ICF Paris International Quiet Leadership with Dr David Rock, 28th March 2018

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Personal reflections and learnings from our breakfast meeting with Dr David Rock, by Jo Leymarie, ICF Paris International co-organiser


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Hot on the heels of our one-day workshop with Dr Patricia Riddell on Coaching and the Brain, ICF Paris International was delighted to welcome Dr David Rock founder of the Neuro Leadership Institute for a Café Coach on Neuroscience and Coaching. This topic seems to be growing in its impact and importance and we were privileged to have David share with us his 21 years of experience in this area.

David has spent many years developing and perfecting a framework for coaching autonomous people. He likes to describe it as “solutions focused” and “fast but not rushed”, and says that his goal is to have clients get to insight as soon as possible, because, after all, insights are what bring on change, and that is what coaching is all about.

It was when David started researching neuroscience in 2003 that he realised that he had found a language that could cover all aspects of change and how to approach it.

So what is an insight?

It can also be described as an “aha” moment, that instant when your perceptions shift, when things become clear. It’s actually the moment when something moves from our unconscious to our conscious and keeps coming back. David told us that insight actually changes the brain. He asked us to think back to a moment when we had last had an insight ; Who were we with? Where were we sitting? Remembering these details helps us to remember the insight.

It also helps to have a growth mindset – a belief that we can learn and improve. Maybe not at everything, I’m not about to master quantum physics, but I can continue developing and improving on an ongoing basis.

Where does this insight come from?

One of the highlights from Patricia Riddell’s workshop was the two systems of thinking – fast and slow, system 1 and 2, or as David call’s them conscious and non-conscious.

We’re all familiar with the Conscious mind, the one that does the maths about buying that new house, the hard work, weighing up the pros and cons, calculating how long it will take to get from A to B and what steps need to be taken along the way. However, studies such as the one David cited by David Cresswell (1) have taught us that the conscious mind can only compute up to four variables at a time. It turns out though that the non-conscious is much more powerful, in fact it has stored everything I’ve ever known, done or read.

So my only problem now is to find out how to access it!

Quiet Leadership with Dr David Rock ICF Paris International, 28th March 2018 By Jo Leymarie

What will help me tap in to the full power of my unconscious mind?

One of the first things to do is to set an intention as this will create an under the surface awareness. Plug in a question before going off to do something completely different, just plant the idea and see what comes out the other side. And this is where coaching can help, because, as David says, having a salient goal enables the unconscious mind to focus more precisely. Make the goal sticky, make it visual, and make it inspiring so that it creates emotion.

It’s the emotion that will create a dopamine spike above the normal electrical activity of the brain and that’s the signal we’re looking for.

But where it becomes particularly interesting, is when we look more closely at the electrical activity of the brain. It turns out that conscious thought is actually noisy. Thinking about that difficult meeting tomorrow, or even consciously thinking about how I want to respond to you when you stop talking, is actually going to make it a lot harder for me to get any insights.

When we’re coaching what we want is for our clients to have as many insights as possible. Whilst we can’t force clients to have insights we can help create the conditions where the probability of insights is more likely to happen.

David gives four conditions that help insights to emerge:

  1. The brain is quiet

  2. The brain is internally focused

  3. We are slightly positive – not over excited as that creates too much noise – but curious.

  4. We are not consciously looking for insights.

To help our clients get to this state we can ask them questions to help them think about their thinking ; “How long have you been thinking about this?”, “How many strategies have you tried?”.

This process of meta-cognition will enable the non-conscious to bring forth insights.

As coaches we know that our clients have all the answers, it turns out that neuroscience can now prove why!

I would like to thank Dr David Rock for such an “insightful” and value packed session.
You can find out more about Dr David Rock and his work here www.neuroleadership.com

(1) DavidCresswellarticlehttps://hbr.org/2012/09/three-ways-to-think-deeply-at-work

Article written by Jo Leymarie, March 2018


Quiet Leadership with Dr David Rock ICF Paris International, 28th March 2018 By Jo Leymarie