The use of coaches to help executives, professionals and leaders to help achieve their business goals has grown exponentially over the past 20 years.  Is this a crazy new fad?  Or, is there something more to coaching?  Coaching, clearly, is not a fad.  It is being used by many Fortune 500 companies and by professional firms and entrepreneurs.  Now, the study of neuroscience supports the efficacy of coaching.

In the article “The Neuroscience of Leadership” in Strategy+Business, David Rock and Jeffrey Schwartz describe what happens at the neurological level when a person gets their own insight.

Rock and Schwartz tell us that, for an insight to be useful, it must be self-generated.  So, in practical terms, if I figure it out for myself, I will own that insight and be much more likely to act on it.  An insight often brings with it the realization that something must change in the current situation.  One study found sudden bursts of gamma waves in the brain appearing just before insight was achieved.  It seems that the light bulb actually does go on in our brains when we get insight!  This brain activity is accompanied with a rush of adrenaline, which causes euphoria – and possibly helps to fight against the discomfort of change so that we are able to act on our insights.

Coaching, with its style of asking questions and reflecting back, encourages and facilitates coachees to have insights.  The coach is the thought partner and the coachee does all of the “figuring out”.  The coaching process supports the light bulb to go on.  When you work with a coach, you will develop your insights quickly in a focused environment.  Because the insights are your own, you will be fully bought-in and with the accountability framework that your coach will develop with you, more likely to change your behaviours and achieve success.

Confucius may have been able to elucidate it:

“Tell me, and I will forget. Show me and I may remember. Involve me, and I will understand.”
Now we have the science to prove it!