Recent advances in neuroscience have enhanced coaching capacity to understand the inner awareness that leaders often neglect. This has a significant impact on coaches who wish to excel in transforming thinking and results in an organizational context.
Have you considered how potentially empowering it is to equip leaders from the inside out to make wise decisions and to more effectively influence and collaborate with others?
We believe that the most powerful resource is that aspect of attention we call the Wise Advocate, which represents our approach to the practical application of mindfulness in the workplace.
The Wise Advocate is the voice within, the mind-oriented, dispassionate perspective of a clear-minded observer. This inner voice may not be obvious to everyone, but it is always there.
How do we develop the capacity to tune into the Wise Advocate?
The interaction between mind and brain is central to the Wise Advocate hypothesis. The mind is active in a way that the brain is not.
You can choose where to focus your attention, and your choices made, in the mind, which will eventually affect the physical makeup of your brain. This phenomenon is called self-directed neuroplasticity.
When making a business decision, leaders are likely to focus attention in one of two ways:
The Low Road pattern of mental activity uses a functional center of the brain we term the Reactive Self-Referencing Centre. This function is activated by questions like, “What do I want, and what do others want?” “What’s in it for me, and what’s in it for them?”
These questions are typical of Low-Road thinking.
Exhibit One: High Road and Low Road reprinted with permission from “The Neuroscience of Strategic Leadership” by Jeffrey Schwartz, Josie Thomson and Art Kleiner from strategy+business, published by certain member firms of the PwC network. © 2016 PwC. All rights reserved. PwC refers to the PwC network and/or one or more of its member firms, each of which is a separate legal entity. Please see www.pwc.com/structure for further details. No reproduction is permitted in whole or part without written permission of PwC. “strategy+business” is a trademark of PwC.
The High Road pattern of mental activity uses a functional center of the brain we term the Deliberative Self-Referencing Centre. This function is activated by questions like, “What are others thinking, and what will others do?” These kinds of strategic questions are described by neuroscientists using the term mentalizing: What is he/she thinking, and what will he/she do? These questions are typical of High-Road thinking.
Coaches are advantageously and strategically positioned to encourage this line of inquiry and reflection, hence strengthening leaders’ capacity to consult and partner with their Wise Advocate.
One practical way for leaders to discover their own Wise Advocate is by learning to use the Deliberative Self-Referencing Centre.
This kind of mental activity is also profoundly associated with what is classically known as mindfulness (i.e., What am I thinking, what am I paying attention to, and am I attending to my Wise Advocate?).
Why is this important for coaches? Cultivating mindful awareness in leaders, by encouraging them to consult their Wise Advocate, will place them on the High Road. Unless they apply effort, their brains will automatically push them toward the reactive responses of the Low Road because the Low Road is largely controlled by the habit center. The habit center directs behavior in automatic ways that we are generally not consciously aware of, significantly constricting our capacity for adaptive strategic leadership, creativity and innovative practices.
When leaders focus their attention on the High Road of their minds, they will continually strengthen their associated executive brain circuits, giving rise to goal-directed responses and strategic planning.
Over time, this practice will give them a greater facility for wise leadership, the kind of leadership that allows people to navigate large organizations with a Wise Advocate frame of mind toward seemingly impossible goals.
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Join Josie at ICF Converge 2017, where she will be presenting the session “Coaching on the ‘High Road’ Less Traveled” on Friday, August 25, in the Converge University neighborhood.
ICF Converge 2017: The Intersection of Coaching & Potential is ICF’s first global event since 2012. It is taking place August 24-26, 2017 in Washington, D.C., USA at the Washington Marriot Wardman Park.
Connect with the conversation on Facebook and with the event hashtag #ICFConverge.
Josie Thomson, MCC combines fifteen years of corporate experience with BHP, and almost two decades of coaching to corporate executives, entrepreneurs and community leaders. She is a multiple-award-winning coach, speaker, trainer, mentor, author, single mother and three-time cancer survivor. Josie has consulted with private and corporate client companies world-wide. She is ambassador for Childhood Cancer Support and has completed graduate studies in neuroscience of leadership. Josie was awarded the International Gold Stevie Award for Maverick of the Year (Difference Maker) for 2014 and 2015, the Women In Business Coach/Mentor of the Year 2014 Silver Award in New York City and is a former Telstra Business Woman of the Year Finalist. Combining personal experience, passion for enhancing human potential and studies, Josie shares exciting scientific advances in the field of strategic coaching and leadership to provide answers and tools to increase effectiveness in facilitating superior and sustainable change and results. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Josie’s book, co-authored with Dr. Jeffrey M Schwartz and Art Kleiner, will be published by Columbia University Press in 2018, and licensed training will be available soon.
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