Doing our work with love and compassion

Today’s guest post is by Jan Brause (@JanBrause) who shares her insights from Coaches Connect. Jan is a performance development consultant, professional coach and coach supervisor with many years successful experience of enabling personal growth and performance improvement through a passionate focus on the individual in an organisational context.

There was an inspirational line up of speakers and workshops at the Coaches Connect day.  Paul Stokes and Lis Merrick delivered a session entitled ‘Do your clients fall in love with you?’ Lis and Paul described their research findings to date on exploring the concept of intimacy in coaching and mentoring. Their research has highlighted some key aspects to intimacy including trust, rapport, closeness, respect and also a shadow side of misuse where collusion or dependency may be present.

This session really got me thinking about how we work as coaches, mentors, supervisors or indeed in any connected professional relationship with another.  My own belief is that the best work comes from a relationship that is compassionate, loving and trusting but how do we build this and what is over stepping the mark?

I recall in my early days of coaching that I created a ‘professional bubble’ around my work.  My thinking was that this is a serious business in which I am engaging and I need to be professional in my work.  I shared little of myself and stayed focussed on my client and the process.  Many years later and with much more learning and experience to draw on, I find I work very differently.  I have drawn on an eclectic mix of resources that now inform how I work as a coach some of which include presence based work, mindfulness practice, compassionate thinking and Heartmath©. Each of these has a common thread and it is one of holding love and care at the centre of our work.

Entering our work with a sense of curiosity, an open heart and a feeling of love and care for others can truly change the depth of interaction we have.  I wonder how many of us have embarked on a relationship wanting to be in control, of our selves or the situation, rather like the way I described my early experience of coaching.  I needed to be able to ‘control’ and manage myself in this context. C. Otto Sharma describes the concept of surrendering control ‘By letting go they allow something truly new to emerge’.  I believe we need open hearts to truly let go because our ‘ego’ will get in the way.  We are human after all; we have desires, fears and vulnerabilities often unspoken.  Doug Silsbee in Presence-Based Coaching describes connecting through the heart.  The Institute of Heartmath© and their research emphasises the importance of feelings of love, gratitude and compassion.  If we access this it becomes something palpable rather than an intellectual concept.  We embody it, our clients experience it and the interaction is changed as a result.

It would be remiss of me not to touch on the shadow side, the idea that intimacy can go too far – create dependency, collusion or inappropriate sexual behaviour.  This could happen and I think we need courage to be open enough about the boundaries we operate within, the privileged role we hold and the fragility of those we work with and of ourselves.  I believe it would be a tragic loss to exclude intimacy as an integral part of a quality working relationship for fear of over stepping the mark.

How do you define intimacy in your working relationships?
What challenges you about the notion of intimacy in a professional relationship?
Where have you experienced intimacy in your work and how has this impacted the relationship?

If you would like to be a part of  CoachesConnect 2013 do get in touch.  Follow me on Twitter @verawoodhead


About verawoodhead

I'm an executive coach, leadership facilitator and learning & development consultant working with managers and leaders to develop the skills and behaviours to inspire performance and drive results; achieve promotion ; make successful career changes, be resilient and thrive at work. Within organisations, I help to facilitate better conversations, design learning interventions which deliver practical and lasting solutions aligned to business strategy and goals. Connect with me on Twitter @verawoodhead
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8 Responses to Doing our work with love and compassion

  1. Hi Vera and Jan,
    What a smashing post. I really like your emphasis on having an eclectic mix of resources to draw on – after all, if we truly serve the client, a one-size fits all approaoch won’t work. I’ve discovered mindfulness over the last six months or so and it’s had a positive impact on me personally. I’ve also used it as an approach with a client (we did a book study together), and she’s found that it’s helped to control her anxiety. Compassion and caring for our clients, real connection that matters is changing the direction of my practice, and who I want to work with. I’ll be taking a look at Heartmath. Thank you for a thought provoking and uplifting post this marvellous Monday morning 🙂

    • verawoodhead says:

      On behalf of Jan, thank you for those kind words. Coaches need an eclectic mix of resources, tools and strategies in their toolboxes as it enables a more tailored approach rather than a one size fix all.
      Heartmath does a lot of work around resilience, stress and anxiety. There are some webinars that you can download at

      • janbrause says:

        Thanks for the comments. I really appreciate them. Mindfulness is proving invaluable for me right now. I have worked with it linked to building resilience. Something we all need more of at times.

  2. Jo Royle says:

    Thanks Vera & Jan for sharing this. I believe we must connect with our coaching clients at the heart (not head) level to get both our & their egos out of the way. I can’t imagine a coaching relationship existing without some level of intimacy …can empathy & rapport exist without intimacy? I love your C. Otto Sharma quote ‘By letting go they allow something truly new to emerge’ – something I think is at the core of coaching – non directive influencing 🙂

  3. janbrause says:

    Thank you Jo, during a recent visit to a local hospital I saw a porter wheeling a patient on a trolly. The patient was in obvious pain. The porter banged the trolly into the side of the wall, parked it up and trudged away with a heavy sigh. He looked so glum and unhappy in his work and I was curious about any compassion (or lack of) he had for the patient he was transporting. I wonder what a different experience he and the patient (and me, as an observer) would have had if he had shown a little care and compassion in his work.
    Of course, we have no idea what might have been going on for him but it reminded me at a deep level how care and love for what we do is present (or not) in so many aspects of our work.
    Our work continues in encourage compassion and love, starting with self and spreading to others. A book I recommend to clients is ‘The Compassionate Mind’ by Paul Gilbert. This is a book I keep revisiting.

  4. Lynn says:

    Jan, what a beautifully written and thoughtful article. I love the example of the Hospital Porter and also the reminder of the shadow side of intimacy – I remember colluding (not consciously but with hindsight!) with my clients in my early days of coaching in the belief that I was being compassionate – of course I needed to learn to be fearlessly compassionate as Peter Hawkins would say!

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