Helena Clayton | February: 3 Good Things



February: 3 Good Things

03 Mar 2019, Posted by Helena Clayton in Monthly Blog

A busy February, work-wise. And from the edges of the corporate world, three things you might find interesting …

1. Schumacher College + Satish Kumar = Love

You know that I’m researching and writing about love in our organisations? I’m interested to explore how we can provide a counterbalance to (what I see as) the increasingly punishing and psychologically unsafe working conditions in so many of our organisations. Yes, I know this is a first world problem. And yes, I know that there are many organisations who actively promote kindness and compassion. But not nearly enough.

And so when I saw that Satish Kumar was running a weekend workshop on love at Schumacher College, I obviously had to go.

Schumacher is a college that specialises in ecology-centred programmes through deep participatory engagement with nature. Progressive and known for its commitment to social action, it directly asks us to look at how we engage with the world.

So, a group of 25 people, at least half from other European countries, we sat and listened to Satish Kumar. This extraordinary man, now in his 80’s, is ‘a former monk and long-term peace and environment activist who has been quietly setting the Global Agenda for change for over 50 years. He was just nine when he left his family home to join the wandering Jains and 18 when he decided he could achieve more back in the world, campaigning for land reform in India and working to turn Gandhi’s vision of a renewed and a peaceful world into reality’.

He talked about self love and the intimacy that’s needed with ourself before we can extend it to another person; divine and ultimate love and how the seeds for that are in us all; what’s needed to convert hatred into love and radical forgiveness; the need for us to really love the soil and our earth because we only protect what we love; that love is a practice that we need to embody and not just hold as an idea; and that we need to actively and intentionally cultivate our capacity to love every single day. The poetry of Rumi and Hafiz as well as many amazing stories from his own life were woven in and out.

What a complete privilege it was to sit with this amazing man for two whole days, just soaking it up.

He runs this weekend each year and you can find details of the Feb 2020 workshop here. A delicious bonus is that you get to learn and practice Qi Gong With Bamboo Sticks with his wife, June Mitchell. A new practice for me, and I loved it. One of the most gorgeous memories from the weekend is of us all practicing with June in the early dark, cold February mornings with the moon still high in the sky. Magical.


2. ‘Performance’ skills

I’ve been working with groups for a l-o-n-g time, in training-type roles and more at the facilitation end of things. I also develop others in this, often running The Art of Facilitation, at Roffey Park, say. And overall, I’m pretty good, I think 😊.

But the last 6 months has seen me take on some pieces of work with big groups. Between 60 and 100 people. And I can really feel that what works really well for groups of say, 15-20, where I can work more intimately, more up-close-and-personal, really doesn’t serve me quite so well with much bigger numbers. The numbers themselves don’t faze me. And I do a decent job. It’s more that I can really see/feel the limits of my particular ways of working. I have found an edge; I’m not quite so skilful here. And I’d like to be.

How to engage and entertain a very big group while also being participative, how to be heard and get everyone’s attention (as a small woman with a light voice), how to work with the energy field of 100 people, to still find ways to connect personally and be intimate, to have such a big group reflect and learn, how to be more …big. I don’t know how to do that so well.

But I’m not very good at not being very good at something! I love to learn when it’s stuff that I want to learn, but have a lot of resistance when it’s clearly something that I need to learn. Hello ego!

And I confess to having been a bit sniffy in the past about this need to hone my ‘performance’ skills. When I first started working as a facilitator, it took me a while to learn how to facilitate just as me, to drop the performance. When I was beginning it was: ‘now I have to put on the hat and coat of a facilitator and be that’. These days, it’s usually: ‘fully me, all of me, just doing some facilitation’.

But I’ve seen two facilitators / practitioners recently who I want to learn more from. Interestingly, they’re both actors and I see the way that they use their voice and their bodies, the techniques they employ to get responses and engagement from a room of 100 or so people … they really work and I want a bit of that for myself. It reminds me of the way I worked when teaching the Hoffman Process which took me into such new territory in what I had to do with the groups that it inevitably showed up in my work with organisations. I got braver, and widened my bandwidth a LOT. And so it’s time for a bit more of that, I think.

So, here’s Alex MacLaren of The Spontaneity Shop, who I saw run a session for a London Business School client last week. His approach really thrilled me and I’ll be looking out for ways to do some learning with him soon. Some improv training and probably some traditional ‘working with big groups’ training. If you can recommend any good places for me, please shout.


3. And a book recommendation

I don’t know if you know what Russell Brand has been writing about these days? You might know where he’s coming from if you listen to his podcast Under the Skin. But his recent writing has mostly been about his recovery from addiction, and what he’s learned along the way. It’s true that you might have to do business with his rather lyrical way of writing. But if you can handle that, you have someone who is vulnerable and wise, open and provocative, spiritual and deeply practical all in one go.

His latest book is called Mentors and looks at the key relationships that have supported and sustained him through this journey. He talks about asking for help, the humility to know when you need it and the importance of passing it on. Take a look, it’s a great read and he says some important stuff.

So, let’s see what March has in store and what I’ll bring back for you . I’ve booked a ‘sabbatical’ week off to complete some writing about love in leadership; have a favourite programme with a Civil Service department; a high energy emerging leaders programme; an MSc set meeting … and a lot of coaching. See you in a few weeks …:-)

In the meantime, if you think others might like these resources, please do share, I’d appreciate it. H x


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