Coaching that Helps the Coach and the Coachee Experience Renewal – Really?

We all know the feeling when confronted with … “These are the things that you need to work on.”

My response and your response – as a patient, a nurse or a boss – would likely be some level of immediate shut-down.


The physiological response associated with this shut-down creates a negative chemical flow from the sympathetic nervous system that literally closes down our minds and our willingness to change.

You know the look on the patient’s or anyone’s face when that shut-down kicks in.

As it turns out, we are only going to get the consideration of change that is needed, by allowing the coachee to put him/herself in a positive emotional state.

This is called Coaching for Compassion.


Coaching for Compassion is quite distinct from Coaching for Compliance, which is what most of us have been conditioned to participate in when working with others to change. That sounds familiar, right?

Science has been telling us that Coaching for Compliance is counter productive. While it might get the change needed initially, it likely won’t be sustained unless the coachee is able to connect it with their goals and self-improvement.

The beauty of Coaching for Compassion is that it benefits both the coach and the coachee; both are renewed by the process. Interestingly, this sounds like authentic caring.


When you coach someone to their positive emotional state, the parasympathetic nervous system kicks in, and the person’s cognitive and emotional functioning and ability is activated. It is the caring relationship with the coach that allows the coachee to experience break-throughs and new insights about their values, dreams and future possibilities.

This is Not manipulation, this is having an authentic conversation about how the coachee sees their world and the required steps to reach their desired future. It’s balancing the conversation through the positives (their values, desires, strengths) and the negatives (areas needing improvement), all towards the coachee’s goals by incorporating their values and what is important to them.


The compassionate coaching conversation starts with a warm up period, asking the coachee to describe their desired future. Next ask for their picture of their ideal self, followed by questions that expand the picture and tap into their joy and hope. It is in this context that the coachee can be more open to feedback about their real self and participate in the needed improvements towards their goals and image and that of the organization.

How can this be accomplished in this day of needing to be efficient?

Good question. But what we do know from our experience is that Coaching for Compliance does not engage coachees effectively, be they patients or staff.


With Coaching for Compassion a better relationship is formed and better outcomes.

The development and research on this subject comes out of Case Western Reserve University, and there is a good amount of literature available online with details on the approach. The You Tube link below is short and informative, and other references follow.

I love this…. this gives me hope.

Coaching with Compassion Can ‘Light Up’ Human Thoughts – You Tube


Passarelli AM. Vision-based coaching: optimizing resources for leader development. Frontiers in Psychology, 15 April 2015.(  Accessed Jan, 2015.
Boyatzis RE, Smith ML, Van Oosten E, Woolford L. Developing resonant leaders through emotional intelligence, vision and coaching. Organizational Dynamics, (2013) 42, 17-24.
Howard A. Coaching to vision versus coaching to improvement needs: a preliminary investigation on the differential impacts of fostering positive and negative emotion during real time executive coaching session. Frontiers in Psychology, 24 April 2015. (  Accessed Jan, 2015.

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