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Coaching is meeting individuals where they are and supporting them to get to where they want to go. Coaching is done in a conversation. The conversation has a beginning middle and end. Great coaches utilize the art and science of coaching. The science of coaching includes competencies like listening, reflecting, questioning, presence and feedback. The art of coaching includes utilizing tools at the right time to ensure the client arrives at their preferred outcome.

As a leader, we operate out of the anxious brain or the curious brain. The anxious brain experiences fear, judgement, a sense of perfection, must be right, wants to avoid threat and is closed. The hormone released during this time is cortisol.   The curious brain focuses on the positive, remains open, seeks to understand and demonstrates self-compassion. The curious brain seeks novel experiences, categorizes well and can determine cause and effect. Oxytocin is the chemical released during this time. This chemical has a way of decreasing fear, improving curiosity and allows for relationship.

I began to reflect on how often I am in the anxious brain mode vs. the curious brain mode. I must say that I think I am in the  anxious brain quite frequently. There is no wrong or right about this focus as we are built to toggle between anxious and curious. The anxious brain has its advantages as we think about addressing a real threat. 

In coaching, we must start with the climate and help the client open their mind. From there we can move to context, what is happening in the leader’s current state of mind. Creating climate is about framing the session and helping them generate options and next steps. Most individuals enter the conversation with the anxious brain.

Coaching is also very focused on helping the individual take positive and productive action.  Our behavior is a function of what Kurt Lewin, the German Psychologist calls a Systems Perspective – Behavior = Environment X Person.  In other words, it is not just our individual personalities that impact behavior, it is a function of the person’s environment.  The environmental pressures have significant impact on how leaders perform.   A great coach considers environment and the person. 

How often are you spending your day in the anxious brain vs. the curious brain?  How is your current environment impacting the way you lead?