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ScienceDaily (Nov. 19, 2010) Coaching happens just about everywhere, and every day, with learning as the goal.
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Coaching With Compassion Can 'Light Up' Human Thoughts

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Effective coaching can lead to smoothly functioning organizations, better productivity and potentially more profit. In classrooms, better student performance can occur. Doctors or nurses can connect more with patients. So, doing coaching right would seem to be a natural goal, and it has been a major topic of research at Case Western Reserve University's Weatherhead School of Management since 1990. For all the energy and money spent on coaching, there is little understanding about what kind of interactions can contribute to or detract from effectiveness. Ways of coaching can and do vary widely, due to a lack of understanding of the psycho-physiological mechanisms which react to positive or negative stimulus.

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Internally funded research at Case Western Reserve has documented reactions in the human brain to compassionate and critical coaching methods. The results start to reveal the mechanisms by which learning can be enhanced through coaching with compassion (a method that emphasizes the coached individual's own goals). "We're trying to activate the parts of the brain that would lead a person to consider possibilities," said Richard Boyatzis, distinguished university professor, and professor of organizational behavior, cognitive science and psychology. "We believe that would lead to more learning. By considering these possibilities we facilitate learning." Boyatzis and Anthony Jack, assistant professor of cognitive science, philosophy and psychology, have used functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to show neural reactions based on different coaching styles. Their research builds on previous knowledge of Intentional Change Theory, which holds that positive and negative emotional attractors create psychophysiological states that drive a person to think about change.

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It's Who You Know: Study Shows Hurdles Facing Black Football Coaches (Feb. 22, 2010) Why are there so few black coaches in big-time college football? New research shows that it really Boyatzis, a faculty member at Weatherhead School of does come down to who you know, and how well Management, and Jack, director of the university's Brain, Mind you know them. But the findings go against and Consciousness Lab, say coaches should seek to arouse a conventional ... > read more Positive Emotional Attractor (PEA), which causes positive Spring Training For Parents? (Mar. emotion and arouses neuroendocrine systems that stimulate 22, 2008) Spring training for better cognitive functioning and increased perceptual accuracy parents isn't a bad idea because as and openness in the person being coached, taught or advised. cries of "play ball" ring out this spring, Emphasizing weaknesses, flaws, or other shortcomings, or more science news even trying to "fix" the problem for the coached person, has an they surely will be followed by complaints of anxiety and stress from young athletes wanting to In Other News ... opposite effect. quit ... > read more "You would activate the Negative Emotional Attractor (NEA), Obama sees end to Coaches Can Shape Young which causes people to defend themselves, and as a result Afghan combat Athletes' Definition of Success they close down," Boyatzis says. "One of the major reasons mission by 2014 (Nov. 17, 2009) Young athletes' people work is for the chance to learn and grow. So at every Pope says condoms achievement goals can change in a managerial relationship, and every boss-subordinate sometimes relationship, people are more willing to use their talents if they healthy way over the course of a season when their permissible to stop coaches create a mastery motivational climate feel they have an opportunity to learn and grow." AIDS rather than an ego ... > read more What Boyatzis and Jack set out to do was to observe brain Obama pauses at images which reflect coaching tone. Undergraduate volunteers Problems At World Anti-Doping Agency Will NATO summit to 'Drive Innocent Athletes Out Of Sport' (Feb. 17,

images which reflect coaching tone. Undergraduate volunteers met with two academic coaches, who intentionally used different interviewing methods. One encouraged envisaging a positive future, and the other set a more standard tone by focusing on a person's failings and what he or she ought to do. About a week after each coaching session, Boyatzis and Jack brought the students to the brain scanner. The students were shown video clips, which were designed to approximate a video conference. The same coaches who met the students previously appeared on video and sought responses. The students in a scanner answered using a keypad. That design meant there was an ongoing interaction between the students and the academic coaches they had met briefly before. Half the questions offered during the fMRI session had a similar emotional tone to those in the first coaching session, either positively focused on the future, or more negatively focused on the difficulties the student might be experiencing. The other half were neutral in tone -- issues about which the students most likely have ambivalent feelings. The neutral questions allowed Boyatzis and Jack to better see how the interpersonal relationship was affecting the neural response. "We know that people respond much better to a coach they find inspiring and who shows compassion for them, rather than one who they perceive to be judging them. Sure enough, we found a trend in the same direction even for the neutral questions. Students tended to activate the areas associated with visioning more with the compassionate coach, even when the topics they were thinking about weren't so positive," Jack said. "We were really struck by one particular finding in the visual cortex, where we saw a lot more activity in the more positive condition than in the more negative condition," Jack explained. The brain areas observed are associated with imagination and operate at the intersection of basic visual processing and emotion. Jack says the fMRI images show the neural signatures of visioning, a critical process for motivating learning and behavioral change. "By spending 30 minutes talking about a person's desired, personal vision, we could light up (activate) the parts of the brain 5-7 days later that are associated with cognitive, perceptual and emotional openness and better functioning," Boyatzis said. "The major implication is that people typically coach others in higher education, medicine and management with a bias toward the NEA and correcting what the person is doing that is wrong. Our study suggests that this closes down future, sustainable change, as we expected." Coaching with Compassion: An fMRI Study of Coaching to the Positive or Negative Emotional Attractor was presented at a recent Academy of Management Annual Meeting in Montreal and awarded as a Best Paper. "Everyone's got to look at weaknesses and take them on," Jack says. "But often the focus is so much on the bottom line that we worry ourselves into the ground. It is more important to focus on what gets you going in the morning and gets you wanting to work hard and stay late."
Editor's Note: This article is not intended to provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Email or share this story: Story Source:

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The above story is reprinted (with editorial adaptations by ScienceDaily staff) from materials provided by Case Western Reserve University, via EurekAlert!, a service of AAAS.

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