Positive coaching is more effective than a critical approach, according to a recent study by researchers at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio. “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,” said study author Anthony Jack, PhD, assistant professor of cognitive science, philosophy and psychology, and director of the Brain, Mind and Consciousness Lab at Case Western.
Jack, together with Richard Boyatzis, PhD, professor of organizational behavior, cognitive science and psychology at Weatherhead School of Management, has examined how the human brain reacts to compassionate versus critical coaching methods. The goal was to evaluate what types of coaching most effectively facilitate learning.
The researchers used functional magnetic resonance imaging to observe how the brain reacts to the different styles. Volunteer college students were divided into two groups, and each group interacted with a different type of coach: one coach encouraged students to envision a positive future and emphasized their potential for success; the other coach employed the more widely used critical method, pointing out students’ weaknesses and flaws and providing corrective suggestions. One week after the initial coaching session, all subjects participated in a mock video conference with their respective coach, while a brain scanner measured the neural activity in the students’ brains.
Data analysis showed that the positive coaching style prompted positive emotions. The positive style also aroused neuroendocrine systems that stimulated better cognitive functioning and that increased perceptual accuracy and openness in the person being coached, taught or advised.
To view a video interview of the researchers and to see brain scan images of the study subjects, go to http://blog.case.edu/think/2010/11/15/coaching_with_compassion_can_alight_upa_human_thoughts.