The Edges of Lean — Ep 86 Continuous Improvement and Compassionate Coaching with Erin Whalen

Erin Whalen is a coach whose practice is focused on serving the people who work with the grieving and dying: bereavement professionals who need perhaps more than anyone to be seen, heard, and supported. Erin comes to coaching through the path of acting and the art of improvisation. She utilizes the tools she’s learned through her artistic experience to help “fill the cups” of her clients and provide them with the communication skills they need to succeed. Erin’s passion for coaching shines through her work, and her innovative approach to communication skills training makes her a leader in the field.

Erin Whalen

Erin Whalen, the founder of Compassionate Coaching, has guided teams of bereavement and end-of-life professionals toward being seen heard, and supported. Erin’s dedication to effective communication and team building led her to present at the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organizations Virtual Conference twice and host events such as Playback Theater to unite a community of like-minded individuals.



0:02:49 Supporting bereavement professionals through team building and communication skills training

0:05:02 Building a community through creativity

0:06:43 Exploring how acting helped Erin become a better coach

0:10:17 Communication skills for bereavement professionals

0:15:11 Role-playing and compassionate coaching for professional growth

0:22:06 Challenges and rewards of Playback Theater

0:23:39 Art of storytelling through music, movement, and drama

0:25:33 Transforming lives through storytelling

0:28:56 Discovering the surprising benefits of creative expression in the workplace

0:30:37 Artful leadership: exploring the role of art in healthcare leadership and resilience.




  • Providing support and communication training can help individuals in challenging professions to stay motivated and committed to their work.
  • Effective communication involves nonverbal cues and personal histories. Bereavement professionals must show empathy and genuine compassion to support those experiencing loss.
  • Practice and feedback are essential in improving communication skills. Role-playing can create a safe environment for people to practice difficult conversations and receive constructive feedback.
  • Actors must connect emotionally with their characters, even without shared experiences. The highest compliment is a genuine performance. Being present and aware of scene partners is key
  • Playback Theatre uses music, movement, and drama to play back essential moments of a person’s story, reflecting their emotional state. The process is improvisational and honors the storyteller.
  • Trust, honesty, and creativity are essential for good leadership. Supporting caregivers ensures they feel valued and heard, leading to purposeful work



Memorable Quotes From Erin Whalen

“It’s all about the stories we hold. We can give and receive empathy through storytelling and reflection and creating a transformative experience.”