Helena Clayton | August: 3 Good Things



August: 3 Good Things

02 Sep 2018, Posted by Helena Clayton in Monthly Blog

My monthly post where I share what I’m learning and learning from …this month narrative writing and exploration, the power of collaboration and a book that really pushed my boundaries.

1. Our stories

This month saw me getting ready for the next cohort of the MSc in People and Organisational Development at Roffey Park. When the cohort of 20 or so forms into Learning Sets at the first residential, we’ll spend a whole day in an activity called Lifelines, where we track back through our lives, finding and then talking about the events that has shaped us into who we are – and the practitioners we are today.

This form of autobiographical exploration is always a rich experience – for each individual and also as a way to create deep connections within a group that will be depending on those bonds over the programme. We’re about to journey together for two years, and so this is an important investment in building a strong and safe container.

It’s only when we know someone’s story that we can understand them, I think. We can better see and understand why someone shows up in the way they do. We find connections between us from our shared history. And knowing our own story – telling it and have others bear witness to it – is also important.

Some of the journaling/narrative exploration resources I draw on when I use this approach with groups include:

· The ‘morning pages’ of Julia Cameron’s The Artists’s Way
· Jordan Peterson’s ‘self authoring’ autobiographical exploration of our past, present and future
· Susannah Conway’s Journal Your Life e-course

2. Pooling what we want and what we know

This last week of August has mostly been spent in ‘programme building’ on two different leadership programmes with clients of London Business School. Work I love … architecture-designing-and-content-shaping … that provides a balance to face to face delivery. On one programme, for 100 managers in a global professional services firm, I invited volunteers from the cohort to form a design team and work with me to shape the final few modules. We had our first meeting this week and it was so good to have their views and voices, alongside those of the client as well as the LBS team in the room together. I work on the principle of ‘doing with’ rather than ‘doing to’ and it’s great when it works out that way.

Also, I’d asked each person to research and bring along one example of what makes for a good and contemporary learning approach – and we shared a heap of good things that included:
· on-demand learning that was accessible on any device
· tailored learning via MOOCs that are self study and probably online
· ‘flipped classroom’ approaches where all input is absorbed before the face to face time and the time together is spent discussing and applying learning
· conversational / discussion based learning where a closed group has an online discussion on a particular topic using something like Slack
· Action Learning which is a form of structured group coaching and where people bring real work issues and have their peers support and challenge them to find ways forward …

You might spot from the above list that what was key was recognising that the participants being in their late 20s and early 30s provided a really different and useful lens from the client/LBS teams in their 40s and 50s. Reminds me of the work that Elke Edwards at Ivy House and Moyra Mackie do in making sure that we keep looking at the world through a Millennial lens. Our next meeting is in September and I’m already looking forward to the energy of it.

3. And a provocative read

While I was taking some time out in August, one of my reading choices was Eros/Power by Hilary Bradbury and William Torbert. I know these authors from their Handbook of Action Research but their collaboration in academia has also led to this (mostly) non academic book.

I found it breathtaking. In it, they each write alternate chapters that detail the history of their relationship over a couple of decades through the lens of sexual politics and the erotic charge that has underpinned it. In the book, they are asking ‘is friendly intimacy possible across differences of generational, gender and institutional power?’ What role or place does sexual energy and connection play in our everyday relationships? It’s a bold inquiry, that’s for sure.

And it’s a fascinating read. In part because it’s storytelling and who doesn’t get caught up in a story? It’s a direct, clear and very honest account of how they felt about each other told through the history of their own romantic and wider histories. But also fascinating because they talk explicitly about what’s pretty much taboo – that natural erotic or sexual charge that’s often between men and women when they work together but that almost always gets suppressed, denied or comes out in unacceptable ways.

They invite us to consider our own relationship to intimacy and power; to be searingly courageous and name some of our own wants and needs in our working relationships; to think about how we move between being passionate and dispassionate; and to be scrupulously honest about we feel about some people of the (mostly) opposite sex in our lives. Provocative stuff.

And that’s why I include it here. The more things that are suppressed and denied in ourselves and in organisations, the more potent they tend to become. I’m with Jung on that one: I believe in the shadow. Part of my work with any intact team, for example, is to help them find ways to talk about the undiscussables. and this book is certainly in that territory. Take a look and see what you think?

So, that’s me for now.  This sunny weekend marks the end of my summer break and I’m diving back in to a week of mostly coaching as we start September.

Have a great month and see you again at the end of it. Hx


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