Professional Comment

How A Career In Nursing Can Lead To A Successful Career In Coaching with Compassion

By Graeme McKinnon, CEO, and founder of Why Leadership (

The notion of ‘coaching with compassion’ hinges on leaders making a strong positive connection with those around them. Using your emotional intelligence is important, to tune into others’ needs and helping them change in ways that are aligned to their personal vision and dreams. This form of coaching requires the coach to take a holistic view, empathising and acting on the things that are important to the coachee. This approach can be transformative, leading to a dramatic, positive effect on their motivation, performance and wellbeing.

In much the same way as doctors or nurses connect on a human level with patients, teachers with pupils and parents with children, coaching with compassion

focuses on helping people change because they want to change, not because they are being forced to. Connecting in this way has the power to unlock a positive response and a deep-seated sustainable level of self-motivation.

Delivered effectively, coaching with compassion can help people from all walks of life including leaders, teams, individuals, and organisations, to establish a clear sense of purpose (your WHY) and a caring supportive environment, to accelerate personal and organisational growth.

There are five must-haves from a career in nursing that can also lead to a successful career in coaching.

These are:

• Trust – the ability to build a relationship so that people feel you can be relied upon and confident that you will always put their best interests first

• Empathy – the capacity to understand or feel what another person is experiencing from their frame of reference

• Emotional intelligence – the ability to understand and manage your own emotions and those of the people around you

• Positive Mindset – an attitude and state that results in optimism about the future, underpinned with a natural ability to turn challenging situations into opportunities for growth

• Resilience – the capacity to recover quickly from difficult situations with competence, confidence and control, particularly when the challenge seems insurmountable in the first instance.

These attributes and skills can really help every member of a multi-disciplinary team within the care sector. Creating a coaching culture and teaching people how to coach with compassion is therefore a huge opportunity, both for those providing care as well as those receiving care. When you coach with compassion, it creates opportunities to change organisational culture by allowing leaders to cascade the benefits of the coaching they have received down to their direct reports, who in turn can coach their own teams and so on. This often results in looking at other HR practices and internal communication platforms to see how coaching benefits can be shared with a wider audience.

Coaching with compassion will lead to sustainable change, reducing stress and improving feelings of well- being. It can also invoke a psychological state that enables a person to be open to new possibilities and learning. In contrast, coaching for compliance, or performance coaching, often results in a negative response, invoking an unhelpful state. This often results in the person being coached acting in a defensive way, result- ing in a lack of buy in to delivering sustainable change.

A career in nursing usually leads to a strong desire to help other people. When someone from the sector moves into business, they will naturally find themselves in a position where coaching and leadership work comes with the same level of compassion. The good news is that these skills are transferable, which open us a whole host of opportunities, both within the care sector as well as any other organisation that relies on people to deliver a service.