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

Welcome to the October 2021 Newsletter

Welcome, lovely people to Autumn.  I'm definitely feeling it as I write this. The heating is on.  And I've put my summer clothes into the attic. 
Personally it’s been a full on month.  We had Ed’s funeral,  and I also headed to Pontypridd for a really special one-year-on remembrance evening for my dad, delayed a year because of COVID; I managed a couple of end-of-season swims in Arundel outdoor pool before they closed, plus a few really special sea swims down at the beach hut; I got to the stunning Paula Rego exhibition, whose work I have loved for almost 40 years, and left the gallery in tears it was so powerful. And I also managed to fit in another week on Gower (such a treat - although a very wet and windy one) when a piece of client work was cancelled. 

Work has really picked up and the idea of working less is being challenged.  It’s all good stuff (and you can read more about some key projects if you scroll down) but one of the things I realise is while it's so good to be face-to-face with groups instead of Zoom, wow, what a complete waste of time motorway driving is to get there!

And finally, I think I might have found someone to work with me as a Virtual Assistant, and also a great company to do all the tech and marketing support for a podcast.  Having started doing the podcast-style interviews I sometimes include here, I realised I wanted to do more but needed a lot of support to make them look and feel a lot more professional.  So that’s coming and I’m excited about both. 

There's a new blog this month partly written in response to me seeing so many of us being squeezed and compressed by organisational life, and also just Life. 

And if you find 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. 

See you in early November and wishing you a good month in the meantime.

H x

You Matter - new blog
This month a new piece of writing.  In part triggered by a strong theme I see in my client work.  Plus the disquieting sense I have that we might be losing a connection with what really matters to us.
I had so many conversations at the start of lockdown when people said, with great clarity: 'wow, I'm really seeing what matters to me, what wasn't ok about the way I was working/living ... and I don't want to go back to that again'.  

And then we had a year or so when plans for anything at all were pretty much kicked into the long grass.  Most of us found ourselves simply responding to what was happening to us, and around us.

Now that our feet are on slightly firmer ground, it feels like many of us have lost touch with what it was that felt so important to us at that time.

Understandably, of course.  We have moments of great conviction, we get super clear on our dreams and plans ... and then Daily Life Happens and the world draws in again. 

But in a world that is constantly asking, if not demanding, that we comply, confirm, be quiet and not make a fuss - to fit in and do what's in front of us - it's feeling increasingly important to me that we remember what really matters to us and find ways to live our lives with those things to guide us. It might still mean we spend long hours at work. It might still mean we put our own needs aside for those of others.  But for those of us with the privilege to able to make choices, the more we can live in a way that suits us as well as our organisations, the better, IMHO. 

Yes, we have responsibilities to others.  And we also have the right to ask: 'and what about me?'

You can read that piece here
Some great reads
Lots of reading this month and all of it good. 

The first is Oliver Burkeman’s Four Thousand Weeks.  He sort of says it’s a book about time management, because that and productivity has been his Thing for several years.  And so this kind-of is.  But it's more of  a request for us consider our own relationship to time – how much we have of it (left) and what matters enough for us to make wise choices about how we spend it. What’s particularly helpful is that the book invites us to contemplate ‘finitude’ – the limits that life places on us – as a way to help us tap into that wisdom.  I was underlining stuff on pretty much every page and I can already feel some of the key messages finding their way into my work and my life. Highly recommended. 

I also dipped into chapters of Jem Bendell's Deep Adaptation, a series of essays about the imminent prospect of climate collapse and (and this is what catches me ...) the societal collapse that will come first.  For me, the social implications of the climate crisis are the ones that galvanise me.  When I first read Meg Wheatley's Who Do You Choose To Be it made me look at the stark reality of what was highly likely, if not inevitable.  And rather than depressing me, it energised me.  Jem's book is having a similar effect. 

And I’ve mentioned Karen Blakeley’s Rehumansing the Workplace in last month's Newsletter  That’s because I’m still reading it but it feels like one of those books about love in organisations that I want to include here every month until everyone reads it.  Karen and I met online the other day and we’re wondering about hatching an event together, which would be flippin’ wonderful.

And lots of fiction, not least because of that extra week on Gower, two days of which I spent in bed feeling unwell and reading and trying to work out if I had COVID (I didn't - phew).

Pat Barker’s The Women of Troy, her continuation of history and myth told through the voices of women. The Plague of Doves, my second one from Louise Erdrich, which reminded me of Marilynne Robinson work.  Lyrical and human.  As was Mary Webb’s Precious Bane, a book I read when I was a teenager and wasn’t expecting to enjoy – and really did.  Then Susanna Clark’s Piranesi, a stunning and wholly engrossing book. And finally Colson Whitehead's, The Nickel Boys - disturbing and excellent. 

Sadly, much less reading time next month :-(
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 play in collaborative change. We're basing our session on the belief that if people who are joined together because of their love for a cause also develop love for each other, then their power for change will be greater. We'll take people through a 'mapping the field of love' activity and also an experience designed to see how you can grow love with a stranger.   Tickets have just gone on sale and you can get them via the conference link above. 
My work stuff
This month, two pieces of work really stood out.

The first was running several
gender allyship workshops for a UK high street brand. And there couldn't be a better time for this!  Some amazing conversations and lights going on all over the place. 

This work is so important and it’s a rare organisation that actively encourages people to use their voice and their unearned privilege on behalf of others.  Many people come to the workshops saying they don’t really understand how it feels to be in a minority.  So a powerful activity I run is to connect people to times  - as a child, right up to the present - when they felt excluded or left out, of when they really wanted and perhaps longed for someone to speak up and stand up for them and no-one did.  And that often makes a big difference.

And then focusing on really practical things that people can do to actively bring more women into the room - visibly and audibly - and into senior roles - in their organisation.

And the second was helping a team develop a culture of care.

Recognising how exhausted their people were and knowing my interest in ‘human flourishing’ in organisations, I ran a session for a team on how we create a climate of care for each other.  People left with a clearer sense of what they needed to prioritise for themselves and each person asked for what they needed from the others to feel cared for.

Along the way, I invited people to name what they were each struggling with – what was creating stress, pain, anguish, struggle, difficult, anxiety?  Some might think that’s a bleak place to start, but unless we look at the reality of things, we’re in danger of ending up with sticking plaster solutions and ‘toxic positivity’.  So let’s be honest about how tough we’re finding things.

And we also used the Immunity to Change model and explored how, despite our best intensions, we sabotage a well intended commitment with a competing and usually unconscious commitment. 

I love this theme and realised that in planning a half day session, I was actually designing a 6 month programme in my head!  I certainly have enough material. 

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

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