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

Welcome to the March 2022 Newsletter

As February came to an end and my daffodils in the garden started to say hello, there were some small signs that I too was ready to come out blinking into the light. Well, maybe not ready.  Perhaps only starting to think about maybe beginning to gradually get ready. But something is shifting. 

It's been a big month.

The invasion of Ukraine; the funeral of someone I met just once but who had a big impact; the news that Dom has date soon for his first knee replacement; birdsong in the mornings; my lovely poetry class; a wonderful couple of days away with some colleagues; my first Pilates class (ouch); wild and damaging storms; my first swim with the Worthing Bluetits at Goring beach; a beautiful wooden heart for Valentine's day; lots of rich home cooking ... 

And I'm noticing how small and mighty events all sit alongside each other. As the wonderful @white-owly said on Twitter:

It feels wrong when the sun shines on terror.
The truth is that horrible things do happen in beautiful weather.

It's a longer-than-usual Newsletter this month.  But as I've learned that almost 50% of you read (or at least open!) this Newsletter, which is a great statistic, I'm hoping you'll enjoy all that's here. 

Helena x

I'd love to hear from you, by the way.  You can email me using this link.  I read everything, and always reply.  And if you received this email from a friend, and would like to subscribe, please go here.

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A conversation with Dave Cousins

It's not often that a man, and a senior leader in a big corporate (IBM, in this case), talks about love in relation to the way they lead.

I've written before about how love is gendered (for example, when the sign-ups came in for the Love Lab in March, 19 women signed up before the first man did) and how that's a block to more love being present, let alone talked about, in organisations.  

So it's great to talk to Dave Cousins in this episode.  We explored:

  • how he was told he flinched when he first talked about love in leadership at IBM
  • the way that 'how are you?' has become just another version of 'hello' as we fly past each other, not really wanting or expecting an answer
  • how 'the noise of the organisational machine' gets in the way of connecting as humans
  • and how truly being present to someone is an act of love.

Dave and I met via Dr Karen Blakely, as Dave was one of the leaders she interviewed for her book Leading with Love.  Karen was also a podcast guest and you'll find that conversation (Season 2 Ep1) in the same place as the one with Dave (Ep 3). 

If you like my podcast, please do share with other podcast listeners you might know - and let them know they can subscribe via Apple or Spotify.  As can you, of course :-)

The Love Lab ...
Delighted to say that The Love Lab was fully booked (and then some) just a week or so after it launched.  Sorry for those of who who couldn't make t this time - but I'll run more, for sure. 

And those of you in Change Agent roles, or Org Development or Leadership roles - dealing with change of some sort - might like the next workshop in May.  Details below. 
Blocks to Love - new event, booking now
As I write about love in organisations, I focus on four key themes:
  • what difference would more love make to the ways we worked together
  • what do we mean by love in an organisational context
  • what blocks love in the workplace
  • what conditions do we need to cultivate to enable more love to be be present.
The next workshop focuses on what blocks love in organisations?  Designed for:
  • people wanting to build in more humanity in the workplace and wondering what's getting in the way of that
  • anyone leading change in organisations and wondering why it's stuck or sticky
  • those of you wondering why (the heck) it's so hard to talk about love (or even care and compassion) at work
  • leaders and managers who want to understand the hidden aspects of their organisation so that they can influence change.
You might be interested in exploring love explicitly.  Or wellbeing, maybe?  Or trying to create cultures that have more kindness and compassion in them.  This workshop will be useful for all of those applications - and much wider too. 

We often limit ourselves by looking at change as an technical challenge - that if we do x or y well than change will happen. But we also need to consider change as an adaptive challenge and explore the competing energies and forces that are in play in organisation that make change so difficult. This workshop does just that. 

I'll be drawing not only on my research into love but also on years of teaching and working with OD consultants and leaders who are seeking to create change in their organisation.  We'll look under the bonnet of organisations and take a good look at some of the usually invisible forces that are at play - and make them visible. 

I'm so looking forward to sharing some new thinking and work with you.  You can find details and sign up to here.
What Matters Most
What matters most? 

I'm starting to scope out a new group coaching offering based on what feels (to me, at least) that people are hungry for.  Maybe it's just me that's hungry for it.  But maybe it's picking up on some of the themes that repeat in coaching, that I'm reading about in other people's blogs or tweets, and reflect conversations I'm having with friends and colleagues. 

It sits alongside thinking on the Great Reassessment, maybe.  It links with Purpose, perhaps.  It allows us to challenge the ways we might be living a life that someone else laid down for us.  It asks us to imagine a life designed for what brings us most alive.

In essence, it gives people much needed space to step back and reflect on what matters most to them.

Some initial text for it is here.  I'd love to know what you think.  Does it feel like it's needed? Does it feel useful?  Should I try and launch it as a programme, of some sort?  What do you read here that might make you spend time (and money) exploring these questions for yourself - or commissioning it in your organisation?

It might just sit here as a blog post.  But it could develop into something more if you feel there's something in it. 
Loving our enemies
The Austrian psychiatrist Erich Fromm said that the love we have for our families isn't really love at all.  It's the love that's more hard won, he said, the love that we have to get over ourselves to reach ... that's love.  It's a choice we make over and over again. This is love as 'intentional practice'

So how do you love people people who irritate you?  Those people whose values are totally opposite to yours?  Who behave in ways you think are very wrong.  And people whoave done you wrong, have harmed you?  How do you find love in these circumstances?

One inspiring podcast on that theme is here. It's a thought provoking conversation from On Being that explores how anger and vengefulness are legitimate 'radio channels' we can select, and they can help us feel powerful -  but that love is another channel we can choose, and one that isn't passive as some might think but has its own power, strength, force and energy. 

And Valarie Kaur's TED talk  on 'revolutionary love in a time of rage' is similar as she explores the importance of finding forgiveness and understanding for others even when 'some days are so deadly, I can taste the ash in my mouth'.  

Powerful stuff. 
A new poem
In my ongoing exploration of poetry, I'm learning what I like, what I'm drawn to.

One thing I'm loving is the 'mytho-poetic' tradition and Tom Hiron's Sometimes a Wild God had me gripped.  Here are the first two verses and you can hear him read it here and link to the full poem and his website here


Sometimes a Wild God

Sometimes a wild god comes to the table.
He is awkward and does not know the ways
Of porcelain, of fork and mustard and silver.
His voice makes vinegar from wine.

When the wild god arrives at the door,
You will probably fear him.
He reminds you of something dark
That you might have dreamt,
Or the secret you do not wish to be shared.

Good, huh? The full poem is here

Shadow work with Catherine Newell
Some of you might have listened to Catherine Newell talking to me on my Leading from Love podcast.  And if you haven't, I really recommend it - you can find it here.

The good news is that she's running Shadow Work workshops again.  For those of you who've heard me speak about how VERY important shadow work has been for me in understanding how (and why) I tick, you might want to experience it yourself.

Full details of the weekend workshop that Catherine's running in May is here.  
Protected Time

So my copy of Cal Newport's Deep Work never arrived.  I got sent a children's book instead.  Pity, as it's one I've been meaning to read for years (will re order). 

But I was able to put the principle of it into practice this month.  After a long absence, I re-joined the 8-9am Writers Hour with The Writers Salon for a few days each week.  50 mins of protected writing time, on a Zoom call with many others from all around the world all working on their own pieces of writing.  It really helps me stay writing for that time and not get distracted by other things.

To join over 200 people, coming from Willesden Green to Melbourne, writing everything from poetry, blog and books - is an amazing thing to do. And pretty useful in helping me put words on a page. Check it out at other times of the day too, if you could use similar space for some deep work. 

An OD journey that leads to love
Often when I say I'm exploring love in organisations, someone will say 'and you've read Roger Harrison, right?'.
Er, no.  I hadn't until now, and have just finished his autobiography 'A Consultant's Journey: a Professional and Personal Odyssey'.  I can see why people kept mentioning him.  He says: 

'In spite of the many uncertainties around the place and power of love in the workplace, I remain convinced that for me it is the only game worth playing because it is the only one that's sustainable'. 

Agreed, Roger 

Most of the book is building to this conclusion.  But before that, he walks us through his 30 year career in OD, and this makes for a great 'story of OD' in a similar way that Art Kleiner's book does.  I can highly recommend it as a way to reflect on your own OD practice.  Roger writes with a radical openness and humble reflection on his work and how he often got in his own way.  He models great professional reflective practice.  I learned a lot, for sure.  
And fiction ... Jonathan Franzen's Crossroads and Alex Wheatle's Brixton Rock have been alongside me too. 
And at work
My workload is at a more gentle pace than last year.  I've been saying for years how I want to work a little less and have more space - for writing, reading, walks. It seems to finally be taking shape. I'm getting better at saying no when I could-but-really-couldn't take on a piece of work.  And that's proving liberating and powerful.

That said, currently, I'm:
  • Doing a lot of coaching - senior leaders in a global manufacturer and big pharma, a COO of a local authority, a Clinical Director and a Director of Nursing in an NHS Trust. 
  • Designing, with a team, a leadership development programme as part of a global transformational project for a global manufacturer. 
  • Working with a group of OD practitioners as they apply theory to their practice. 
  • Running a 'vertical development'-based coaching group with a group of accountancy Partners.
All work I love. 

And if you think a conversation about how I might support you, work-wise, 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.

Thank you for reading
Helena x

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