Helena Clayton | September: 3 Good Things
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September: 3 Good Things

30 Sep 2018, Posted by Helena Clayton in Monthly Blog

A monthly post sharing what I’m liking and learning in the context of what I’m doing.   And this month … the power of reflective space in creating change,  fear in the workplace and an activity for honesty and transparency.

Thinning out

I found myself on a houseboat in the middle of a London canal basin earlier in the month.

I love my work and go along with whoever said ‘if you truly love your work, you don’t work a single day in your life’. Who I am and what I do is pretty much the same thing. However, I take on too much and overload myself. To the extent that I am starting to talk about my busyness as an addiction. I don’t use the term lightly.  And I do find it a very helpful way of providing a powerful inquiry into why I make some of the choices I do.

And so, I found myself on that houseboat, having a 1:1 session with the fabulous Tiu de Haan, talking about how I might create some more space for myself. How might I free myself from my self imposed web. That issue is one of the core issues that comes up in coaching – some form of ‘how do I step away from the operational stuff and spend time on more strategic thinking’. AKA ‘how do I keep myself sane and well in all the craziness of work and life?’. I need to do a better job of that for myself if I’m to show up with integrity for my clients.

Tiu and I talked about meditation, rest and creativity, decluttering, ritual and habits and practices…and I left with several things I committed to. I haven’t done them though (yet). And I’m broadly ok with that. I find that the power of coaching is more about having some space to hear myself talk – unedited and creatively – than holding myself accountable to some specific things. I trust that something significant will shift.

And so it proved. I’m still not meditating, by the way. But I have pulled out of two significant commitments that were stressing me out because I wasn’t able to give them the time they each needed. One is stepping down from being a Trustee of a charity and the other was a 9 day training programme that I was due to attend in October.

So find whatever works for you to give yourself the space you need. Me? I’m going back to work with Tiu on that houseboat on 9 October.

A more honest conversation

Have you come across an activity called the Left Hand Column?

Based on the work of Peter Senge, I often use it when I’m working with teams – and teams where there’s something going on beneath the surface but no-one’s saying anything or naming it. And where I judge it better for the group to name it for themselves. For it not to come from me.

Th activity asks you to write down – in a right hand column – part of a conversation that, for example, didn’t go as you’d hoped. Verbatim. Write down what the other person said and the actual words that you used in response. And once you’ve done that, complete the left hand column with all the things you were thinking and feeling but didn’t express. All of them. No matter what.

I mention it here, because I did it myself recently and I shocked myself with all my unsaid stuff. It was so sobering to see my judgements and assumptions there in black and white. All the ways that I was being less than honest and clean. All my projections and biases, my lack of generosity, my lack of transparency. And I pride myself on being pretty transparent 😊

So, it’s excellent as a good long look in the mirror at a personal level. And those teams? Well, once we do that activity, I find that people naturally start to talk about the things they realise aren’t being said and we’re able to have a completely different conversation.

‘Insecure overachievers’

I wrote recently about the fear that unpins so much of our organisational life, and so was gripped by this this 30 minute programme on R4 this week. It feels a must-listen for anyone working in or with organisations, especially in professional services firms.

The programme coins the term ‘insecure overachievers’ for those people who, often at the top of firms, and because of their deep personal insecurities and their drive for exceptional performance are ‘operating at the limit of their physical and mental wellbeing’. Professor Laura Empson asks if this is our innate character or whether our workplace practices develop and encourage these behaviours. And we hear from several senior leaders who talk openly about feeling they’re not good enough and their fears of getting it wrong. Powerful stuff, giving a glimpse into what’s really going on for many people.

And a reminder that I’ll be running at event on 16 November , based around my new research into Leadership and Love, in Brighton as part of the Meaning Conference Fringe.  If you’re up for a bold conversation, I’d love to see you there and you can find booking details here.

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