Session: Questions and the Brain: The Neuroscience of Action Learning

As neuroleadership emerges as a new field of study, we are learning more and more about the science behind leadership behaviours, teamwork, problem solving and questions. This emerging brain theory links directly with action learning and its success as both a problem solving method and leadership development tool. In this session, I will draw on the work of David Rock, Matthew Leiberman, and other leading neuroscientists and make useful connections between this brain theory and the practice of action learning. These connections can be used to both explain the value of action learning to sponsors and clients as well as support your coaching practice by allowing even more powerful coaching interventions.


Shannon Banks was the first World Institute for Action Learning (WIAL) certified coach in the United Kingdom and has been an action learning coach for nearly a decade. She is a Master Action Learning Coach, and is leading the institute’s work in fundraising, scholarships and grants. Shannon holds a Master’s Degree from the University of Birmingham, England. She also has completed an executive coaching certification with the NeuroLeadership Institute. In addition to her work with WIAL, Shannon is Managing Director of Be Leadership Ltd, a management consultancy focused on developing social leaders for greater business impact. She has a passion for social leadership and has created Be Leadership to work with global clients on becoming more authentic, more aligned and more engaged. As part of this work, Shannon uses action learning with clients to help create sustainable cultural change.

Prior to her current responsibilities, Shannon spent 17 years with Microsoft in a variety of leadership roles across the business and HR, with responsibilities managing globally distributed, multi-functional teams. Most recently, she served as Talent Management Director for Western Europe. She was Microsoft’s global thought leader for action learning and was responsible for the development of Front Lines, an award-winning action learning experience that links learning directly to business impact through work with partners in the developing world. Front Lines was held in Kenya in 2010, Peru in 2011, The Philippines in 2013 and most recently in Ghana in February 2014. In 2013, Shannon was awarded the Best Practice Institute’s Top Practitioner Award for Talent Management.

Shannon’s achievements in HR and leadership development have earned Microsoft a 2010 WIAL Outstanding Organization award and a 2010 Workforce Management Optimas award for Corporate Citizenship, as well as a 2011 EFMD Excellence in Practice Award for Executive Development. She also won a 2010 Microsoft Circle of Excellence Award, Chairman’s Award for Outstanding Achievement, given to Microsoft’s top performers worldwide. Her work has been highlighted in publications including Action Learning for Developing Leaders and Organizations (Marquardt et al 2009) and The Future of Action Learning (ADHR 2010), as well as numerous global conferences including the HR Vision conference in London in November 2014 and the Organization Development World Summit 2010. Banks also served as co-editor with Marquardt for a special issue of Advances in Developing Human Resources journal titled “Theory to Practice: Action Learning” published in Spring 2010.

Shannon’s leadership was recognized though numerous other awards at Microsoft including an Excellence in Collaboration Award, 2008, a Microsoft Values Role Model, 2003, and a Microsoft Women’s Leadership Award, 2002. Shannon enjoys running, cooking, crocheting hats and playing Xbox games, and lives outside of London, England, with her husband and 9-year-old daughter Madeline.


Shannon Banks: +44 7973 943 143 (m) @shannonb (twitter)