Helena Clayton | What might be possible?
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What might be possible?

04 Dec 2016, Posted by Helena Clayton in Monthly Blog

Sometimes I’m asked by clients about what underpins my work, what approaches or beliefs my work is based on.  I might say things about the principles of self managed learning, or the importance of intentional practice.  Or about a humanistic philosophy.

But often I find myself saying ‘but, really, I think it all comes down to love’.  Because what might be possible in organisations if we:

•  treated love as a core leadership competency

•  developed the heart of leadership as being empathy, compassion, kindness, generosity, connection, vulnerability, giving people full attention so that they really feel seen and heard …

•  helped leaders feel less scared of their own hearts, and the hearts of others

operated from the principle that we have a responsibility to do business that also does good in the world

•  fully recognised that leaders are responsible for managing mood and that requires them to connect at a much deeper level

What might be possible if we operated  from the belief that ‘work is love in action’?

So I talk about love.

But I notice that many people don’t like (me) using the word love. Sometimes I am steered onto safer ground.  ‘You don’t mean love, though, do you? You mean wellbeing, right’. No, I don’t, actually, I mean love. ‘Well it’s about engagement, I guess’. No, it’s about love.

I wonder why it appears to feel so uncomfortable?  And I’m reminded what Bob Marshak says about what goes underground in organisations, what rarely gets spoken about. He names several things that are taboo including emotions, fears, hidden agendas. And also aspirations – it’s somehow not acceptable to talk about our hopes and dreams, and what we long for. If it’s true of aspirations, I imagine that the same goes for love, even though it’s not expressly on Marshak’s list.

Do you find it uncomfortable to talk about love? Even with friends and family, let alone within your organisational life? I used to, but my capacity for love – and my willingness to talk about it – has increased and so, these days, I can and I do.

And going back to those conversations with clients,  I usually notice a reaction of surprise. And sometimes a curiosity, and a softening. And often a rich conversation about how they too feel that organisations need more love.  People often tell me that they find it surprising, but also human. I feel it strengthens our relationship, in some way. (Those people who say nothing to me about it, well, I wonder what they feel?)

And so, if you’ll excuse the fruity language (turn away now, if it offends), I’ll quote Steve Coogan in a recent interview when he said “….my adage is that the edgiest word to use at the moment isn’t ‘fuck’, ‘piss’ or ‘shit’. It’s love. That’s what really makes people’s buttocks clench. It’s about being vulnerable, it’s counterintuitive, it ultimately makes you stronger. And that’s a very hard thing to grasp.”

So if my role as facilitator and coach in leadership development is to support people in their learning, it’s also to challenge.  My role is also to offer new perspectives and invite people to see things afresh and to bring difference where there is sameness. In service of making work a better place to be.

So I’m going to keep talking about love and seeing what happens.  Do you fancy joining me in that?

You can find Bob Marshak’s book here.   And you might also like a separate post I wrote about generosity .

You can follow me on Twitter @HelenaClayton for more stuff like this and whatever else feels important to me at the time of tweeting.

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