Reach will be featuring one book each month, with three tips that can be applied to your educational life, whether as a teacher or instructional leader. This month’s book is Tali Sharot’s The Influential Mind: What the Brain Reveals About Our Power to Change Others. Sharot is a professor of cognitive neuroscience. While the book was written for a general audience and not specifically educators, there are three chapters from Sharot’s book that are particularly relevant to instructional coaching. Read on to understand how this book can help.
As social beings, we continually absorb and share emotions with others, often unconsciously. You can use this to improve your coaching in two ways. First, pay attention to your own internal responses. Do you feel more nervous when working with specific coachees? There is a good chance you are absorbing your coachee’s emotional state, which tells you what your coachee might need (calm reassurance, for example). Second, consider your emotional state. Do you want your coachee feeling relaxed and joyful about the prospect of coaching sessions? Then spend time becoming so, because this is what your coachee will absorb. If you feel rushed and pressured to perform, so will your coachee.
Influence Trumps Control
Sharot makes clear that to have more influence, we must let go of control. Many novice coaches weigh down their coachees with strategies the coach believes are needed, not strategies the teacher asked about. Sharot emphasizes framing in a way that expands the agency of the hearer/coachee. How does the step you think the teacher should take going to move them towards the teacher’s goals (not your goals for the teacher)? Does the teacher see it this way? How do you know?
Find Your Coachee’s Curiosity
Another novice coaching mistake is believing that if the coach finds something important, the coachee will see it similarly, wanting any information the coach provides. Sharot says this intuition is wrong, and we must be sure the information we share is grounded in the curiosity of the coachee, not the coach’s urgency. Once again, knowing the coachee’s goals will help align shared information with what the coachee actively wants to know.
By Victoria Folks
Program Coordinator, Faculty member
Moving into Inquiry Teaching Program