Shropshire Conference Centre · PDF file A report from the Shropshire and Staffordshire LETC...
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Leading with Compassion
A report from the Shropshire and Staffordshire LETC sharing event
25 September 2015
Shropshire Conference Centre
We are all here because we are passionate about
developing compassionate leadership and we need to be
thinking today about where we want to be a year from
now and what we want to be proud of.
We will hear some great examples of what is already
happening. We really need to own compassionate
leadership and it needs to be owned by all of us.
Today we need to think about what we need to do to
make compassionate leadership as good as it can be
across our patch.
Today is a dialogue event. It is about:
This is a conscious invitation to relax and
enjoy the day.
We need to meet as a compassionate
community, as equals, recognising our
Reflection can be difficult – so we need
to take care of ourselves and others
My story: Caroline Donovan…
In 2002 I was expecting another baby. I had two children already but I was
excited and delighted to be having another child. At a scan I was told all was not
well. The message was not shared in a compassionate way, which really didn’t
help me. I have hung on to the memory of this for years.
The information given to me was not totally correct. I’m an articulate, intelligent
individual and I did what we all do and Googled about it. I got far more
information, so much of which was not shared with me at my scan. I discovered
that my baby was not compatible with life, which was extremely difficult for me.
I had to go through labour knowing I was going to give birth to a still born baby
The compassion towards me shown by the consultant was incredible. It had a
huge effect on me and made such a difference.
I had previously felt I was being treated as another number, not as a person. I had
been dehumanised. The consultant’s compassion saved us from making a formal
complaint about our earlier treatment.
We need to think about why compassion is important to all of us. We have
the opportunity to make an impact every day on others’ lives. We need to
step into the shoes of service users / patients as this way we are more likely
to gain compassion.
As a chief executive, I need to think about how I
create an environment in which people feel
that they can deliver compassionate care.
We as leaders need to create a culture in which
staff can say that things are not good enough
and what they need to do in order to do their
job properly – and to know that there will be no
consequences for speaking up in this way.
Leadership is the difference between good and
great care. There is a correlation between the
two. A key ingredient of all good leaders is
If you knew how they felt, would you treat them differently?
Be present: the symbol of mindfulness…
Mindfulness is the ability to pay attention without judgement in the present moment.
We need to learn to recognise the emotions that are triggered when we hear someone else’s story.
Be empathetic: we need to put ourselves in other people’s shoes.
We must ensure that we are present because when we are absent, we cannot be compassionate.
Why are we here?
Sarah Lehmann – University Hospitals of North Midlands
Working with compassion and helping people to discover their own compassion is a powerful tool to help them overcome their issues and/or
difficulties. There is a huge talent within the NHS and we need to unleash it to transform patient care. We need to unlock the discretionary effort –
the ‘go the extra mile’. We need staff to be engaged, to feel safe and work to their best. But above all, we need to ensure the wellbeing of our
staff because there is a positive correlation between staff wellbeing and patient wellbeing.
In order to improve staff engagement, performance and wellbeing, we need to move away from coercive leadership towards compassionate
leadership. We need people to be engaged, not resistant.
When we perceive a threat we experience the fight, flight
or freeze response. We are biologically driven to respond to
threats, to defend ourselves and keep ourselves safe – both
our physical and psychological safety.
When focusing on threats, however, we miss other things
happening around us that we should take into account.
Creativity, problem-solving and reasoning etc. are all stifled
when we are feeling under threat as we don’t need them in
order to deal with the threat.
Pushing/driving people with threats activates the drive/achievement
system, which reactivates the threat system. It is self-perpetuating. We
miss the need for people to feel safe – the calming system.
Regularly feeling threatened is draining and exhausting – both
emotionally and physically.
So what are some of the triggers to the threat system when working in the
Not being consulted
Things that happen that are out of our control
Where does compassion come in?
Compassion directly activates the calming system and helps to reduce
the threat response. It is not just soothing but acts on it to reduce the
Leading with compassion should…
Connect with others in supporting relationships
Be positive and empowering
There is a balance of emotional regulation to get the best from our staff.
We need to know how to switch compassion on and be mindful of what
switches it off.
compassion. When feeling threatened as a leader, we need to absorb this
feeling, not cascade it.
There is a natural tendency for the threat system to be activated
and for it to be cascaded.
We need to forge a path in the brain to switch on our compassion
system. And we need to practice this.
The more we do this, the more natural it will become. The more we
go down the same path, the more familiar it becomes and the less
effort is needed to go down that path again.
So the more we practice compassion, the more familiar and natural
it will become. We will need to consciously think about it less
because it will become a more instinctive way of leading and
Self-compassion and grounding ourselves…
We want to move more towards a flow of compassion. There are three ways to do this:
Self to self Me to you You to me
Make a fierce commitment to caring for yourself. Fall in love with your life
outside of work. Don’t lose the ability to say no. Compassion starts with
Whatever we focus on grows. The mind is like a garden and we can ‘grow’
four different parts of our brains:
Resilience – the ability to bounce back
Savouring – looking to the good
Attention – focus on particular ways
Generosity – the things we feel grateful for make us more generous.
We work in hierarchical systems in healthcare but we need to focus on
compassion and equality.
Have fun with it and be willing to do things differently. Pay attention to
things you don’t normally pay attention to.
We need to invite people to dismantle the hierarchy where appropriate.
There is an invitation to you today to move 20% more slowly with 20% more
purpose. Walk your way into calm – people make fewer mistakes this way.
It may feel alien to you in your working environment, but it really does work
and is part of the brain rewiring process.
Take in the
Great expectations: the partnership approach
Tina Harkin and Fiona Shield…
Our journey started with the integration of three different organisations
and cultures. We listened to staff and what they wanted. We looked at
what was happening locally and in the wider context (nationally). We
recognised that compassionate care requires compassionate leadership.
We created a model around compassion and staff needs:
* An enabling/no blame culture
* Courageous conversations (rather
than avoiding them) when
behaviour is disruptive to team
* Innovation is encouraged
* Consistent, positive approach to
* Authenticity of leaders
* Time for reflective learning
* Reflective learning – learning