Coaching for Compassion

Paulo Moncores

Senior Engineering Manager at Shopify



I daily see managers trying to help their reports achieve specific goals and support them to become better at their job. This approach, based on instigating motivation, is not helping people to find their true purpose, be inspired, and evolve as human beings as well as professionals.

When you are helping people achieve a specific goal you are not changing their behavior. However, when you are coaching for compassion you are developing a deeper relationship with your reports. You are trying to understand what makes them happy about the work they do and if you can inspire them and help them propel to the next level.

Actions taken

I use one-on-ones to coach for compassion, to instigate inspiration and not merely motivate people. Therefore, my one-on-ones are anything but status reports meetings. I use them to establish a strong and deep connection with my reports.
My one-on-ones are divided into three parts:

Talk about yourself. Talk about your plans, goals, and failures from a very personal perspective and then invite your report to do the same. When you take the first step you are showing your vulnerability that will help your reports open up and do the same.

Talk about your dreams. Talk about things that you like to do, that you are passionate about, and ask your reports to share their dreams and passions too. At the end of this part, you should help them formulate a personal mission statement, a statement that explains what makes them wake up every morning and enjoy doing what they are doing.

Make it clear who does what by when. After discussing their dreams it is time to operationalize how to get there. Instead of initiating the conversation around what they need to do, have it revolve around who -- who you want to become -- and based on that define what they should be doing.

The overall objective is to come up with comprehensive personal development plans that would incorporate your reports’ personal mission statements, their dreams and passions, and concrete action items to achieve them. Then, you should use one-on-ones to keep track of how people are progressing toward these objectives. Even if they decide to leave the company, your role is to support them in doing so because development plans are about individuals, not the company.

Lessons learned

  • Managers often -- wrongfully -- believe that their role is to motivate people. Most of the time that means pushing their reports to do something that they don’t want to do. On the other hand, managers who realize that their role is to inspire people, are instigating a profound and impactful change in their reports.
  • Three main lessons for inspiring one-on-ones:
    a. Avoid talking about projects and checking on project updates.
    b. If you want people to show you their vulnerability, take the lead and be the one to show yours first.
    c. Silence is a friend. People are often afraid of silence and would keep on jabbering to avoid silence. Become comfortable with silence and appreciate what it can help you learn about yourself and others.

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Paulo Moncores

Senior Engineering Manager at Shopify

Leadership DevelopmentCommunicationOrganizational StrategyCulture DevelopmentPerformance ReviewsFeedback TechniquesCareer GrowthCareer ProgressionSkill Development

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