions are interconnected and together provide a holistic understanding of human beings. They recognise that humans are complex beings influenced by all of these factors. Anthropology seeks to study and integrate these dimensions to gain insights into the diversity and complexity of human existence. 

When parts of this system are changed, the brain must be modified to return to balance. Flor speaks about how she was only utilising three dimensions when coaching initially, psychological (helping to change personal beliefs), social (helping to improve communication styles) and spiritual (working on personal goals or a vision for the future). However, she had the feeling that something was missing.

Neurobiology was the missing piece. Looking at the whole human being, we can help achieve a sustainable balance and a higher level. Examining humans from an anthropological perspective helps us get to this higher level.

An Example of Neurobiology in Action

Flor offered a personal story about a former client who was considered a highly regarded leader. However, about half of his employees were on other continents, so people were spread out around the world. Many of these relationships were forced to be online.

Her client decided this would not work long term. He then changed his sleep hours to accommodate the needs of his employees and clients. Unfortunately, things did not turn out how he wanted. The adjusted sleep hours affected him negatively, and his sleep impacted the other dimensions of his leadership.

Even though her client did not realise that sleep was becoming a problem, months later, the negative results were noticeable. Flor coached him and used neuroscience to teach him how to create a new vision, management system and improved self-talk so he could rebalance his leadership methods and improve his condition.

Sleep is only one aspect of our whole self, but sleep is essential. Leaders who get the right amount of quality sleep experience enhanced cognitive performance, emotional regulation, productivity, leadership presence and overall health. As Flor’s client found, prioritising sleep helps leaders operate at their best and effectively lead their teams towards success.

A Six-Month Journey of Discovery on the Road to Brain-Friendly Leadership

Incorporating the biological dimension brings the total package together. Coaches who embark on this six-month journey will learn many aspects of brain-friendly leadership. They will hopefully become empowered to feel and know how to use this information to help others. 

Understanding ourselves is necessary before we can coach others. If we are uncertain about applying neurobiology to our lives, how can we lead others to implement it in their lives? 

There is so much to learn about the brain, and the Neurobiology of Coaching, Wellbeing & Brain-Friendly Practices program will reiterate how much of an impact the brain has on every aspect of our lives. Coaches will know they are at their best as coaches.

Neurocoaching gives us the tools to be more effective, improve performance and inspire others to become better leaders. 

Advances in neuroscience will continue, and we must all upgrade our skills with this new knowledge. I am very excited to introduce Flor Pedrola to you all, and I know that you will find her thoughts and insights to be supportive as you begin this journey, not only for your clients but for yourself.

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Originally posted on: 29 May 2023
Last updated on: 18 February 2024
Silvia Damiano

Silvia Damiano

Founder & CEO
About my Brain Institute

Scientist, educator, author, speaker, coach, award-winning leadership specialist, filmmaker and creator of the i4 Neuroleader Model & Methodology.

Silvia's scientific background and curiosity about the human brain led her to a decade long journey of research into optimal brain functioning and the application of neuroscience in leadership and daily life. Her past and current roles have uniquely prepared her for the current undertaking, that of leadership activist & change agent.

Silvia Damiano founded The About my Brain Institute in 2009, with the purpose of democratising leadership & neuroscience. She has a passionately held belief, that leaders in our 21st century global economy and their organisations must radically change long-held ideas of what constitutes effective leadership

In her ground-breaking books ‘Leadership is Upside Down’, ‘Brain-Friendly Leadership’ and the 2018 documentary ‘Make Me A Leader’, Silvia provides both compelling evidence and explores the importance of leadership in our personal and professional lives and what it takes to develop the human behind the leader.

Silvia has worked in different countries, across many industries, helping teams and organisations improve business performance. Silvia’s clients have described her as a passionate, dynamic, a highly experienced speaker and master facilitator on the topics of Emotional Intelligence, Cultural Change, Neuroleadership & Engagement.

Silvia is passionate about leaving a legacy of well-rounded leaders who can act and decide in a way that better serves humanity. Her clients include Microsoft, Australian Stock Exchange, NSW Government, VISA, Fuji Xerox and Manpower amongst many other global companies.

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