Helena Clayton | July: 3 Good Things
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July: 3 Good Things

02 Aug 2018, Posted by Helena Clayton in Monthly Blog

My monthly post, sharing some of what I’m doing and learning…this month, millennials and generosity and trying to escape ‘the stupefying power of corporate culture’.

It’s been a good and very busy month. There was running The Art of Facilitation, a trip to Brighton to applaud the graduation Cohort 26 of the Roffey Park MSc in People and OD (always so proud to be part of that faculty team) … my first ever unconscious bias training with NCBI (excellent) and a crab-and-swim-every-day week’s break in Cromer right at the end. So, lots to choose from this month.

1. Space to breathe and think

One of the most common issues that leaders bring to coaching is how to move from operational to strategic working, and build in some thinking and creative time. Typically:

  • I know I need to do it, but I don’t know how
    I can’t stop doing operational stuff because there’s so much, it’s never-ending and who will do it if I don’t
    of course, I don’t have time to be creative, there’s too much to do I don’t even have time to think about thinking differently
    When I’m being strategic, what does that actually look like, what am I actually doing?
    Yes, I can see that I have 10 meetings a day booked in but I need to be at all those meetings and, anyway, people just book them in my diary
    But I don’t have the team in place to allow me to step away from the operational stuff

It’s not an outrageous comment, IMHO, to say that organisational life is becoming more like the Victorian workhouse than ever. Isn’t it in some definition somewhere that managers/leaders have more autonomy in and over their work? These day, only on paper, maybe. Because in my experience leaders and managers don’t feel that that’s the case. Many (most?) feel caged and hamstrung by their workload; use a hamster wheel as their chosen metaphor; and feel very stuck, and often panicky, stressed and fearful.

And so we explore it: what’s the cost of operating that way? What might be gained – what might be possible – if you could free up 20% of your time? What about even 10%?  …2%? Where does this addiction to busyness and doing come from? What need in you does it fulfil? What’s this really about? What are you fearful of? How do frameworks (like Urgent/Important) help you see things differently? What does your Best Self want to say to you about this? What’s the perverse payoff for operating like this? And, why change at all – you don’t need to – why not keep doing what you’re doing?

Personally, as a coach, I find it one of the most tricky areas in which to create change. Because we might identify all sorts of experiments too – blocking out time in your diary; working in a different location within the office so you get interrupted less often; taking just your notebook and sitting in an art gallery for 2 hours; going for a walk at lunchtime …. But I find that, come the next session, the client has often remained stuck in that compelling vortex of reacting to what comes up. Because it’s not usually about techniques – but about deeper stuff, often fear.

I know this in myself too – my compulsion to get things done that comes from a childhood of being kept busy and constantly occupied and that means I have a lack of ease with empty space; my fear of letting a ball drop and then being told off that comes from my dad’s need to look in control of things; a fear of failure that keeps me doing things that I know I can do well; the fear of looking stupid to others that keeps me playing small.

And current workloads don’t feel sustainable for many people – we are stretched very thin – and I am fearful of the damage that causes. So I keep on exploring this for myself and for my coaching clients, keep looking for ways to help people (and me) find it in them to push back against the overwhelm of workload, to let go a little of what doesn’t matter, to risk saying ‘fuck it’, to help people find a more spacious way of working that will allow both breathing space and thinking space.

Here’s a book I took away to Cromer, and I might start recommending on this. It has the best book title ever – Orbiting the Giant Hairball – and considers one man’s way of staying clear of the ‘stupefying power of corporate culture’ and not letting our organisation become ‘the shroud that ties and binds us’ 😊

Plus – very different – a piece called She Let Go that my yoga teacher read the other day that might be helpful for those of us (me, for sure) whose fingers are gripping more tightly than they need to be.

2. Next generation
One of the most enjoyable pieces of work I’m involved in this year, and featured heavily in July too, is designing and running a year long programme for 100 young high potential managers in global professional services firm.

I realise that I love working with younger people (I’m 54, for the record). For those of you who are also interested in the next generation, two things for you. The first is to point you towards the work of Elke Edwards and Ivy House, who are doing some powerful work in leadership development for 18-28 year olds. How important, at that age, to have a senior mentor and a performance coach, focus on purpose and the importance of deep self knowledge.

And then also, in an increasingly multi generational workforce, where sometimes we hear ‘but how do I manage this younger generation – they seem so different’ there is Moyra Mackie who regularly brings people together to explore this and other themes in a series of breakfast events. Keep a look out for her next one on Managing Millennials.

Both are women whose work and passion inspire me a lot and I think you might find that too.

3. Generosity
And a shout out. You know you sometimes come across people who, while they really don’t have to, nevertheless go out of their way to give you help and support? Who are generous and come from a place of abundance? Well, that’s Louise Ash. I don’t know her well at all but she set up and now runs Meaning Conference, an amazing and inspiring conference in Brighton each year (15 Nov 2018). I am running an event as part of the Meaning Fringe this year, exploring Leading from Love (details here) , and Louise has been super-helpful in getting that set up with me. So a big thanks, Louise, for your time, encouragement and practical support …

OK, so see you at the end of August for the next 3 Good Things. In the meantime, I’ll also be writing regularly about ‘leadership and love’, in the run up to the Meaning Conference Fringe event. And you can contribute to the Leading from Love research by completing the 15 minute survey here.

 

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