Creating More Compassionate Workplaces with Mary Freer

How does compassion transform our workplaces and how people show up in them? How might we practice compassion as leaders and leverage it as a generous tool to build trust?

We explored these questions and more with Mary Freer, the executive director of Compassion Revolution and Freerthinking, a Westpac Social Change Fellow, a TedX speaker, and Member of the Australian Compassion Council.

Mary is committed to creating a more compassionate world. She has contributed to Australia’s healthcare system reform in a variety of executive and leadership roles over the past 30 years in both State and National government agencies and not for profit health and social care services.  Mary has founded social change movements and worked closely with global health improvement leaders, clinicians, and administrators in many countries across the world to bring about system improvement. 

In our conversation, we explored what compassion is, it’s relationship with trust, and it’s power in transforming our workplaces and our world for the better.

If you’re interested in creating work cultures that value and revere creating meaningful human connections and help people show up as their best selves, then you’ll definitely want to listen to this episode of In Trust.

Overview of Episode 44: Creating More Compassionate Workplaces with Mary Freer

Talking Points

  • How Mary defines compassion
  • How the work Mary does touches on the culture of organizations and equity
  • How Mary came to lead the Compassion Revolution
  • Why trust is everything and crucial to Mary’s work
  • How it’s a painfully long process to rebuild trust in organizations when it has been eroded
  • Mary’s tips for enrolling senior leaders in the compassion revolution
  • How compassion improves a workplace
  • Why how we meet matters, especially for the first time and why Mary often insists on the location of first meetings
  • The most important thing in practicing compassion for yourself and others
  • The importance of reaching out and doing the little things – they add up to make a big difference
  • Finding the others at work


“People sometimes think of compassion as being synonymous with soft, kind, caring, and fluffy kittens. I don’t think of compassion in that way. I think of compassion as being really muscular. I think of compassion as being the cousin of justice, fairness, equity, connection, trust, and all the things that make for a better world.” – Mary Freer

“I’m really conscious all the time of what voices I amplify and what voices we amplify as a revolution that’s bringing about compassion.” – Mary Freer

“Trust: it’s everything.” – Mary Freer

“I see where trust is eroded and it’s a painfully long process to build that back again in organizations.” – Mary Freer

“There’s so much research that tells us that if you want to improve your financial position, then you need compassion in your workplace, just like you need trust, and authenticity, and all of those things.” – Mary Freer

 “I take people into these different spaces because I want to have different conversations. I always want people to feel that I’m really seeing them and I want to see the very best in them. It’s not like I want to set people up so they feel embarrassed or put on the spot. It’s not like that at all. It’s like, I can’t really see you when we meet in these predictable ways.” – Mary Freer

“It’s taken me a long time to really understand what I think is vitally important, and that is that the world requires something from us and we have something that we’re willing to give to the world. When the magic happens that the thing that you were willing to give matches what the world wants, it’s like, ‘Boom!’” – Mary Freer

“Compassion essentially is being able to recognize the distress that others and you are experiencing and, in understanding that, to set about to alleviate it.” – Mary Freer

“The most important thing, I think, to practice compassion towards yourself or someone else is being able to show up. The only way I can really show up for myself is if I can be in this present moment without being caught up with an idea that the next moment is somehow going to be more exciting, or has more to offer or is more attractive, or whatever.” – Mary Freer

“Find your allies. Organizations are full of people who want to work with you. Find them. Find a way of signaling that people may find you.” – Mary Freer

This episode sponsored by:

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