A concept exploring the parallels between the organs in our body, people in organisations, and coaching culture. The Heart and Rhythm

 This article is the continuation of “The Rhythm of Being” series. The article covers –

  • Introduction to Rhythm
  • Introduction to the Heart
  • Emotions of the Heart
  • Links to the Team and Organisation
  • Links to Coaching
  • Reflection Exercise


Imagine being a drummer in a band. You have an innate sense of rhythm within you and the ability to control the rhythm of the band. So, if you miss a beat or inadvertently change the rhythm, you could affect all the other band members.

I had an opportunity to organise a drumming session as part of a team event with Rich Enion, drummer of Drumming Team Building, and founder of Enrichd. It was a mesmerizing experience, and we were completely absorbed by the rhythms we created on the drums. The team were so closely connected and in sync with each other that when one person changed the rhythm without notice the others went with it. Rich, who was leading the session, said “that is strong evidence to support that you are a closely knit team”. We were listening out for and watching out for each other subconsciously.

When you hear music with a rhythm how often does your foot or finger start tapping? Two of a number of things also happen. The first is the connection from where you first heard that piece of music and the emotions it triggers. The second is that when we are exposed to slow beat music the ‘parasympathetic nervous system’ is stimulated thus decreasing the heart rate whereas when listening to fast beat music the ‘sympathetic nervous system’ is stimulated which increases the heart rate.

In an article from the Science Daily website entitled ‘Brain picks up the beat of music automatically’ (May 2016) (1) it states –

“Rhythm is music’s pattern in time. Whatever other elements a given piece of music may have (e.g. patterns in pitch or timbre), rhythm is the one indispensable element of all music. Rhythm can exist without melody, as in the drumbeats of so-called primitive music, but melody cannot exist without rhythm.

Music cognition scientists discovered that the sense of rhythm – also known as the beat – is so fundamental to humans that we recognize patterns in music even without paying attention or receiving any training. A sense of rhythm is a uniquely human characteristic.”


The heart is the muscular pump in the centre of the chest that beats continuously and rhythmically to send blood to the lungs and the rest of the body. (2)

“Heartfelt” is described as profoundly felt, sincere, having a strong emotional connection. In reality, however, the heart on its own is not emotional at all, it has a critical physical function in our body.

In Bill Bryson’s book The Body (3) he writes “the heart beats slightly more than once every second, about 100,000 times a day, as many as 3.5 billion times in a lifetime, it rhythmically pulses to push blood through our body, around 260 litres of blood an hour. It pumps the blood to the outer parts of our body and brings it back. Think how much more it has to do when we stand up, walk, run, and do physical exercise.”

The heart pumps the blood around the body to enable the body to function. Even Plato (427-347 BC), an Athenian Philosopher, stated this. Blood carries oxygen to and carbon dioxide from the tissues of the body.


 Some phrases we hear relating to the heart- ‘I love you with all my heart’; ‘this is heartfelt’; ‘I am broken hearted’.

How did the human heart become associated with love and how did it turn into the shape we know today?

Marilyn Yalom, author of The Amorous Heart (4), writes –

How did the human heart become associated with love? And how did it turn into the shape we know today?

“As far back as the ancient Greeks, lyric poetry identified the heart with love. Among the earliest known Greek examples, the poet Sappho agonized over her own “mad heart” quaking with love. She lived during the 7th century BC on the island of Lesbos and wrote passionate poems, now known only in fragments, like Love Shook My Heart.

Greek philosophers agreed, more or less, that the heart was linked to our strongest emotions, including love.

Among the ancient Romans, the association between the heart and love was commonplace. Venus, the goddess of love, was credited — or blamed — for setting hearts on fire with the aid of her son Cupid, whose darts aimed at the human heart were always overpowering.

In the ancient Roman city of Cyrene — near what is now Shahhat, Libya — the coin was discovered. Dating back to 510-490 BC, it’s the oldest-known image of the heart shape. However, it’s what I call the non-heart heart, because it is stamped with the outline of the seed from the silphium plant, a now-extinct species of giant fennel. Why in the world would anyone have put that on a coin? Silphium was known for its contraceptive properties, and the ancient Libyans got rich from exporting it throughout the known world. They chose to honor it by putting it on a coin.

 In 1344, the first known image of the indubitable heart icon with two lobes and a point appeared. It made its debut in a manuscript titled The Romance of Alexander, written in the French dialect of Picardy by Lambert le Tor (and, after him, finished by Alexandre de Bernay).”

Consider how you felt when you were attracted to someone, how you felt emotionally, and the reaction that had on your heart rate. Consider also how you felt when you were anxious about meeting someone at work you do not get on with, and again, the effect that had on your heart. Your heart rate increased, you felt tense, and you started to feel sweaty. What on earth was going on in your body? There were many interactions taking place at that moment and your heartbeat was one of the key physical contributions to cause this reaction. This is how the emotion links to the heartbeat.


Let’s consider how the heart can be used as a metaphor in a business setting.

Within a team or organisation, who generates and pumps the energy into the team to create a vibrant and positive environment? Who represents the heart and keeps the flow (the blood) of ideas, encouragement, progression?

As leaders we are the people responsible for creating and circulating the energy (blood) to all parts of the department/business.

In a recent discussion with Tess Guy – Founder of In Mind In Body and a Fitness Trainer, we talked about Rhythm. Tess stated that we tune into the energy frequency (rhythm) around us. This is how we are able to sense the atmosphere in a room or office. It is a natural human instinct; we need to take note of it. We need to be mindful of the impact we have on others and our environment. The culture we create is influenced by our attitude, our integrity, our trustworthiness, and how we communicate verbally and non-verbally.

No doubt you know all of the above, but, like me, sometimes you need reminding.


In a recent Trusted Coach Directory Group Coaching Supervision session entitled ‘Rhythm of Being’ I posed the question, “What body part could you use to describe the support you give to a coachee? Someone suggested we could use the head, heart and gut as an analogy and ask whether the coachee is using their head (logic), heart (emotion) or gut (instinct).

As a coach we can sense whether a coachee is anxious by their body language – their hand positions, their facial colouring, and subtle eye movements – all influenced by how they are really feeling. This in turn affects their heart rate and the flow of blood around their body.

Part of the role of the coach is to put the coachee at ease, thus enabling a normal heart rate and healthy heart. We cannot underestimate the importance of the heart both physically and emotionally.



If you are representing the heart in your team or organisation, how are you creating the energy and the right environment for the team to operate at their best?


Notes for self –




If you are a coach what analogies could you use relating to the heart?


Notes for self –






My thanks go to Rich Enion – drummer and health expert (www.drummingteambuilding.co.uk and www.enrichd.org), Tessa Guy – Founder of In Mind In Body (www.inmindinbody.com), those who were involved in the Trusted Coach Directory group session, for sharing their knowledge and thoughts, and to Rosemary Webb for editing.


Science Daily website – article ‘Brain picks up the beat of music automatically’ – Source – University of Amsterdam, May 2016

  1. The British Medical Association (MBA) A-Z Family Medical Encyclopaedia – Published by Dorling Kindersley Limited, 2004
  2. The Body, Bill Bryson – Transworld Publishers, 2019
  3. Marilyn Yalom, author of The Amorous Heart: An unconventional History Published by Basic Books, Hachette Book Group, New York, 2018. Also, Marilyn Yalom Ted Talk – ‘How the Image of the Heart became the symbol of Love – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d9Yb6pQagHs&t=2s


If you would like to explore more about this concept or have some comments about the article, do get in touch. Thank you.

 Email: jonwebb@webb-development.co.uk

Mobile: 07967 040531


Jon Webb PCC FIOH MWIFM (UK based Leadership/Team Coach and Coaching Supervisor)

Jon is an award-winning Facilitator, Leadership and Team Coach, and Coach Supervisor with considerable experience in team development, coaching, customer service, and personal development, working with organisations in the UK and internationally. He has run Webb Development, a leadership development and coaching business, for over 30 years.

His aspiration is to enable people to achieve their true potential that they may not be aware of, by challenging, encouraging and supporting them, and in turn enabling them to share their energy, enthusiasm and motivation with others to provide a positive environment for people they work and share their lives with.

The motivation for looking at this concept was to stimulate ideas using body organs as illustrations and metaphors –

  • to help one be aware of one’s health (‘how healthy are you?’);
  • to be consciously aware of the influence and impact one has on others;
  • to trigger/enrich thoughts about the impact one has on others within one’s team, especially if one is a leader (how healthy is your team?’);
  • to gauge the organisation’s effectiveness (‘how healthy is your organisation?’), this includes people at all levels and has an influence on the organisation’s direction/purpose.

Read previous blogs by Jon:

Rhythm of Being Part one

Rhythm of Being – Part Two – The Skin

Rhythm of Being – Part Three – The Neuron and Synape