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Go Back Self Compassion in Coaching and Mentoring | Summer NLE

Photos from Summer Network Learning Event

On 17th June at the Park Inn Manchester we held our Summer Network Learning Event (NLE) for the NHS North West Coaching and Mentoring community.

At a time where the health and social care system is under huge pressure and our workforce are facing continued change, considering personal wellbeing has never been more important in the public sector.  The latest vision for the NHS, the Long Term Plan, has highlighted wellbeing as one of the key areas for consideration as we move forward with health and care reform.

For coaches, mentors, coachees and mentees, the challenge of exercising self-compassion day to day is a common theme in their coaching and mentoring activity and in their wider working lives.

At the Summer NLE, Amanda Super, Chartered Occupational Psychologist, facilitated an inspiring and reflective learning session, exploring how to develop self-compassion and considering how to bring a compassionate approach to working relationships and coaching and mentoring practice.

Self-Compassion in Personal Practice

“Self-compassion is a trainable skill. It is a mindset and not dependant on anyone giving it to us – we can give it to ourselves.”

Amanda opened the session describing her own journey to self-compassion and how she came to realise the benefits of being kind to herself through difficult and challenging times. Research shows that people who are more self-compassionate are also happier, less stressed and more resilient.

Test how self-compassionate you are here.

Gill Phazey on Twitter

Setting the context, Amanda explored the factors which have an impact on people as human beings, world citizens, and on their organisations. With high levels of uncertainty, stress and anxiety, as human beings we are suffering. Compassion is a response to this suffering, for ourselves and for others.

Neff’s 3 Factor Model defines three elements of self-compassion:

  • Mindfulness
  • Self-kindness
  • Connectedness (also described as ‘common humanity’)

In the room, delegates were invited to practice self-kindness by providing themselves with a caring response through the ‘clenched fist exercise’; swapping judgement for kindness to feel calm and safe in a challenging moment. Exploring how we talk to ourselves when we are struggling, Amanda described how with practice, self-talk can be replaced by self-appreciation.

“Learn to be more appreciative of yourself”

Looking next at connectedness, and the human biological need to connect with other people, Amanda took the room through a ‘just like me’ exercise to explore the shared human experience.

Helen Kilgannon on Twitter

Mindfulness can bring us emotional awareness without judgement, and brings a more balanced approach to our thoughts and feelings. Amanda led a three minute mindfulness practice; a simple exercise that could be used anytime to help people become present and aware in the moment.

Self-compassion is about having intention and motivation. The advice is not to underestimate the basics. It’s the small everyday acts of self-kindness that add up to real self-care. “We are worth looking after.” Recognise that it’s not about being selfish or selfless – but being self-full. Delegates took some time to reflect on how they practice self-compassion in daily life and discussed at their tables: what do I do well? What could I do differently?

Coaching and Mentoring with Compassion

“Change starts with self”

On making a start as a coaches and mentors, action is key. 

Delegates were introduced to a ‘loving kindness practice’ exercise as a brief meditation pre and post conversations, which can be used to generate good will to ourselves and others. Sending loving kindness to those you love, those you don’t and also to yourself.

A study by Professor Boyatzis (Case Western Reserve University) found that coaching with compassion triggers areas of the brain which are responsible for opening up positive emotions and creating new ideas.

Effective coaches and mentors deal with their client’s distress, as they have learned to tolerate distress in themselves. They create a space for clients to bring issues to the surface. Key question – how can I help my client to find space and courage to be self-compassionate?

The final exercise examined case studies in trio, as an opportunity for delegates to consider how they might apply components of self-compassion in real life situations. Adopting the GROW model for coaching and mentoring, using open questions and active listening:

  • Establish the GOAL – use SMART goal setting (specific, measurable, attainable, realistic & time bound)
  • Examine the current REALITY – to understand the starting point (who, what, when, how often)
  • Explore the OPTIONS – consider possibilities, obstacles, benefits, costs
  • Establish the WILL/WAY FORWARD – identify actions and progress review

The session closed with a discussion on how delegates could take action as a result of the day’s learning to take forward compassion in their coaching and mentoring practice.

Kirsty Hood on Twitter


What delegates said:

“Self-compassion is not self-indulgence”

“Excellent question to remember – in that moment, what were you thinking, feeling and believing about yourself?”

“A brilliant day, start of my ‘self-compassion’ process. New tools to help myself and others.”

“Widens thought process for your own wellbeing…to be more effective listening to mentee and understanding their behaviour”

Join the North West Coaching and Mentoring Community 

The NHS North West Coaching and Mentoring Hub supports over 2,000 NHS professionals as mentors, mentees, coaches and coachees. The Hub enables professionals to teach and learn from one another to accelerate development through exposure and interaction for people with different backgrounds and ideas. Sign up today to join the hub or as a mentor, mentee or coachee. A coach is required to have a level 5 accreditation to be able to register. We are actively seeking NHS staff from underrepresented groups to be part of our registers. 

Once registered be sure to complete a thorough profile and when you search to match with a mentor or mentee, coach or coachee, value your differences not just your similarities -  the most unlikely pairings can generate the best results.

Additional resources:

Video | Coaching with Compassion (Boyatzis)

Blog | Supporting you to Support Yourself – Resources for Health and Wellbeing

Website | (Dr Kristen Neff)

Video | The Three Components of Self-Compassion

Book | A Year of Self-Compassion: Finding care, connection and calm in our challenging times, by Amanda Super - available to buy online

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