Neuroscience and coaching. Neurocoaching for leadership – NeuroQuotient®

Being able to connect neuroscience and coaching is important for the people development, especially of the leadership. So, we can practice neurocoaching. We reviewed the path that led us to create NeuroQuotient®, the tool that makes it possible in a practical and efficient way. A path with high expectation, false myths, some frustration and, since a long time, with results.

A little history to place us.

Since the end of the last century advances in the understanding of the human brain and its relationship with behavior are being exponential. That is why, in the 21st century, it is essential to take advantage of this knowledge for people development. Therefore, the connection between neuroscience and coaching and leadership development is becoming more important.  By creating NeuroQuotient® we want to do it more understandable and practical.

Neuroimaging techniques such as fMRI (functional nuclear magnetic resonance) allow us to observe which brain centers are activated when we perform a certain task. From here, neuroeconomics and neuromarketing have been developed, for example. In both cases we try to answer the question: what happens in the brain when we make decisions?

Anyway, these studies do nothing more than confirm the previous work, of psychobiology, carried out in laboratory animals. This is because the brain structures are very well preserved from one species to another. Our brain is not very different from that of a guinea pig. Except for the prefrontal cortex (CPF), naturally. The motivational and memory limbic centers are similar. The neuroimaging techniques have allowed to observe in a non-invasive way the connection of these centers with the PFC.

Do not confuse the neuroscience and coaching binomial with neurolinguistic programming (NLP)

It is important to make clear that when talking about neuroscience and coaching, about neurocoaching, we are not referring to NLP (neurolinguistic programming) applied to the people development.

John Grinder and Richard Bandler, the creators of NLP, were successful to use the word ‘neuro’ to name the result of their work. And it is that the ‘neuro’ attracts, it helps to sell. However, NLP is not neuroscience. But, taking advantage of its slipstream, a first version of neuromarketing and a first neurocoaching emerged. More than one has signed up for NLP looking for neuroscience, right?

With this we do not say that NLP is not useful to connect neuroscience and coaching. Once the cerebral bases of behavior are understood, NLP techniques can be very useful for the leadership development.

Our approach to neuroscience and coaching.

In 2001, 19 years ago, we began our journey as coaching professionals and, simultaneously, in NLP. Since then we were looking for the connection between neuroscience and coaching, the neurocoaching, thinking about applying it to the leadership development.

On this path there are some culminating points, which are not the final ones, which are a master’s degree in neuroscience (2009-2010) and the creation of NeuroQuotient (2010-2103). Anyway, we want to point out some milestones, in the form of books, that we now remember as important and that can help us in this connection between coaching and neuroscience and leadership development. Above all, in what we consider key: the need to be able to understand the brain foundations of human behavior; and the connection of the limbic centers with the prefrontal cortex.

Although, these books are only references that have been helping us to confirm that we were on the right track. Actually, the information we used for the creation of NeuroQuotient were basic neuroscience articles and reviews. Case apart is the book,

James J. Gross (editor). Habdbook of Emotion Regulation. The Guilford Press, 2007

that we can define as a great compilation of reviews and articles that was essential in the generation of NeuroQuotient®.

As for the books, in order of reading.

Nolasc Acarín. El cerebro del rey. Una introducción apasionante a la conducta humana. RBA libros SBA, Barcelona 2001

Joe Dispenza. Evolve your brain, 2008

David Rock. Your brain at work. Strategies for overcoming distraction, regaining focus and working smarter all day allong. Harper Collins Publishers, 2008

Amy Brann. Make Your Brain Work. How to maximaze Your Efficiency, Productivity and Effectiviness. Kogan Page Limited, 2013

Joaquín M. Fuster. The Neuroscience of Freedom and Creativity. Cambridge University Press, 2013

and, finally, one that we discovered just when writing this post. by its title it is the most pertinent to establish the nexus between neuroscience and coaching,

Amy Brann. Neuroscience for Coaches. How to Use the Latest Insights for the Benefit of Your Clients. Kogan Page, 2017

This book does not fall into our hands until now, because since 2013 we have been using NeuroQuotient®  to make the conection between neuroscience and coaching for the development of leadership. But, sure, we will learn a lot from it.

A little dopamine and a lot of serotonin.

When we talk about neuroscience and coaching, it is very likely that the first thing that comes to mind are neurotransmitters. The molecules that facilitate the connection between neurons in neuronal synapses.

If we did a survey we can be sure that the neurotransmitters most cited would be serotonin and dopamine. Then, perhaps, oxytocin and adrenaline, although these two are more neurohormones than neurotransmitters.

And this, why? Well, because both with dopamine, and serotonin the simple word conveys a meaning to us. We do not have to study hard. Their names suggest their functionality. An erroneous assumption, but it seems that we understand it. Perhaps other neurotransmitters, such as glutamate or GABA or acetylcholine, are more important, but at the outset, they do not tell us anything directly.

dopamine sounds like ‘dopping’ and pleasure. serotonin to tranquility. there we have another case of marketing success, how the nlp. especially, with serotonin.

Everything is much more complicated. the brain has between 50 and 100 billion neurons!

And for coaching and neuroscience, the direct and easy path (our mind seeks simplicity) is to think that it can be enough to increase dopamine and serotonin. The connection between coaching and neuroscience would thus become almost pharmacological. Take a pill and you are done!

But it is much more complicated. The brain has between 50 and 100 billion neurons. Of dopamine there are many types of receptors, for instance.

On the other hand, dopamine starts the reward system, but does not generate pleasure. It is part of the motivation process of behaviors that can generate pleasure.

For example, when a dog perceives a bone, its spices memory indicates that it is a signal of reward. Dopamine is in the motivation of action to eat the bone, not in pleasure (endorphins are responsible for this). If the bone is poisoned the result will not be exactly pleasant.

Do not forget, in addition, that dopamine is also part of the mesocortical pathway of the reward system. This way favors the focus of attention towards the ‘object of desire’ that has awakened the reward system.

Not always a lot of serotonin is suitable.

On the other hand, the word serotonin transmits serenity. In addition, we are prescribed serotonin enhancers (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, SSRI) to treat depression. Fuoxetine (Prozac), for example.

However, they do not tell us the paradox of serotonin.

They do not explain to us that people genetically more prone to depression have less effective serotonin reuptakers. That is, they have more free serotonin. We finally understood it, after giving it many laps, thanks de Gordon Book chapter 6 “ James J. Gross (editor). Habdbook of Emotion Regulation. The Guilford Press, 2007. (On “Genetics of Emotion Regulation” pag. 110 and “the 5-HTTLPR-SSRI Paradox pag. 124 (Ahmad R. Hariri, Erika E. Forbes)”.

So, everything is much more complicated! It is not enough to identify the role of some key neuro transmitters! It is not easy to connect neuroscience and coaching for leadership development. For this reason, to simplify it, with NeuroQuotient® we identify what is most relevant within this complexity.

Facilitate awareness. A very important coaching competence. How to enhance it with coaching and neuroscience, with neurocoaching?

Creating Awareness is the 8th coaching competence according to the ICF. They define it like: ‘Integrating and accurately evaluating multiple sources of information and making interpretations that help the client to gain awareness and thereby achieve agreed-upon results’.

And we ask ourselves, how could we use the connection between neuroscience and coaching to facilitate awareness?

In coaching, especially when it comes to leadership development, tools are used to facilitate awareness. Some are about the personality and quite a few of them we have seen in this blog. DISC, MBTI, Discovery Insights, Enneagram, Only in DISC, William Moulton Marston, its creator, thought about a far connection with the neuroscience.

So, we proposed, at the beginning of 2009, to create a tool to connect coaching and neuroscience.

For this it was essential to have clear the fundamentals of neuroscience. Then, try to identify what is key, to be able to define a simple structure (a model) that will sustain the relationship between brain and behavior.

The first point was addressed with a master’s degree in Psychobiology and Cognitive Neuroscience. The second, studying basic neuroscience, trying to find the fundamental brain systems that simplify complexity.

And, at the end of 2011 many ideas of what we had studied from previous years, not only of neuroscience, crystallized in a first structure for the model. (The key elements for this ‘fusion’ of ideas will be discussed in another post).

What does NeuroQuotient® bring us in the neuroscience and coaching connection?

In mid-2014 the web application was running. With it, those of us dedicated to the development of people, especially of the leadership, can connect neuroscience and coaching. After Certifying in NeuroQuotient®, we can send questionnaires to clients and then interpret the results and prepare the reports, which are derived from their answers.

The main contributions of NeuroQuotient can be seen on this website or participating in one of the free introductory workshops). Or, better, contact us and we will provide you with the information you require (+ info).

Anyway, the fundamental contribution is that it helps us connect neuroscience and coaching. NeuroQuotient is a tool based on neuroscience and with a coaching approach.

It facilitates a quick awareness of the brain processes that help each one to satisfaction and leadership.

The customers answer about their current and desired status. Comparing both, they easily perceive which is the priority where to focus his action for a more efficient development.

NeuroQuotient® is the neuro tool of the coach to boost better, faster and easier the satisfaction of their clients.

Neuroscience and coaching. Neurocoaching for leadership - NeuroQuotient
Fig 1. NeuroQuotient® graphics. Efficacies (color) and Limitations (gray). People want to increase Efficiencies and decrease Limitations

Neuroscience in Companies. Neuroleadership with NeuroQuotient

Neuroscience in companies, applied to people development, is an important resource but not easy to be used. In this post we will see the value contribution of NeuroQuotient in the neuroleadership development. How it makes possible and practical the application of neuroscience in companies. The processes are more efficient, since it works on the self-leadership focusing on the priorities. In addition, it allows to measure progress.


We listen to the contribution of neuroscience in companies for people development. More specifically for the neuroleadership. There are proposals for courses and workshops to do so. However, it is not easy. Above all, is difficult to demonstrate tangible results beyond the novelty.

Moreover, people who discover NeuroQuotient®, some of them through introductory webinars observe their possibilities and ask us,

Can NeuroQuotient® be used for the development of people, while applying neuroscience in companies and organizations?

They have become aware of the great power of the neuro tool for coaching and development. They understand that it can contribute too, to introduce neuroscience in companies and organizations. Converting the neuroleadership development into something tangible.

The answer is:

Of course, NeuroQuotient® is being used with great success to apply neuroscience in companies in the development of neuroleadership.

With this post we explain why so, by answering the following question:

What is the value contribution of NeuroQuotient®?

The answer is addressed to those responsible for the areas of people development. They will be able to see how to apply neuroscience in companies in a practical and tangible way. Also, it’s for the people certified in NeuroQuotient®, and to those who want to be certified.

We will start with a small Introduction to NeuroQuotient. But before, give us to introduce the two key differential elements with respect to other tools and development strategies.

  • The processes are much more efficient.
  • NeuroQuotient measures progress.
What is NeuroQuotient?

A tool to understand and apply neuroscience in a practical way to the people development

It is clear, that human behavior (understood in a broad way, including thinking and feeling) is based on brain patterns, supported by neural networks. Therefore, in NeuroQuotient, we are talking about neuro behaviors (nbhvrs, hereafter).

The NeuroQuotient explains in a simple way the brain bases of behavior. The neuro behaviors. In this way, it makes neuroscience practical.

On the other hand, the neuro tool (Fig. 1) helps us to measure the intensity of these neuro behaviors, differentiating between those that provide satisfaction (we call them efficiencies, and we graph them in color) and those that do not provide good results (limitations and we draw them in grey).

In addition, it has a development approach. The person asks himself where he is (current state) and about his desired state (Fig 1). People, as in the example (a real case), want to increase their efficiencies and reduce limitations.

Neuroscience in Companies. Neuroleadership with NeuroQuotient
Fig 1. NeuroQuotient graphics. Efficacies (color) and Limitations (gray). From the current State to the Desired one, people want to increase Efficiencies and decrease Limitations

Why is NeuroQuotient so powerful to apply neuroscience in companies and organizations?

Very Easy! Because Development processes are more efficient and productive, that is, they provide greater results in less time.

Due to two reasons, mainly:

  • Works from self-leadership
  • Helps to focus on the key points to improve results


Self-leadership or personal leadership

It is common for initial development goals to refer to more or less tangible competencies, but deep down, self-leadership always is underlying.

Usually, in the development processes, objectives are focused on tangible competences, for example:

Communication / Teamwork / Organization and Planning / Leadership

And, too many times, we intend to achieve them with training sessions that rarely serve much.

However, when it is addressed, even if only partially, with individual sessions, we find situations such as the following:

People who are asked (and want to) communicate better (for example, make more persuasive presentations) realize that they get nervous facing an audience. (neuro behaviors: being afraid to do it wrong, after fear comes stress, and the need to flee, and, later, only anticipating the situation, fear and stress are triggered).

Another example. Team work is no easy for who, apparently, have a great self-confidence, but focuse only on their interests and treats others with ‘aggressiveness’. (Ncomp: perceives others as a threat and, as in the previous case, their fear and stress systems are also active, but in the fight mode).

In both cases the key is ‘emotional self-management’, the self-confidence (well understood), the optimism, etc. Ultimately, the self-leadership.

With NeuroQuotient the person alone (it’s not a 360) answers the questionnaire. Next, in a climate of trust with the expert, becomes aware of the neuro behaviors that lead him/her to a greater satisfaction. Yes, greater satisfaction. The results that really count are emotional. And, the satisfied people (happy, why not) contribute more to the results of the company. Directly and indirectly, because they contribute to creating a more productive climate (collective emotional state).

Neuroscience in companies with the neuro tool enhances leadership. Self-leadership translated into positive influence (leadership) in others.

Focus on the most important. Prioritize.

It is quite common to use tools for the development of people that provide a lot of very good information. However, the person thinks: All this! Where do I begin?

NeuroQuotient, by comparing the current state with the desired one, helps identify what is a priority for development. It makes possible the Pareto principle: with 20% of shares, you get 80% of results.

With NeuroQuotient the person focuses on developing the priority to achieve a noticeable advance in their self-leadership. From there, to become a leader is easy.

And when someone reaches an adequate level of self-leadership it is easy to become a good leader. When they acquire an enough level of self-confidence, emotional self-management, etc., to lead is only to learn some techniques in training workshops.

Development with neuroscience in companies with the neuro tool is more productive, thanks to a greater focus. Pareto Principle, 80:20

A report for the person, another for the company.

NeuroQuotient provides different graphics and reports to the person and the company. To work in depth and maintain confidentiality with the person and inform the company accordingly.

At this point, everyone is already convinced that every process of leadership development had to include some individual sessions.

And here it is common for a problem to arise. For the process to be efficient, a great trust is necessary between the person and the coach or the consultant. This requires maintaining the confidentiality of what was discussed in the sessions. More with NeuroQuotient that can identify some ‘delicate’ issue in the limitations.

But the company ‘pays’ and wants, logically, to intervene in some way. The process can not be totally opaque for the company. Something must be transparent.

The NeuroQuotient solution is to use different graphs for the company. With some indexes in which the limitations are absorbed in the efficiencies (Fig2). Each efficiency absorbs a limitation of another level.

Neuroscience in Companies. Neuroleadership with NeuroQuotient
Fig 2. Graphs with the neuroquotient dimensions for the person and graphs with neuroquotient indexes, which allow measuring progress, for the Company

The most important NeuroQuotient index is NQ, which embraces all the efficiencies and limitations. It is higher when the efficiencies are higher and the lower the limitations.

NQ measures self-leadership!

We had it clear from the design of the tool. But, in addition, to confirm this, in the tool validation regarding TCI-R (Temperament and Character Inventory of Dr. Robert Cloninger), we found a very high correlation (0.69) with the Self-Directedness scale.

The other indixes, that at least embrace an efficacy and a limitation, can be seen in Table 1.

These graphs can be used both to state the individual development goals and, as we will see below, to demonstrate the results obtained.

Neuroscience in Companies. Neuroleadership with NeuroQuotient
Table 1. NQ indices with the most outstanding neuro behaviors.
Measure of progress,

The NeuroQuotient indexes allow measuring and demonstrating the progress in the processes of development.

But companies want to see justified their investment. They usually want to be shown improvement. For this, a qualitative report is not enough. However, quantifying progress is complicated. You can resort to 360 studies, but they are not very efficient.

There, is one of the most important contributions of NeuroQuotient. The neuro tool allows measuring progress.

Most of the tools that are used in development determine the personality through the behavioral traits.

NeuroQuotient does not deal with the personality. It is centered on the behavior and on the intensity of the neuro behaviors. In a coaching process of a few months the personality is impossible to be changed, but it is very feasible to adjust the behavior to improve the results.

Let’s continue with the example. Let’s see, Fig 3. the progress by comparing, with the graphs for the company, the current state at the beginning of the process and at the end of it. In this case the process lasted three months.

Neuroscience in Companies. Neuroleadership with NeuroQuotient
Fig 3. Measurement of progress in a development process with NQ indexes

There is a progress in NQ, self-leadership and, mainly in the indices A, [A1] and [A2], those referring to neuro behaviors of approximation. Those who, in effect, the person was raised as priority improvement opportunities.

More than one will observe that the index [I1] – the highest at the beginning of the process – has decreased. This is totally consistent with the person’s purpose: he felt no need for improvement in dimension I1 (see Fig 1). Also, it is consistent with the model: a high efficiency points to the risk that the limitation of the same level is also. Efficiencies and Limitations are like two sides of the same coin.

Finally, write down a topic for a future article of interest to the company.

Prevention of psychosocial risks. Resilience is a particular case of self-leadership.

Self-leadership affects all the people in the company, not only those who have dependents.

The prevention of psychosocial risks is usually addressed from the point of view of the company so that people feel less negative effects.

It is rarely considered from the point of view of helping people to be more resilient. Or to work with those who ‘expelling their stress outward’ emotionally contaminate the environment.

But, let’s leave it for another article.

At the beginning we said that we wanted to present the contribution of the neuro tool in the practical and efficient application of neuroscience in companies and organizations. We hope this has been achieved.

Leading with anger or aggressiveness. Brain foundations and social impact.

Leading with anger or aggressiveness, even, is quite frequent. We have all experienced situations directly or indirectly. Situations in which someone tries to achieve their goals at the expense of others, screaming, threatening, sometimes attacking and hitting. We have experienced it as receivers and, perhaps, although it is not easy to recognize it, as principal actors.

We will explore the brain foundations of leading with anger or aggressiveness and the consequences, social impacts, in the organizations, companies etc of acting like that.

Continue reading “Leading with anger or aggressiveness. Brain foundations and social impact.”

DISC model and DISC personality assessment tools for development (tools 5)

The DISC personality assessment tools, based on the DISC model, are the most used coaching tools. So that we can understand them better, we will begin by reviewing the DISC model created by William Moulton Marston . We will also take advantage of this to highlight the difference between a personality model as DISC model and the assessment tools derived from it.

DISC model and DISC personality

DISC personality assessment tools, the most extended and used in coaching and development of people

We continue, then, this series on tools for coaching with the DISC personality evaluation tools because they are, by far, the most used in the development of personal leadership.

Continue reading “DISC model and DISC personality assessment tools for development (tools 5)”