50 episodes

A series of interviews with public, private, and third sector leaders for whom compassion is central to their practice. We explore compassion for one another, for teams and for oneself.

It continues a journey that Chris started when he wrote Compassionate Leadership (www.compassionate-leadership.co.uk), a book that combines life experience, psychology and neuroscience to create a point of departure for leaders that are seeking to create places of belonging at work.

It's based on the observation that people thrive when they feel seen and heard, they are loyal when they are growing and developing, they are motivated when they understand the vision of the business.

At the same time we acknowledge the diversity of people and the sophistication of the human mind. It's a sophistication that makes us a temperamental thoroughbred as opposed to a sturdy draft horse. We can be agile, creative, imaginative and empathetic but also obsessive, recalcitrant and depressive. Compassionate leadership involves embracing the messiness of the human condition and working with it.

Chris is a coach, writer, and speaker, whose blog can be found on Medium (https://medium.com/@chris-97488). You'll find him on Instagram at chriswh1tehead.

The Compassionate Leadership Interview Chris Whitehead

    • Business
    • 4.8 • 6 Ratings

A series of interviews with public, private, and third sector leaders for whom compassion is central to their practice. We explore compassion for one another, for teams and for oneself.

It continues a journey that Chris started when he wrote Compassionate Leadership (www.compassionate-leadership.co.uk), a book that combines life experience, psychology and neuroscience to create a point of departure for leaders that are seeking to create places of belonging at work.

It's based on the observation that people thrive when they feel seen and heard, they are loyal when they are growing and developing, they are motivated when they understand the vision of the business.

At the same time we acknowledge the diversity of people and the sophistication of the human mind. It's a sophistication that makes us a temperamental thoroughbred as opposed to a sturdy draft horse. We can be agile, creative, imaginative and empathetic but also obsessive, recalcitrant and depressive. Compassionate leadership involves embracing the messiness of the human condition and working with it.

Chris is a coach, writer, and speaker, whose blog can be found on Medium (https://medium.com/@chris-97488). You'll find him on Instagram at chriswh1tehead.

    Nate Regier II, compassionate accountability

    Nate Regier II, compassionate accountability

    Nate Regier PhD is Founder and CEO of Next Element, a global advisory firm specializing in leadership communication, and author of Beyond Drama: Transcending Energy Vampires, Conflict Without Casualties: A Field Guide For Leading With Compassionate Accountability and Seeing People Through.
    Nate was a guest on episode 17 of the Compassionate Leadership Interview in February 2020. Since then Nate has been reinventing, rebuilding and realising new opportunities for sharing compassionate accountability.
    Nate is launching a new book in July - Compassionate Accountability: How Leaders Build Connection and Get Results. A year ago, he was planning a second edition of Conflict Without Casualties but his team changed plans in order to respond to the challenges faced by companies coming out of the pandemic.
    The book reflects the tension leaders experience between paying attention to relationships and getting things done. Nate’s understanding of compassionate accountability was in its infancy when he wrote Conflict Without Casualties. Since then, his team has developed the three switches of the compassion mindset, a framework for activating the behaviours required within a culture of compassionate accountability.
    Nate’s latest book complements the many excellent books on Compassionate Leadership, as the only one with ‘accountability’ in its title. He contends that ‘accountability’ is an essential component of compassion, reflected in the latin root of the word, which means ‘struggle with.’ We live in community with one another and that involves affirming human capability and being accountable to one another.
    In the book Nate establishes the relationship between the interactions connecting people, organisational culture, and brand. Culture is fundamentally the sum of the interactions between your people and, as Nate’s friend Bobby Herrera has observed “brand is a lagging indicator of the quality of your culture.”
    Part 3 of the book is about implementation. It recognises that you have to “address common systems and processes that reinforce behaviour.” It starts with identifying behavioural norms, and then identifies the functional areas where processes need to reflect those norms. There is a tool for assessing compassion within the culture of an organisation.
    Nate maintains that onboarding, performance reviews, promotions, and reward systems in particular need to be aligned with compassionate accountability. Regular in-house training and practice are required to keep the materials alive.
    He acknowledges that “everyone is different, everyone comes on board from a different place, and it’s not easy.” Sometimes the assumptions we hold can create barriers for us. The notion that compassion is soft can be prominent among these.
    Nate believes compassion can change the world. For example, he believes compassionate accountability is the next evolution of inclusion.

    • 17 min
    Eleanor Rutter, Compassionate Sheffield

    Eleanor Rutter, Compassionate Sheffield

    Eleanor Rutter is Assistant Director of Public Health at Sheffield City Council, and Leader of Sheffield’s Compassionate Sheffield programme.
    A talented mathematician as a child, Eleanor went to medical school out of a need to seek the approval of other people. Following a complicated pregnancy, she was away from work as a hospital doctor for 18 months, after which she went into public health. She had a further two children and time off through mental ill-health, and the training programme, nominally five years, took her 12 years to complete.
    She had a false start in an authority with what she feels was an ‘over-medicalised’ model of public health, but has now found her feet in what she describes as her “dream job.”
    In her current role, Eleanor leads the Compassionate Sheffield programme. It is in fulfilment of the city’s 2018 public health objective to ensure that everyone has a dignified death in a place of their choice. She soon found out that there were a lot of compassionate communities doing good work in this area.
    Eleanor’s approach is informed by the academic work of Professor Allan Kellehear at the University of Bradford. It recognises dying as a social and spiritual process first and foremost, rather than a medical one. She says that communities and neighbourhoods are best placed to allow people to live the complete lives they choose to value.
    Eleanor’s team comprises two community development workers, one of which is an end-of-life doula, a communications officer, a clinical lead, and a programme manager. They are funded by Public Health Sheffield City Council, the ICB (Integrated Care Board), and St Luke’s Hospice. She says the team is an enabler, building capacity, confidence and connections within and between communities.
    The main strands of the team’s work to date have been advance care planning, developing training to help people navigate the end of life, building ‘death literacy’ through death cafes, and leading Sheffield’s covid memorial project.
    Atul Gawande’s book ‘Being Mortal’ has also had a strong influence on Eleanor’s thinking. She says that by not listening to people and over-medicalising their problems we are at risk of stripping away their humanity.
    The next stage for Compassionate Sheffield is to build on the work that people did in the pandemic as compassionate neighbours. In the longer term, Eleanor feels that compassion runs through everything we do and its potential is far greater than transforming the end of life. For example, in Sheffield’s economic anchor organisations many people are in a conversation with Michael West concerning compassionate leadership. She says “I don’t think it’s just a silly pipe dream, this idea of Sheffield becoming a compassionate city in its entirety.”
    Sheffield has not intentionally diverged from the Frome Model, which is the basis of Compassionate Communities UK. Rather, Sheffield’s Health and Wellbeing Board, aware of the compassion that was already manifest in Sheffield’s communities, wanted to grow Compassionate Sheffield using an asset-based approach.
    As white and middle class, Eleanor is very conscious of her privilege. Therefore, she has a problem with the term ‘achievements’ and feels that often she has just needed to “scoop up the opportunities that were given to me.” Only two or three times in her career has she been faced with making a genuinely tough choice, which on one occasion involved insisting on doing the right thing even though her position was unpopular with some very senior colleagues.
    Through therapy Eleanor has learnt to see life as a learning process. One of the things she has learnt is the power of saying sorry and actually meaning it. Eleanor credits therapy as being the experience that has changed her the most. She put herself “heart and soul” into it. It was gruelling, but she is “massively transformed” and no longer driven by self-loathing.

    • 37 min
    Ben Allen, re-imagining General Practice

    Ben Allen, re-imagining General Practice

    Ben Allen is a GP at Birley Health Centre, and Sheffield Clinical Director for Primary Care, with a special interest in elderly medicine and service improvement.
    Birley has bucked the national trend in patient satisfaction. Over the past two years while patient satisfaction nationally has declined from 68% to 38%, at Birley it has increased. He compares his initial impressions of Birley to the experience of riding a bike where all the components are high quality but they haven’t been assembled particularly well.
    He realised that his first efforts to intervene were merely addressing the symptoms and not the underlying culture, so he started a process of self-education reading books by Patrick Lencioni, Jim Collins, Brene Brown, Simon Sinek and Nancy Kline for example. This led him to develop three main principles: finding and nurturing potential, team dynamics, and being purpose and values driven.
    He observes that “everybody has so much more to them than their professional role and their professional training.” The organisation needs a clear plan for how it is going to bring out the best in staff, including providing a mentor for each person, who has an ongoing day-to-day relationship with the individual.
    Most of his thinking on team dynamics draws on the work of Patrick Lencioni. It’s firstly about creating an environment of psychological safety which allows people to voice their best ideas, and confess their mistakes without fear of censure. Secondly its about the quality of debate. Finally, if the first two have been done well, then people should be more prepared to commit to a decision, even if it isn’t the one that they would have made personally.
    Ben has done less work on crystallising the purpose of the organisation than he has done on the other two principles, but he thinks that is a question worth asking all stakeholder groups, including patients. He observes that “we can often go to work with our own purpose” and that purpose may conflict with the goals of others. And in the absence of a larger purpose, the aims of individuals can boil down to “getting through the day.” It’s only when you have that overarching purpose that you can ask “How are we doing?”
    Ben thinks that the type of leadership that the NHS needs is evolving. At present the principles he has outlined are not as understood and valued as they need to be. The ‘top down’ model is not fit for the complexities of modern healthcare.
    Meetings have changed fundamentally at Birley since the start of the improvement programme. They no longer have meetings that are about conveying information, for which an email or whatsapp would do. Instead, team meetings are about engaging people, obtaining ideas, debating issues, and building consensus.
    Ben says there’s lots left to do at Birley, but that he really does feel that it’s a self-improving place now. Things Ben would like to see happen going forward include a “blurring of the boundaries between the practice team and the public”, more work on purpose and values, and rotating the leadership of meetings so that younger staff are involved.
    Ben feels that with increasing workload and declining staff numbers there is a real risk of changing things “out of desperation to make something different.” In his view, the right question is how do you sustain the people who are currently in primary care, while you train up the next generation of GPs? He also thinks that the nation needs a wider debate about the purpose of the NHS.
    In his role as Clinical Director for Sheffield he sees himself helping general practice to thrive. He is still working on the best way to achieve that. One of his approaches has been to get people from general practice with energy and ideas together in order to build solutions.
    Recently Ben has read ‘Reinventing Organisations’ by Frederic Laloux. This charts the cultural journey from top down to purpose driven with self-managing...

    • 41 min
    Emma Clarke, values led leadership in practice

    Emma Clarke, values led leadership in practice

    Emma Clarke is Chief Executive of Weston Park Cancer Charity.
    The charity has been in existence for 30 years and supports Weston Park Cancer Centre, which serves the population of South Yorkshire and Bassetlaw. The charity invests in research, facilities and equipment, and also provides care through finance, complementary therapies, and advice.
    Emma was born on the Manor estate in Sheffield. She went for a bar job on the same day that she interviewed for her first role in the voluntary sector. Her first job was for a disabled children and young people’s charity in London. She has risen to Chief Executive through a non-conventional route in that she hasn’t been to university.
    For Emma, leadership is about being real and about being human. She says “relationships are fundamental.” She aims to foster a culture of belonging, of connection, and of pride in the work of the organisation. She believes that part of compassionate leadership is to give people a sense of autonomy and agency.
    She is mindful of ‘the shadow of the leader’ and recognises that her own actions need to be purposeful and sensitive. Part of her role is to make sense for her colleagues of the complex environment in which they operate.
    Since assuming the Chief Executive role Emma has steered the charity through Covid, the economic crisis and challenging times in the NHS. She says a crisis “cuts through the noise.” Covid compelled her to rely on her values, and through that she gained confidence in her leadership. Now in the middle of the NHS crisis, she is optimistic about the future: she sees a lot of compassion, and she is surrounded by good people. She is committed to amplifying the good.
    As the Chief Executive of a charity, Emma has to work constructively with her trustees. She says that she doesn’t see them as a group of people to report to, but rather a group of peers who are experienced and keen to contribute to the success of the organisation. It’s up to Emma to make the most of the opportunity that they represent, by asking for help, asking questions and encouraging constructive challenge.
    Last year Emma introduced Sarah Markham of Calm-in-a-Box, a wellbeing consultancy, to the charity. The team at Weston Park had just finished hybrid working for almost two years and a hard winter loomed. Sarah ran a series of four sessions designed to support the mental health of the team and help them thrive through difficult circumstances. CALM is an acronym that relates to connection, all of me, energy (let me rest), and motivation.
    Emma says that often in the voluntary sector people can be so invested in the aims of the organisation that they feel guilty about taking the rest. The CALM programme has given them a language to talk about rest in the context of the work they do.
    Navigating the charity through the Covid crisis is Emma’s proudest work-related achievement. It led her to a renewed focus on the most disadvantaged and marginalised of the charity’s clients, as they were affected disproportionately by the pandemic.
    Emma says she makes mistakes every day, but the important thing “is not to dwell on it.” She says “mistakes happen, they’re part of everyday life.” Imposter syndrome held her back for a long time, and she has had to work hard to challenge her limiting beliefs.
    Emma says an experience that has changed her fundamentally is finding that her and her husband were unable to have children. It’s shaped who she is, but also she feels it is something she needs to be open about, so that other women who aspire to senior roles don’t assume that they have to choose between children and a career. Jodie Day’s ‘Living the Life Unexpected’ helped Emma to come to terms with the situation.
    Emma’s self-care regime involves hot yoga, a podcast out on a walk or in the bath, and gardening. And she has joined the National Trust: self-care to her often means learning and putting her brain to use in a...

    • 28 min
    Melissa Swift, combatting the great resignation

    Melissa Swift, combatting the great resignation

    Melissa Swift is North American Transformation Leader at Mercer and author of Work Here Now: Think Like a Human and Build a Powerhouse Workplace.
    Melissa says that most of her career has been occupied by work that no-one understands. That’s been a consequence of a preference for working with diverse groups of people to solve complex problems. She currently works at Mercer which is a consultancy that helps with making work better, rewards systems, and wellness.
    Melissa believes that one of the aspects of work that is rarely considered is the everyday experience of the employee and how they feel about the work they are doing. In particular, often they can’t relate what they are doing to the goals of the business. Sometimes this is because the relationship is tenuous at best.
    Over the years Melissa has tested and learnt what makes a job fun for her. Her current job at Mercer combines intellectual challenge, working in diverse teams, and solving real world problems.
    Performative work appears in her book as a major problem area. A lot of the time what we are doing at work is artistic performance - we’re doing it just to show off. If we eliminated this we’d have fewer meetings, time for other things, and a better understanding of who was doing the work that contributes to the outcomes.
    She believes that companies could do better by addressing “immigration, migration and incarceration”: recruiting for technical skills and training for language skills rather than vice versa, moving to locations where the talent is, eliminating the biases that militate against hiring formerly incarcerated workers.
    She says “data tells us that HR is starving, misdirected, and overloaded.” It is understaffed compared to other functions such as finance, and that means that it is squeezed between ever-increasing demands of the centre and the grass roots. At the same time it is still undertaking a lot of transactional work manually.
    Melissa believes that there is a need for candour about the effectiveness of information technology in many businesses. There’s a reluctance on the part of management to go there even though they suspect the truth.
    Melissa believes that in order to combat ‘the great resignation’, corporate America needs to manage work populations more thoughtfully. Whilst organisations look to create a consistency of experience for their workers, doing so fails to take into account the differences in prior experience of individuals. In particular organisations are not forging a high quality relationship with under-represented groups.
    Melissa contends that most companies could vastly improve their performance by doing less, and performing the high priority tasks better: so much activity doesn’t translate to the bottom line. Much of what we do is driven by what Melissa calls the ‘work anxiety monster.’ This not an employee problem, or even a management problem, it is systemic.
    Melissa’s proudest achievement is the impact she has had on other people’s careers. Her biggest mistake was to chose certain roles where she was under-employed when her daughter was younger: she under-estimated the psychological impact of being neither challenged nor valued.
    She was inspired on her own journey by Mary Cianni at Korn Ferry, who combines an academically inflected perspective on transformation consultancy with practical wisdom born of experience.
    Melissa would recommend Bob Sutton’s ‘The No A*****e Rule’ to aspiring leaders. “No toxicity is non-negotiable” she says.
    Her self-care regime consists of getting up at 6:30 for a two-mile run. She has done this every day for over 800 consecutive days now.
    Her advice to her 20-year-old self is “Don’t put so much weight on every decision… take the pressure off, you have underlying values and they’re going to come through.”

    • 23 min
    Mark Berrios-Ayala, Allyship

    Mark Berrios-Ayala, Allyship

    Mark Berrios-Ayala, Lawyer, is a Board Director of the Gwen S Cherry Black Women Lawyers Association, Regional Vice President of District Three of the Puerto Rican Bar Association of Florida, and author of ‘Let’s Get Sincere’, a book on being an ally.
    Allyship is basically helping a resilient or disadvantaged community that is not your own.
    There is something of a history of allyship in the Puerto Rican community in the United States. Mark makes reference to The Young Lords, a group that supports neighbourhood empowerment for Puerto Rican and Latinos communities, but also women and LGBTQ.
    Mark’s book covers the political, social and spiritual dimensions of allyship. He makes the distinction between de jure, that is officially sanctioned, discrimination and de facto discrimination, which though not officially sanctioned is still real.
    Social discrimination is about, for example, being the only person in your workplace that is from your community. In this situation differences can lead to a lack of promotion opportunities or unfair termination. The spiritual dimension concerns the complications that faith can bring to allyship, particularly if the ally or the resilient community are eager to convert others.
    Good reasons to be an ally are if you have connections with a particular resilient community, for example friends, a job within the community, an affinity for their culture. Above all, you should have sincere motives and not hidden ones. And you should recognise that an ally cannot fix every problem for a community; for example mentorship does not feed people, mend broken families, provide stability and structure, or provide access to health and education.
    Mark lists nine behaviours that are helpful in an ally: courage, compassion, honesty, loyalty, consistency, selflessness, sacrifice, perseverance, and sincerity. There is a degree of overlap between these.
    Mark has experienced allyship in his own life, though at the time he may not have recognised it as such: one ally was a teacher who gave him guidance and widened his horizons.
    His proudest achievements to date are writing the book, becoming an attorney (five years ago), and sitting on various volunteer bar associations.
    In most instances his biggest mistakes have been associated with letting the advice of others override his personal intuition. This is one of the reasons that his book is written as a guide to help people think through the issues and come to their own conclusions rather than a set of rules.
    Apart from his own book, Mark would recommend ‘How to Win Friends and Influence People’ by Dale Carnegie, and ‘The Art of War’ by Sun Tzu. The latter emphasises the importance of knowing yourself and also the obstacles you face, which is quite relevant to allyship.
    He would also recommend ‘The Art of Seduction’ by Robert Greene, a book on how to manipulate and use people. If you are a member of a resilient community or an ally to one, it is helpful to understand the behaviour of predators. Mark says “if you want to learn you to defeat an manipulator you have to learn how they manipulate.”
    Mark’s self-care regime includes the gym, healthy eating and meditation. Spending time with friends and watching sport are other self-care activities. In addition, being involved in various voluntary organisations provides him with social support, new places to go, and fun.
    His advice to his 20-year-old self is quite specific: take a different prep class for law school, be more ambitious in your applications for law school, relax and spend more time on physical exercise in your first year. And his advice to his 25-year-old self would be “you will find a job but it won’t be exactly what you think it is, and that’s OK.”

    • 23 min

Customer Reviews

4.8 out of 5
6 Ratings

6 Ratings

MattBruce_ ,

Fantastic - well worth a listen.

Some fantastic content - I particularly enjoyed the interview with Hugh Facey. Please keep more content coming!

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