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

Welcome to the August 2021 Newsletter

Hello there and I hope you’re well?

You might remember last month I wrote about feeling guilty and lazy in having free time over the summer.  I thought I should update you and tell you that's totally disappeared :-)  In fact, I now have to gear myself up for the work I have in the diary and am finding the compulsion to work, which I've been in thrall to for 10 years, has definitely faded. That's good news, although I think I'll have to gear up soon if I want to keep shopping in Waitrose! 

One thing that's helped is having a week by the sea, and where there's no Wifi.  So walk, read, swim, eat, sleep... and repeat ... is always really helpful in putting me back to factory settings. Gower is my happy place and it never fails to work its soothing magic. 

And we needed that week because the previous week a close family member died.  He died by suicide and as you can imagine it threw a bomb into our lives.  Things are settling somewhat now, but he was a complex man, with a complex life and so we're finding that the grief is complex too. And my grief is secondary (if I can use that phrase) to my husband's.  My role is mostly in supporting him and what he's going through and that's teaching me a lot about holding space.  I've written about that below, in relation to how this experience might show up in my coaching practice. 

And there were plenty of wonderful things too this month:  an overnight visit from some dear friends; an early morning swim in Arundel open air lido (heated!); time with my stepmum remembering my dad over fish and chips in my dad's favourite pub;  a weekend with Dom's gorgeous grandkids; a full-on sunny 2 day walk over the South Downs from Amberley to Lewes with an overnight stop in Truleigh Hill YHA in the middle; fabulous fish and chips in Harwich with my mother in law.  Life is more than ok.

Oh, and a lovely moment.  Running the final session of a Leading from Love programme in the NHS, exploring the role that love could and should play in our organisations, one of the participants told us how she was mocked (yes, that's the word she used) by a colleague for doing a programme with 'love' in the title.  She cared so little as she found the programme so useful that she sent the slides and other material out to 150 of her colleagues.  That's what I call an act of leadership. 

Go well, and see you in September. 
H x

Grief and coaching: new blog

Supporting someone through the days immediately following a death  - and one that psychotherapist and  'grief advocate' Megan Devine calls an 'out of order' death - brought up some interesting stuff for me, mostly about 'how to get it right'.  Although I think we never really can get it right as we have no idea of what that person needs.  And often nor do they.  But trying to ... that's been full of learning for me, and continues to be.

t was uncanny that the book I was reading about relational coaching (and that I talk about below) was possibly the perfect book for that time.  It encouraged me to pay more attention than I might have done to the moment-by-moment unfolding of what was happening and how I might respond from a place of greater presence.  And so maybe it's no surprise that I kept making links back to what this difficult time could teach me about how to 'get it right' for my coaching clients too.

You can see what you make of it yourself here...

And not all grief relates to bereavement, of course, and one of the best books on loss and grief is The Wild Edge of Sorrow, from Francis Weller.  

Broken: a conversation with Toby Lindsay
It's been said that joy is a gateway emotion for love. I think it's also true that diminishment is a gateway experience for love. And the quality of love that we bring to those feelings of diminishment makes all the difference. 

Taking last month's blog post on how we might be 'deepened by diminishment' as the jumping off point, in this wonderful conversation, I talk with friend and colleague Toby Lindsay who's doing his PhD on the enduring effects of bankruptcy and his first-hand experience of the diminishment that it brought. 

With great openness and vulnerability, Toby shares some of his personal experience of bankruptcy and we talk about how it feels to be broken; what gets expanded in us through experiences of loss; what might be some gentle practices for cultivating wisdom; how we might think of deepening as 'multidimensional expansion'; the experiences of loss of control, of identity, and of status  ... and how being loved in our diminishment makes all the difference. 

There was so much more to talk about and I'm sure Toby and I will pick this up the threads in further conversations.  And one thing I didn't say on camera and really should have was how appreciative I was of Toby's courage to talk so openly about his experience. Thank you, Toby. 

So, plug yourself in for 35 minutes of deeply thought-provoking stuff...that also includes mushrooms, Rolexes, T.S. Eliot and  Monopoly ...
Some good reads
These two gems kept me good company this month.

The Theory and Practice of Relational Coaching comes from the wonderful Simon Cavicchia and Maria Gilbert.  It takes the view that it's what happens between the coach and coachee that makes the difference.  It's the relationship as opposed to the, say, great questions, that matter and that therefore should be the focus of the coaches attention. It explores how coaching is co-created moment by moment by the series of gestures-and-responses that both coach and coachee make.  That reminds me of the 'yes/and' of improv and I have definitely noticed that my own coaching has been a little bit looser and freer since reading this. In a very good way. 

This quote says a lot about it: 'a working assumption underpinning a relational orientation to coaching is that coaches be willing to use their own differences and subjectivity to act as a catalytic force for change offering an experience to the client of an 'other' with whom the client can explore new possibilities'

It's a very modern book about coaching, bringing in the wisdom of the body and somatic intelligence; connecting coaching to vertical development in the way that a focus on the relationship helps us make new meaning; recognising the importance of attending to the wider context as well as the here-and-now; makes space for exploring sham and vulnerability in the coaching relationship; and makes room for the whole person of the coach to be fully present - and be put to use - in the coaching. 

I found it both affirmed my way of working but it was also both really humbling and galvanising as it gave me so, so much more to consider exploring and growing into. 

Fierce Self Compassion from Kristin Neff was a great companion piece. It sets out the case for balancing the deep and radical self compassion that Neff is known for with a an external form of compassion that's about taking action in the world, protecting what matters, finding a powerful 'no' and using it.  Finding our voice to both protect and create change.  How can we be fully compassionate if we are not speaking up for ourselves, and speaking out for others, she asks?  Compassion also encompasses changing what's not working for (all of) us - harmful social norms, oppression and injustice - and change won't happen unless we speak up. So what initially looks like a book about compassion is also a clear call to action for social change and activism that start with each of us.

For some time now,  in the work I do exploring love and leadership, I've been writing and speaking about anger and the way that anger is part of love.  Just like Neff, I often talk about the goddess Kali and the way she represents an unrepentant rage in the face of what's not ok, what's not acceptable. But Kali is not a goddess of anger.  She is known, in fact, as a goddess of love, because she uses the rage to clear things out of the way.  'Her ferocity is  an instrument of love and justice', says Neff. 

And so this book picks up that theme - how we can use our anger in a way that's useful and of service to ourselves and to others in the world.  Neff says this book is for women, and I get that.  But I also work with many men who struggle to find both self compassion and also their fierce compassion.  So this is a read for anyone, I'd say.  And perhaps especially for anyone who says some version of: 'but I just don't do anger'. 

And from the fiction shelf, I started Betty but soon abandoned it - although I see it's back in Waterstone's window display again and so other folks are obviously loving it.   But I really liked Fleishman is in Trouble, a book I just couldn't wait to pick up to see how things developed. 
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.

A conference session at Evolve 2021 running 20-22 October sees me pairing up with the wonderful Renee Smith of Make Work More Human to talk about love and the role it could and should play in leadership, our organisations and beyond. Tickets have just gone on sale and you can get them via the conference link above. 
Staying in contact
You can find out more about the work I do in:
  • designing and running leadership development programmes
  • coaching at all levels, especially senior and Board level
  • OD education programmes
  • team coaching and development
  • developing organisational culture through a focus on love
 ... on my website.  And 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.

And if you found something useful in this Newsletter, I'd really appreciate it if you could share on social or forward it to someone in your network so that it can reach more people. 

Thank you

Helena x

Email: helena@helenaclayton.co.uk
Call: 07771 358 881
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