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New Year, New You – Mini Series Part 3


New Year, New You: Compassion & Kindness feat. Guest Contributor

In the third part of our New Year, New You mini-series, we welcome a guest contributor, Joanne Rafferty, to explore compassion and kindness.  To view parts 1 and 2 of this series you can click here

Compassionate Leadership is one of the key leadership theories underpinning our fresh leadership ethos in Project Lift. This isn’t new as the NHS was borne out of a desire to take care of all citizens regardless of their background, wealth or status, so compassion was always at the centre. Today we invite you to consider the question: how does compassion show up in your practice as a leader?

Professor Michael West from Kings Fund describes compassion leadership as:

  • Paying attention to the other – ‘listening with fascination’;
  • Finding a shared understanding of the situation they face;
  • Being empathic; and
  • Taking thoughtful, intelligent action to help.

Joanne shares, “During 2018, my mum had two lengthy hospital stays and I have witnessed examples of wonderful compassion and empathy from the Multi-Disciplinary Team that looked after her. Worth a special mention is the Speech and Language Therapist who was assessing my mum’s ability to swallow following weeks of her being on thickened liquids. She really had listened and knew from their conversations that my mum loved nice coffee and went to her office and made up a cafetiere for her. Mum’s assessment involved them having coffee together, so that it was something she would enjoy and encourage her to continue eating and drinking, so key to her recovery.

Yet Compassionate leadership is not just working in this way with patients and service users. It is also behaving this way with one another. Having worked with teams in NHS for many years now, clinicians and staff will frequently admit that they can forget many of these skills and practices when interacting with each another. As leaders, what we pay attention to, how we listen to each other, our teams and the action we take, all contribute to the culture we all experience. Michael West also reminds us that if staff feel supported and heard, they will go the extra mile for patients, families and each another.  Not only does Compassionate Leadership help patients feel safe, it makes staff more likely to feel ‘safe’ to speak up about issues and to innovate / have a go at implementing improvements and ideas.

What about Self Compassion? Both my own experiences when I believe I have been found lacking and from working with individuals through personal coaching and development, highlight that having compassion for self when work and life is challenging is hard.

Brene Brown suggests “We can’t practice compassion with other people if we can’t treat ourselves kindly” yet often we are each our own worst enemy and critic. The negative self- talk and criticism we heap on ourselves about our capacity as partners, colleagues, parents, employees, carers etc is overly harsh and unhelpful. It can be detrimental to our health and well-being. Instead we can practice self-compassion by:

  • Noticing our own negative self- talk. Ask yourself what a friend would say to you in response to your difficult situation.
  • Use a journal to capture your reflections on the day / week. Write them from a perspective of being compassionate and kind to self.
  • Remind yourself of your good intent, you are doing the best you can, you are good enough.
  • Finish each day by documenting, three things you are pleased about / appreciate.

Our thanks to Joanne for her insights – now over to you, join the conversation with #kindness, tag @projectlift and share your stories –

  • How are you practising self-compassion, and compassionate leadership with patients, clients and colleagues?
  • What might you stop, start or continue doing to show compassion this year?
  • What insights / tips work for you that you can share with others?


Review Brene Brown’s related videos here

Explore Michael West’s work  with the Kings Fund on Compassionate Leadership here