The neuroscience of coaching

Josef Gardiner
March 19, 2023


Part of what  neuroscience suggests that is really relevant in coaching is that we've got two networks in our brains: the default mode network and the task positive network. The default mode network was actually discovered whilst neuroscientists were studying the task positive network.

The task positive network is the part of our brain that is lit up when we are really focused on a particular task, such as responding to emails or delivering a presentation. We're using this task positive network a lot in our work.  If we were in an MRI whilst we were doing these kinds of things, that's the part of our brains that would be lit up.

When we're not in that active space, we're resting back into what is called the default mode network. The default mode network is where we're actually far more creative, far more expansive and a lot more reflective. We're not actually on the task, we're in a reflective space and the default mode network is what is lit up when we're in this space.

Most of my executive coaching clients spend a lot of time with the task positive network firing away at full spped, which is great because that's what enables them to be a functioning executive leader, or team player. However, in coaching, the goal is to invite the brain to settle back into that default mode network - into that more reflective, expansive, creative space. This is where we are able to think about things from different persepctives and it's essential for creating sustainable change.

The energy that I bring into the coaching conversation with clients is really important and helpful for them to settle back into that reflective space. In a coaching session, my clients are taking a step back - away from the busyness of the day-to-day and settling into making use of the more reflective parts of their brain.