How one kind voice in lockdown cut through the numbers

In June, this time last year, Sydney was heading into its second major lockdown. Over the next few months, the daily 11am press conference became the mid-morning switch into the world outside the grind of working from home and other challenging situations. Though it was a depressing point in the day, it was addictive for those of us who, like me, were desperate for information, communal contact and any news of hope for those who were doing it tough.

Day in and day out, the sombre procession of ministers and health officials, fired off a barrage of facts, graphs and stats, case numbers, lock down locations, hospital and intensive care admissions, and details of deaths often introduced with the euphemistic description of people with “pre-existing health conditions”. Two months into this daily circus, something happened which, by contrast, seemed miraculous. From out of the shadows and in front of the cameras, NSW’s Chief Psychiatrist (who knew we had one?), Dr Murray Wright, quietly and briefly spoke.

“It’s really important for me,” he said, “To take this opportunity to remind everyone that this is probably the most sustained and serious stress that many of us are going to face in our lifetimes.” (1)

If you saw this, you might have suddenly felt “heard”. In just a few short minutes Dr Wright spoke about caring, for ourselves and for others. He suggested we have a plan, that we put structure into our days, that we make contact with people who are important to us, get exercise, and have meaningful conversations while looking out for the signs and making changes when things aren’t working.

This, to me, is what Boyatzis, Smith and Van Oosten in “Coaching for Change”, call a “coachable moment”. (2) Even if it was in the absence of an actual one-to-one coaching session, here was someone who spoke our truth. While working from home in isolation and experiencing the challenges of realising our personal or professional potential, a caring and compassionate coach could really have helped.  Someone who could listen, someone to show empathy for our circumstances and our feelings and who could help us explore some actionable steps. This wasn’t just about the numbers. We needed someone who was kind.

Boyatzis, Smith and Van Oosten say that “Numerous studies have shown that people tend to achieve more, in a more sustainable way, when they’re in a positive state both psychologically and physically… This can be achieved by coaching with compassion.” (3)

I had the opportunity to speak with one of Bambuddha’s Kindness Coaches, Jo Bowles, who confirmed that, “A Kind Coach is a coach who can bring an element of compassion to the situation. They are willing to build a relationship…exposing and sharing their own vulnerability which can encourage trust and respect.”

“You meet someone where they are,” Jo said, “And help provide new perspectives to their issue or situation, whatever their place in the world and whatever legacy they would like to leave.”

Jo has coached in other contexts where the coaching is more “transactional”, which is focused on solving a particular problem or person for the benefit of an organisation. Jo finds coaching at Bambuddha rewarding, having the support of a peer-to-peer network, opportunities for self-development and buoyed by Bambuddha’s commitment to sustainable change, kinder practice and embedding ESG priorities.

Over the last two years we have fundamentally changed our ways of living. Many people have reshaped their relationships and their approach to how they work and who they work for.. They have rearranged childrearing, caring, learning and leisure activities, and reconnected with their neighbours and communities. And as witnessed in the recent Federal election, people are engaging in more active citizenship, demanding more authentic public conversations and looking for more diverse and responsive kinds of leaders. These changes may provide opportunities for “coachable moments”.

While the NSW Chief Psychiatrist made just a couple of public appearances during last year’s lockdown, it did demonstrate that we need more leaders talking and walking kinder, not just numbers. Through its coaching, education and corporate programs for leaders, Bambuddha is well-placed to help leaders of organisations and their teams to “work kinder”, to spread the language and values of kindness and help develop the necessary knowledge and approaches to leadership that will lead to equality and opportunity for all.

Applications are now open to be a Kindness Coach 2022. If you have what it takes to be a Kindness Coach, then apply now HERE.


Follow Judith on LinkedIn here and Instagram @judithkingston_colour

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