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  • Leading with Compassion

    A report from the Shropshire and Staffordshire LETC sharing event

    25 September 2015

    Shropshire Conference Centre


  • Welcome…

    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:




    An invitation…

    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


     Feeling criticised

     Not being consulted

     Unrealistic targets

     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

     Reduce stress/negativity

     Be authentic

     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

    Andy Bradley…

    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


  • And

    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

    leadership development

    * Authenticity of leaders

    * Authenticity

    * Time for reflective learning

    * Action

    * Reflective learning – learning