During the past decade, science has gained a new and far more accurate view of human nature and behavioral change. Much of that advancement has come about through the integration of psychology (in essence, the study of the human mind and human behavior) and neuroscience (the study of the anatomy and physiology of the brain). One of the most useful and exciting consequences of this research is the concept of "attention density," which tells us that change requires paying sufficient attention to a new routine or idea. This is a core function of leadership development coaching.
The 0.2 seconds referred to in the opening animation to this site is based on a study by Dr. Benjamin Libet who, in studying the concept of voluntary movement, determined that the brain sends a “signal” to act about 0.5 of a second before a person actually acts, a long period of time in the world of neuroscience. When a manager decides to respond to a subordinate by telling the subordinate what to do, the manager's brain already initiated that process 0.3 of a second before the manager’s conscious mind became aware of it. Dr. Libet found that any control we have over "voluntary" behavior exists only in the last 0.2 of a second before acting. Dr. Jeffrey Schwartz refers to this 0.2 of a second as the manager’s "veto power." In that 0.2 of a second, the manager must resist his or her hardwired response -- to tell the subordinate what to do -- and to direct or focus their response toward asking the subordinate what they think should be done.
Over time, the manager will hardwire asking subordinates what they think should be done (that is, make it the manager’s default or unconscious routine), and better lead the subordinate. One of the important activities leadership development coaches perform is in helping leaders focus attention on the right activities -- in this case, to encourage a manager to enlist the thinking of the subordinate and thereby improve the manager’s productivity. Only in changing the hardwiring through focusing on the new routine or idea will the manager enjoy long-lasting, behavioral change.