Helena Clayton Newsletter - View this email in your browser
Leadership Developer • Facilitator • Writer

Welcome to the May 2021 Newsletter

Hello there and I hope you’re well and looking forward to what the gradual unfurling can offer you this summer. 

The month since the last Newsletter was three flat-out weeks of work - mostly working with OD teams, as it happens - and then a week at the coast in Wales, to a place I adore and where my soul is immediately soothed. That's Rhossili beach in the picture ...

The week away marked the start of my summer.  A time when I’m choosing to work part-time and to think hard about how I break some habits of overworking.  I find that I can't work (more importantly don't want to work) at the pace I have been doing, and on Zoom too.  So you’ll see some themes emerging as you read this month’s Newsletter. 

There’s no new blog this month not least because when it came to my break by the sea all motivation just drained out of me and so I decided to go with that and not ‘push through’ as is a pattern of mine!

See you in mid June ...

Coming out the other side

A few things are on my mind as we slowly unfurl into this year: 

How's your mood?
Take a look at this article I’ve been sharing quite widely with clients.  It seems to ring a bell with many people.  It draws on research from Antarctic expeditions - long periods of hardship and isolation - and notes that people’s moods dip and change most in the ‘third quarter’ of the trip.  The parallels are with our COVID experience of course, and the teaching point is that if you’re noticing that you’re feeling flat or low at the moment, that you’re more irritable and stressed … then that’s to be expected, despite the fact that you may feel you’re on the last leg of the journey and so ‘why do I feel like this?’

The article feels true for me.  I’ve ‘had a good war’ through COVID, and not suffered.  Nevertheless, I think I’ve lost a bit of my mojo.  I feel flat.  A bit listless. And out of connection with  myself.  I only really noticed this when I stopped last week.  Until then I’d been pushing through.  I’ll be curious and see what happens next with it. But I’m glad that’s it’s on my radar now.

Returning to the office
A few things bother me about this.  One is that at the start of lockdown many (many) people said to me that they had really discovered what mattered most to them.  They realised life wasn’t all about work. I’m wondering where that connection with ‘what matters most’ has gone because I don’t hear about it much any more.  Has it been buried under a year of 10 back-to-back meetings?  Of exhausting home schooling? Of too much time in social isolation?

I recently co-facilitated a workshop using art, reflection and a connection with the body to help people work out what they needed to resource themselves as they contemplated a return to the office.  It seemed to tap into a much needed seam of What Matters Most and sparked some powerful and important conversations, including working out what requests they wanted to make of their organisation. 

I did that work with a colleague from Mayvin, and you can find out more about their ‘Artful Ways of Knowing’ approach to the way we work here, which shaped how we designed the workshops.
Saying no
On a similar theme,  when I read that the UK is considering legislation for the ‘right to disconnect’ and for the right to not be available for work I feel two things.  One is that (of course) we should support anything that gives workers more rights to a non-work life. 

Another response is disbelief that we need that legislation, and that we can’t put our own boundaries in place.  And yes, I can hear my unearned privilege when I say that. But I get it, of course. There are MANY people at work who don’t feel able to speak up (in fact, simply aren’t able or allowed to speak up) for their right to disconnect.  And that makes me think about how important it is to support each other to find our own voice to speak up for ourselves and others, to help each other work out where our boundaries could and should be in the face of often overwhelming work pressures. 

Which takes me to the current work of Megan Reitz, on the subject of employee activism where activism is  ‘about ‘voices of difference’ that challenge the status quo’ and find ways to hold our leaders and organisations to account for their choices. She’s exploring the importance of being able to speak truth to power and how we can do that - it feels like very important work right now - and you can download her report here.

The podcast this month is with Gavin Bate, an Everest mountaineer, speaker and social entrepreneur in tourism running Adventure Alternative.   Gavin and I met many years ago at Roffey Park and it was such a joy to catch up and to talk with him about love - and how when leading a demanding expedition it's the ability to create a loving culture that will be at the heart of a successful trip.

We also explore how often we 'put a face on' to cover our fears, how emotional consistency is so vital for leadership - and how our role in leadership is to be as comfortable with the human elements as we are with the tasks of the work. 

Do let me know if you know of other people who you'd like to hear from on the subject of more love in our organisations...
A new angle on love
Those of you following my work on love in organisations, know I come at it in various ways, from various angles.  And the work of Robert Mesle who explores the process-relational philosophy of Alfred Whitehead, gave me a lot to think about this week.

A paragraph or two of his writing provided the source material for the latest episode of
Turning Towards Life with Justin Wise and Lizzie Winn.  I know I’ve recommended that podcast before, and I’m happy to do so again.  It’s wonderful.

Knowing my interest in love, Justin me emailed to say he thought I might like Episode #186.  And I did.  Especially the question, from Mesle, asking how we can learn to ‘take turns to carry the burden of love when one of us is less loving’. 

This is deeply resonant of the poet WH Auden’s line of ‘if equal affection cannot be, then let the more loving one be me’ and also of Charles Eisenstein’s view of love as ‘holding for someone else the vision of them at their best when they themselves has lost the capacity to see it’.  Mesle talks about how, in relationship, one of us is often ‘the larger’ one - where he means the one who has the greatest capacity at that particular moment to be generous, to share, to help. This is a theme we explore through Leading from Love when we look at the ideas of love as radical acceptance, of love as hope and of as expansion.  And of love as sacrifice and of generosity. 

So Mesle has got me thinking about how love might also be about be about possibility and potential.  He says love is:
nurturing freedom by opening up a wider range of creative options for our reactions to life’.  And he wonders if love is what ‘enables us to perceive visions of truth, beauty and goodness that inspires the metaphor of a spark of divinity within each person’ and what ‘offers to every creature in the world a lure and a call towards those possibilities that are the best for it’.  

Love as possibility and potential.  Yes, I think so. 

It’s a book I think I’ll be returning to. And if you like a bit of philosophy, I can recommend it. 
More books
When I come away on a break, I generally pack 3 times as many books as I’m likely to read.

Some are always work related, and Process-Relational Philosophy by Robert Mesle was a surprise last minute choice, as I've mentioned. But, and maybe this shouldn't surprise me, turns out to chime with other reading I’ve been doing in ‘vertical development’ (like Upgrade by Karen Ellis, who I’ve also been studying with) and - aside from the connection with love - was a powerful if brain-busting read on the ways that we’re deeply interconnected and what that means for the way we should treat each other as well as treat other non-human parts of our world. 

I also found my way to Martha Beck’s new book, The Way of Integrity.  I have to say I rarely buy a self-help book these days but something led me to this one and I’m glad it did.  It put into words some things I have been wondering about lately including the many ways we ‘defy our nature to serve culture’ and the damage that does.  In particular it made me take a good look at the amount of time I spend doing things to impress others or to make myself look good, or to fit in.  Some of the things she says  that really landed with me include:
  • How easily we self sabotage our good intentions and that ‘the best way to treat self sabotage is to treat it as a signal that somewhere, deep in the murk of our internal inferno, is a belief that is hurting us’
  • The extent to which we say something is ok for us or true for us when it really isn’t and the lengths we’ll go to to avoid talking about what we really yearn for.
 A week’s break also requires some fiction and plenty of Netflix.  I finished the extraordinary Apeirogon by Colum McCann, the true story of an Israeli man and a Palestinian man, both of whose daughters were killed in the conflict, and the choices they made as a result.  Then the very gentle Small Pleasures by Clare Chambers and Ingrid Persaud’s less gentle but compelling Love After Love. Both books to curl up with when Bank Holiday rain and wind descends (as it did).  Plus a scifi book for young teens, Pat Foreman's Escape from the Rat King, written by a dear friend of mine that I started 'because it was Pat' but was genius and gripping and excellent and I couldn’t put it down - I can really recommend it.
Upcoming Events
If you liked what Naysan Firoozmand, Global Head of Exec Coaching at Ashridge had to say when I talked with him about love on my first podcast, you might like the look of the 6th Relational Coaching Conference on 'Love over Fear' at Ashridge, exploring how we create the conditions for love to emerge in a coaching relationships. It's often said that the opposite of love isn't hate but fear - and that generally feels true for people I speak with.  The event is on 14 October - and I hope to see some of you there.
And do you already know The House of Beautiful Business?  Take a look - they do some wonderful things.  Their next big conference in the Autumn - both live and streamed - is on the theme of Concrete Love and you can read founder Tim Leberecht's take on that here.  It's full of lots of other great links to 'love in action'  so definitely worth a read. And maybe you might like the look of a conference place too?
Let's Connect
Typically, my work involves:
  • designing and running leadership development programmes sometime for big multinationals brands and other times for a small UK Housing Association. 
  • helping teams take a good look at how they're working together 
  • coaching and holding a safe space for conversations and deep exploration that there's no time and space for otherwise
  • and of course, my on-going work with love - researching, running workshops and programmes that explore the role that love could/should have in organisational life. 
If you think a conversation about how I might support you in any of those areas might be useful, please do get in touch.  You know where I am on Twitter and LinkedIn or connect via Email.

Or call me of course, whichever suits.

Helena x

Email: helena@helenaclayton.co.uk
Call: 07771 358 881
Join me on social media
Copyright © *|CURRENT_YEAR|* *|LIST:COMPANY|*, All rights reserved.

Our mailing address is:

Want to change how you receive these emails?
You can update your preferences or unsubscribe from this list.