Helena Clayton | March: 3 Good Things
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March: 3 Good Things

31 Mar 2019, Posted by Helena Clayton in Monthly Blog

This has been a full on month, work-wise, that’s also included a 5 day ‘sabbatical’ in a cottage in Frome. The plan was to do some writing on my Leading from Love research project (which I did) but it was also a joy to get to some yoga classes run by a friend and meet up with other friends who live locally. And Frome is a delight 🙂 This month, I also did two talks on love and leadership, one at DisruptHR and the other at BelongCon both of which went really well and both of which reminded me of my commitment to get some voice and presence training – which I mentioned in February’s post – and which I’m already exploring with someone… I’ll let you know how it goes 🙂

From my month, here’s what popped up for you when I sat down to write:

  1. Divergent Thinking

Another problem to solve?! We have enough problems with our day jobs. Really, this on top of everything else we have to do! How is this relevant to my job? How is this going to be practical and useful for me?

On a leadership programme for emerging talent, we ask participants to work on a project. They immediately think this means solving something for the organisation. They get a bit crabby because they feel it’s another job to go on top of the 99 other urgent things they’re already working on. They start a bit flat because they see that all sorts of things get talked about but the problems still exist – so what’s the point in this?

But we don’t mean that at all. It’s not that sort of project.

First we take them through a PESTILE-type process so they can see all the various influences that are at play in their wider system. To my surprise, as it’s a pretty well worn model, this is often brand new for many participants, as is the sense of raising their gaze and looking way out before coming back to their immediate world. They already start to see stuff they’d been blind to.

Then we ask them to identify a topic that really interests them as well as being future-focused and that impacts the whole organisation and not just the function they work in. Again, that’s new. No, not what the organisation wants you to look at – but what do YOU think is relevant and interesting and important to explore? No, not just what would solve today’s problems in your function but what would the whole organisation benefit from long term?

We introduce them to a few models designed to get them seeing and thinking bigger and wider than they currently do and away from the problem-solving-and-fixing mindset that’s so ingrained, like:
· the consulting cycle, focusing on Gaining Entry, Data Gathering and Sense Making
· The difference between divergent and convergent thinking
· Appreciative Inquiry and the Dreaming stage in particular

And so we set the scene that this is a Research project – something to be explored and not a problem to be fixed. It often takes while for that to be believed. ‘What so we just go and explore this topic as widely as we can, and see what we learn?’ Yup. ‘What, you mean there may not be one answer we have to come up with? There’s nothing we need to implement …?’ Yup, that’s right. Your brief is to be like an explorer and go and visit different lands and bring back interesting things.

We encourage them to go talk to people outside their function, their organisation and their sector – to interview experts or simply have conversations with people who might have views on the topic (who might be their next door neighbour). To mine their personal networks, on the basis of the ‘strength of weak ties’ for anyone who could help them see the issue through new eyes and bring fresh perspectives. We open up our own networks, too. And we ask them to read widely – from academic sources, relevant and only-barely-relevant journals to websites and what’s in the press – and to do that in fields that are not directly related to their topic and see what those sources can tell them about the issue. A lot of divergence.

The initial push back about needing to focus on skills for their job, or problem solving a knotty departmental issue doesn’t last long. Soon, they’re saying how much they’re loving the wide-angled learning, how much they are benefitting from conversations with strangers … they are buzzing and alive and enthusiastic about the process of discovery, exploration, creativity. They recognise the essential counterpoint to the relentless heads-down and hamster-wheel way that many of us work. The new energy that comes from new perspectives. An alternative to the linear paths they normally walk. They fall a little bit in love with this way of learning.

And yes, there comes a time when they converge, when they bring all this in to a presentation-cum-conversation with their CEO and SMT. Their brief is to bring fresh thinking back to the organisation, to provoke the SMT’s thinking – because our participants have discovered things that their SMT may know little about. They truly are returning from strange lands with interesting stories to tell on topics as broad as wellness and resilience, or the impact Artificial Intelligence will have on the work of the organisation.

In part, this design element is influenced by my years of working on the Roffey Park MSc, where the joy for participants is not just the award of the MSc but the amazing stuff they learn along the way, stuff they may not use in the their dissertation or other written papers but that has delighted and engaged them along the way.

But wherever it comes from, it’s a core part of the way I design these days and I hope I keep having fabulous clients that allow me to do that.

And I’d love to hear from you if you have other ways that you use in your work to help people ‘bring the outside in’ … 

2. Creative input
Do you remember in January I wrote about how I was a bit short of creative input in my life and that I wanted to get out and have what Julia Cameron calls ‘an artist date’ with myself. I can’t say I’ve done a lot of that but I did go and see this amazing 15 minute ‘multi sensory immersion experience‘ at the Saatchi Gallery which I’d highly recommend, if you can get there before it ends on 5 May. Stunning!

3. A book
And, as ever, a book for you. As you may know, I’m starting to write (about love and leadership – you can see the start of this new project here) and I’m finding the practice and craft of writing very painful. I recall my own MSc when I moved from the mind-blowingly rich and free ranging reading and research which I loved to the craft and structure of writing which I …er, loved a lot less. I found it an agonising process 😊 The writer and writing coach Ann Lammott talks about writers recognising ‘the one fly in the ointment … that at some point we had to actually sit down and write’. I really know that moment. And it’s her book on writing, Bird by Bird, that I’m recommending here. Even though this book is about creative writing, there’s so much here for any writer. I feel like I have a new friend supporting me in my painful efforts 😊

So, please do keep in touch on Twitter using @HelenaClayton or via LinkedIn as I’d love you know what you think about what you’re working on these days. Otherwise, I’ll be back in April 🙂

Helena x.

 

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