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

Welcome to the June 2021 Newsletter

Hello there and I hope you’re well?

This month saw us tip into the second half of the year and I came across this poem by Morgan Harper Nichols with its reminder of 'the abundant room for you to believe in the possibility of what could be', which felt spot on. 

And since last month:

  • another week at Rhossili beach, this time with family, which was glorious. Partly because it was sunny and warm. Also because the rinse-and-repeat cycle of walk, bodyboard, eat, read and sleep is pretty perfect.  And there’s no Wifi there which means I really do put all work to one side.  I feel like I've gone back to factory settings. 
  • had breakfast at Bill’s a couple of times, which has made me disproportionately happy. Sitting in a café with some work or a podcast and a flat white is something I’ve really missed this last year or so.
  • a piece of client work that was difficult and bruising and left me a bit tender.  I'm not sure I fully understand what happened but I'm trying to hold it with humility and grace.  And being mostly successful.  Plus, I’ve pulled out of the second part of the work, which feels wholly the right thing to have done.
  • several new coaching clients - always a privilege - and as you might expect, they are much less focused on working towards specific goals and much more about wanting a safe space to simply making sense of what they’re thinking and feeling.
  • am really getting a lot out of a new coaching supervision relationship and this month  made some important links between my way of working and an event that happened over 40 years ago.  I shouldn’t be surprised at how the past still shows up – it’s like bindweed, you can only manage it and not get rid of it.
  • and discovered Call My Agent and Fargo as my summer online entertainment - both wonderful.
So wishing you a good rest of June and see you again in a few weeks.

(pics: breakfast at Bill's, sand patterns on Rhossili beach, plus the walk from Llangennith to Broughton)

The voice of Organisation Development

I mentioned last month Megan Reitz's new work on employee activism and how we might encourage ourselves and others to speak up.  A similar theme has been bubbling up for me this month, especially in relation to my work in Organisation Development.  What does OD have to say that needs to be heard right now?  How can the voice of OD be stronger?  This is particularly relevant for me as I develop a new OD programme for a client and take myself right back to talking to people about OD who are new to the field, including at Exec and SLT levels.

Conversations with colleagues throw up questions like: what does OD need to be for today and tomorrow? How can OD gets its voice heard at the most senior levels in the organisation?  How can it be seen to have a rightful place at the strategic table?  Is OD a leading or a following discipline and how can it be more of the former?  Should it have more ‘teeth’ and if so what might that look like?  What does the most progressive form of OD look like? It’s a field with permeable edges – and so how can OD practitioners help others (and themselves) to be clear about what it is and what it isn’t?

And so for those of you wondering along similar lines, you might like this webinar from Matt Minahan about OD, its relationship with HR – how it is very different from that field and how HR has neutered OD. His video is part of the Just in Case series of webinars, by Mee-Yan Cheung Judge, which has some really good stuff in there from some excellent practitioners in the field. 

I’m also reminded of the work of Deborah Myerson who talks about the need for those of us who are seeking to create change in our organisations to act as ‘tempered radicals’.  Radical in that we have to have a cause - a bold vision for something different – and one that we never lose sight of.  But, in order for us not to be SO different that the system rejects us for being too different, we need to temper that radicalism and use our wisdom and discernment within the structures and politics of the system we operate in.  

I suppose I'm wondering if OD is more tempered than it is radical.  And I'm noticing I want the radical t come bit more to the fore.  I sometimes find OD difficult to define clearly.  And yet the more I spend time in the work, the clearer I am about its value.  Because the core principles and practices of democracy, inclusion, participation, big picture thinking and working with the human dynamics of a system feel more important than ever.

I'm looking forward to thinking and talking more about this over the coming year - and if you have thoughts and views too, I'd love to hear them. 


This month, I’m sharing a conversation with Dr James Traeger a long time colleague and friend.  He and I worked together at Roffey Park for many years, and now I work as an Associate with his organisation, Mayvin.  I always love our conversations and this one is no different.

James was one of the first people who heard ‘I think I’m going to start exploring the role love might play in our organisation’.  And, almost 5 years later, here we talk about how love might be a form of glue in an organisation, how anger is such an important emotion, how fatherhood triggers love and why the worse thing an organisation could do would be to appoint a Director of Love.

I hope you enjoy it - I did!
You might already know that exploring love has also got me exploring ‘eldership’. What might it mean to not just  ‘get by’ during our third-third of our lives, or to survive the ways that our lives can somehow get smaller as we age?  What if we fully lived this phase of our lives, considered it is ‘as a source of imagination and vision and of life affirming energy’? This is Michael Meade speaking and I’m really recommending this episode of his Mosaic Voices podcast on that theme.
In this third-third of our lives, how can we be a bridge between the ‘achieving’ energy of our earlier phases and the ‘accepting’ energy of this later phase?  How, asks Meade, can we foster unity above self importance? How can we act as humanitarians, no longer shocked or overwhelmed by what we see and experience but instead finding the meaning in it and help others find their resilience and imagination.

And there’s a particular aspect of this I’m getting more interested in.  Stephen Jenkinson, writing about eldership, asks how can we be ‘deepened by diminishment’? That phrase has always stuck with me and a few things have happened recently that makes it feel like the perfect time to be exploring that for myself.  I’m getting more curious about what diminishes me and what doesn’t.  What choices I have about whether I allow something to diminish me.  Noticing what feels like it should diminish me but doesn’t – and what sneaks up on me unawares. And paying more attention to the ‘classic’ diminishers of ageing, illness, frailty and failure, loss and disappointment and how they show up in my life and how I respond.

It’s the subject of my next (very slow growing…) blog and should be ready for next month.  And to help my exploring, I'm taking the wonderful Judi Marshall's Living Life as Inquiry as my companion. 

Some good reads
A few book recommendations, some from my work life and others from my Gower holiday reading.

Working this month with a London Business School client, on a women’s leadership programme with Professor Herminia Ibarra meant I was reminded of her Act Like A Leader, Think Like a Leader which encourages us to experiment with different versions of ourselves so that we learn to see that many more parts of us than we imagine are authentically us.  It’s so easy to use the excuse ‘but that’s not really me’ when we might need to behave differently.  Herminia has little patience with us holding on tightly to a single version of ourselves. From a different context, we’ve already learned about the danger of a single story from  Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie.  Perhaps it’s just as dangerous to hold onto one single story about our self …

And from the fiction shelf, Shuggie Bain.  Rarely do I find myself wanting to stretch out a book and not wanting it to end while at the same time dreading what I might read on the next page.  Brutal, unflinching and grim, it’s also tender and loving and full of humanity.  A great read.

Plus, a little from left field, the odd and wholly fascinating Drive Your Plow Over The Bones of the Dead, translated from Polish.  Part murder mystery, part existential look at life, it brings in animal rights, horoscopes, eccentricities and friendship.  I usually pass books straight on but this one, I might just keep to read again. So original, so lovely.

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.
Other work
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
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