According to a study conducted by Ellen B. Van Oosten, Melvin L. Smith and Richard E. Boyatzis, in their new book Helping People Change, the best leaders and coaches seek to connect with and understand others. They prioritize their team’s needs and create an environment of trust and support. They attend to building relationships, not just completing tasks. They motivate others to adapt, develop, persevere, and perform, even in the most trying of times, through a process we refer to as coaching with compassion.
Coaching with Compassion vs Coaching for Compliance
|Coaching for Compliance||Coaching with Compassion|
|The aim is Compliance to some external standard of how a person should behave or what they should accomplish. |
Research suggests that coaching for compliance often leads to an outcome that is the opposite of what we desire.
|Coaching with compassion, on the other hand, involves helping others to uncover or discover their ideas, feelings, hopes, and dreams and then supporting them in their efforts to adapt and change. |
This approach emphasizes the needs of the individual or group, rather than the agenda of the leader, and prioritizes building a resonant relationship with others. A resonant relationship is one anchored in mutual trust, where the leader takes intentional steps to notice people’s efforts and express gratitude, as well as suspend judgment and deeply listen.
How to Coach with Compassion
We have more opportunities to lead and coach with compassion than we often realize, but it requires us to be intentional about being aware of ourselves and others and about cultivating empathy in our conversations and relationships. Quite simply, we need to remember to “REACH²”— to follow the six steps below as we strive to help others.
|R||resonance||Leaders need to reach out and connect in ways that are in sync and in tune with others’ thoughts, feelings, and experiences. The goal is to create a supportive, trusting, positive relationship in which you are focused on the other person over yourself.|
|E||empathy||We need to shift our concern from wanting to be understood to understanding others.|
|A||aware (of yourself and others)||Before you can help others, you need to be clear on your mindset and emotions and their impact on the people and the environment around you. Emotions are contagious; so when you lead with joy, hope, humor, and love, others feel that. And when you lead with fear, anger, disappointment, and disgust, that rubs off on others, too.|
|C||compassion||When we act from a place of compassion, we focus on the needs of others and respond in meaningful ways. Coaching others with compassion emphasizes caring, warmth, and tenderness to help another person in their professional development. We often have a front-row seat to expressions of emotion in others, running the gamut from joy to sadness to anger. When you demonstrate compassion in helping roles, you listen and respond to the emotions beyond the person’s words.|
|H||hope||You unleash positive emotions and uplift others when you help them to envision a brighter and better future. In the face of uncertainty, the tendency can be to succumb to worry, fear, and anxiety. Intentionally spreading hope is about acknowledging the difficulty and also the possibilities. In coaching conversations, that can take shape by reminding the other person of their strengths as well as your belief in their ability to get through the period of uncertainty. You can help others tap into hope by asking them what is possible now that wasn’t as likely before.|
|humor||Stress shuts us down to new ideas and experiences. It also makes us less likely to find things funny or amusing or be playful. By keeping things light, you remind others to keep smiling. Having a sense of humor and promoting laughter in the workplace has been shown to reduce stress and increase satisfaction, productivity, and performance.|
The most powerful way to ameliorate the stress and uncertainty we are feeling is to reach out and help others. This can be in small doses by helping them laugh, helping them figure out how they want to act, or stimulating in them a moment of discovery. In highly uncertain times, instead of quickly jumping into advice-giving mode or falling back on the often-dysfunctional approach of telling people what to do, we have a rare opportunity. By reaching out and connecting with compassion, we encourage others to be open, and to learn, change, and develop in meaningful ways during this time of crisis.